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Having the Spirit of Christ

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Dearly loved people of God,
Pentecost is an annual celebration.
50 days after Jesus’ resurrection,
10 days after Jesus’ Ascension,
Luke tells us in the book of Acts how God the Holy Spirit came in power. The HS was visible in flames that appeared over the heads of the disciples, but didn’t burn them. The HS was audible in the sound of a rushing wind.
Here I should mention a pun to delight those who like dad-jokes. The Greek for for Spirit also refers to wind and breath. After this sermon, we’re going to sing, “Breathe on me breath of God.”
It was God’s breath at the dawn of creation that woke Adam and made him alive. It was God’s breath that woke the fearful disciples and made them bold proclaimers of Jesus’ victory over sin and death. It was the sound of the rushing wind that made a crowd assemble in Jerusalem and allowed each person to hear the explanation of Jesus’ victory in their own language regardless of where they had come from.
As we turn to the explanation of God’s grace through God the HS in the letter to the believers in Rome, Paul starts his explanation by exploring Jesus’ victory on our behalf. We’re reminded that Jesus did on our behalf what we were powerless to do.
Do we need to hear every Sunday of our failure to live up to God’s law?
Yes! First because whether you’re a first-time guest or have attended church here or elsewhere for years, maybe today the gospel will hit you in a life-giving transformative way AND because no matter how often we’ve heard the gospel, it’s vital to retell and celebrate the gains we enjoy through Jesus’ victory. The story of how we’ve been rescued begins with how we’re stuck in sin.
Ever since our first parents, humankind hasn’t been able to live up to the righteous requirements of God’s law. We were created good, but fell from the glory we enjoyed. Judge your own success in loving God and neighbour, I tell you that I can’t live up to God’s standard. So God’s word to the believers in Rome is good news:
Romans 8:3 NIV
For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh,
Romans 8:3 NIV
For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh,
Romans 8:30 NIV
And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
God’s Word uses the word “flesh” in a particular way here. I like the way N. T. Wright explains it:
Paul for Everyone, Romans Part 1: Chapters 1–8 The Work of the Spirit (Romans 8:5–11)

The word we translate, here and elsewhere, as ‘flesh’ refers to people or things who share the corruptibility and mortality of the world, and, often enough and certainly here, the rebellion of the world. ‘Flesh’ is a negative term.

Flesh refers to the corruptibility, mortality, and rebellion of the world. But those with faith in Christ don’t live that way any more. Jesus bore the punishment for our sin at the cross so that we can be raised with him in his resurrection. By faith in Christ we have life in Christ.
That’s what Paul is talking about in
Romans 8:6 NIV
The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.
One of the reformed confessions refers to this as
True faith is not only a sure knowledge by which I hold as true
all that God has revealed to us in Scripture;
it is also a wholehearted trust,
which the Holy Spirit creates in me by the gospel, that God has freely granted,
not only to others but to me also,
forgiveness of sins, eternal righteousness, and salvation.
These are gifts of sheer grace, granted solely by Christ’s merit.
Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 21
Pentecost is a celebration of the sense of belonging. The Holy Spirit gives us that sense of belonging. Don’t you like the imagery God’s Word uses to explain our belonging?
Romans 8:14 NIV
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.
The Holy Spirit gives that deep-rooted assurance that we belong to God in Christ. That’s the transformation people felt in Jerusalem on Pentecost when the HS came in power - people from all regions of the known world had been connected by their Jewish identity now shared a connection by faith in Jesus.
Romans 8:16 NIV
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
This is our identity by the gift of God. We gain it in Christ. We realize it in the HS.
Being “in Christ” is at the core of our identity. Identity is important. Words matter.
Maybe it’s just me being sensitive, but one of my pet peeves is when the electorate, the citizens of a municipality or province or country get called “the taxpayer.” We are definitely more than taxpayers! Paying tax is a responsibility of being a citizen, but our identity is bigger than just paying tax.
We make big deal of it in the sacrament of baptism. We stand around the baptismal font and celebrate God’s covenant promises and the person being baptized, regardless of their age is identified as a child of God’s. That’s not something we should lose.
Sure there are other things that identify us. In some circles these identifiers overwhelm everything else.
Like gender, sometimes determining and defining our gender becomes obsessive, obliterating everything else that identifies us.
Or marital status and our happiness or unhappiness with being married or widowed, single or divorced, dating, engaged, or courting.
Men are especially susceptible to identifying themselves primarily by the work they do, but it’s a temptation for everyone
blue-collar or white-collar,
student or homemaker, farmer or professional,
successful or hand-to-mouth,
the hours they work or the freedom they have in retirement.
When taken to extreme, any identity can become idolatry. If any identity besides our identity in Christ becomes most important
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