Living in the Spirit

January 26, 2015

You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. – Romans 8:9-11

Have you ever seen a child, who for whatever reason, seems to rebel at authority? No matter what his parents say, he is not going to listen. He has made up his mind to do his own thing, and anyone who tries to interfere will be blasted by anger and temper tantrums. The child is going to do what he wants and no one is going to stop him.

This is what a life controlled by the sinful nature looks like to God. It’s a life that completely rejects his authority and has no appreciation for his love. It’s a life that disregards his Law and only follows its own selfish desires. As we read previously, “The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so” (Romans 8:7).

How different is life by the Spirit! The apostle Paul says, “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you” (Romans 8:9a). If the Lord had not sent his Spirit, every one of us would be controlled by our sinful nature. We too would be hostile to God and our end would be judgment and death.

But God sent his Spirit into our hearts. How can you know if the Spirit lives in you? Simply ask yourself this question: Do I believe that Jesus is my Savior from sin? If you answered, yes, you can be sure that the Spirit is dwelling in your heart. The Bible says, “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3b).

While we might not see it, feel it, or experience it with our senses, the Spirit’s presence in our hearts changes everything. It connects us with Christ and gives us a desire to live in his righteousness. It motivates us to put to death the desires of our sinful nature and follow Jesus. Not only that, but the Spirit that dwells in our hearts through faith so intimately connects us to our Savior, that when we die, our bodies will be raised to life. Praise God for this life by the Spirit!

Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Spirit into my heart to connect me to Jesus. Help me to live in the joy of his righteousness and to put off the desires of my sinful nature. Amen.


Third Sunday after the Epiphany

January 25, 2015

Guest Speaker: Alan Wunderlich

Order of Service Printed in Today’s Bulletin

Today’s Readings

Empowered to Make the Right Choice

January 19, 2015

Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. – Romans 8:5-8

There is an element of truth to the cartoons and skits where the person has an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. It’s true that in everyday life we are often confronted with choosing between right and wrong.

There is also something misleading about that picture. In real life, we don’t need a devil on our shoulder to tempt us to do the wrong thing. Our own sinful nature does that well all by itself.

And in real life, it’s not an angel on our other shoulder telling us what is right and good. The Holy Spirit himself lives in us, and prompts us to thank God for his blessings by doing what is right and refraining from what is wrong.

It doesn’t please God if our sinful nature stumbles onto something that looks good. The sinful nature cannot please God, because the motives of the sinful nature are never a joyful response to what God has done.

God has to overrule the sinful nature by bringing us to faith.  He does that by the power of the Holy Spirit, who works through the promises of God in Word and sacrament.

Does it make any difference whether we listen to our sinful nature or to the Holy Spirit? It certainly does! The sinful mind is death. The mind controlled by the Spirit is life. It’s not complicated. Life is better than death.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, thank you for leading me to life through faith in Jesus, my Savior. Amen.

Second Sunday after the Epiphany

January 18, 2015

Divine Service I, Page 136, Lutheran Worship

Today’s Bulletin

Today’s Readings

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The Rules

January 12, 2015

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and death. – Romans 8:1-2

Old school games have elaborate rules for every situation. When you play those games, you are supposed to play by the rules. If you play those games professionally, someone is hired to enforce the rules.

Many newer online games, by contrast, introduce first-person situations where it seems almost as if there are no rules. The player interacts with other players in the virtual world and tries things out to see what will happen.

Some people prefer old school games, and others live to play the newer ones.

You don’t have a choice when it comes to the game of life. If you sin, you die. That’s the rule. In fact, it’s a law, a statement of fact. It doesn’t matter how big or small the sin is. And it turns out that it’s no game.

But Jesus Christ did not sin, and he still died. By doing that unfair thing, he took the punishment for my sin, and for the sin of every person of all time.

As a result, through faith in Christ Jesus, the law cannot condemn me to death. Instead, the Spirit gives me eternal life. This basic principle of the Bible, of Christianity, means that no one can condemn me. Since God has forgiven me through the work of Jesus, I can live without guilt.

And I can enjoy all of the games of life, whether they are old school or online.

Prayer: Lord God, thank you for taking away my condemnation. Keep me safe in Christ Jesus all the days of my life.  Amen.

The Baptism of Our Lord

January 11, 2015

First Sunday after the Epiphany

Order of Service Printed in Today’s Bulletin

Today’s Readings

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Seeing Through Your Heart

January 5, 2015

I pray…that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened. – Ephesians 1:18

In his book, God Came Near, author Max Lucado writes about a man by the name of Bob Edens. For 51 years, Bob was unable to see. For 51 years his world was a world of touch and taste, of smell and sound. But sight simply was not part of his reality. Then, the extraordinary happened. A skilled surgeon was able to perform a complex operation on Bob Edens’ eyes. Following the procedure, for the first time in his life, Bob Edens could see.

To hear him describe his gift of sight is powerful and moving. You hear a man overwhelmed by what he now has. He speaks of his love for color. “I never would have dreamed that yellow is so…yellow,” he says. He goes on to gush about the shape of the moon, the thrill of seeing an aircraft shoot across the sky, the beauty beyond words that he finds in sunrises and sunsets; the beauty beyond words that he finds in the stars at night. Perhaps Bob Edens sums up his experience best in one sentence. In speaking of what it’s like to enjoy the gift of sight for the first time in his life, Bob Edens says this, “You could never know how wonderful everything is.”

Here’s a question for you. As you read or listen to this devotion, how clearly are you seeing with the eyes of your heart? Is it possible that a thousand little distractions have slowly accumulated around your spiritual field of vision? Is it possible that the daily routine of going to work, coming home, getting groceries, watching TV, going to bed and getting up to do it all again – is it possible that the routine has slowly formed a dark film over your spiritual eyes so that you no longer see clearly what matters?

If so, then it’s time for the Great Physician of souls to do something about it. It’s time for Jesus, your Savior, to enlighten the eyes of your heart with the healing message of his Good News. As he enlightens your sight through his forgiveness of sins, look at him. Look at him closely. Pay attention to his promises, and pay attention to how he always finds a way to keep his promises. Watch him at work on the pages of the Bible. When you do, he will enlighten you more and more. Your view of the world in which you live will change. Your view of life itself will change. You will be like Bob Edens, enjoying the thrill of the gift of sight. This is what happens when Jesus fills the eyes of your heart with himself.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, through the power of your Gospel fill the eyes of my heart with yourself. Enlighten me. Move me to see all the wonderful things I have in you. Amen.