Acts 1:4-5 “On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’”
Martin Luther once said in a Christmas Sermon, “If I tell you that someone on a certain mountain peak has picked up a hundred gold coins, you will say, ‘What is that to me?’ But if you are the one who has picked it up, you will be joyful. What is it to me if someone else has goods, honors, riches, and a pretty wife? That does not touch the heart. But if you hear that this Child (Christ) is yours, that takes root and a man becomes suddenly so strong that to him death and life are the same.”
God wants us to “own” Jesus’ priceless work by faith. When we do, it makes a far greater impact on our lives than having the Hope Diamond sitting in our jewelry box. It gives us a new life. It is the Holy Spirit’s work to bring us Jesus’ gifts and make them our own.
Just before Jesus ascended into heaven, he promised his disciples that gifts were going to be brought to them by the Spirit. We should not think that Jesus’ disciples lacked the Holy Spirit altogether. If that were true, they wouldn’t have been gathered here with Jesus. You see, sin so infects us that we are unable to believe in him on our own. Spiritually, we are a little like Brennan Hawkins, a Boy Scout from Utah who spent four days lost in the mountains fifteen years ago. He would have been found earlier, but his parents had drilled it into his head that he must avoid all contact with strangers. As a result, each time rescuers got close to him, he hid so that they could not find him. He had been so programmed to avoid strangers that he couldn’t recognize them as rescuers, as people on his side, when they came.
That’s what sin and Satan have done to us. They have so programmed our minds and hearts that, on our own, we can’t recognize our Rescuer when he comes. That’s why “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3). It’s why we confess in the Catechism, “I believe that I cannot by my own thinking or choosing believe in Jesus Christ my Lord nor come to him, but the Holy Ghost has called me by the gospel…” We need the Holy Spirit to overcome our natural fear and opposition, and lead us to Jesus. We need the Holy Spirit to get us to stop trying to rescue ourselves, and let Jesus rescue us instead.
This much the disciples already had. So do you and I. And this is where the new life really begins. Paul reminded the Romans, “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” He wrote the Galatians, “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.”
The Holy Spirit has convinced us of God’s love for us, the love he demonstrated by giving us Jesus and taking all our sins away, and led us to trust in him. The Holy Spirit has given us the faith to know that God is our dear Father, and we are his dear children, and we enjoy all the rights and privileges of membership in his family. The Spirit is the one who has given us this new life. And once we have that, we are ready to receive the many other gifts God has prepared for his children.