The better you understand God as Holy Spirit, the better you understand God.

See Sermon Transcript

Full Sermon Transcript

Ryan Peterson:

Well, it is great to be with you. I’m Ryan. It’s my privilege and honor to serve down the road at Concordia University Ann Arbor. It’s been an even greater honor to be a great friend of Pastor Chris and Ashley and their family for many, many years. Pastor Chris mentioned fantasy football, so here’s the deal. He’s actually really good at it. Really good.

He’s like that guy who gives a lot of advice, but then he’s such a servant leader that when he gives freely all this advice, like he’ll send me a text message, “Hey, Ryan, don’t forget to do this,” or, “Hey, you’re missing a guy in your lineup.” Just keeps freely, generously giving all this advice and then I smoke him when we play. I mean, it’s fantastic. It’s a great, great relationship. He’s an awesome pastor. You’re blessed with great pastors here.

Worship team, oh my goodness, it’s a joy to be here. My Spirit is filled already being in your presence today. That’s what we’re talking about. We’re talking actually about the Holy Spirit. We’re talking about the Holy Spirit as a part of this series that you’re in. It’s week three of a quick three-part series on the Holy Trinity. You’ve already talked about the Father. Last week, talked about the … what are we doing today? The Holy Spirit.

We’re really focusing on how the Trinity directly, how they connect with one another and also how the persons of the Trinity are distinct from one another, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the Trinity. What for many people can become a quickly confusing doctrine or teaching of the church and of the Christian faith. Yet in this series, our goal has been, as Pastor Chris laid it out, is to help us not only better understand the Trinity, but truly allow this understanding to be not about information, but rather transformation.

This is not so you can take a quiz on the way out the door. This is so that your Monday through Saturday, and then your Sunday would be filled with a greater awareness. Greater awareness of the Holy Spirit in your life just as we’ve talked about the Father and we’ve talked about the Son. I’m glad especially to be here during this series because where I serve at Concordia University in Ann Arbor, Michigan, again, just down the road, our chapel on campus is actually called the Chapel of the Holy Trinity.

It’s a beautiful, beautiful chapel. Amazing stained glass, seats about 550, with a three-sided chapel of the Holy Trinity. It’s a great place to have worship every single day through our daily chapel experiences and other times as well. In the context of talking about the Holy Trinity being here for your series again, I really want to help us to see how every moment of our life, because our life is defined by moments, can be an opportunity to be Spirit-led people.

In fact, here’s really the big idea for today. The better I understand God is Spirit, the better I understand God. It’s important that we talk about that person of the Trinity, fully God, fully God with divine attributes or characteristics, divine works that the Holy Spirit does. Remembering that the Holy Spirit is a person, not an object, not a thing, not just a word, but the Holy Spirit is a person.

This understanding of God as Spirit is an understanding of relationships. It’s an understanding of relationships, and life truly is all about relationships. Life is about connection and this vertible cult connection between you and the God who created you, the God who saved you by His blood on the cross and then through His victory in the empty tomb, and now the God who is the Holy Spirit, who lives in the inside of believers.

Lives in you as believers is that God that we worship. Understanding the context of the reading that we’re going to go into, we’re going to unpack a better understanding of the Holy Spirit today. You game for that? You good? Ready to rock and roll? Let’s do it. Let’s start with the question that my kids often ask me. My wife Christie and I have four kids, 16, 14, 11 and 7, back when they were really young, they always ask the question why.

Now that we have a bunch of teenagers, they keep asking the question why? It’s like a different version of why, but it’s a why nonetheless. And so we want to ask that question about why as we dig into our text from Romans 8 specifically, why does it matter if God is the Spirit? Why does this matter. I mean, we talk about the Father, right? We can picture Father, we talk about the Son and we can picture that relationship, but why does it matter if God is a Spirit?


Well, I’m going to invite you to go to Romans 8 with me. If you want to grab a Bible that’s in front of you, if you want to look at it on your phone, if you don’t want to do either of those, that’s cool too, no offense taken. We’re going to walk through Romans chapter eight. We’re going to check out the work of the Holy Spirit. You may have noticed this in our reading, we hit a few verses, skipped a few, hit a few, skipped a few, hit a few, skipped a few.

That’s what we’re going to do right now, okay? We’re just going to highlight, and by the end, there will literally be a screen full of notes. Maybe if you want, if you’re a note taker, take notes. If you’re not a note taker, but you want to capture some of this, wait till the end snap quick picture, okay? You’ll get it all there in one slide. Why does it matter if God is a Spirit? Well, let’s start with verse one. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

First things first, Romans 8 is awesome. One of the best chapters in the Bible. If there’s a chapter that you want to put to memory, let me recommend Romans 8. It is a money chapter in the Bible. Go there, go there, go there, and it starts with this declaration. Therefore, whenever there’s a therefore in the Bible, it’s there for a reason. Pay attention, underline it, star it, highlight it, do whatever you need to do, but most importantly, let it open up your eyes to what’s going on around you.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Again, the context here is that Paul was just talking about how he struggles. He struggles with the things I want to do, I don’t do. The things I don’t want to do, I do all the time. What do I do? I’m sure none of us can relate to Paul’s struggle, but if you can, like I can.

If you can relate to that, then the best news that you could receive is that in the midst of your struggle, there is a declaration that because of the lifesaving work of Jesus, you talked about this last week, there’s no condemnation. You’re guilty but now you’re not guilty. You’re guilty because of what you’ve done, but Jesus steps in your place. Jesus steps in your place, steps in front of you, He takes it for you, all the wrath, all the punishment, everything that you deserve.

Jesus takes it and in exchange, He gives you freedom, He gives you life and today the gift of the Holy Spirit. Verse two, “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus.” Now, we see that’s a Spirit gives life and we see this a few verses down. God as Spirit is a life giver. He’s a life giver. God created you for life. God didn’t create you for death. God created you for life. Jesus said full and abundant life in Him. Then, we keep going, jump down to verse four, “In order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us.”

Jesus is the one who fulfilled that, who walk not according to the flesh. I love this, this is like everyday living, but according to the Spirit, you see, the Spirit gives power and direction every single day. I don’t know what your day’s going to look like tomorrow. If you’re working or you’re working remote or you’re going to school or you’re going on vacation or you don’t even know what you’re doing, you don’t care what you’re doing, whatever it might be, the Spirit gives power.

When the Spirit came, when the Spirit came at Pentecost Acts 2, dynamos, power, power of the Holy Spirit that was given at Pentecost, that same Spirit is in you today, giving direction, giving power. Jump down to verse nine. “You however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit.” He’s talking specifically to believers. The Holy Spirit lives in believers. Now, this is an important distinction here. I’m just going to say it, I don’t know your faith journey. I’m not your pastor.

I’m just a dude that came in, so I don’t know where you are in your relationship with God, but if you’re a believer in Jesus, trusting in him for salvation, the Spirit is living in you. The Spirit is living in you. This is what we read in holy scripture, but maybe that’s not your story. Maybe you’re like kicking the tires on Christianity, maybe peeking over the fence a little bit, checking things out, wondering if this is legit or not or whatever. That’s incredible too, and I’m so glad that you’re here.

I know St. Mark is glad that you’re here. Hang on, hang on. Just let God do what God does. You’re here already, don’t leave. You’re here, just hang on, and let’s learn more together today about the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit lives in believers. Go to the next verse, verse 10, “But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life. The Spirit is life.” The Spirit is where Christ is. If Christ is there, the Spirit is there and the Spirit is always pointing to Christ.

The Spirit doesn’t exist just because. The whole point of the Spirit is to point to Jesus, point to Jesus, point to Jesus that’s what the Spirit does. Jump down to verse 15, “For you did not receive the Spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons by whom we cry, Abba Father, it’s the Holy Spirit that causes faith.” The Holy Spirit is the mover and the shaker of faith in your life.

No one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit, that’s what scripture tells us. No one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. Go to the next verse, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our Spirit that we are children of God.” You see, the Spirit leads us to trust, creates faith in us, leads us to trust, which is faith. Then finally, jumped down to verse 26. Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.

I love this. Again, I don’t know where you’re at this morning, but maybe you stumbled in here. Weakened by the week that you had. Weakened by the worries of the world, struggling just to kind of get it together today, put on your church face and, “Hey, how’s it going?” Good. Even though everything’s not good. I mean, maybe that’s you today, maybe not. The Spirit helps us in our weakness.

For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself, this God himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. The Holy Spirit gives us words when we don’t have words to say. Have you ever been speechless? I mean, and speechless, just because I don’t even know. I don’t even know what to say. I remember when I read for the first time about the shootings in Maine this week, it’s like we were just there for vacation this summer.

You just think about that place. It should be a safe place when you don’t know what to say. You can trust that the Spirit intercedes for us. Then, this isn’t a part of our text, but if we were to keep going, but I can’t because there’s a time limit on this thing, but if we were to keep going, in Romans 8, we see just a couple of verses later where Paul then asks the question, what then shall we say to these things?

What do we say? Given all this, now what? What do we say? “If God is for us, who can be against us?” If God say that with me, if God is for us, who can be against us? One more time, if God is for us, who can be against us? The Holy Spirit is for you. The Holy Spirit is for you seeing your need for a savior today. The Holy Spirit is for bringing you to faith, giving you life in Christ and the Holy Spirit doesn’t leave you there.

Doesn’t just drop you off at the door of faith. The Holy Spirit is for your continued faith development every single day. Then the next why, why is the work of the Holy Spirit a life-changer? Why is the work of the Holy Spirit the game-changer for us? As we read in scripture, all are conceived and born sinful. All are in need of a savior. I don’t know what you did last week or last night or last whenever.

I don’t know what your past is, but I know mine and I’m in need of a savior. I can’t do this on my own. You can’t do it on your own. Our track record doesn’t speak well for itself. When we look in the mirror, the Spirit confronts us with our brokenness, with our sinfulness, and yet the Spirit again doesn’t leave us there. The Spirit does more. The Spirit points us to Jesus and reminds us that God in His mercy sent His son that God so loved the world.

God so loved Battle Creek. God so loved you. God so loved your family. God so loved your kids. God so loved the world. God so loved the world and because God so loved the world, God in His love for the world desires that the world would come to know Him. It’s the Holy Spirit that brings us to faith in Christ through the gospel. The Holy Spirit invites us. The Holy Spirit enables us.

The Holy Spirit reveals this is why it’s so important, because Jesus talked about how the Holy Spirit will reveal the truth, and He is the way, the truth, and the life. Not only that, the Holy Spirit will then sanctify or make you holy, not make you perfect. That’s not the goal, though you are through Christ, but as you’re living today as a saint and as a sinner, the Holy Spirit sanctifies allows us to walk in line with the Spirit.


This my friends, is my prayer every day. This is our prayer and the work that we do at Concordia University, Ann Arbor, our mission at Concordia is to develop students in mind, body, and Spirit for service to Christ in the church and in the world. As a Lutheran Christian university, we get to do at Concordia. What our friends right down the road at UofM or the other way down the road at Eastern Michigan or here, not far from Central, wherever it might be, we get to do at Concordia what they can’t do or won’t do.

We get to show the gospel. We don’t ask our students to check their faith at the door, we invite them to bring it in. We don’t ask them to check their brain at the door when they come into a science classroom. We want them to engage all of it, mind, body, Spirit, the whole person engaged in service to Christ, in the church and in the world. That’s why the work of the Holy Spirit is a life-changer. Now, we bring it back to here. For you, for me, every day.

Every day we have moments. This is the power of moments. Every day we have moments to be Spirit-led. Every day we have moments to be Spirit-led and to celebrate the work of the Holy Spirit. I celebrate with you what God’s doing here. The trunk-or-retreat on Friday night, I wish I would’ve been here. Oh man, I keep hearing about this. I’m like, “I was in the wrong place on Friday night.” That’s amazing, those touch points are amazing.

We need to be people who celebrate. Too often, Christians are like, meh. Why would we be like that? You know what I’m saying? Let’s be people who celebrate the movement of the Spirit among us when baptisms are taking place. Again, I’m friends with Pastor Chris and with others here. I see the Holy Spirit at work. I’m experiencing it with you this morning. We need to be Spirit-led people and celebrate the work of the Spirit.


How does that happen? Two primary ways: the first is through the exercising of Spiritual gifts. Now, we could do a whole sermon series, and I bet Pastor Chris will someday on Spiritual gifts. Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 12, “All who are part of the church believers in Jesus, the Holy Spirit equips all Christians with different gifts.” We say gifts, we might think talents, abilities, strengths, et cetera.

Specifically, the Bible talks about gifts, and I love that that word gift is used because let us not think of ourselves more highly than we ought. It’s a gift. It’s a gift. Your gift of hospitality, your gift of administration, your gift of teaching, your gift of service, your gift of, your gift of, your gift of go around every one of you as a part of the church. If you’re a believer, you have gifts, unique gifts to you.

Praise God that we’re not all the same. I would drive myself nuts. I’d be driven nuts if you all were like me, okay? No one would be around because no one would want to be like me. Every one of us, we have different gifts. The beautiful thing about the church that I just want to encourage you is to continue to be reflective about the gifts that you have. Ryan, I’m not sure what my gifts are.

There are places online that you can do basic gift inventories. I’m sure Pastor Chris, Pastor Jack, others, can give you wisdom around how to do that. Really, it’s good to be aware of your giftedness, and then look to see how we do this together. Church is not a solo sport, nor is life, right? We were made for relationships. We are made for connection through the exercising of Spiritual gifts. We live as God intended us to live.


Then here’s the next part, through the fruit of the Spirit. Paul, when he was writing to the Galatians, talked about the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is, say it with me, if you know them, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and the famous one that we all do so well? Self-control. We start with love, we end with self-control Nine, fruit of the Spirit.

The fruit of the Spirit, again, available to all believers. Unlike Spiritual gifts where you have certain Spiritual gifts and you have certain Spiritual gifts, you don’t say, “Well, good, he’s got love. I got self-control. None of us have any goodness.” Now, it’s not like that. They’re all available to all believers. These are the outflow, these are the result of the Holy Spirit’s work in your life.

If you’re struggling with love, joy, peace, I don’t know, patience, the goal isn’t just try harder, harder, harder, harder, harder. The goal is, “Holy Spirit, you are welcome here in this impatient heart.” It’s the Holy Spirit who works in our lives and this is the result. These are the virtues that come as a result of that. Just like you see the Spirit at work here at Concordia Ann Arbor, we see the Spirit of God at work in many, many ways.


It is pretty amazing to me, this is my 11th year at Concordia Ann Arbor. Over that time, what I have seen, what I’ve seen is that as a campus community absolutely committed to our Christian mission. There are a lot of schools that started out as Christian in name or even denominational affiliation, and are no more that. More and more schools are drifting from their core mission.

I want you to know today that your Concordia Ann Arbor is absolutely Christ-centered, mission-driven, student-focused. This is who we are. We are not going to wander over here or wander over there. We are absolutely committed to being the Lutheran higher education community that we are today. What we’re seeing is God blessing that in really amazing ways. This year is a second consecutive year of record enrollment.

Concordia Ann Arbor is actually the fastest growing school in Michigan among private institutions, and has been for a number of years. That happens through, of course, academic programs, through co-curriculars. Picture of the band right there at their concert just a couple of weeks ago. Our band, our choir, bigger than they used to be, our Concordia football team, other NAI athletics that are a part of it, new academic programs.

We just launched a doctor of physical therapy program last year, doctor of Occupational therapy. Year before physician assistant studies, one of the fastest growing jobs in healthcare right now. We added a school of nursing athletic training, and we are the church’s school. We will continue to prepare future pastors, teachers for both public and private schools. We’re going to continue to prepare musicians like your director of music.

Miranda as well, who’s part of Concordia. My goodness, we get the opportunity to be a part of students’ lives, not only in their development towards a career, but more importantly, in their development to know Jesus. Students come from wide variety of backgrounds like Jake, who’s a part of our football team, who was in my Religion 100 Bible class Bible in a semester, who said to me, “Pastor Ryan, I think I’m ready to be baptized.”

We walked through that process, and Jake, along with his family, was there to witness his baptism. Dozens and dozens and dozens of baptisms of adults. 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23-year-old happening right down the road at Concordia, just like God’s baptizing people here, infants, teenagers, adults. God’s doing it, that is the work of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we see the evidence of it there, but other times we just trust that the seeds are being planted.

Like the email I got from a pastor buddy of mine in Lansing who said, “Hey, I was meeting with a couple as they get married. Turns out the fiancĂ©e wasn’t baptized yet.” He started asking questions of her, and they began working through their course towards baptism. And he couldn’t believe how much she knew already. She said, “I was a nursing student at Concordia.” He was there, that the seeds were planted, that ultimately the Holy Spirit grew.

The individual, a Concordia grad, now a pediatric ICU nurse, was baptized right before her wedding. That’s the Holy Spirit. Friends, my prayer for you as a church, for us as people, is that trusting in the work of the Holy Spirit, we would live Spirit-led lives so that the world might see, so that the world might know the saving love of Jesus for each one of them.


Let’s pray. Gracious God, Heavenly Father, we recognize today, even as we hear and the Spirit is in our hearts and in our lives, the Spirit reminds us of where we have fallen short of your glory. Father, forgive us. You know things that are in our heart that we don’t even know or you don’t even recognize. Yet, we pray today that the Spirit would make us aware, the Spirit would convict, so that the Spirit might do what the Spirit does, and that is to bring life.

We thank you. We thank you, Holy Spirit. We thank you, Holy Spirit, that you point to Jesus, the reason for our salvation. The one who has rescued and redeemed us. We give you thanks that in Christ, there is no condemnation because of you. We pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen. Amen.