Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Spirit in You

Today is Pentecost Sunday. This is the day that churches around the world remember the coming of the Spirit after Jesus' ascension to the right hand of God. So, I thought it would be good to talk to you about the Spirit. It's a sad fact that who the Spirit is and what He does are things that are not well understood among Christians these days. I hope to help you to understand Him a little better this morning.

I'm going to do this in a way that is different from what is normal for me. I'm going to use a whole chapter of the Bible, all of Romans 8. That's a lot of territory, but we're only going to be considering what this chapter has to say about the Spirit.

In all of this I have one big idea to present to you. The Spirit's role in the Gospel isn't just a little add-on to having Jesus as Savior and Lord. The presence of the Spirit in the Christian is essential to the Gospel. Having the Spirit defines who you are. His presence in your life has changed you in some very important ways. That's the main idea of the sermon.

Now, please listen as I read Romans 8. (Note to you who are reading this sermon: It would be a good idea for you to read the chapter now. Really. Yes, the whole chapter.)

Here's the first thing that I want you to know.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit…

You have the Spirit. There is no 'ought' or 'it would be good if' or anything like that. It's just a fact. You have the Spirit. And just as Paul could say that to every member of that church in Rome, I can say it to every member of Faith Reformed. You have the Spirit. His presence in your life is part of the Gospel, an essential part of the Gospel. Once again I'm stressing the facts of the Gospel, the indicatives. So, wherever you go, whatever you are doing, you have the Spirit.

One result of that is that you have resources for living that those who are not disciples of Jesus don't. So, for one thing, while they are still slaves, you have been set free.

For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

All who are not disciples of Jesus are limited by sin and death. They are slaves of sin. They don't have the option of doing what is good and right. They can choose to sin to a greater or lesser degree, but they can't choose to do good. And as a result, they are hemmed in by death, the inevitable result of sin. Here, go back and review last week's sermon about life versus death.

But you are different. The Spirit has done something in you. You are no longer a slave to those things. Understand what that means. You can choose to do what is good and right. You can choose those things that lead to a greater and greater experience of life. You can choose to draw near to the Father. You can choose to follow Jesus faithfully. You can choose to enjoy more and more of what it means to be a Christian. You can do this because you have the Spirit. So, consider this from Proverbs.

The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.

While life for those who are not disciples of Jesus is really bad, life for you is becoming better and better. Because of the Spirit, you have been set free to live, to really live.

Then there's this.

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 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!”

Because of the Spirit you are sons of God. Think of it: sons of God. Now, why didn't Paul write 'sons and daughters of God' or at least, 'children of God'? Was he sexist? No. Paul wrote that because he understood something. Consider the love that the Father has for His Son, for Jesus. He has the same love for you. He loves you as a son. That is simply amazing. It's as if you have been welcomed into the family of the Trinity to enjoy the love that has been there for an eternity. Actually, leave out the 'as if'. You are sons of God, and you have been welcomed into the Trinity. You are loved as sons. This is yours by the Spirit.

It's because of this that you are able to call God your Father. Now, there are some of you who have had great relationships with your human fathers. And there are some of you who haven't. But all of you are able to have a great relationship with your divine Father. He's always there, always involved in your life, always ready to listen, always ready to talk. He's a great father, and He's your Father. This is also because of the Spirit.

Thus far I have told you some of the facts of the Gospel. You have the Spirit. You have been set free to live. You are sons of God. These are facts. No 'shoulds' or 'oughts' or 'wouldn't it be nice if'. But now, it's time to talk about something you are to do.

So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Here, there is an expectation. You are debtors. That is, you have an obligation. Because you have the Spirit you are to put to death the deeds of the body. You are to deal with your sin. In fact, you aren't supposed to just deal with it. You are to put your sins to death. So, consider some sinful deed of your body: something you do, somewhere you go, something you say, something you listen to, something you watch. God expects you to act. He expects you to destroy that sin, to put it to death, so that you don't do it anymore.

This is where people can feel overwhelmed. 'Destroy my sin? Impossible! I can't do that. I've tried.' But remember, you have resources for things like this. You have the Spirit. You have been freed from sin and death so that you actually can choose to do good and right, and turn away from that sinful deed of the body. You are sons of God, sons of the God who is right there with you as a good Father. You can do this.

What is so helpful is that Paul doesn't leave it there. He understands our situation. So, he also writes,

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.

Yes, we have all these resources. And yet, we still get all tied up in knots and trip over ourselves, especially when we try to deal with some sin. For many reasons, we still find ourselves to be very weak. The Spirit sees this, but He doesn't get annoyed or pull back. He doesn't tell us, 'Come on. You're supposed to be able to do this!' He doesn't scold us. He helps us in our weakness.

And Paul is quite clear when it comes to how the Spirit helps us.

For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

The key to your success, your being able to live well, to do things like kill some sin, is always tied to prayer. Always. There is more than just prayer but never less. And so, that is where the Spirit helps you. He says what your hearts would say if they knew how to say it. He helps you, weak as you are, to cry out to your loving Father. And how can the Father not hear your cries and respond in power and love?

Understand what I've done. This has been a quick overview of some of what the Spirit has done and continues to do in you and for you. There is more to grasp, and, God willing, we will get to that also at some point. But for the time being just deal with what you have here.

I've told you five things:

- You have the Spirit.
- He has set you free from the slavery of sin and death.
- He has made you sons of God.
- He calls you to kill your sin.
- He helps you to do that.
These things are true of every Christian. And that means that they are true of you.

So, what do you do with this? And the answer to that is simple. Believe it. It's the Gospel. And believing it - not just with your mind but also with your soul - will show. One way that it will show is in how you talk to yourself. It will show when you are confronted by some call of God that seems impossible. What do you tell yourself then? This is what you say. 'I can do this. The Spirit is with me. He has set me free. He has made me God's son. He is interceding for me. I can do this.' Believe this part of the Gospel, and it will show.

It may be that you will want to focus on one particular point of those five. The manuscript for the sermon will be online by this evening. Read over that point. Pray over that point. But whatever you do, believe this part of the Gospel.