The Holy Spirit Living In You
9/15/2019 7:30:04 PM
September 15, 2019
Rev. David Williams
Megan loves salad. I do not love salad. If you put dinner in front of Megan and there’s salad, that’s what she eats first and asks for more! I eat vegetables because I have to, because I know I should, because I know in the long run, I want to be healthy and vegetables are a key component in that.
I wish I loved salad the way Megan does. I wish I chose to eat salad because I enjoyed it. Instead, I eat salad because it’s good for me. I don’t hate it, it’s just that if there weren’t nutritional consequences I probably wouldn’t eat it. But, my hope for the future shapes my behaviour now.
Future hopes inspire us to be disciplined in the present. My future hope of being healthy inspires me to be disciplined in the present when it comes to eating vegetables. For many, a future hope of health inspires them to exercise in the present. Or a future hope of financial ease, or retirement, inspires us to go to work in the present. Sometimes that future hope is a positive one, sometimes it’s a negative one. We exercise now because we have a family history of heart attacks. Or we exercise now because we want to be able to keep up with our grandkids if we have them!
This is human nature when it comes to motivation. Our future hope as Christians can inspire us to be disciplined now. As we consider our future- an eternity in intimate relationship with God, it can inspire us to be disciplined now in the Christian life.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not satisfied with my spiritual life now. I’m not satisfied that I’m living a Spirit-filled life. I’m not satisfied that I’m keeping in step with the Spirit. To be quite frank, I’m not satisfied with my walk with God! And I know a number of you are feeling the same way about your spiritual walks too.
So what are we to do about that? We’ve been looking at the Holy Spirit for a few weeks. Last week we talked about the Spirit at work in Jesus is the same Spirit at work in us.
If the Spirit of God lives in me, why doesn’t my spiritual life reflect it? If the Spirit that raised Christ from the dead is living in me, why don’t I have or experience the abundant life Jesus promised? Why are my devotional times a struggle? My prayers dry? My conversations so rarely about spiritual things? Where is all the fruit of the Spirit I expect my life to demonstrate? Why is it so hard to be excited about my Christian life?
These questions are what we are going to deal with today, or at least start to deal with today!
Please turn with me to Romans 8:1-16. By way of context, in Romans 7 Paul talks about the internal struggle we all have, at least at times, with indwelling sin. That is, the battle we have with sin that invades and pollutes our hearts. As Paul says, we want to do good things and don’t. We don’t want to do evil, but we keep doing it! He closes Ch 7 with the cry, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God– through Jesus Christ our Lord! So, then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature (flesh) a slave to the law of sin.”
The Beginning, Middle and End
This is a fabulous passage that encapsulates the whole of the Christian life from beginning, through the middle and to the end. And at each step the Holy Spirit is at work. These verses “depict the varied ministry of God’s Spirit in liberating, indwelling, sanctifying (cleaning up), leading, witnessing to and finally resurrecting the children of God.” [John Stott, Romans, p. 216]
The beginning of the Christian life is that we are justified- put in a right relationship with God. “No condemnation” means our relationship with God is restored. This change in our relationship with God is due to the work of Jesus Christ in the cross. Our eternal security, our sense of assurance that we will one day live forever in intimate relationship with God is based on this objective (outside of us) fact of what God has done for us in and through Jesus.
v. 2 In being justified, we are set free from the law of sin and death by the Spirit of life- that is the Holy Spirit. It is because we are set free from the law that we no longer face condemnation and our relationship with God is fixed.
The “law of the Spirit of life” can also be described as the “life-giving law of the Spirit.” Paul is contrasting two laws- the law that brings death because it is weakened by our sinfulness is contrasted with the life-giving law of the Spirit. God did through Jesus and in the Spirit what the sin-weakened law could not do, which is make us righteous- put us in a right relationship with God! God placed his law in our heart by placing the Spirit in our heart to live there and bring us life! This is the beginning of the Christian life and also the source of Christian life- part of the middle is how we live out this new reality in Christ.
The middle of the Christian life is that we are revitalized and sanctified by the Spirit. We are given new life in Christ because the Spirit of life lives in us, inscribing God’s life-giving law on the tablet stones of our hearts. Remember, our hearts are not just our emotions, how we feel about God or his law. Our hearts involve so much more than that! Our hearts are the centre of our being, our character, which includes our minds, our wills, our desires and goals, as well as our feelings and our imaginations. This is where the Spirit is at work inscribing God’s law in the middle of our Christian life.
To be sanctified is to be made holy, or to be made Christ-like. Remember, Christ was perfectly holy and righteous- always in a right relationship with God. Jesus also came to fulfill the law. So if Jesus was holy, and Jesus was righteous, and Jesus fulfilled the law, then when we are made righteous, and the Spirit starts to make us holy, then he is making us Christ-like and the righteous requirements of the law are being met in us!
What does that look like tangibly? Christlikeness, holiness, begins with our mindset. Rom 12:2, Paul says that our appropriate response to who God is and what he has done is to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Here we see what Paul means by that- in our sinful nature (technically “flesh”) we set our minds on sinful desires. Those who live according to the Spirit, however, have their minds set on what the Spirit desires! What does the Spirit desire, though?
The Spirit desires above all else to glorify Christ by showing Christ to us and forming Christ in us. [Stott, p. 223] This, then, is what the Christian desires too. This is where we are to set our minds if we want to live by the Spirit who is dwelling within us. This is the foundational change that must occur if we are to become like Jesus, to become holy, to be sanctified, to fulfill the righteous requirements of the law!
The Spirit bring sonship, replacing fear with freedom, prompting us to pray faithfully, and is the firstfruits of our heavenly inheritance! V 14 begins this beautiful list of other consequences of the Spirit living in us. He is not a Spirit that makes us slaves to fear, but makes us sons! We are privileged children of God- the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of adoption! And through the Spirit, in our prayer, we cry out “Abba, Father!” In our prayer life, the Spirit brings a degree of intimacy with God unheard of before Jesus. As adopted children of God, we are co-heirs with Jesus! We look forward to participating in his glory if we participate with him in his suffering. What a future we have in Jesus!
Because we have been justified and the Spirit lives in us, we look forward to being resurrected like Jesus and sharing in his glory. This is the end of the Christian life – one of powerful resurrection, a transformed and redeemed physical body, a fully renewed character, and an inheritance of glory shared with Jesus.
This is the flow of the first half of this chapter. This encapsulates the Christian life- from beginning in justification, through being made to be more like Jesus and experiencing new life through the Spirit, living as privileged children of God anticipating a future of resurrected glory!
So if that’s the big picture of the Christian life, if it’s so glorious, why do we struggle in the middle? We have an amazing beginning, an astounding future, but the middle can be dry, hard-hearted and difficult. Why don’t we experience the power of the Spirit living in us daily?
Check out verses 5, 9, 12, 13. Living by the Spirit affects where we put our minds- our mindsets. Life in the Spirit means surrendering to the Spirit for direction and power (controlled by the Spirit). We have an obligation not to live according to our sinful nature, which is at war with the Spirit within us! Rather, through the Spirit’s indwelling power, we are to put to death the misdeeds of the flesh, of our sinful nature.
As the justified, privileged, adopted children of God, we are to actively kill the sinful nature within us through the power of the Spirit. This is the part of the Christian life we are so bad at in the West. We do not actively kill our sinful nature, our fleshly desires. Sin still dwells within us- that’s the point of Ch 7. But now the Spirit dwells within us too, waging war with the sinful nature for control of our hearts- our minds, desires, wills, feelings, etc. There’s a war going on! Our sinful nature, our sinful minds are hostile to God, they are enemies! We are to actively make use of the Spirit’s power and tools to kill that sinful nature waging war against God, waging war against the Spirit living with us.
Western Christianity focuses on the beginning, looks forward to the end, but ignores the middle of the Christian life. Our evangelism is about getting people to make a decision for Jesus. We hold out the hope of heaven as a reward. We look forward to that time. We talk a lot about justification and righteousness. Do we ever talk about killing sin? Do we every talk about setting our desires on the things of God?
Killing sin (mortification-making it dead) is not about masochism- pleasure in self-inflicted pain or punishment. It’s not about asceticism – a resentment or rejection of our physical body or appetites. Rather, Killing sin is a clear sighted recognition of evil as evil and rejecting it as such. Killing sin means changing where our minds are set. We can no longer set our desires on sinful things, what our sinful nature wants. Rather, we are to focus our minds, focus our attention, focus our efforts, will and desires on what the Spirit desires- to glorify Christ by making him known to people and by being transformed in our character to be more like him.
The sinful nature is self-centred. The Spirit is other-centred. To be Christ-like is to be other-centred. Remember, God is love- agape love- that divine, self-giving love primarily concerned with the well-being of others, in particular their spiritual well-being. Our desires are fallen and self-centred. Our wills are fallen and self-centred. Our dreams, our goals, our motivations are fallen and self-centred. Our priorities, what we think is important, where we spend our time and energy are fallen and self-centred.
The main thrust of the work of the Sprit in us is to change us from being self-centred to other centred. To love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love others as ourselves!
Our obligation is to cooperate with the Spirit, making use of his power and tools to change our desires. Remember, we cannot free ourselves from sin! This isn’t about pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps! Rather, having cooperated with the Spirit to make a decision for Jesus at the beginning of our Christian life, we must continue to cooperate with the Spirit to make daily, hourly and minute by minute decisions to cooperate with the Spirit to kill sin in our hearts by actively, intentionally placing our desires on the things of God.
OK, so what are we to do with this? We have been justified. We are in a right relationship with God. We have a glorious future in store as co-heirs with Christ because we’ve not only been saved but adopted. Fabulous! We even has the Spirit that raised Christ from the dead at work within us bringing us new life. So why are things so dull? Why are our hearts so hard? Why is the church struggling in Canada? Why aren’t younger generations flocking to church? Why is my own spiritual life so dry?
Today I want to provide 3 things- conviction, motivation and direction. It is right to feel convicted when we realize our desires are still for self-centred things. The Spirit has the role of bringing conviction of sin. We must have sight of our sin before we can kill it! We have to “pull it out, look at it, denounce it, hate it for what it is, then you have really dealt with it!” [Martin Lloyd-Jones, Romans vol 7, p. 143] If our spiritual lives are dry because we have too easily given up the war against indwelling sin, then our first experience of the renewal of the Spirit will include conviction! That’s a good thing!
Our obedience to the Spirit is not the root of our justification, but the fruit of it. Thank God we don’t have to be obedient in order to be reconciled to God! That was the old law that brought death! So we can find motivation and encouragement in the fact that Jesus did the hardest work of winning the battle against sin. And we can find motivation in knowing our future with Christ. We have the Spirit of the living God living within us! He is eager for us to cooperate with Him to bring the changes we need in order to have fulfilling, abundant life! Because we have already been justified, reconciled and adopted, we strive to cooperate with the Spirit to live into that gift. The cause has been accomplished. We are called to work out the effects.
Listen to the prompting of the Spirit when it comes to your desires. This is the first “direction” I want us to go home with. The Spirit will not do violence to your will. He will not force you to kill sin. He will only go so far as you give him permission. So give him permission to speak to you about where your mind is set. Give him permission to speak to you about your desires.
I’m not just talking about desiring sinful things. I’m talking about desiring neutral or even good things above the desires of God. What is the primary desire of the Spirit? To glorify Christ by making him known and forming his character within us!
Examine how you use your time to discover your true priorities. What we prioritize reveals what we desire. Prioritizing work means we desire something that comes from work- maybe money, success, power, independence, prestige, etc. Prioritizing family means we desire something that comes from family- a good image, success for our children, the pride of being seen as a good mom or dad, etc. Do you value comfort? Looking competent? Feeling valued?
Do you prioritize God? Do you prioritize the needs of others, who owe you nothing, who are not likely to reciprocate? Do you prioritize showing others Jesus? Do you prioritize time spent with God, submitting to the Spirit, making use of the tools he gives for our sanctification?
Pray humbly. If you want to kill sin in your heart, if you want to reset where you put your mind, if you want to challenge and change your desires, pray humbly. Yes, make requests of God, but add to your regular prayers a time of humbly asking God to show you where He would have you change. Come to God humbly and admit you’re not happy with your spiritual life. Humbly admit you’ve not been cooperating with the Spirit. Pray for conviction of your sin, for sight of your sin. Come to God and say, “Dad, I’ve messed up. I’ve not been living a Spirit-filled life, keeping in step with the Spirit. I don’t have the abundant life Jesus promised and it’s because I’ve not lived up to my obligations to kill sin. Help me, please to know where to begin.”
Read God’s Word expectantly. God’s Word, the Bible, is the Spirit’s most powerful tool for working in people’s lives. It is God’s revelation to us of what he is like, which means it is his revelation to us of Christlikeness, holiness and what God desires. Start setting aside time to read your Bible expectantly. Expect to see God’s character at work Expect the Spirit to show you what He wants your character to be like, what he wants you to desire, where he wants you to set your mind. The Word is the Spirit’s tool in changing lives.
Band together with others. James says that when we confess to one another we find healing. Nowhere in Scripture is there room for “lone wolf” Christians. We are called to be in relationship with one another precisely because we need one another’s help, support and encouragement in our journey. We need the help of others to cooperate with the Spirit to kill sin, to change our mindset, to learn to be Christ-like. So find a few believers and confess to them that your spiritual life is not what you wish it to be. Share with one another what the Spirit is revealing to you. Pray together and for one another. Make it a priority as a means to reshape your desires and mindset.
Wait patiently on the Lord. Psalm 40 begins, “I waited patiently for the Lord. He inclined and heard my cry. He lifted me up out of the pit, out of the mire and clay.” If God can do that for David, certainly he can do it for you too. Wait patiently for the Lord to lift you up. Cooperate with him when he shows you how. But know that if you have found Christ, Christ has a hold on you. His Spirit is within you. They are waiting for you to turn your heart back to them. God is eager to help you, empower you and equip you for Godliness. But as a gentleman, God waits for your cooperation. Amen.
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