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Entries in Children of God (2)

Thursday
May242018

O, How We Need the Holy Spirit

Romans 8:12-17.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Pentecost Sunday May 20, 2018.

Today we are celebrating the truth that God has given the Holy Spirit to those who have put their faith in Jesus as His Anointed Savior for the world.  But, even more than this, we celebrate the truth that the Holy Spirit wants to fill the believer’s life in order to empower us to follow Jesus.

Over the years the Holy Spirit has been compared to nearly every power source you can think of: a battery, gasoline, dynamite, and the list goes on.  These things are good as far as they can go.  Yet, the Holy Spirit is more than just a power source.  He is a genuine personal being who can be grieved, and yet who is sent to teach us, lead us, comfort us, help us, and spiritually gift us in order to serve God.  Just as the first disciples found out that they could not follow Jesus without the help of the Holy Spirit, so we too cannot follow Jesus without the help of the Holy Spirit.

In the New Testament we see the apostles and other believers listening to and following the Holy Spirit.  They were a people who were daily being filled with the Holy Spirit, and so it must be with us today.  I pray that you will be encouraged to be a person who is listening to and following the Holy Spirit, a person who is daily being filled with the Holy Spirit, as those early Christians were and as countless Christians worldwide are giving testimony today.  We need the Holy Spirit!

We are in debt to the Holy Spirit and not our flesh

In Romans 8:12-17, we are reminded that we don’t owe anything to our flesh, but rather to the Spirit of God.  Do you tend to pay bills that you know you don’t owe?  We might be tricked into paying such a bill, but in the end we tend to only pay bills that we properly owe.  Of course this is a metaphor.  Following the metaphor, our flesh is like a scammer who keeps telling us that we owe it something, when in fact we do not.

Paul next says that if we follow the flesh (i.e. give in to the things our flesh says we owe it) we will find death, but if we follow the Holy Spirit (i.e. give in to the things that we properly owe the Holy Spirit) then we will find life.  So what is exactly meant by “the flesh?”  In this passage it is clear that Paul is not just talking about bodily needs such as: food, clothing, and companionship.  Yes, we do need to eat and sleep.  But Paul connects “following the flesh” to the “deeds of the flesh.”  The deeds of the flesh are truly physical deeds, but they refer to the tendency of our fleshly desires to lead us into sin and thus ultimately death.  Galatians 5 further explains this concept of the “deeds of the flesh,” and says that they are obvious.  “The works [deeds] of the flesh are obvious, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you  beforehand, just as I told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” 

The believer is a person who has come to see that the flesh hasn’t done anything for them.  In fact, it has been a pipeline of sorrow, pain, and death.  Moments of pleasure and ecstasy are followed by years of pain and sorrow.  However, when the Holy Spirit opened our eyes to Jesus, we not only found the way to life, but we found life itself and have a relationship with it.  It was the Spirit that led us to Jesus, and we owe a great debt to Him for opening our eyes.  Jesus is life, and those who follow Him will find life in many different ways every day, until we open our eyes in His presence and we fully experience life everlasting.  This is all the Holy Spirit’s doing.

It is important to recognize in verse 13 that the deeds of the flesh can only be put to death through the help of the Holy Spirit.  The believer has to learn how to live within a body whose desires continually try to wrestle control of our life from that part of us that has become spiritually alive to the Spirit.  This “old man” and “new creation” battle within us as we follow Christ.  Thus, Christ truly does expect those who follow Him to put to death the lusts of their flesh, every day.  If we obey the flesh, it will only bring more pain and sorrow (i.e. the seeds of death).  But, if we obey the Holy Spirit, we will find life even in the midst of the pain and sorrow of this world.  We do this not because we are slaves under a system that rewards those elite who are capable of doing it.  Rather, we do this because we have been saved and placed within the family of God.  We do this because we want to be like the our Father in heaven.

We are children of God because of the Holy Spirit

In verses 14-17 we see that the Holy Spirit is an important part of being a child of God.  In first century AD Israel, they believed that they were children of God because they had been born into a particular genealogy.  Of course the Old Testament prophets had made it clear that this was not the case, but the first century Israelites were generally not listening to the prophets.  When the Holy Spirit lead people to follow Jesus and put their faith in Him as God’s Anointed savior of Israel and the world, many of them refused to believe.  Jesus challenged Israel with the truth that those who rejected Him were not children of God.  God’s children are not those who are naturally born, but rather those who are spiritually born again by putting their faith in Jesus.  John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:  who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Here Paul reminds us that it is those who are following the Holy Spirit who are the children of God.  The Holy Spirit is faithful within every generation to be working every day to lead people to believe in Jesus and to follow Him.  It is easy to think that the Holy Spirit has become less and less active, as we see more and more people rejecting Christ and living for their flesh.  However, this is a misunderstanding that has to do with where you are.  We need to have our eyes opened to the reality that the Holy Spirit is always working to convict the world of sin, judgment, and the need of salvation.  Many people are believing in Jesus Christ every day all around the world.

Paul also points out that the Holy Spirit leads God’s children to adoption rather than into slavery.  Those who come to Christ are not being led into a legalistic system.  The first century Church had to wrestle with the reality that they were not being saved by their great ability to keep the Law of Moses.  The Holy Spirit was leading them to keep the spirit of the Law, not in order to be saved, but because they had been saved through Jesus.  Thus the Holy Spirit teaches us the truth of our adoption by God to be His sons.  He leads us to become like the Father and to join Him in His work of saving people.  This is as opposed to being slaves who try to curry God’s favor through our good works.  Instead of the cry of a slave who is fearful of the master’s wrath, we are filled with the cry of a child saying, “Daddy!”  That is an amazing truth, yet, it is the work of the Spirit in our life, not an accomplishment of our flesh.

A follower of Christ should never be deceived on this matter.  The Father is not a sinner and He does not want His children to be sinners.  Similarly, Jesus is not walking in sin or walking towards it.  If we are following Him then we will be leaving sin behind.  Praise God that He has given us His Holy Spirit to lead us in becoming like the Father, not out of slavery, but out of the fact that we are His children.  Many who claim to be Christians today have believed the lie that God is no longer concerned about sin in their life.  Thus they live each day obeying the lusts of the flesh and denying the very Lord who saved them with His blood.  It is not enough to slap a thin veneer of good works over the top of a life that is lived for self and the lusts of the flesh.  Today, hear the Holy Spirit calling you to life and freedom from sin’s destructive hold and influences.

Lastly, Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit testifies to our spirit that we are children of God.  In fact, He is not the only witness of this fact that we have.  We have the person or people who have led us to Christ.  They are witnesses to us that we belong to God.  Also, we have the Word of God that is written in black and white, which tells us so.  When you add the inner witness of the Holy Spirit it can seem strange that we ever doubt we belong to Jesus.  The spirit of this age has a vested interest in trying to undermine your confidence in Christ.  We need to listen to the Holy Spirit daily, as He tells us that we are children of God.  And, as a true child of God, we need to desire to be like our heavenly Father.

Let me close by reminding us that we cannot follow Jesus in this life without the help of the Holy Spirit.  Therefore let us wake up every morning and pray that God will fill us with His Holy spirit so that we can be enabled to become like Christ, and to seek and save those who are lost in this world, those who are in bondage to the lusts of their flesh.  We can only do this as we let the Holy Spirit set us free.

We need the Holy Spirit audio

Tuesday
Mar292016

There is Hope

Romans 8:16-30.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty on March 27, 2016, Easter Sunday.

Hope is a word that we use to refer to the anticipation of something good in the future.  This seems to be the default position of the human heart.  When we are young and innocent we have a basic sense of good things ahead.  However, through difficult experiences in a fallen world and our own moral failures, we can lose hope.  In Jesus God has restored hope by demonstrating the depths to which His love is willing to go for fallen humans.  Yes, we may give up on hope, but God will never.  He is the creator of hope.

It is also important to recognize that we are not talking about hope in the sense of wishing for something.  “I hope I win the lottery,” is a statement that is more about wishing for something.  In the Bible the hope in our heart is instigated by the object of hope that God has promised in our future.  It would be more like the hope a young person has of graduating from college because their parents have promised to pay for it.  Today we are going to remind ourselves of the hope that God has anchored in the future for all who put their faith in Jesus and follow him.

We Are Children Of God

In verses 16-22, Paul reminds us that we are children of God.  Now we all belong to God by the fact of creation.  Thus all humans are children of God in that sense.  However, in the Bible it has a more narrow sense.  It is referring to those who have been born spiritually.  When you were physically birthed you were the child of two human parents, i.e. a child of man.  In order to be a child of God you must also be born spiritually by putting your faith in Jesus as your teacher and the one who covers your sins.

As a child of God we are also heirs, and joint heirs with Jesus.  Technically it is Jesus who stands to inherit all/ things because of what he did while he was on this earth.  He lived the perfect, sinless life and yet was unjustly attacked.  Instead of fighting, Jesus puts his full trust in the God of heaven.  Though the cross may seem to show his trust was ill-placed, the resurrection proves that Jesus knew what he was doing.  God has declared that those who put their trust in the work of Jesus and his commands will be brought into the Family of God and allowed to inherit with Jesus.

Notice that Paul states at the end of verse 17 a conditional phrase.  We stand to inherit with Christ, “if” we are willing to suffer with Jesus.  Just as Jesus suffered in the hope that the Father would answer him so too, we must pick up our cross and follow him.  Now we will not all suffer the same things or in the same way.  But we will experience many hardships in this life that will challenge our decision to follow Jesus.  His commands are very clear and cause us to have to choose between trusting him or making our own way.  Some people walk away from the faith when they encounter suffering.  But, this seems strange because we are going to have pain and suffering whether we follow Jesus or not.  This world is filled with them everywhere you go.  Thus Paul states that those who will follow the way of Jesus will suffer on this earth, but they will one day be glorified with Jesus.  Just as Jesus was glorified with an immortal, indestructible body and was glorified in his position over all creation, so we too will receive glorified bodies and a glorified position beside Jesus.  To illustrate this, I would point us to the Basketball tournament that the NCAA is putting on right now.  These teams are in the middle of a great struggle to be the champions.  As each game is played one team walks away saddened because they lost, but the other team is rejoicing because they have won.  As the final championship game ends with the blare of the buzzer, the time of blood, sweat, and tears will be over and one of the teams will enter into a time of glory, the time of enjoying the fruit of your labor.  This is what it will be for all believers at the Resurrection.

This is what is being referred to in vs. 19.  All creation awaits the revealing of the Sons of God.  This is the moment when believers are glorified and revealed to the world in glorified form and position.  Most people don’t recognize how critical mankind is to the universe.  Through our moral fall, all of creation was put under the curse of sin.  In the Old Testament the term Sons of God is a reference to the angelic beings.  They were direct creations of God and they were immortal.  However, through Jesus, God is raising up lowly humans to join the heavenly Sons of God.  This is referenced in Hebrews 2: 9-10, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angles, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.  For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”  Yes, we are in a time of difficulty, blood, sweat, and tears at this time.  Yet, a day has been appointed in which all who have believed upon Jesus Christ will be raised up immortal.  We will be revealed as the Sons of God, along with Jesus the One and Only Unique Son of God.

In verses 20-22, we are reminded that the curse was given for the hope of what was to come.  We might be tempted to look at the effects of the curse and sin on the Earth and accuse God of doing a terrible job, perhaps even being evil.  The truth is that we were not cursed for the sake of vengeance, but for the hope of what would one day come.  The triumph of mankind over the devil would be a long time in coming, but come it would.  At the cross, the devil was disarmed.  The truth was given to the world and the law was satisfied.  For the last 2 thousand years people have been plundered from his control, people from every language and nation.  One day all of those people will stand immortal beside the Lord, while the devil is captured and removed from the scene.  This is the victory that the Lord has assured us.

Jesus Is The Hope Of Mankind

Starting in verse 24 we see the hope that Jesus makes possible for mankind.  First it states that this is what we have been saved for.  Putting your faith in Jesus is not about simply trying to get something better in this life.  It is about so much more.  Sure, following Jesus will change the way you live and bring many good things into your life.  But it can also bring some bad things into your life as well: suffering, pain, rejection, and even death.  But the apostles knew that they were not dying for a lie.  They had seen the resurrected Lord and had been told by him that they too would experience resurrection if they followed him.  It would be good for American Christians to recognize that our greatest hope is not in fixing America, as great as that would be.  Our greatest hope is to reign with Jesus over a new earth and a new heavens that is not tainted by sin, pain, and suffering.

In verse 28 we are told that all things are working together for the good of those who are called by God.  It may seem impossible to understand that such a thing could be true.  Yet, even for a person who is not an unbeliever, this can be true the second they believe in Jesus.  Until that moment, everything that happens in their life is a sad story.  But once they believe in Jesus, it all becomes part of a glorious story of overcoming an enemy that was far too strong for us.  Don’t push faith aside.  By doing so you will only allow your pain and suffering to remain meaningless and evil.  But when you embrace it, all that difficulty becomes full of meaning and goodness.

Verses 29-30 show us that God’s plan is far greater than ours.  It is greater in effect and greater in scope.  From the beginning of time before he created, He foresaw all that would be.  In the moment that he chooses to create, He also chooses a destiny for all who would trust Him.  This is what is meant by Predestined.  He destined those who would trust him to be transformed and made like Jesus (morally and physically).  Then, in the course of time, He Called us to join His family.  All of us who are followers of Jesus had to hear the call of God by the Spirit and through a human being.  When we responded in faith that destiny became our own.  Then, those that responded to the call were Justified.  They were made to be righteous by the work of God.  No one will be able to stand before God and make a case against them receiving such a destiny.  They have been justified by the judge himself.  Lastly, those who have been justified will one day be Glorified.  The justified will be clothed with immortal glory and enter into the inheritance of a new creation.  This is the hope of mankind that Jesus has made available to whosoever will believe upon Him.  If you haven’t already, please do so today.  If you hear the call of the Spirit to join the ranks of the redeemed then respond today and let God justify your claim to the glory He has for you.

hope audio