If the Spirit of God Lives in You

Romans 8:1-11  

Whenever someone finds out I’m a preacher, they either get this look of “Oh no!” on their face, or they try to engage me in some kind of religious conversation.  And very often that is followed by the confession/proclamation “I don’t go to church but I’m a very “spiritual person.”  And what they mean by that I’m not sure, because their lives seem to be anything but “spiritual.”  Some who have said that to me, I’ve known well enough to know that their lives are worldly, their language is profane, their relationships are destructive – they are anything but spiritual, so I ask them what they mean by spiritual, and it always has to do with some inner feeling, or appreciation of nature, or other personally defined description of a “spiritual” life.

But at the heart of the authentically spiritual life is the Holy Spirit – not some warm fuzzy feeling, not an existential awareness, or a oneness with the Life Force, or an alignment with the stars and planets.  The spiritual life involves living in the Spirit of God.

Now, that bothers some of us, and some go into hysterics at mention of the Holy Spirit.  At best, we don’t feel comfortable – we would rather avoid the subject.  We like our religion cut and dried, and the Holy Spirit isn’t something we can control.  We’re afraid if we start talking about the Holy Spirit that we might be misunderstood as suggesting we must start speaking in tongues or perform miraculous healings.

In some respects, we are afraid of what Holy Spirit might do.  In response to the excesses of charismatics, we have rejected both excesses as well as the legitimate and biblical role of the Holy Spirit in our lives as Christians.  In fact, so limited is our understanding and reliance on the Holy Spirit, if the Holy Spirit were to forsake and abandon our churches, most of us would continue to function business as usual.

The Holy Spirit is the life of church, he is the indwelling power of every individual Christian, yet we are woefully ignorant of what the role of the Spirit is in us.  The Holy Spirit dwells in every Christian, and his power in our lives, though not miraculous is supernatural in its ability to transform our lives from sin into the likeness of Christ.

The coming of the Spirit

The Spirit did not suddenly appear on the day of Pentecost.  You find him throughout the Old Testament – he was there in the beginning as God’s partner in creation.  We read of the Spirit inspiring and empowering God’s people at various times in their history – in Moses, in the elders of the people, in the prophets, Balaam, Joshua, the Judges – Othniel, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson, Samuel, Saul, David, Azariah, Jahaziel, Zachariah, Isaiah, Ezekiel.  I’ll have to admit, when I did a search for the Spirit, I knew he was there, but didn’t really realize how pervasive he is.  He is everywhere in the OT.

Let’s go back to the days surrounding the Spirit’s entrance into the life of the church. The night before Jesus’ crucifixion, he prepared his disciples for his departure telling them when he left them he would not leave them as orphans but would send a counselor, a comforter, the Holy Spirit to be with them and live in them. You will remember how the next morning the disciples followed the procession to Golgotha, they watched as he was crucified, they watched as his body was taken down from the cross and placed in tomb, and a great stone was rolled over the entrance, their hopes and futures sealed.  Then the resurrection appearances lifted their souls, and for a moment nothing was beyond their ability.  Then they gathered on a hillside in Galilee and watched their risen Lord ascend into heaven.  Then they travelled back to Jerusalem to wait – for what, they were not certain.

But before he left, Jesus had told them, 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.” (Acts 1:4-5). 

Fifty days after Jesus’ crucifixion, the Day of Pentecost came – a most remarkable event – and it brought the promised coming of Holy Spirit; it brought amazing happenings.  It was a day none of them would forget, but the impact of the coming of the Holy Spirit has meaning so much further and broader than just what happened that day.  It was a most remarkable event because it was with his coming that the church came into existence – he was the focal point of the church. In fact, the book in your Bible with the title Acts of the Apostle would be better called The Acts of Holy Spirit because he is present and active in every aspect of the church’s life.

When God sent the Spirit on Jesus that day at the Jordan river as John baptized him and the Spirit came down as a dove and alit on him, he said, “This is my beloved Son…”  In the same way, on this incredible day of Pentecost, God was authorizing and empowering this new people who would change the face of the world. With the coming of the Spirit, he was saying, “this is my beloved people, listen to them.”

The Lord who is the Spirit

We have been talking about a closer walk with God.  Our greatest desire as Christians is to be Christ-like, yet the truth is that we are incapable of accomplishing that on our own.  I might just as well decide I want to jump to the moon as to become like Christ on the basis of the goodness of my life and the force of my will.  We are in need of a greater power – one that can move and work confidently and decisively.

It is his own Holy Spirit that God gives us to do that.  The Holy Spirit is a member of what has been called the “Godhead” or “Trinity.” (An attempt to explain the inexplicable.)  The Holy Spirit is always referred to in the Bible as HE, never IT.  He is no impersonal ghost-like entity, not a glorified messenger boy, but GOD.  Not just a divine being, or a super-angel, but GOD.  As the Father is God, as the Son is God, so the Spirit is God.

·         2 Cor. 3:17 “Now the Lord is the Spirit…”                      

·         Mt. 28:20 “Therefore, go and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit…”

·         Not three gods, but one God in three persons.  Independent, yet dependent on each other.  Individually identifiable, yet inseparable.

The NT has so much to tell us concerning the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives and we’ll spend this morning and next talking about the working of the Holy Spirit and his role in our lives.

The Powerful Spirit

It is imperative that we realize the charismatic world does not have a monopoly on Holy Spirit, and that to believe and realize the power of the Holy Spirit in your life does not mean you will speak in tongues and heal people and display the emotional excesses that characterize that movement.  In the church today, those things have nothing to do with the authentic working of the Holy Spirit.

Suppose you have a ten gallon can of gasoline. In that can, you have a lot of potential power. Now, that power can be released explosively by throwing a match in it, or you can channel it through a fuel efficient internal combustion engine and transport somebody 300 miles. Explosions are spectacular, and there may be instances where that explosive power serves the best purpose. But the most productive use is in the engine.

In the same way, the Holy Spirit generated some explosive demonstrations of his power in the early moments of the church’s life – at Pentecost, in the house of Cornelius, at the hands of the apostles.  But his power confirmed, his presence made known, the authority of the apostles legitimized, he now generates his power in the life of the church, in the lives of individual Christians for the long run. He is no less powerful today than he was on that day of Pentecost. He is just as capable and engaged in the life of the church as he was in the book of Acts.

Let’s consider then, the specifics of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives.  For the better we understand his working and his purposes, the more capable we are of opening our lives and being obedient to his working within us.

The Holy Spirit is the agent and guarantee of salvation

The power of the Holy Spirit begins in washing and rebirth.  We are soiled by sin – the Spirit cleanses us.  We are dead in sin – the Spirit makes us alive.  We are separated from God – the Spirit reconciles us to God.

Titus 3:3-7 – At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”

This salvation is not a one-time experience in which we were cleansed of sin and then left to fend for ourselves. The Spirit continues to live within us and guarantee our salvation.

Eph. 1:13-14And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”

2 Cor. 1:21-22 – Paul says that God “anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” 

The Spirit is God’s mark of ownership, his deposit of eternal life.

The Holy Spirit dwells within us.  He takes up residence to do his work – 1 Cor. 6:19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? - Not just an occasional visit, but a constant, abiding presence in our lives.

Yes, Holy Spirit lives within us.  He washes us and renews us and keeps us in a right relationship with God - 1 Cor. 6:11 “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

What a dynamic entrance into the kingdom of God – we must be made fit for his presence. 

The Holy Spirit gives us power to live for God

The Spirit works daily and powerfully in our lives.  He empowers us to say no to sin and yes to righteousness. In Romans 8, Paul provides an extended discussion of the work of the Spirit and its ongoing impact on our relationship with God:

Romans 8:1-2 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”  – the Spirit has set us free from that domination by sin – we are free to choose.

8:5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” – Paul delineates the real dichotomy between people.  There are two kinds – natural and spiritual – one with a mind and life set on whatever the sinful nature desires.  But people of God choose differently – they choose life and peace because they have the Spirit of God living within them: vss. 6–7 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.”

Understand, if you do not have the Holy Spirit living in you, you are ultimately and inevitably controlled by the sinful nature.  In spite of your best intentions, you cannot be pleasing to God. And that’s the mistake we make – we equate consciousness with life. But the truth is, we walk in the midst of dead people – people who are spiritually dead, and will one day die an eternal death if they do not accept the salvation of God.

Rom 8:9 – we find the core of what Paul is telling us about this indwelling Holy Spirit:You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.”  

IF the Spirit of God lives in you…” (If – not “if” of uncertainty, but of inevitable consequence, unshakeable certainty: “Since the Spirit…”) He says the same thing in vs. 11 – “Since the Spirit…”

I hear Paul telling us two incredibly important things about the Holy Spirit’s practical presence in our lives:  1) Empowers us to say “no” to sin.     2) Transforms our minds and our lives to focus on the desires of Spirit – our hearts are no longer wrapped up in worldly desires, but on the things of God.

That is accomplished in several ways:

1)  He intercedes in prayerRomans 8:26-27 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”

2)  He reveals God’s will through the Word – You’ll remember how, in Ephesians 6, when Paul talks about the armor of God, he tells us that the word of God is the sword of the Spirit. When Jesus was telling his disciples about the coming of the Holy Spirit he said:

John 16:13-15 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.”  

3)  He sows and reaps the fruit of the Spirit

The Spirit works as a sower and cultivator, planting and harvesting the fruit of the Spirit – Gal. 5:22-24 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

Here Paul repeats the same theme – Those who do not have the Spirit living within them are enslaved to sin – those who have the Spirit have been empowered by the Spirit to live like Christ. We have put sin away, we have crucified it, and in its place the fruit of the Spirit is blossoming.

It can be no other way for the Christian.  The Holy Spirit is not an optional extra.  Though we may not perfectly understand all the workings of the Spirit we cannot afford to ignore his power working within our lives.  We are a people redeemed and reclaimed by the Father, and given a seal of redemption.  No one will enter the gates of heaven without that seal – the seal of the Holy Spirit.

How does that Spirit enter our lives?  Is there a moment at which God’s saving presence begins to dwell within you?  It is not in some mystical, indefinable moment when he just magically appears. And while we can never completely understand the Holy Spirit, neither is he an arbitrary, unknowable quantity, who comes and leaves on whim – or one who can be manipulated and coerced into acting on our command.

He is the gift of God – he is God who takes up residence in our lives as a response to our obedience to his will. There at the coming of the Spirit, and the beginning of the church, Peter had declared that this Jesus whom they had crucified was both Lord and Christ. And they were cut to the heart and asked Peter “what should we do?”  - Acts 2:38-39   Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

This receiving the Holy Spirit at baptism was God’s promise,  not only to those who were there on that day, but to everyone who would become a follower of Jesus after that, including you and me – that when we go into that water, we leave our old self there in the water, and come out of the water a new creation, free from sin and filled with God’s Holy Spirit.

God’s invitation this morning is to enter into the life that God created you to live – life in the Spirit.  As Paul said, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

Years ago, Paul Harvey told this story: 

Dr. S.D. Gordon, a Boston preacher, one day placed a beat-up rusted bird cage beside his pulpit, and proceeded to tell how he happened to have it.  He had encountered a grubby, dirty little boy, about 10, coming out of the alley swinging this old bird cage.  Several tiny birds were shivering on the floor of the cage.  Dr. Gordon asked the boy where he got the birds, and he said he trapped them.  When Dr. Gordon asked the boy what he was going to do with them, he replied, "I'm going to play with them, have fun with them." Dr. Gordon said, "Sooner or later you're going to get tired of that; then what are you going to do with them?"  The boy responded, "I have cats at home.  They like birds.  I'll feed 'em to my cats."  The compassionate Dr. Gordon asked, "Son, how much do you want for these birds?"  Surprised, the boy said, "Mister, you don't want these birds.  They're just plain old field birds.  They can't sing.  They're ugly."  "Just tell me how much you want," said Gordon.  The boy thought... squinted... hesitated...calculated and finally said, "two dollars?"  To his surprise, Dr. Gordon reached into his pocket and handed him two crisp dollar bills.  The preacher took the cage, in a flash the boy had disappeared down the alley.  In a sheltered crevice between the buildings Dr. Gordon opened the door of the cage and, tapping on the rusty exterior, encouraged the birds to find their way to the door and fly away.  Having accounted for the empty cage beside the pulpit, the preacher went on to tell what seemed like an unconnected story - about how one day long ago Jesus and the devil were involved in negotiations.  Satan boasted about how he had baited the trap in the garden of Eden and caught a world full of people.  Jesus asked, "What are you going to do with all those people?"  "I'm going to play with them, tease them, make them marry and divorce and fight and kill one another.  I'm going to teach then to throw bombs at each other.  I'm going to have fun with them."  Jesus said, "You can't have fun with them forever.  When you get tired of playing with them, then what will you do with them?" Satan said, "Damn them.  They're no good anyway.  I'll damn them.  Kill them."  Christ asked, "How much do you want for them?"  Satan said, "You can't be serious.  If I sell them to you they'll hate you.  They'll hit you and hammer nails into you.  They're no good!"  "How much?" demanded Jesus.  "All your tears and your blood; that's the price," Satan growled.  And Jesus paid the price and opened the door.

I keep this old birdcage in my office to remind me that through the power of the Spirit I have been set free because Jesus paid the price.