If we were to go around the room this morning, I wonder how many of you could tell me all the details of your auto insurance policy? For example, what is the deductible if a rock flies up and cracks your windshield? Or what is the maximum dollar amount your policy will pay if someone sues you for hitting their car? Or how much of the hospital bills would your policy cover?
There may be a few of you who could rattle off that information, but I would guess that most of us would have to say we aren’t sure about all of the details of our benefits. It’s not that we’re stupid! And we were certainly aware of those benefits back when we purchased the policy, when we sat down with our agent and figured out exactly what we needed. But then we put the paperwork in a drawer and we forgot about those details and we don’t think about them again, until something happens and then we need to look them up.
I want to suggest this morning that there is a danger that the same thing can happen in another area of our lives. If we have made Jesus our Lord, if we have put him on in baptism, we have tremendous benefits that come our way, and yet we’re sometimes ignorant of those benefits. And it’s not that we’re stupid. We’re just like that person who buys an insurance policy, brings it home and tosses it into a drawer. It’s just not something we think about on a daily basis.
But there are benefits that go along with being a Christian. And I’m not talking about the benefits reserved for us when we get to heaven. We tend to think about those a lot. But there are benefits which God intends for us to enjoy right here, right now.
In fact, they are gifts given to us by God so that we can be everything he designed us to be. And so, we need to be reminded of the privileges of being a child of God. For example, in Romans 8:1, Paul tells us that because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, we are no longer condemned for our sins – “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
But there is so much more to salvation than just not being condemned. Paul goes on in Romans 8 to remind us that when we turn our lives over to Jesus Christ, we don’t live alone any longer. We are given the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. And since we’re not alone any more, we need to be constantly aware of our ever-present companion.
In Romans 8:5, Paul writes,“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.”
As we’ve talked about in I Corinthians, there are really only two ways of thinking, two ways of living your life. You can live with your mind focused on the flesh or you can live with your mind focused on Spirit. You can live your life focused on things that will give you the most pleasure and make your life the most comfortable, or you can live your life focused on those things that are spiritual.
And I’ve said before that the flesh and the spirit are like a great Continental Divide. If I choose the Spirit, then my life is going to head in this direction. Every day, I will become a little more like Christ. More and more, I will come to be holy as God is holy.
The alternative is to choose the flesh. But, as I focus more and more on the things that will bring me the most pleasure, I will find myself getting more and more self-centered, and less and less like Jesus.
“For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”(Romans 8:6-8)
But Paul goes on to say in verse 9:
“You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” (Romans 8:9-10)
When you make the decision to follow Jesus Christ, there is a change of focus. You no longer set your mind on the things of the flesh. You no longer set your mind on those things that will bring you the most pleasure. You no longer set your mind on those things that are temporary! Now that you are in Christ, you set your mind on things that go beyond this material world.
And God gives you a gift — the gift of the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit takes up residence in your life and becomes a part of you. Now I’m sure that most of us who have been baptized have been told about the fact that the Holy Spirit lives within us.
On the day of Pentecost, Peter told the Jews, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38).
On the day that you were baptized, God did two things for you. First of all, he forgave you of your sins, he washed them away, he wiped the slate clean. Then secondly, he gave you a gift. He gave you his Spirit to live inside of you. That’s an amazing promise, but I wonder how many of us really consider what that means.
I think a lot of Christians file that idea away in a drawer somewhere and don’t think much about it. Which may help to explain why so many Christians go through life struggling to follow God, why so many Christians allow sin to creep back into their lives, why so many Christians are apathetic about their spiritual growth. Could it be that we sometimes have a fleshly mindset because we haven’t recognized the blessing — the incredible benefit — of having the Spirit of God living inside of us?
I think that’s partly what happened to the Christians at Corinth. Some of them were involved in sexual immorality, so Paul reminded them in 1 Corinthians 6, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body.” (I Corinthians 6:19-20)
Paul says when you realize what it means for God’s Spirit to live within us, then it changes everything. And so, here in Romans 8, verse 9, Paul says, “the Spirit of God dwells in you.” That word “dwell” is important. It means more than just “be there,” like you might be at the mall, or be at a restaurant. The Greek word here means “to live in a house.”
And so, the implication is that the Spirit of God does not regard you as a temporary stopover. Rather, he has taken up residence in your life. He has made himself at home. This is where he lives. The implication of that suggests nearness and familiarity and influence. You see, if somebody makes your house their home, they’re going to be around you a lot. They will become familiar with you and you will become familiar with them. And they will have an influence on you and the way you live.
If you are a Christian, the Spirit of God dwells in you, he has made his home in you. That means that he’s going to be around you a lot. And as you become more and more aware of his presence, he will have more and more of an influence in your life. And there are several key benefits that come our way by having the Holy Spirit as part of our lives. Paul talks about a few of these, beginning in verse 11.
I. The Holy Spirit Gives Us Life
“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11)
Just as surely as God’s Spirit had the power to raise Jesus from the dead, that same Spirit has the power to give us life. Now I do think that Paul is talking primarily here about raising us from the dead to eternal life. When you die and your spirit separates from your mortal body, that separation will not last forever. Your resurrection is just as certain as Christ´s resurrection because the same Spirit that dwelled in him and raised him from the dead dwells in you.
As we saw in I Corinthians 6, our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. I don’t know if you’ve thought about this, but Jesus’ body was also a temple of the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit lived within him. And that’s why Jesus said to the Jewish leaders in John 2, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19). And just as God’s Spirit raised up the temple of Jesus’ body in three days, he will also raise us up and live in us forever and ever.
So I think that Paul is talking primarily here about raising us from the dead. But I also think he has in mind God’s Spirit giving us life right now.
Do you remember the story of the Valley of Dry Bones in Ezekiel 37? God took the prophet Ezekiel to a valley that was filled with dry, human bones. These weren’t just decaying bodies. They were just bones — dry, bleached bones.
If ever there was a place where there was no hope, this was it. These corpses had obviously been dead a long, long time. This situation was utterly hopeless!
But, in that valley, God had a conversation with Ezekiel. He asked him, “Ezekiel, can these bones come back to life?” (verse 3). I suspect that Ezekiel may have been thinking, “Are you out of your mind? Not a chance!”, but you don’t say things like that to God. So, Ezekiel said, “Lord, you know. You know whether they can come back to life or not.”
Then God told Ezekiel, “Prophesy to these bones.” (verse 4). Say to these bones, ‘Hear the word of the Lord.’ When you do that, I will turn these bones back into bodies, and I will put life back into those bodies.”
So, Ezekiel did exactly what God told him to do. He began to preach to the bones, and suddenly there was a loud rattling noise as all the bones began fitting back into skeletons again. And as Ezekiel continued to preach, those skeletons became fleshly bodies. And then the bodies were filled with the very breath of God, and this great army came to life and stood up.
Now, this was just a vision, but God told Ezekiel what that vision meant. He said, “These bones represent the nation of Israel. The people of Israel have no hope. They are as dead spiritually as those dry bones on the battlefield. But I will fill them with my Spirit and they will come to life again.” And they did.
But that vision wasn’t just for the Ezekiel’s sake. God says to each of us, “I want you to see what happens when my Spirit fills your life. Maybe when you look at your life, you see so many problems, so many difficulties, so many obstacles, so many failures. that there’s just no hope. You can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. All you see are dry bones. But I want you to see what happens when my Spirit fills your life.”
“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11).
God’s Spirit gives us life.
II. The Holy Spirit Gives Us the Power to Live a Godly Life
“Therefore, brethren, 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. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (Romans 8:12-14)
Paul says that the way we put to death the deeds of the flesh is “by the Spirit”. God’s Spirit gives us the power to live a godly life. And that makes all the difference in the world. Because when I’m faced with the prospect of living a holy life for God all by myself, I get easily discouraged.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. Have you ever listened to somebody who is a financial expert and he gives you all this advice on how you need to get rid of all your debt and you need to put so much aside in your savings account and make sure you have your retirement fund set up this way? And you come away saying to yourself, “I know that what he said is true. I know that’s what I need to do, but I just don’t have a clue as to how to go about doing that.”
But if I had someone in my life who could stay with me, who would walk with me each step of the way, saying, ‘You need to do this’ or ‘Don’t do that, that would be a big mistake’, that would be a tremendous help to me.
I see our spiritual lives operating much the same way. We can listen to preachers tell us, “You need to get rid of sin in your life. You need to love everyone around you. You need to be filled with holiness.” And I think sometimes we come away saying, “I know that what he said is true. I know that’s what I need to do, but I just don’t have a clue as to how to go about doing that. But if I had someone in my life who could stay with me, who would walk with me each step of the way, that would be a tremendous help.”
And God says, “I’ll do more than just walk with you. I’m going to put my Spirit inside of you – to encourage you, to strengthen you, to give you the power to live a godly life. You can’t do it on your own, so I’m going to help you.”
And that’s not to say that we just sit back and let the Holy Spirit do his thing. Holiness is a joint venture. The Holy Spirit gives me the strength, but I still need to act. The Holy Spirit leads me, but I still need to follow. It is the Holy Spirit’s power combined with my willingness to follow that allows me to put to death the old life. But I need that strength. E. Stanley Jones said it best when he said, “Unless the Holy Spirit fills, the human spirit fails.”
God’s Spirit empowers us to live a godly life.
III. The Holy Spirit Gives Us Assurance
Verse 15, “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” (Romans 8:15-17)
I think it’s significant that Paul wants us to know that through God’s Spirit, we are given the ability to live without fear. Now that’s important because I think one of Satan’s most effective tools is fear. Remember when Jesus told the parable about the three servants who were given talents to be used while their master was gone? The first was given five talents and he used those talents and doubled them. The one who was given two talents used them and doubled them. But the servant who was given one talent took it and buried it in the ground and he didn’t do anything with it. And he told his master why he did that. He said, “Because I was afraid…” (Matthew 25:25).
What was he afraid of? He was afraid because he thought his master would be angry with him for making a mistake, so instead of taking the chance of doing something wrong, he chose to do nothing at all. And over the years, I’ve seen a lot of Christians and a lot of congregations who had the same problem. Their concept of God was to see him as a cruel taskmaster, and as a result, they were so afraid that God might be angry with them for making a mistake that they chose instead to do nothing at all.
Paul says we need to get rid of our fear, and God has given his Spirit to us to help do that. He has given us his Spirit to help us to see that God is not a cruel taskmaster, but a loving Father. God wants to make sure his children know that they are his children. He wants to make sure that we understand that God loves us the same way that a father loves his children.
Because the Holy Spirit doesn’t lead us by stirring up fear. He leads us by stirring up family affection. God’s Spirit doesn’t get you to overcome sin by making you a slave who acts out of fear. But by making you a son or a daughter who acts out of faith and affection.
Let’s be honest. You can get a lot of compliance with enslavement and fear. I heard about a Vietnamese man who was asked if the people in Vietnam liked Communism. He said no, but then he added, “They have the guns.” So, if you have the guns you can enslave and create enough fear so that there is a lot of compliance. But that’s not what the Holy Spirit does to get us to obey God.
Rather he leads by helping us to understand the truth of our adoption and the relationship we enjoy with our Father in heaven. The Holy Spirit brings God’s fatherly love to us, and he brings our childlike affections to God. Because we have God’s Spirit dwelling in our hearts, we have the ability to come before our heavenly Father at any time and cry out “Abba, Father”.
The reason Paul uses the word “cry” and the Aramaic word “Abba” is because both of those words point to a deep, affectionate, personal experience of God’s fatherly love. Paul didn’t say that the Holy Spirit helps us by teaching us intellectually that God is our Father. Even the devil knows that. Rather, what Paul said was that the Holy Spirit helps us to feel that we are God’s children, so that from our hearts there rises this cry – not just a mere statement, but a cry: “Abba! Father!”
“You received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”
Because it is only when we truly understand our relationship as God’s children that we can live for God not out of fear, but out of affection.
I heard a story about a wealthy but miserly lady who lived in New England during the early part of the 20th century. When they brought electricity to her part of the country, she was among the first to sign up, and people in the area were amazed that she was so anxious to take on this new technology.
But the guy who read the meters was surprised the first time he came out to see how much electricity she had used. In fact, the amount was so low that he wondered if perhaps the meter was broken. He knocked on her door and asked the lady if everything with her electricity was alright. She told him it was.
He said, “Well, I was just wondering, it didn’t seem like you used much.” She said, “Oh, I don’t use much at all. When the sun goes down, I turn on the lights just long enough to light my oil lamps, then I turn them back off.”
I wonder if perhaps there are some Christians who live in the Spirit about that much. We’ve got the power of God in our lives, God has blessed us abundantly, but we only use a trickle of that power for living. And we choose instead to live by our own power.
What would our lives be like if we spent more time being aware of God’s presence? What if we got up every morning and prayed, “Father, throughout this day, I’m going to be tempted to do some things that will make my life easier. But I want very much to make those decisions that will make me more like you. Make me aware today of your Spirit who lives within me. Help me to listen and to follow.”
Because that Holy Spirit has been given to us to give us life, to give us the power to live a godly life, and to give us the assurance of our relationship with God our Father.