The difference between religion and relationship, when we’re talking about God, is what we’re following. If we’re following the rules, that’s religion, but if we’re following Jesus, that’s relationship. Following Jesus is about learning to rest in the grace of God’s love and respond to the life flowing from his Spirit. Join us for a faith-changing series about what it really means to follow Jesus from what many have called the most important chapter in the entire Bible – Romans 8.
We kick off the new year with a series on Romans 8. It has been called the most important chapter of the entire Bible by some because it is almost a summary of the heart of the Christian faith and instructs on how to take hold of everything that following Jesus has to offer. It begins with words that are a fresh wind to a weary soul.
Craig: Hey, welcome to Mission Hills, and Happy New Year.
Church: Happy New Year.
Craig: It is the first weekend of the new year. I’m really curious, several years ago somebody put me on to this idea that really, it’s a good practice at the beginning of the year, not so much to set resolutions, those are fine, but it’s a really good practice to find a word for the year. I’m curious how many of you have kind of identified a word for your life for this year? If that’s new to any of you, the idea here is that you pick a word that helps you be intentional about how you’re gonna live your life in this new year. And that can be some really powerful ways that God uses that.
I’ve had several different words over the last year, but I’m gonna share with you my word for 2021. My word for 2021 in case anybody is looking for a word still is momentum. Momentum is my word. And if you’re not sure what momentum is, momentum is mass in motion. It’s not just motion, it’s something that’s got some weight to it that’s in motion. Here’s the great thing about mass that’s in motion, it’s kind of hard to stop, right? It tends to just kind of roll over things.
And I think it’s probably why John Maxwell, who’s a great leadership teacher, says that 80% of our problems in life are actually solved by momentum. And what he means is that when you got momentum in your life, whether that’s in your financial life, or in your work life, in your relationship life, in your spiritual life, when you have momentum in your life, you tend to kind of encounter the same difficulties as everybody else does, but you tend to blow past them. They don’t really even slow you down. On the other hand, if you don’t have momentum in your life, you encounter those difficulties and they don’t just slow you down, they tend to stop you in your tracks.
And the reality is we’ve probably all had times in our lives where we had momentum, it just kind of felt like everything was clicking, and we would encounter difficulties, but honestly, we just kind of keep moving and they didn’t really do much. And we’ve also had those times in our lives where we felt like we couldn’t get momentum up and it felt like everything that happened just kind of got us stuck where we were. Anybody ever felt that one? In 2020, maybe?
Let’s be honest, 2020 was a momentum murderer, right? It killed momentum in so many different ways in our lives and I saw that over and over again. And so that’s why my word for this year is momentum. Because here’s the good news, if momentum sounds like an interesting thing, if you’re kind of attracted to that idea, I’ve got good news for you, and I’ve got better news. How about that at the beginning of 2021? I don’t have good news and bad news. I got good news and better news, right?
Here’s the good news. The good news is that God has created…God has provided all the momentum that we need to be on mission with him in every area of our lives this year. He’s created all the momentum that we need to be on mission with him in every area of our lives this year. That’s the good news.
The better news is that if God has created the momentum, if God has provided the momentum, the better news is, we don’t have to work hard to create it, we just have to worry about how to catch it. We don’t have to work hard to create momentum, we just have to learn to catch it.
And so what we’re gonna do in this series we’re starting today called Fresh Wind is we’re gonna take a look at what some people have called the most important chapter of the Bible. Because I believe that in this chapter, we’re given some instruction from God on what it looks like to catch this momentum that God has provided, and he longs for us to have in every area of our lives. Because I believe that God is stirring a fresh wind in your life right now. And what we’re gonna do in this series is get some instruction from God on how to kind of put up the sails and catch this fresh wind.
So if you wanna grab a Bible. This chapter I’m talking about that people have called the most important chapter of the Bible is actually Romans chapter 8. And in some ways, Romans chapter 8, as you’re making your way there, Romans chapter 8 is the most important chapter of the Bible not because it says everything we need to know. I mean, the whole Bible is important, but the whole Bible in some ways is kind of like all that ice underneath an iceberg that pushes up that one piece that we can see. Romans 8 is kind of like the tip of the iceberg.
All the rest of the Bible is important, but what Romans 8 has to say is so important because really it’s probably the clearest picture we have in the Bible of the difference between having a relationship with God and having a religion. Religion, and religion is kind of a drag, right? But a relationship with God, that’s supposed to be life-giving, it’s supposed to be a fresh wind that allows us to leap forward into everything that God has for us.
And Romans 8, more than any other part of the Bible really lays out the difference between having a relationship with God and having a religion. And Romans 8 begins with this incredible momentum-creating statement if we fully understand it.
Here’s what Paul says, Romans chapter 8, verse 1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” And I had a seminary professor tell me once, I think it was like the first day of seminary, he said, “Hey, a little interpretive hint, when you’re reading the Bible, when you come across the word, therefore, you should always ask what is the therefore there for?” And actually, that’s a really good advice. I’m not sure that I’m… This is what I say, I’m gonna pay a lot of money for common sense ideas like that?
But the reality is that’s a really important idea for understanding everything that God has to say to us.
Whenever you come across the word, therefore, you’re gonna ask what is it there for? And what you need to understand here is that what Paul is saying is what I’m about to tell you depends on what I’ve already told you, okay? What I’ve said up to this point sets the stage for this incredibly important statement that I’m making about the fact that there’s no condemnation in Christ. Okay, so what has Paul said that allows him to say that? Basically, up to this point in the Book of Romans, he’s unpacked three major ideas, three incredibly important, big ideas.
Number one is that we have all sinned, okay, probably not a shock to anybody. Anybody like, whoa, whoa, whoa, you don’t mean me, do you? I mean, how many of us have sinned? I won’t even ask like, if you’ve done it today yet okay? We’ll leave that aside. But the reality is we’ve all sinned. We’ve all done wrong things. We’ve all done things that we knew weren’t right.
Here’s how Paul says it in Romans chapter 3:23, he says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And the reason he talks about falling short of the glory of God is because God himself is the standard, God’s nature, and his character. What God is like is actually what we’re supposed to be shooting for. That’s the bar we’re trying to get over because we’re supposed to be like him.
And so God is…He’s faithful. He always keeps his promises. And every time that we break a promise, even a little bit, we fall short. We sin. God is kind. And so every time that we use cruel words, whether we’re posting on Facebook or saying on somebody’s face, we fall short of God’s kindness. We sin. God is…he’s loving. He’s other-centered. He gives of himself to others. And so every time we act with selfish intent trying to get for ourselves even when it’s costly to others, we fall short of who God is, and that’s sin. And so he says we’ve all done it, okay? That’s the big idea number one.
The big idea number two he says is that sin has a consequence. Sin leads to death. There’s a result that happens because of our sin because we fall short. And the reality is that the consequence of sin is something pretty steep. Here’s how Paul says it and it’s Romans chapter 6, verse 23. He says, “For the wages of sin is…” What’s that word, church?
Craig: It’s death, “For the wages of sin is death.” And notice he says wages, that’s really important. He doesn’t say the penalty. He doesn’t say the punishment. He doesn’t say God’s retribution. He says, no, “The wages of sin.”
And wages is just what we earn naturally. If I do a job and I earn a wage, I’m getting what is due me for what I have done. And he says sin is kind of that way. When we sin, there’s a very natural consequence that comes, not because God is punishing us, but because it’s just what comes naturally. It’s what we’re due for what we’ve done. Because here’s the problem, see, the reason we fall short isn’t because we’ve tried and been unable to make it over the bar. The reason that we fall short is because we’re not actually even interested in getting over that bar.
The reason we fall short is because we’re not aiming for that target. We’re going in a different direction. We’re doing our own thing. The reason that we break promises is not because we tried really hard and we just couldn’t keep it. The reason we break our promises is more often because we decided that keeping that promise will be inconvenient for us because there’s something else we’d really rather do. There’s something else that we want more than we want to be faithful.
The reason that we speak with cruel words is not because we tried to speak kind words and cruel words came out. I don’t know what happened. No, it’s because we wanted to be cruel. We wanted to inflict damage. We had a sinful purpose in those words. The reason that we’re not loving, the reason that we’re self-centered isn’t because we tried to be other-centered and giving but we just couldn’t quite pull it off. The reason is because we don’t want to be other-centered because if we’re afraid if we are focused on others, then we won’t get for ourselves everything that we wanna grab, right?
So what’s really happening when we sin is, is not just that we’re falling short, it’s because we’re falling short because we’re turning away from God. We’re literally rebelling against God. We’re walking away from God. And the problem is when we walk away from God, we disconnect from God and God is the only source of life. So when we sin, we disconnect from God, death is the inevitable result.
It’s like when you unplug your phone in the morning, what happens? It begins to die, right? We don’t always think about it like that but that’s really what’s happening. The moment you unplug your phone from a power source, it is beginning to slow fade into death. Same thing happens for us. When we sin, we begin to slow fade into death. And that means physical death, but it also means spiritual death, separated from God for all of eternity, with no hope, and no peace, and no joy, no meaning, no significance. The Bible calls that existence hell, and it is awful. But it’s the inevitable wage of our sin, of disconnecting from God.
Now, that’s all bad news. The good news, the third big idea that Paul has unpacked in the Book of Romans at this point is this, is that Jesus paid our wages with his death. The wage of sin is death but Jesus kind of found a loophole. Jesus said, yeah, the wage of sin is death, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be your death, it just has to be death. And so Jesus paid our wages with his death.
Romans chapter 5, verse 18, here’s how Paul says it, he says, “Just as one trespass, one sin, one act of rebellion resulted in condemnation for all people,” the condemnation is the wage of sin which is death, “so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.” And he’s talking there about the decision that Jesus made to come and to live a perfect life, but then to become an offering to pay with his life the wages of our sin. When Jesus went to the cross, he did it willingly, to pay off the debt of our sin, to pay the wage of our sin for us.
And it says…I love the word he says, “And so he resulted in justification.” I like that word because even though we don’t use the word justification very often, think about it this way, this is how God justified forgiving us. Because God couldn’t just go, I know you’ve all rebelled, I know you’ve all done wrong things, I know you’ve sinned, I know you’ve been unkind to each other, I know you’ve hurt each other, there’s a lot of suffering because of all that, but you know what, I’m just gonna act like it never happened. I mean, that wouldn’t be justice, would it?
I mean imagine that somebody has harmed you or your family in some incredibly deep way and it gets before the judge, he’s caught for his crime and he’s brought before the judge and the judge goes, you know what, let’s just pretend it never happened. How would you react to that? That’s wrong. You can’t do that. That’s not right. It’s not just. Well, God is a just judge. And so God can’t just go, I’ll just pretend it never happened. He has to be able to justify forgiving us and the only way to do that is that the price of sin is paid. But he did that with his own Son. That’s the essence of this thing we call the Gospel, the good news, that Jesus paid our wages with his death.
And that when we put our trust in him, God can justify forgiving us for everything we’ve ever done. And that’s ultimately why it is that Paul is able to say this incredible thing in Romans 8:1 when he says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” And I wonder, I wonder how often we hear something like that and we just kind of move past it pretty quickly without really stopping to consider what God is actually saying to us right there.
Let me say it again slower, hear this, because of what God has done, therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. He doesn’t say there’s less condemnation or not quite as much. He says, “There is no condemnation.” God has no condemnation for any wrong that you’ve ever done if you’re in Christ.
So I’m gonna ask you to do something that seems a little strange here at the beginning of the new year, maybe kind of uncomfortable to do in church, but I want you to think of the worst thing you’ve ever done. Maybe it’s something you said to somebody. Maybe it’s something that you didn’t say when you desperately needed to. Maybe it’s something you did. Maybe it’s something you didn’t do. Chances are, it’s not so much that you can’t think of anything wrong you’ve ever done, but you can’t pick out the one that’s the worst, right? Maybe that’s probably the hardest thing.
And you might wonder why am I making you think about this? And the reality is that those things aren’t hard for us to think about because we continue to condemn ourselves for them. I know I do at least. There are so many things that I can look back at my life and go I can’t believe that I said that. I can’t believe that I did that, or I didn’t step in and do this. And the thing is like I continue to condemn myself and I think most of us tend to do that. We have these things in our past that we condemn ourselves for and yet God says, hear it again, “Therefore there is now no condemnation.”
From God’s point of view, it’s forgiven. From God’s point of view, it’s gone. From God’s point of view, it’s paid off. From God’s point of view, it no longer exists. You are forgiven. You are completely free from that. Do you understand how good that news is? Therefore, there is now no condemnation. God has no condemnation. All God has for you is love. God is not condemning you. God is for you. God longs for you to begin to experience a life that is free from that condemnation because as far as he’s concerned it doesn’t exist.
But it’s interesting, even though God says it doesn’t exist, we continue to heap it on ourselves, don’t we? How many of us condemn ourselves for the things that God says that there is no condemnation for? So let me ask you an interesting question. Ask yourself this, where in my life am I calling God a liar? Where in your life are you calling God a liar? Where in your life are you continuing to carry condemnation? Maybe it’s a condemnation that you’ve heaped on you, maybe it’s a condemnation that other people have heaped on you, but you’re carrying it around. Where in your life are you carrying condemnation?
And understand that God says, no, no, no, you’re wrong, there’s no condemnation there. And you’re like, no, you’re wrong because I feel it, I’ve got it, I’m carrying it, it’s here. You understand when we carry condemnation as followers of Jesus, we are calling God a liar. So where in your life are you calling God a liar? Where in your life are you carrying condemnation when he says it’s gone?
And I say this because one of the first keys to really beginning to experience momentum in our lives and our spiritual lives, especially, but also in every area of our life because it bleeds over and it colors every part of our lives, one of the first keys to experiencing momentum is to cut the anchor of the things that are weighing us down. And condemnation is one of the heaviest anchors you’ll ever carry. But you don’t have to carry it because God says, “Therefore there is now…” What’s the word church? “There is now no condemnation.” You are free. You are forgiven if you are in Christ.
And if you’re here today and you’re not in Christ, if you’re like, I don’t even know what that means. What that means is that you’ve made a decision to say yes to trusting in Jesus and nothing else. You’re choosing to follow Jesus and in that relationship with Jesus, all of the wrong that you’ve ever done is gone. And if you’re here today and you don’t have that relationship, ask yourself, why not? If it’s possible that there would be no condemnation for me, why would I not say yes to that? I’ll come back to that in a moment.
He says, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus, the law of the Spirit gives life…who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” He says there’s no condemnation because the law of the Spirit who gives life is at work, and you’re free from the law of sin and death. And you’re like, okay, what’s this law business? What is he talking about? Well, what he’s talking about are the Commandments of God that we find in what we call the Old Testament.
The law he’s talking about are these sort of rules and regulations for life that God gave to the Israelites, his people, a couple of thousand years before this was written. There’s hundreds of those rules for how they’re supposed to live their lives and to be God’s people. If you’re not familiar with all of them, you’re probably familiar at least with the top ten. We call them the Ten Commandments. But they really are kind of the top ten. They’re sort of the big ten out of all of the other ones. You know, the Ten Commandments include things like don’t lie, don’t commit adultery, don’t covet, don’t long for what other people have. We’re aware of those. Well, that’s the law he’s talking about.
You might go, oh, no, no, no, hang on a second, he’s talking about two different laws. He’s talking about the law of the Spirit and the law of sin and death. What does that have to do with God’s commandments? Well, he’s actually not talking about two different laws, he’s talking about the same law, but it’s the same law in two different hands. And what he’s really saying is that this law of God, the commands of God, accomplish two radically different things depending on whose hands they’re in.
Think about it like this. It’s like a surgeon versus a psycho. You give a surgeon a sharp blade, what does he use it for? He uses it to bring healing, to bring health, right? You give a psycho a sharp blade, what does he use? He uses it to bring harm. He uses it to bring death. It’s the same tool, but it’s in two very different hands and it’s two very different results.
And what he’s really saying here is God’s law, God’s commandments in the hands of sin, do one thing, but in the hands of the Spirit, they do another. And so what he really says is this, in the hands of the Spirit, God’s law brings life. In the hands of the Spirit, God’s law brings life to us. But in the hands of sin, God’s law brings death. How does that work? Well, let’s talk about sin first.
How is it that God’s law in the hands of sin brings death? Well, the first and maybe most important way is this, is that when we’re controlled by sin, the rules actually inspire rebellion. God’s rules actually just give us an outlet for our rebellious attitude. Paul, in chapter 7 of Romans, 7 unpack that idea. If you wanna just flip back a page.
Romans 7, verse 7 says this, “What shall we say then, is the law sinful? Certainly not. But nevertheless,” he says, “I would not have known what sin was if it hadn’t been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. Once I was alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.”
And really what he’s saying there is, there’s this rebelliousness in me, this sin, it’s not just something I’ve done, it’s a power that I’m under the control of. Sin is causing me to look for opportunities to rebel against God. And sin actually uses God’s commandments as an opportunity to find the outlet for that rebellious nature.
It’s with the commandments of God that sin is like that’s how we’re gonna do it. There’s this built-in impulse to rebel, to run from God, and sin goes, and here’s how we’re gonna pull it off, we’re gonna do that, and we’re gonna do that, we’re gonna do… I wouldn’t have even thought to do that if he hadn’t said don’t do that. But now that he said, don’t do that, that’s what I’m gonna do, right.
I was skiing in Breckenridge a couple of weeks ago and there was a sign on a bunch of the slopes that I’d never seen before, a big yellow sign that said, “Do not jump.” And the crazy thing was I had not even thought about jumping until I saw the sign. I saw the sign I had two thoughts. I was like number one, I really wanna jump and number two, that seems like a good place to do it, right? Obviously, they put the sign up because that’s a place you could do it, right?
That’s kind of what he’s talking about, that when we’re under the control of sin, sin takes God’s rules and goes, that’s how we’re going to fulfill this dark need to rebel against our Creator. And then once we do it the other way that sin brings death is that sin heaps condemnation on us. Sin goes, oh, you did it. You know God doesn’t want you anymore, right? You know God hates you now. You know God despises you. You know God is disgusted by you. You know you’re not worthy of love now, right? You know that, right? And so it heaps condemnation on us and that brings death and despair.
But he says, “In the hands of the Spirit, the law gives life.” How does that work? Well, I think it happens in a couple of ways. When the Spirit is in us because we’ve trusted in Jesus, the Holy Spirit takes God’s law and does two things. Number one, God’s law protects us from pain. God’s law tells us where not to go because there’s pain there. The reality is, most of those signs were there because yes, you could jump there but it would be a really bad place to do it because the landing zone wasn’t good. And if I had jumped there, I would have hurt myself really badly, not just because I can’t jump, but because that’s a bad place to do it.
And then God’s law actually protects us from pain. It tells us where not to go. It’s actually keeping horrible things out of our lives. Right before Christmas Eve, my daughter sent me a text that she had gotten from a guy at a church. And he said, “Hey, just kind of an interesting news. This is like the last 2020 gift for us. We rented two sheep for our Christmas Eve nativity service and we put them both in a pen. Well, one of them got out last night, and something ate it so now we have one sheep.”
See, that’s the thing, like, sometimes we see the rules, like I wanna get out of that because they’re pinning me up, right? But the problem is that we get out and we find ourselves at the mercy of incredibly dangerous things. God’s rules are intended actually, to protect us from pain, and in the hands of the Holy Spirit, that’s what they become, they become a protection from pain.
And then second, and this is even more powerful, in the hands of the Spirit, God’s law defines the pasture. God’s law actually shows us where the good things are, it shows us where the green grass is, and where the running water is, and it shows us where the rancher is gonna come and bring even better things and lead us into even greater good. It’s interesting, you know, you can look at the rules, you can look at the regulations, you can look at the laws and you can go, well, that’s a pen keeping me in, or you can go, oh, that’s a pasture telling me where the good stuff is.
Sin causes us to think of the rules as the pen. But the Spirit causes us to look at the rules as defining the pasture. And so here’s an interesting question to ask yourself here at the beginning of 2021. When I think about God’s commands, when I think about God’s commands, do I see them as a pen or a pasture? Do you see God’s commands as a pen or as defining the pasture? In the hands of the Spirit, it’s clear, they define the good place, the place where life happens, and where life is peaceful and is joyful, and it leads only to better things. That’s what the law was intended to do.
But then Romans 8:3 says this, “For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh…” It says, what the law was powerless to do, well what was it powerless to do? It was powerless to make us good. It was powerless to keep us where there was good things. It was powerless to actually make us like God, and to give us the life that we were always intended to have. “What the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh…” And what he means by flesh there is not just being physical. He’s not saying that being physical is bad, but flesh in the ancient world was often a stand-in for that sinful nature we’ve been talking about for the power of sin that gets control of us.
And the reason that flesh was a stand-in for that is because when we sinned, we disconnected from God and so all that remains is really the physical. We don’t have access to the spiritual realm and the power that flows from God because of our sin and so the flesh is always there. And so that kind of became a stand-in for the sinful nature, but he’s really talking about sin. He says, “What the law was powerless to do to make us good, to give us good lives because it was weakened by sin, which turned it into something that actually made it even worse, God did, by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.”
What the law was powerless to do God did by sending his own Son and it says, “In the likeness of sinful flesh.” And you’re like, well, what does that mean? Why likeness? I mean wasn’t he actually flesh and blood? Yeah, but he wasn’t our kind of flesh and blood. In other words, he wasn’t flesh and blood under the power of sin. Jesus actually lived a perfect life. He didn’t commit any sin. And so yes, he was in the flesh and he looked kind of like us but there was that one fundamental difference, that he wasn’t sinful.
And so in the likeness of sinful flesh, but actually sinless, he became a sin offering. He willingly went to the cross to pay with his life, the wages of our sin. What the law was powerless to do, God did by sending his own Son for us, that’s the essence of the Gospel, right? “And so he condemned sin in the flesh in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us.” The law tells us what it looks like to be righteous, to live righteous lives. That’s the righteous requirement of the law. But he says, “And so the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us,” check off all the boxes of righteousness.
But notice, he doesn’t say by us, does he? In order that the righteous requirements of the law might be met by us. What does he say? That they might be met in us. And that might be the most important two-letter word in the entire Bible. Like you might wanna underline that word “in.” It’s so important. He doesn’t say that the righteous requirements of the law, the boxes you gotta check for righteousness, might be met by us, he says that they might be met in us. In other words, it’s not what we do, it is what is done for us. That when we put our faith in Jesus, the righteous requirements of the law are met in us. It’s as though we were righteous because of what God has done rather than what we have done.
And that’s so important because it’s a tectonic shift in the way we think about relating to God. It’s a tectonic shift in the way that we think about spirituality. It’s a tectonic shift in the way that we think about religion. Because every other religion on the planet, literally every other religion that has ever existed, or exists now or probably will ever exist, they’re all about righteousness by us. They’re all about working hard to be righteous. They’re all about checking off the boxes and fighting to be righteous no matter how hard it is. You gotta work at it and get there and maybe if you get there, then maybe, maybe God will love you.
I love this quote from Mahatma Gandhi, raised as a Hindu, but really describing I think every other religion. Can we pop that up here? He said, “Fight if you must on the path of righteousness and God will be with you.” He says, “Fight.” See the word? He says fight. You gotta fight for it, you gotta work hard at it, you gotta put your back into it, you gotta row hard against the current of the world, but if you fight hard enough and long enough, if you put enough effort in, then God will be with you. But he’s wrong. He’s wrong and that’s what every other religion says.
But Christianity says something fundamentally different. It says, “So he condemned sin in the flesh in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us.” Paul is saying, you don’t have to fight for righteousness, you don’t have to fight for God’s presence with you because God has already done it. He’s already done everything. What Paul is saying is this, and please, please hear this, it’s so important, he’s saying the fight for righteousness has already been won. The fight for righteousness has already been won. We just have to take hold of the victory. We don’t have to fight for it because the war is already over. We just have to somehow take hold of this victory.
Do you understand how fundamentally different that is? Every other religion says fight. Christianity says why? The war is over. The righteous requirements of the law have already been met in you by faith just by trusting in Jesus. It’s all done for you. And now instead of fighting to become righteous, you can somehow spend your energy just figuring out how do I take hold of that victory? How do I capture the momentum God has already provided?
He says this, here’s how you do it, “The righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us who do not live according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” That’s the key. We take hold of the victory that God has done for us by living according to the Spirit. He’s talking about the Holy Spirit here. He’s saying that when we trust in Jesus two important things happen. Number one, our sins are forgiven. That’s incredible. We’re completely forgiven. There is now…what’s that word? No condemnation, it’s all gone. The righteous requirements of the law have been met.
But the second thing that happens is that the Holy Spirit comes into us. And the Holy Spirit begins to create in us a new way of living, a new way of being in a relationship with God, a new way of pursuing everything that God intended for us. Not by rowing harder, not by working for it, not by fighting for it, but by doing something very different. The first of the people, the first of the followers of Jesus to receive this Holy Spirit that Paul is talking about had a very interesting experience. If you wanna look with me, it’s John chapter 20. After Jesus rose from the dead proved that he had defeated death, he went to his followers and he did kind of a strange thing.
John chapter 20, verse 22, says this, “And with that, he breathed on them and he said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit,'” which is a weird thing to do, right? And it’s way not COVID-friendly, right? Like, he went to his followers. He’s like, Peter, [vocalization]. Peter was like, okay, well, that’s weird, what are you doing? And with each, [vocalization], “Receive the Holy Spirit.” And the thing is that really what he’s doing there is there’s kind of a little playfulness going on because the Greek word for spirit is actually the Greek word for breath or wind. It’s the same word. Some of you may know that.
And what Jesus was doing he wasn’t literally blowing the Holy Spirit on them. He was very playfully illustrating an incredibly powerful principle. He was playfully illustrating how it is that the Holy Spirit would lead them. He said the Holy Spirit’s gonna lead you like a fresh wind. In other words, it’s not about how hard you work, it’s not about how hard you row, it’s about catching this wind from the Holy Spirit. That’s how you’re gonna live.
Imagine with me for a moment that we were all born as slaves, we’re owned by a cruel master and we spent our entire lives in the galley of a barge, basically of a big, clumsy, nasty ship. And the moment that we’re old enough, we’re sat on a bench and an oar is put in our hands and we’re told to row hard. And that’s our lives, we’re just rowing and getting wherever our master tells us to go. And there’s really no hope of a better life. It’s backbreaking, cruel, but it’s life.
And then one day there’s some kind of a stir on the deck and the door opens, and down the stairs comes our master’s archenemy, his worst enemy, his most hated foe. And our master looks at him and goes, “What are you doing here?” And he looks at us, he looks at you and he says, “I’m here for them. I wanna set them free.” The master laughs, “Why would I do that? They’re mine. I own them. Their lives are mine. What could you possibly give me that would lead me to let them go?” And the man says, “I’ll give you me. I’ll give you my life for theirs.” And so our master slides a sword through him and he falls to the ground dead. And he looks back at us and he goes, “A deal is a deal, his life for yours. You’re free. And he leaves.
And then after a time, the would-be rescuer stirs and he gets to his hands and his feet and then he rises, and he says, “Okay, it’s done. You’re free. And I’ve got a much better place I wanna take you.” He says, “I’ve got an island waiting and it’s the best. It’s full of joy, and peace, and meaning, and significance. It’s the best. Will you go with me?” And we go, “Of course, we’ll go with you.” And we grab a hold of the oars and he goes, “What are you doing?” And we go, “That’s how we get there, right?” And he goes, “No.” And calls us up on deck and he lashes a rope, and he pulls out a sail we didn’t even know was there.
And as he begins to pull it out on the length of the boom, it begins to ripple in the wind. And the further out it gets, the more it begins to billow out. And finally, it gets locked in place and suddenly the sails just…they billow out, and the ship leaps forward and it begins to cut through the rough oceans. And it’s taking us somewhere we long to go but we never thought we could possibly be strong enough to get ourselves to. He goes, “This is how we get where we’re going.” That’s what Paul’s talking about here.
It’s really what Romans 8 is about. See, it’s about following Jesus. And the reality is that following Jesus isn’t about rowing harder, it’s about raising sails to catch the fresh wind of God’s Spirit. Do you hear me, church? This is what makes Christianity so fundamentally different than every other religion. It’s not about rowing harder, it’s about raising sails to catch the fresh wind of God’s Spirit. And that’s what Romans 8 is about. And over the next few weeks, we’re gonna talk practically from God’s Word about what that means, what it looks like to raise those sails.
But before we do that, I just wanna ask you a very important question. Am I rowing hard or raising sails? What are you doing? How are you living? And you might say, “Well, I’m trying to please God. That’s what I’ve been trying to do. That’s why I came to church because I wanna do things that God wants me to do. And I’m trying to live a better life, and I’m failing over and over again but I’m at least trying, right? I’m rowing hard. I didn’t know there was another option.” And you need to hear the truth. There’s a completely different way.
God wants to meet all the righteous requirements of the law in you. By trusting in Jesus, there is no condemnation. You’re forgiven. Righteousness has been accomplished and you can start working on raising the sails rather than rowing hard. All you have to do is trust in Jesus and I’ll give you the opportunity to do that in just a moment. Some of you here are going, “Like I know. I mean, I’ve said yes to following Jesus, but the reality is I keep defaulting to rowing hard. I keep defaulting to feeling like it’s somehow up to me, and feeling like I’m a failure, and feeling like I’m constantly experiencing condemnation.”
In fact, if you’re not sure, if you’re not sure if you’re rowing hard or raising sails, here are just three other things you could ask yourself that might clarify. One of the questions you might ask yourself is this, how much condemnation am I carrying? How much condemnation am I carrying? Because if the reality is that you’re carrying a weight of condemnation for what you’ve done, you’re not raising sails, you’re rowing hard.
You might ask yourself this, how much condemnation am I heaping? How much do I look at other people who aren’t doing as good at following the rules as I am and how much condemnation do I have for them? Whether I tell them about it or not, even if it’s just what I feel, how much condemnation am I heaping? That is a red flag for an attitude of rowing hard rather than raising sails.
And sometimes we struggle with that because we’re like, well, but if I don’t condemn sin, am I not condoning it? No. The opposite of condemnation is not condoning. The opposite of condemnation, the opposite of condemnation is a willingness to come alongside somebody and to help them get free, to help them understand that it’s possible to be free, which we can’t do when we’re constantly condemning. It’s not when we refuse to condemn that we’re condoning. It just means that we look at people with love and hope. Someone might ask, am I carrying condemnation for myself? Am I heaping it on others?
And then the third question you might ask to answer this question is just how much fun am I having? Do you know that following Jesus is supposed to be fun? Jesus said, “I came that they might have life and have it to the max, have it in abundance.” He came and he said that the followers of Jesus would be defined by joy. How much fun are you having? And if the answer is I’m not having much fun at all, that might be a pretty good indicator you’re rowing hard instead of raising the sails to catch the wind of God’s Spirit.
We’ll deal practically in the next few weeks about what it looks like to raise those sails, it’s gonna be powerful. But it starts with understanding this core idea, following Jesus isn’t about rowing harder, it’s about raising sails to catch the fresh wind of God’s Spirit.
Would you pray with me? God, for those of us who are followers of Jesus, and as we think through those questions, we realize that we’re carrying condemnation for ourselves, but we also have it for others. And if we’re really honest, we’re looking at our life and we’re realizing, you know, I’m not having all that much fun following Jesus, there’s not much momentum I’m experiencing that’s kind of cutting through the obstacles. And Lord, many of us recognize in this moment that we’re rowing hard as though it depends on us. And we thank you for this word from your servant Paul that it doesn’t.
You’ve already met all the righteous requirements. There is no condemnation. And there’s a new kind of life waiting for us, a life of catching the fresh wind of your Holy Spirit. Lord, we long for that and we commit this series to you and ask that you teach us how to do that.
Lord, on behalf of all of those who are here today, they’re listening to this message that are hearing for the first time that it’s not about how hard they work. They’re hearing for the first time that it’s possible to have forgiveness not by their efforts, but by your efforts, by what you’ve done. And that all they have to do is put their faith in you, Lord. I pray that you’d stir in their hearts right now a longing for that new way of life.
And if that’s you, if you’re listening to this, and you’ve never experienced the freedom that comes from forgiveness and knowing that there’s no condemnation for any wrong you’ve ever done, if you’ve never experienced that, because you’ve never said yes to putting your trust in what Jesus did for you, I wanna give you the opportunity right here, right now. You can be forgiven, you can be free, you can grab a hold of this truth that there’s no condemnation for you because you are in a relationship with Christ Jesus. Here’s how you do it, you’re just gonna have a conversation with him. Just say this to God right now in your heart.
Say, God, I’ve done wrong. I admit it. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying to pay the wages of my sin. I believe you rose from the dead and therefore you have life to offer me. Lord, I want that life. I want your forgiveness. I want freedom. I wanna know that there’s no condemnation. And I want eternal life with God. So, Jesus, I’m choosing to put my trust in you. I’m just gonna follow you. Put your Holy Spirit in me and teach me to catch the fresh wind of your Spirit. Amen.
I’ve already had several people make that decision this week. And can we just celebrate their decision to put their trust in Jesus today? It’s so awesome. And hey, if you made that decision for the first time today, we wanna celebrate with you and we wanna give you some resources to help you begin to live out this new life with Jesus, and so please let us know you made the decision. If you’re watching online, you can click the button below me that says I committed my life to Jesus. If you don’t see that, you can text the word Jesus to 888111. Just text Jesus to 888111 we’re gonna send you a link. It’s gonna give you access to some resources to help you begin to experience this new life, this fresh wind from God.
Religion is not the same thing as a relationship. Our job isn’t to row hard. Our job is to raise sails. Is that good news, friends? It is for me. I hope it is for you. Please join us for the rest of this series as we unpack what that means. God bless. We’ll see you soon.
As humans, we are led by our longings. Often those longings can lead us to sin, instead of to a life lead by the Spirit. Thankfully, every follower of Jesus has access to the Holy Spirit by faith. The same God who raised Jesus from the dead has brought you to life, even out of things or places you may think are dead. The more we tune into the Holy Spirit, the more we can experience the life that’s ours by God’s grace.
Craig: Hey, welcome to Mission Hills, so good to have you with us this weekend for week number two of our New Year’s series called “Fresh Wind.” If you’re just joining us, I’ll catch up real quick. What we’re doing in the series is we’re looking into one of the most important differences between Christianity and every other religion that has ever existed. And that is this, every other religion teaches us that we have to fight for righteousness and that if we fight hard enough, and if we put our backs into it enough, if we row hard enough against the current of our culture and become righteous, check off the boxes of righteousness, then God will accept us, that God will come to be with us. And Christianity says, “No, that’s completely wrong.” We can’t do that. We can’t fight enough. We can’t be righteous enough, but the good news is the fight for righteousness has already been won for us. Not by us, but for us that God sent his own Son Jesus who died on the cross to pay the price of our sin, to check off the boxes required by righteousness. And that when we put our trust in Jesus, the righteous requirements of the law are met in us. Not by us, but in us by faith.
That’s what we saw last week. And that leads to an incredibly different way of thinking about being in a relationship with God. At least with this truth is that following Jesus isn’t about rowing hard. It’s not about fighting. It’s not about trying harder. It’s actually about raising sails to catch the fresh wind of God’s Spirit, that what God has done for us is also what God wants to do in us, and that if we can raise the sails, we can catch this wind of God’s Spirit, and we can begin experiencing the life that our efforts could never lead us to.
Now, what we began to talk about last week was that idea, this incredibly powerful truth that following Jesus is really it’s about raising sails to catch that wind. But then the question becomes, well, how do we do that? How exactly do we raise our sails? What does that mean? What does that look like on a practical level? Well, today we’re gonna lean into what it looks like to do that practically speaking. We’re gonna talk about one of the first keys to raising the sails, and I’m really excited about this. So why don’t you go ahead and grab a Bible and start making your way to Romans chapter 8. We’re gonna be starting in verse 5 today.
And while you’re turning to Romans 8:5, let me just say this. If you’re not familiar with Romans, probably two things you wanna know. Number one, Romans was written by a man named Paul. Paul was a man who became a follower of Jesus after spending his entire life rowing hard, working really, really hard to be righteous, fighting for righteousness to follow all of the rules and the regulations of the Old Testament, the Jewish scriptures. And yet, he realized that he couldn’t ever really be righteous by doing that even though he was really good at following the rules. And so when he became a follower of Jesus, he had this life-changing moment where he realized, “I don’t have to become righteous. God will make me righteous if I’ll just trust him and catch the wind of his Spirit.”
Now, the second thing you wanna understand is that Paul wrote this letter to a group of Christians in a place called Rome, right? That’s why it’s Romans, it’s like, wow, you know, big truths already this morning, pastor. Great, right? It’s in Rome, but what you need to understand about Rome is this is before Rome had anything to do with Christianity. This was ancient Rome, and in Rome, it was pretty hard to be a follower of Jesus because there were all kinds of voices telling the followers of Jesus, “No, no, here’s the voice you’re supposed to be listening to. No, no, here’s what you’re supposed to be doing. No, no, here’s how you should live, and here’s what you should be all about.” And so following Jesus was not the norm in Rome, and it was hard to do because of all these different voices. And it’s in that climate, that culture that Paul writes these words, Romans 8:5, “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires.” Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires. And three things you wanna know here. Number one understand that what Paul’s basically done is he’s taken all those other voices, and he’s boiled them down to one voice, and he calls it the voice of the flesh. He says, “You know, it might sound like there’s a lot of different voices, but the reality is it’s actually just one voice just speaking in different ways.” Okay? And that voice is the flesh.
Now, the second thing you wanna know is that Paul is using the flesh as a metaphor for sin. Paul is using the flesh as a metaphor for sin. Now, it’s not that flesh is inherently bad. Okay. God made flesh, and everything God made is good. So flesh is not inherently bad, but in ancient Greek and Roman culture and especially in Greek and Roman philosophy, there was this idea used by their philosophers that the flesh was a good metaphor for the life that was disconnected from God, for the unspiritual life, for the life that was disconnected from the realm of spirituality. And so that was a term that his readers were familiar with. And so he’s kind of adopting that metaphor and going, “Hey, flesh really is talking about sin. It’s a life that’s disconnected from God and therefore really can only listen to the voice of sin.”
And that really leads us to the third thing we need to understand about what Paul says here. He’s giving us a very powerful and a very practical principle, which is this. It says what we listen to determines what we long for. What we listen to determines what we long for. What does he say? He says, “Those who live according to flesh.” That means who are listening to sin. They have their mind set, they begin to think about, they begin to long for whatever it is that sin desires or long for. So what we listen to determines what we long for. Now, that’s gonna be really important just a moment because here’s the reality is that what we long for has a profound impact on our lives.
In fact, what we long for may be the greatest predictor of how our lives will turn out more than anything else. But right now we just need to make sure we understand the significance of this principle that what we listen to determines what we long for. The advertising industry knows this, right? The advertising industry knows that if they can get you to listen to their message long enough, you’ll start to long for the product they’re trying to sell you, which is why I think that if you still watch any TV shows on a platform that shows you commercials…does anybody still do that? Like I have Hulu, and I was watching a show on Hulu the other day, it was an hour special, and during that hour special, I saw the same commercial 12 times, and it was a commercial for something called TED apparently, thyroid eye disease, 12 times I saw this commercial. Honestly, by the third time, I was like, “I might have thyroid eye disease. I guess, itchy eyes, pounding headaches. I think I might have it. I think I might need what you want,” right? Now, here’s the thing. The reason that they’re willing to show the same commercial 12 times is not because they’re not creative enough to come up with another commercial. Okay? It’s not because they’re unwilling to spend the money to come up with another commercial. It’s because they know they don’t have to. They know that if they can get you to listen to the message long enough, you will start to long for what the product is, right? And halfway through this episode, I was like, “I think I might need to check in to whatever this…I don’t know if it’s an ointment. I don’t know if it’s a thing you put in your eyes. I don’t know if it’s a pill. I don’t care. I think I need it.” I was starting to feel that because what we listen to determines what we long for.
The voices that you listen to, the Facebook groups that you’re part of, the news outlets that you listen to, the social media channels that you consume, understand that they’re not informing you, they’re forming you. Do you hear me, church? They’re not just informing you. They’re not just giving you information. They’re actually forming your longings. This is probably important that we ask this question. I think we need to ask it on a regular basis. Here’s the question, “What voices am I listening to, and what longings are they cultivating in me?” I wanna encourage you to set some time aside this week to think about that question to reflect on that question in prayer. You can jot it down right now. You can always use the Mission Hills app. You’ll always see all these questions after the message as well, so you don’t have to miss anything. But I would encourage you, take some time this week to ask God to speak to you, listen to his voice, and have him help you understand what voices you’re allowing to speak in your life and what longings they’re cultivating in you.
Now, what Paul’s saying here is that apart from Christ, there’s really only one voice, and that’s the voice of sin. Okay? It’s kind of like, I don’t know if you’ve ever been kind of driving in the middle of what we’d call a nowhere ride, and you have like one station, only one station on the radio. Okay. Radio was these things we used to have in our cars that we would tune in to broadcasts, right? Okay. And sometimes we get far enough away. There’s only like one station. It can be a really, really terrible station. You can fill in whatever kind of station that is the worst for you. Okay? But there’s only one. Okay. There’s only that one station, and there might be different DJs, and there might be different programs, or whatever, but it’s still just the one station.
But that’s not the only station that we could be listening to, and so Paul goes on, and he says this, “But those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their mind set on what the Spirit desires.” Okay? And he’s using the same principle, what we listen to determines what we long for. And he says, “Those who live in accord with us who listen to the Spirit.” He’s talking about the Holy Spirit who comes to us when we say yes to Jesus. God doesn’t just forgive our sins, he gives us a power source to live the life that he’s always intended us to live. The Spirit, he says, “And those who are listening to the Spirit have their mind set…” They’re longing for what the Spirit desires or longs for. So basically, what he’s saying is the moment you say yes to Jesus, there’s another radio station that comes on. Suddenly, you begin to pick up a whole another station. It’s a way better station. You know, it’s WHS 77.7. All right. That was really cheesy. I’m sorry. I repent of that. That was terrible. Okay? But there’s a new station that comes online. It’s a much better station. And the more we listen to that one, the more it’s gonna actually shape our longings because not only does it inform us, but it forms us, it shapes us in the longings we have.
Now, here’s why our longings are so important. He says, “The mind governed by the flesh or sin is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” The mind that’s governed by the longings of the flesh or sin is death, but the mind governed by the longings of the Spirit is life and peace. Now, here’s another important principle. Listen. We’re led by our longings. Do you hear me, church? We are led by our longings. We like to think that we’re led by other things. I would love to think that I am led by wisdom, that I’m led by rational reflection and intellectual consideration of all the options, you know, and wise counsel. I’d love to think that I’m led by all that, but the reality is by default, we are led by our longings. How many of us have ever gotten into a relationship that we knew wasn’t a good relationship, or we stayed way too long in a relationship we knew wasn’t a good idea for us? How many of us have ever bought anything that we knew was a complete waste of money? How many of us have ever done anything that we knew was dumb when we did it? Can anybody admit to any of those things? Anybody or say online say, yeah, all three, whatever? Yeah. Because the reality is there was something in those things that spoke to a longing we had. There was something in those things that touched on a longing that we possessed, and the reality is that we are led by our longings. And what Paul says here is if you listen to sin, you long for what sin longs for, and it leads you to what? To death. It has to because it leads you away from God. That’s what sin does. It’s rebellion against God. And God’s the only source of life. So, of course, listening to sin ultimately leads to death.
But he says listening to the Spirit, to God’s Spirit, creates a new set of longings, and those longings actually lead us deeper into a relationship with God, which is life and peace. Okay? So we’re led by our longings. He says, “The mind that’s governed by the flesh or sin is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.” They’re incapable of it. It’s not possible. Why? Because sin by its very nature is rebellion against God. Okay. I mean, that’s ultimately what it is. It’s the insistence, “I wanna be free from God’s authority. I wanna live life on my own terms.” Well, though problem is that when sin is doing that…because remember sin is not just something we do. It’s a power that gets hold of us. It’s a voice that shapes our longings and ultimately leads us to a different kind of life. When we’re listening to that voice, we can’t please God because we’re rebelling against him by nature.
For instance, God is…he’s faithful, and sin causes us to rebel against his faithfulness and to break promises because it’s convenient for us to do it. Well, how can we please a God who’s faithful when we are being faithless? God is… he’s forgiving, he’s gracious, he’s kind, but sin leads us to rebel against him, to be unforgiving, to be bitter and angry and unkind. Well, how can we please a God who is kind when we are unkind, ungracious, unforgiving? It’s just not possible. See, sin leads us to live lives that cannot possibly be pleasing to God because God himself is the nature and the character that we’re supposed to be modeling ourselves after, but sin causes us to go in the other direction. So it’s not possible.
Fortunately, there’s good news for the followers of Jesus at least. He says this, “You, however…” He’s writing to the Christians. They’re in Rome, struggling to figure out which voice to listen to. He says, “You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh or sin, but are in the realm of the Spirit,” you’re connected to the Spirit of God, “if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.” And I think I need to pause for a moment and acknowledge that that last phrase sounds just a little bit ominous, doesn’t it, right? Like, “And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Jesus.”
And I think it’s easy to read that almost as a challenge like, “Hey, do you have the power of the Spirit? Because if you don’t have the power of the Spirit in your life, you may not be a Christian. You may not be saved.” And I think it’s an easy voice to listen to. It’s not the voice of God, but it’s an easy voice to listen to because the reality is that sometimes as followers of Jesus, we look around and we see other people who are just killing it at this whole Christianity thing, and they seem to be doing so much better than we are. They seem like they have the power of the Spirit that we just like we’re kind of running on empty, right? Like I mean, they’re just so…like they’re so nice and kind. They know so many Bible verses, and every time they talk, they drop a Bible verse in. They could be making it up honestly because I don’t know half the ones they do, and it sounds good. It sounds biblical. How do they know all that? I don’t understand how they’re so holy and good because, honestly, I wake up, and like before I get out of the bathroom in the morning, I’ve snapped at my wife about something stupid. And then my kids irritate me, and I have a bad attitude about them. And then I get in the car, and the car won’t start, and I say some words that I know no follower of Jesus is ever supposed to say. And then I do get the doggone thing started, and then I’m in traffic, and oh, goodnight, don’t even get me started on how I act when I’ve got traffic going on that’s bothering me. Like I’m struggling. I’m struggling. I wanna follow Jesus, but I’m struggling, and I look at some people and I go, “They’ve got it all together, and I so don’t have it together.” And we wonder like, “They’ve got power that I don’t have,” right? Anybody ever felt like that? Yeah. We have a word for you if you’ve ever felt like that, normal.
Don’t ever judge your spiritual life by what you don’t know about somebody else’s. Don’t ever do that. But the reality is sometimes we go, “Well, it seems like they’ve got a power that I don’t have.” And then you read Paul’s words here, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they don’t belong to Christ,” And you’re like, “Well, I don’t know that I’ve got that power. So maybe I’m not even a real Christian,” but that’s not what Paul’s saying. There’s a nasty, sinful voice that wants us to twist what he says into that, but, in fact, what Paul’s saying here is intended to be encouraging. What Paul’s really saying here is, “Hey, there are no special Christians that have power that others don’t have.” The reality is the only way to not have the Spirit is to not be a follower of Jesus.
The reality is this, it’s supposed to be encouraging what he’s really saying is everyone who belongs to Jesus has his Spirit. Do you hear me, church? Everyone who belongs to Jesus has his Spirit. He’s going at it a little backwards, but he’s addressing something I think we all struggle with. And what he really wants us to come away with he’s going, “Hey, if you said yes to following Jesus, you have his Spirit.” Because the determiner, the key thing you need to pay attention to is your decision, not your behavior. It’s your decision to say yes to following Jesus. It’s your decision to put your trust and your confidence in what Jesus did for you, not your confidence in how well you’re doing. If you’ve made the decision, if you’ve said yes to following Jesus, you have this power, you have this Spirit because everyone who belongs to Jesus has the Spirit.
And I’m gonna do something a little different now. Usually, I would save this for a little bit later in the message really at the end of the message, but what we’re gonna see in just a moment is so important, it’s so powerful, and it’s so encouraging and life-giving. I wanna make sure everybody has the opportunity to hear what Paul’s gonna say in a moment from the position of those who are in Christ, for those who have decided to follow Jesus and have the Spirit and everything that comes with the Spirit. And so I just wanna speak for a moment to those of you who are listening to this who are not followers of Jesus yet. You have not said yes to putting your faith in Jesus. You haven’t made that pivotal decision. If you’re a follower of Jesus, you can tune me out for a moment or better yet. Actually, would you just start praying right now for those that I’m talking to that don’t have that relationship, they don’t belong to Jesus because they haven’t said yes to following him. And if that’s you, here’s what you need to know. There’s absolutely nothing keeping you from following Jesus and having the Spirit he’s talking about except you. God loves you. He does not condemn you, He loves you so much he sent his only Son to die on the cross to pay the penalty of sin, to meet all the requirements of righteousness for you. Three days later, Jesus was raised from the dead. It’s a historical fact. And now Jesus offers forgiveness, freedom from the voice of sin, another station to tune into God’s voice, eternal life, and the power of the Holy Spirit.
And if you’re listening to this and you go, “I know I’ve sinned, I know I need forgiveness and that sounds like really good news that I can have it just by trusting in Jesus.” And if you believe that he rose from the dead as I said, then you can make that decision to be in Christ, to belong to him right now. Here’s how you do it. I ask everybody to close their eyes and bow their heads. You’re just gonna have a conversation with him. You can just have it in your heart right now. You don’t need to be out loud. He’s gonna hear you. But you’re gonna say something like this. Just say it after me.
God, I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned. I’m sorry. I don’t wanna live like that anymore. Jesus, thank you for paying the price of my sin. I believe you rose from the dead. I understand you’re offering me forgiveness, new life, a relationship with God, and the power of God’s Holy Spirit. I’m ready to receive that gift. So, Jesus, I’m deciding right now to follow you. I’m putting my trust in you. Amen.
That’s it. You belong to Jesus now. Can we just celebrate those who’ve made that decision? That’s awesome. I’m so excited to be able to tell you what is yours because of that in just a moment but let me do this. If you made the decision for the first time today, we would love to celebrate with you. So would you do this? If you’re watching online, click the button right below me right now. It says I committed my life to Jesus, or if you don’t see that, if you’re here with us in person or watching in another campus where you don’t have an online option, just do this, text the word Jesus to 888111. Either way, we’re just gonna get you some information about what it looks like to begin experiencing this new relationship with God.
And it’s so important that we understand what comes from that relationship. Paul has just said if you’re not in the realm of sin or the flesh, you’re in the realm of the Spirit and the Spirit of God is in you, you have a power source that changes everything. And he says this. This is verse 10. He says, “But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.” And I think it’s easy to skim past those words, but I want you to hear it for a moment. Paul says, “If you’re in Christ, if you’ve said yes to following Jesus, then the Spirit is in you,” and the Spirit is doing what? He’s giving life, even though our bodies might still die because of sin, and that’s a consequence of sin that has been around since Adam and Eve first rebelled against God.
God made us so that we wouldn’t die, but when Adam and Eve disconnected from God, the human race began to physically die. We’re all familiar with that. It’s one of the clearest signs of our disconnection from God. And Paul says just following Jesus doesn’t mean that we don’t have to deal with that consequence of sin anymore. No, our bodies are gonna die, but he says the Spirit is actually in the business of giving life. He’s in the business of reversing death. And he’s doing something a little bit subtle here, and it’s easy to miss, but it’s important. You notice up to this point he’s been talking about the flesh kind of the metaphor for sin. Well, now he kind of drops it, and he’s just talking about the body.
He says, “Hey…” Just look at our physical bodies. Forget sin for a second. Just look at our physical bodies. We know that sin means that our physical bodies die, but God’s reversing that. He’s changing all that. His Spirit in you is bringing life. And he goes on and he says a very interesting thing. He says, “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, then he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of the Spirit who lives in you.” And I want you to notice he says almost exactly the same thing twice there. Did you see it? He said, my God. He says, “If he who raised Jesus from the dead,” and then he…just like a couple of words later, he goes, “he who raised Christ from the dead.” Almost exactly the same thing, Jesus Christ raised from the dead. Why the repetition?
And it’s easy to forget this. Repetition isn’t something that they would have done lightly because here’s the thing. The paper that the Bible was written on, the paper that Paul wrote this Book of Romans on, that paper was precious. Paper was not a common thing you could get. You couldn’t just go down to the local, you know, Office Depot and pick up a ream of paper. I mean, paper was pounded from reeds. It was an expensive process, a time-consuming process. Getting paper was not something…so precious was paper, in fact, that the ancient Greek manuscripts, the books that the Bible were written on didn’t have spaces between the words. They just all run together. I mean, as a Greek student, I would tell you it is a nightmare because the only way to tell where the word starts and stops is actually to know Greek grammar so well. You’re like, “Okay. That’s the ending of one word. That’s the beginning of another word.” You gotta know the language so well that you can sort of figure out where the space should be. And you go, “Why would they do that? That’s crazy. Why wouldn’t they put spaces between the words?” The answer is because the space was so valuable. Paper was so hard to come by.
So why on earth would he take up that precious space saying exactly the same thing twice, “If he, God who has raised Jesus Christ from the dead”? Why repeat that? Because, and this is so important to understand, because Paul is doubling down on the promise of the power of resurrection. Do you hear me, church? He is doubling down, he’s bringing our attention squarely to focus on the promise of the power of resurrection, which is really what he’s talking about here, right? He says, “He who raised Jesus up out of the grave will also give life to your mortal bodies, to your physical bodies.” And he’s describing something that we know from many different places in Scripture will happen to the followers of Jesus one day when Jesus returns, and that is that our bodies, our physical bodies will actually be raised back to life just like Jesus’s was.
Well, they’re gonna be a little different and way different from the ones that we experience right now, because as somebody approaching 50, I can tell you, I’m looking forward to the fact that that body is not gonna hurt. It’s not gonna ache. There’s not gonna be pains. It’s not gonna break down. It’s not gonna have weird twinges. I’m like, “What happened?” Oh, that’s right. I’m not 20 anymore.” That’s all that happened. They’re gonna be perfect bodies. That’s something that’s coming. And I love this. It’s so interesting to me. What Paul is talking about almost 600 years before he wrote that, God gave a man, a Prophet by the name of Ezekiel a picture of that day that was coming when our bodies would be raised to life. This is Ezekiel 37:1. Just listen to this. Ezekiel reported what got to me.
He said, “The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley, and it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. And he asked me, ‘Son of Man’, can these bones live?’ And I said, ‘Sovereign Lord, you alone know,'” which is basically code for, “I don’t see how, but I don’t wanna say you can’t do it.” “And he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones, ‘I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin. I’ll put breath in you, and you will come to life, and then you will know that I am the Lord.’ So, I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, and there was no breath in them. And then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, Son of Man and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says, ‘Come, breathe from the four winds and breathe into these slain that they may live.’ And so I prophesied as he commanded me and breath entered them, and they came to life, and they stood up on their feet of a vast army.'”
You know, my favorite song that we introduced in 2020, we sang it this morning, is “Rattle.” And there’s a line in that song that says, “Resurrection power runs in my veins too.” And I’ve had a number of people who’ll ask me, you know, “What does that mean?” And what it means is what Paul is talking about here. He’s saying that the power of the Holy Spirit, the same power that raised Jesus up out of the grave into new life is actually the same power that lives in us, bringing us to new life. And Paul focuses here on the long-term impact that one day even our physical bodies, the clearest, the most obvious evidence of death that comes from sin, even that will be reversed.
And if even the death of the body can be reversed, then how much more so, I think he’s ultimately saying. How much more so can the death of our spirits be reversed? And not only in the future, but even here even now. Resurrection power runs in my veins too. It runs in your veins as a follower of Jesus. And while we won’t see the resurrection of the body until Jesus returns, he is bringing new life to dry bones even now, to bones of relationships that have been leeched dry by unforgiveness and bitterness and selfishness. He’s breathing new life into bones of lives that have been leeched dry by listening to the voice of sin that promised pleasure and has provided only pain. He’s breathing new life into bones of souls that have been leeched dry by religion. And he’s offering fresh wind. He’s offering new life by the power of the Spirit.
The other thing that we haven’t talked about yet, but it’s so important to understand, we mentioned it last week, is there’s a play on words that in the ancient world in Hebrew and Greek, the words for Spirit, for the Holy Spirit were actually the same words for wind or breath. And so when Ezekiel talked about the breath coming into them, it was the Spirit bringing this new life to dry bones, not only of our physical bodies but of lives that have been filled with the end result of listening to a voice other than our loving Father’s. He’s bringing new life. He’s reversing that. If the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life even to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you, the Spirit who is even now bringing new life to dry bones.
Here’s the bottom line. The more that we learn to listen to that Spirit, the more we learn to listen to the Spirit, the more we can experience the life that’s coming right now. The more we listen to the Spirit, the more we can experience his resurrection power in those other areas of our lives where there are dry bones. The more we listen to the Spirit, the more we can experience the life that’s coming now. And I just wanna ask you a question. For how many of us does that sound like pretty good news? Are there places in your life that feel like valleys of dry bones that it’s impossible to believe that there could be new life there, relationships, finances, marriages, parenting, friendships, careers? The more we learn to listen to the Spirit, the more we can experience the life that’s coming right here right now.
But I promised to be practical. So how do you do that? How do we listen to the Spirit? Because the reality is there’s another station. There’s a lot of other stations actually. And if we’re not really careful, the dial slips onto those other stations. We listen to things that can never bring the right longings. They can never lead us to the right things to life. How do we learn to listen to the Spirit? Well, here’s the thing. The first key to listening to the Spirit is actually learning to recognize his voice. Makes sense? It’s not complicated. The first key to listening to the Spirit in the crowd of voices is actually learning to figure out what he sounds like so that you can tune in.
Listen, I’ve been married for 27 years. Coletta and I are working on 28 right now, and over the last 28 years, I have learned to recognize Coletta’s voice. And I can be in a huge crowd of people, lots of people talking, and I can always pick her voice out. And before I get in trouble, I want you to understand, that’s not because she’s loud. Okay? It’s not because she has a weird voice. It’s just that I’ve spent a lot of time alone with her when there weren’t any other voices, and that’s…by the way, that’s the best place to learn to recognize somebody’s voice when you can focus in on it when there aren’t a lot of other distractions, and I’ve learned to reckon her voice. I know what she sounds like sure, but I also know what she’s passionate about. I know what kinds of words she likes to use. I know the rhythm of her voice. I know what she sounds like. And it doesn’t matter how many voices are speaking. I can pick out the sound of my bride’s voice.
That’s the first key to learning to listen to the Spirit to recognize his voice. So the question is where can you go? Where can you possibly go to have uninterrupted time with the voice of the Spirit? Where can you go to listen to the voice of the Spirit when there aren’t any other voices speaking? And the answer is you can go right here, the Bible, what we call the Word of God, which was…let me let Paul say it. 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is God-breathed.” Remember that word breath, also means Spirit, because the point is all Scripture actually came from the Spirit. He breathed it out through the apostles, through the prophets. He says, “All Scriptures is God-breathed,” it’s from the Spirit, “and it’s useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.” And by the way, if we stopped right there, it’d be easy to go, “Oh, yeah, the Scripture’s a bunch of rules. The Scripture gives us all the commandments that we’re supposed to follow.” But what he says is though, you know, what the Scripture says actually leads to something a lot more powerful than just living life by the rules. He says, “So that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” It says the Scripture teaches us how to live the lives God always intended, not just by following the rules, but honestly, in one way by learning to recognize the voice of the Spirit. It’s in Scripture that we begin to recognize what the Spirit sounds like so that we can begin to hear the voice of the Spirit even when we’re in those settings where there’s other voices speaking.
I said I was gonna be practical, and it doesn’t get more practical than this. If you wanna catch the fresh wind of the Spirit in your life, if you wanna feel the momentum and the resurrection power of God in your life, one of the most important things that you can do practically is to start spending more time in God’s Word so that you learn to recognize the voice of the Spirit. So here’s the question for you today. What will you do to get more familiar with the voice of the Spirit this year? I cannot make it any more practical. You have the opportunity to learn the voice of the Spirit from Scripture this year. So what will you do with the Bible to get more familiar with the voice of the Spirit this year? Let me give you four suggestions for practical things you could do.
Number one get ready for a mindblower, you could read it. You could actually read it. And, in fact, I would encourage you to do this. Find a reading plan and follow it. The Bible App is literally called the Bible. It’s by friends over at Life Church, have a great group of reading apps actually or reading plans, you can actually go to the Bible App, and there’s a little button that says plans. Just pick one of them. You’re like, “Well, which one?” It doesn’t really matter because what you’re trying to do at this point is just to become familiar with the voice of the Spirit by listening to him. Okay? So find a Bible reading app and follow it this year. If you’ve never done that, start doing that. Spend some time every day reading a little bit of the Bible as is laid out by that plan.
The second thing you can do is this, you can learn from it. And what I mean by that is make sure you’re taking time this year to listen to gifted teachers, gifted Bible teachers. Now, my hope and prayer is that God is using me in your life to accomplish some of this, but I’m gonna go ahead and go out on a limb, pastors probably shouldn’t say this, but there’s other fantastic Bible teachers out there, and we live in an era where you can be learning from them by podcasts and YouTube and all kinds of stuff like that. I wanna encourage you to listen to them. I have other teachers that I listen to that help me to understand Scripture and in the process also to become familiar with the voice of the Spirit. So I would encourage you to do that, not only attend Mission Hills regularly, but take advantage of those other opportunities.
The third thing you can do is discuss it. In other words, join a Bible-driven small group, a group that’s focused around understanding what the Bible says and learning to hear the voice of the Spirit through God’s Word. So, you can join a women’s Bible study or a men’s Bible study. We have group link coming up in a couple of weeks here at Mission Hills where you can join a Life Group. Most of our Life Groups are built around sermon discussions where they read more Scriptures related to the passage that we talked about that week in the service, and they talk a lot about “Okay, what do we do with this? How do we live this out?” That’s another thing you can do.
And the fourth thing you can do is this, apply it. In other words, when you sense the Spirit speaking to you from something in Scripture about something you need to do in your life, a change you need to make, then make the change or do the thing that you feel prompted to do. Because the reality is, and I’ve seen this over and over again in my own life, the more that I respond to what I sense the Spirit is leading me to do, the more sensitive I become to the Spirit. And I don’t think it’s that the Spirit starts speaking more when I’m obedient. I actually think the Spirit is speaking regularly, but it’s when I begin to be obedient that I become more and more sensitive to that. And so there’s tremendous power in just applying those convictions that you find as you read Scripture. It’s super practical, but it’s powerful. Do you understand what we’re saying here? The Spirit of God has resurrection power for your life to breathe new life into dry bones, not only ultimately of our mortal bodies, but even the dry bones of so many areas of our lives where we feel like life has departed, and God says, “There’s no area that’s beyond resurrection power.” And the more we listen to the voice of the Spirit, the more we experience the power of the life that’s coming right now.
Hey, before we leave today, I wanna encourage you to do something. We’re gonna take a moment to do it because when we walk out of this place, you’re gonna be inundated with a lot of different voices, these voices that wanna cultivate longings in you that will lead to nothing but pain and death. And so I wanna encourage you to take a moment right now to just reflect on this question. Ask God to speak to you before we go out into the cacophony of voices. Ask yourself this question. What voice am I listening to most, and what longings is it cultivating in me? Ask God to show that to you so that you can go out of this place ready to put that voice aside in order to listen to the voice of the Spirit.
Hey, God, we thank you for the promise of the power of resurrection, not only in the day to come, but even the power of resurrection to breathe new life into dry bones right here right now. We know that that power is experienced when we raise the sails, catch the fresh wind of your Spirit by listening to him. So, Lord, we ask and invite you to speak to us right now. Reveal those voices that we’re listening to that are not yours, maybe even convict us of the longings that it’s creating in us and give us the hope and the power to tune those voices out so that we might listen to yours. Lord, we invite you to speak to us.
As followers of Christ you are no longer a slave to sin. Of course sin remains an option, but it isn’t an obligation. Through the power of the Holy Spirit with your faith in God, you can escape acting out of fear and instead operate within the freedom of God’s affection for you. You are a child of God who not only loves you, but who likes you.
Craig: Well, hey, welcome to Mission Hills, whether you’re on online or in-person in one of our campuses or joining us at a Watch Party somewhere in the world, just so glad to have you with us today. We’re in the midst of a series here at Mission Hills called Fresh Wind, and what we’re doing in this series is we’re exploring the fundamental difference between Christianity in every other religion.
See, every other religion that has ever existed, basically it says the same thing, which is that we have to fight for righteousness. We have to fight to be righteous. And if, and the promise, the motivation really to fight for righteousness is that if we put our backs into it enough, if we row hard enough against the current of our culture, then we become a little more righteous and then maybe just maybe God will accept us. And Christianity says something completely different.
Christianity says the fights already been won for us, that when Jesus died on the cross, he did that as a payment for all the wrong that we’ve done for all the ways that we’re not righteous and that by his death, our sin is forgiven, the debt of it is canceled and all the requirements of righteousness have been met in us. Not by us, but in us, by faith, in what he did. And so what happens is we’re set free at that point to begin, not a new religion, but a new relationship with God, a new way of interacting with God of relating to God that really changes almost everything about us.
Now, one of the things we saw is that one of the benefits of that relationship with God is that the Holy Spirit comes into us. The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity actually comes into us and begins to do in us what we couldn’t ever do by our fighting for it, by our working really hard at it, by a rowing hard. And so the goal really is to put up the sails and to catch the wind of the spirit in our lives.
And one of things that we saw last week was that this power of the Holy Spirit is a resurrection power that is bringing new life, and that’s a long-term promise that one day we will be raised physically to new life with God forever. But that that resurrection power actually works in our lives even right here right now. And so what we saw last week is the more that we listen to the Holy Spirit, the more we experience his power, the more we experience the life that’s coming now. The more the Holy Spirit breathes new life into the dry bones of our relationships, and our finances, and our souls, and in every other area of life where we feel kind of dried out and lifeless, the more we listen to spirit, the more we experience the life that’s coming even right now.
What we’re gonna do today is we’re gonna talk about one of the greatest obstacles to doing that, one of the greatest obstacles to listening to the Spirit. And I’m just gonna tell you right now, it’s not what you might think. In fact, one of the greatest obstacles to listening to the Spirit is an inability to believe what the Spirit says to us. It’s one of the greatest obstacles, is an inability to believe what the Spirit says to us.
There is obstacle isn’t an inability to hear the Spirit, it’s not an inability to separate the voice of the Spirit from all the other voices clamoring for our attention. It’s not an inability to understand what the Spirit says. It’s not an inability to put into practice what the Spirit says. It’s literally an inability to believe that what the Spirit says is true. Because what Spirit is most interested in saying to us, communicating to us is in fact kind of an unbelievable truth, and I’m super excited to share it with you.
So let’s go ahead and dive in. Why don’t you grab a Bible, start making your way to Romans chapter 8. We’re gonna be starting in verse 12 today. And while you’re making your way to Romans 8:12, let me just say this. If you’re just joining us, maybe you’re new to the Bible, here’s what you need to know about the Book of Romans. It was written by a man named Paul, who was a follower of Jesus, but he became a follower of Jesus after a long life of working really hard to follow all the rules, rolling hard against the current of the culture, fighting for righteousness. And then he came to Jesus and realized that fight had been won, and that by trusting in Jesus, he began to experience a transformation in his life that all of his hard work has never made possible.
Second thing you wanna understand is the Book of Romans was written to a group of followers of Jesus, Christians in the city of Rome, who were surrounded by things that were kind of working against them to really follow Jesus. And so what Paul’s writing to them is to give them really the fresh wind that allows them to experience everything that God has for them and experience everything that comes from following Jesus consistently. And he’s gonna give them an incredible truth today, but it’s a truth. It’s a little bit unbelievable. It’s a truth that our natural inclinations to go, “Yeah, I don’t know that I buy that it’s truth. It’s hard to take to heart.”
This is what he says. Romans 8:12, ”Therefore,” meaning in the base of what we talked about last week because of this resurrection power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, bringing new life to dry bones, ”Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation, but it is not to the flesh to live according to it.” And I pause there for just a second, because in English, that kind of sounds like Paul saying, “Hey, just want you to know you guys have an obligation. If you’re a follower of Jesus, you have an obligation. You’re obligated to something.”
And if that’s what he’s saying, the only real option for what he’s talking about, having an obligation to would be the Spirit because he’s been making this consistent contrast between the flesh or sin and the Spirit. And so if he’s saying we have an obligation, it’s probably gonna be to the Spirit because he says, but it’s not to the flesh. So the only option would be the Spirit. The problem with saying we have an obligation to the Spirit is basically three problems.
Number one, he never says that. At no point in this passage or anywhere else in the Book of Romans, does he ever say we have an obligation to the Spirit. Second reason that that’s kind of a problem is because that’s kind of strange language. There’s nowhere else in the entire Bible where we’re said to have an obligation to the Spirit. The Bible says we’re empowered by the Spirit. We’re led by the Spirit. We listened to the Spirit, but it never says that we are obligated to the Spirit, just strange language.
And then third, Paul’s whole point in the section is we’re gonna see is that we’re actually motivated by something very, very different than an obligation. Obligation is in the Bible is typically a word that it’s a little bit on the negative side, and it typically means that we have to do something because somebody has a hold on us. And that’s not really what Paul’s talking about. Paul’s talking about something very different kind of motivation. Okay, so if it’s not to the Spirit, then what would he be saying? Well, I actually don’t think he’s saying we have an obligation, but not to the flesh. I think could actually, what he’s saying is we have an obligation not to the flesh.
In fact, let me give you a very literal translation of all the original Greek words in their proper order. What he says literally is this, ”Therefore, brothers and sisters an obligation we have not.” It’s a weird place. It’s in a strange place for the Greek language. But when sometimes when you put a word in a strange place, the point is to give it a really strong emphasis. And so what he’s basically saying is, “Therefore, brothers, sisters, we have an obligation not to the flesh or to sin, to live according to it.”
His whole point is that way of living is done. That way of life is over. The resurrection power of the Spirit has brought us to a completely new kind of life, and with it, a totally new motivation. It’s not a based on obligation. What he’s really saying is this, for the followers of Jesus, for the followers of Jesus, sin is an option, not an obligation. Are you with me?
He is saying sin is an option. We can still choose it. We often do still choose it, but we don’t have to. See, apart from faith in Jesus sin is an obligation. We’re under the control of sin. We’re obligated to it. And that doesn’t mean that people who aren’t followers of Jesus, all they ever do is sin in the worst possible ways and there’s nothing ever good that they ever do at all. And that’s not that. It’s just that apart from faith in Jesus, we can never get escape velocity from sin.
There’s a gravity to, it is always gonna keep us circling it. We’re always gonna ultimately come back to sin because we’re obligated to we’re enslaved to it. But Paul says, as followers of Jesus with the resurrection power of the Spirit in our lives, sin isn’t an obligation anymore. It’s an option, but it’s not an obligation.
Now, unfortunately it is an option that we still choose as followers of Jesus. Let’s just be honest with each other, wherever you are. How many of us, let’s be really savory in the last year have chosen the sin option? Can we be honest with each other? Okay. We won’t ask about today. Okay. We’ll just go back a year. Okay. Yeah, we still choose the sin option outfits. If it’s an option, not an obligation, then why do we do it?
Well, I think there’s basically four reasons why Christians still choose the sin option. Number one is suddenly we choose it because we’re uninformed. Especially if you’re a new follower of Jesus, sometimes new followers of Jesus are doing something that they later find out is sin and they just didn’t know that it was sin. Up to that point, they didn’t know that that was something that God didn’t want to be part of our lives. And so sometimes we can be uninformed and choose the sin option.
Second reason is that we have bad habits. Sometimes we have sinful habits and those habits are so deep in our lives. It’s like they’ve cut ruts in the road, you know, and we can try really hard to get our car up out of the ruts, get the tires out of them. But if we’re not really careful, they’re gonna fall back into those ruts and just kind of take us in that direction because how deeply ingrained those habits are. So that’s another reason we sometimes choose the sin option.
A third reason we sometimes choose the sin options because we’re weak, because we’re simply not strong enough to consistently resist the temptation to sin. And sometimes that happens for very mundane reasons. I’m gonna be honest, for the last several years, going back seven or eight years, I’ve struggled with sleep. And so I sometimes have these periods where I’ll have three or four days without really good sleep. And you know what happens when I don’t sleepy? I get holy. It’s amazing. And when I get sleepy, I just get so much more like Jesus. It’s awesome. No, no, no. That’s not true. When I don’t get enough sleep, I get grumpy. When I get don’t get enough sleep, I get grouchy. I get un-Jesus like actually is what happened. I snap at my wife and my kids. I lose my temper really easily. And that’s because I’m weak. It’s a physical weakness, but it’s really, it’s a weakness. But the important thing is it’s still a choice I’m making. I’m not required to be grumpy. And when I realize I’m being grumpy, I don’t get to say to my wife, “Hey, sorry about that grumpiness, but I didn’t really have a choice. Well, no, I didn’t. I didn’t go off to sleep tonight. So, you know, right? I’m off the hook.”
Now, it’s still an option. It’s an option I chose because of weakness, a physical weakness, but sometimes we can also have spiritual weakness. We can just get worn down by temptation sometimes. We’re not strong enough to resist it, so we ended up giving into it. But the point is we still gave into it. We still made the choice. It’s an option, not an obligation.
Fourth reason I think sometimes as Christians, we still choose the sin option is because we’re listening to the wrong voices. As we saw last week, what we listened to who determines what we long for. And then we’re led by our longings. More than rational thought or careful reflection or weighing the options, we’re actually led by what we long for, which comes ultimately from what we listened to. And so if we’re listening to the wrong voices, we might find ourselves choosing the sin option far more often than we otherwise would have, okay?
So there are four different reasons why we might choose the sin option. But the important thing to realize is that we’re choosing it. We’re not obligated to it. It’s an option for us, but we’re choosing that option. Now, that’s good news and it’s bad news, okay? That’s good news. It’s bad news. The bad news of that, the fact that it’s an option is that we don’t have any real excuses for it.
Well, we’ve lost some excuses. When you said yes to Jesus, you lost a couple of excuses. See, apart from Jesus, you had an excuse. You could go, “Well, yeah, I know I shouldn’t have done that, but you know what to err is human, right?” Or, you know, “Well, yeah, I did that, but I’m only human, right?” And so that’s kinda what it means to be human. And apart from Jesus, it kind of is there’s an obligation to sin. The moment you say yes to Jesus, you’ve lost those excuses. You can’t say I had to do that. I didn’t really have a choice. That’s just who we are. It’s just who I am. No, no, no. No, that was an option. And you chose it. That’s the bad news. We got to own up to that.
The good news is, the good news is that because of the resurrection power of the Spirit in our lives, we can actually start to choose sin less option. We can say no to the sin option a lot more often. Look what Paul says next. He says, “For, if you live, according to the flesh, you will die.” If you live according to sin, you will die. Because that’s all that sin has to offer is a life apart from God. And there is no life in that. ”But if by the Spirit you put to death, the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” If by the Spirit of, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you put to death, the misdeeds of the body. And misdeeds of the body, of course, this would be a synonym for sin.
You see what he says? He says, if by the Spirit you put to death sin. Now I don’t believe that he’s saying, and I don’t believe that in any point in this life, before we get to heaven, we’re gonna completely stop choosing the sin option. I don’t think we’re gonna become completely sinless at any point, this side of heaven. But what Paul is saying is that by the power of the Holy Spirit, as we live by the Spirit, we choose the sin option less and less. Do you hear me? He’s saying this is a work of the Spirit in your life. He will enable you to choose the sin option less and less to actually put to death the power and the voice of sin in your life. And because of that, to begin to experience more of the life that’s coming right now. It’s one of the things the Holy Spirit is doing. That’s a powerful promise, right?
So then the question becomes well, okay. How does he do that? How does the Spirit enable me to put the needs of the body to put sin to death? How does the Spirit enable me to say no to sin more often, choose the sin option less? And it’s interesting. He could have said so many things. He could have talked about how the Spirit informs us, how the Spirit convicts us of those things that are sin, so where we’re ignorant or uninformed, he helps us know, okay, that’s not something God wants in your life. He didn’t talk about that.
He could have talked about how the Spirit breaks bad habits and builds new ones, gives us the power to get rid of the old ways of doing things and to build whole new habits for things. He could talk about that, but he doesn’t. He could talk about that the Spirit, you know, he makes us stronger where we’re weak, that he brings strength into those parts of us, where we’re weak and liable to give into temptation. But he didn’t talk about that.
He could talk about how the Spirit is a new voice to listen to that shapes our longings that were led by that lead us to much better places. All those are the things that the Spirit does, we find another place in Scripture, all four of those things, the Spirit does, but that’s not what Paul talks about. Paul doesn’t choose to talk about any of those things the Holy Spirit does in our lives. Instead this is what he says the Holy Spirit does, this is what he focuses on. He says, ”For those who are led by the Spirit of God, are the children of God.” The Spirit you received does not make you slaves so that you live in fear again, rather the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship or daughtership.”
Listen to that again. Again, he doesn’t focus on any particular thing the Holy Spirit does that he could talk about, you know, informing us or strengthening us or giving us a new voice to listen, to breaking bad habits, building new ones. No. He says, no, what the Spirit does is he brings about a new identity. That’s what he chooses to focus on. He says, those were led by the Spirit of God are children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves under obligation so that you live in fear again. Rather the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. That’s what he focuses on. He says, this is what the Spirit does that allows you to begin to experience the new life that God has for you more than anything else. And that is the Holy Spirit affects a fundamental change in your identity. He takes you from being slaves to sin, to being children of God.
This is what he focuses on. This is what the Holy Spirit does in your life. He makes you children of God. He brings about your adoption as sons and daughters of the King. He says, so that you’re not slaves, right? He says he does not make you slaves. In other words, “Hey, listen, don’t make the mistake of thinking that before you were slaves to sin, but then you said yes to Jesus and now you’re slaves to God.” He says, “No, no, no. That’s not the right language.” He says he doesn’t make you slaves again. He says you went from being slaves to being what children.
You weren’t brought under the ownership of a new master, a nicer master. Let’s face it being a slave of God would be much better than being a slave of sin, right? Being a slave of God would be a way better slavery. I love in the Psalms. One of my favorite lines in the Psalms is better is one day in your courts, God than 1,000 elsewhere. I’d rather be a doorkeeper in the house of God. That’s a kind of slave. I’d rather be a slave in the house of God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
So, hey, being a slave of God would actually be a dramatic, a massive improvement over being a slave of sin. But he says, no, that’s not the way to think about it. You’re not a slave of God. You were a slave of sin, but you’re not a slave of God. Now, you’re a child of God. You’re a son or a daughter of God and that’s way better. That’s as much better than being a slave of God as being a slave of sin.
It’s infinitely, you’re a child and he says too, he says, so that you live in fear again. He has a made you slave so that you live in fear again. Because the reality is that that fear is the primary motivator for a slave. Fear is what motivates a slave to make sure that they don’t break the master’s rules or, you know, fall short of the master’s expectations or somehow get on the master’s bad side. Fear is what motivates a slave, but fear is not what motivates a child. At least it shouldn’t be. For a child, the motivation is something other than fear.
So he says, don’t bring your fear-based thinking from the old way of living to your new way of living. Don’t think about it. And what he’s really saying and this is so powerful is, “Hey, just so you know, fear isn’t in the Spirit’s toolbox.” Fear isn’t in the Spirit’s toolbox. Fear is not one of the things the Spirit uses in your life to make you into the man or the woman that God designed you to be. Fear is not one of his instruments. Fear is not one of his tools. It’s not one of his resources.
In fact, let me just say this. If what you’re feeling is fear, then what you’re listening to is not the Spirit. If you think in your life, where am I feeling fear, you just need to understand that is a red flag that in that area of your life, you are not listening to the Spirit. Because if you’re listening, if you’re feeling fear, you’re not listening to Spirit. It’s not one of his instruments. Why is that? Why isn’t the Spirit interested in using fear? Because the reality is, fear is a really powerful motivator, isn’t it?
And let’s be honest. How many of us have ever done something we didn’t really wanna do, but we were afraid of the consequences of not doing it so we did it anyway? How many of us have ever done that? Of course, fear is a very powerful motivator. So why wouldn’t the Spirit use fear? And the answer is because fear might be a good way to force compliance, but it’s a bad way to involve someone in the mission. Fear might be a good way to force compliance with the rules, to follow all the rules, but it’s a bad way to involve them in the mission. And then the reality is that God isn’t looking for a bunch of people who just follow the rules.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying he’s looking for a bunch of people who break the rules. That’s not my point, okay? But his ultimate goal isn’t, “Oh, you follow all the rules. Good. That’s all I was looking for.” No, that’s not the point at all. If God had wanted people who just follow the rules, he could have made it a whole lot easier. He could’ve made us all robots, right, who don’t have any choice, but to follow the rules. He could have easily done that. He chose not to do that, and that’s a clue that we weren’t made just because God was looking for a bunch of people who follow the rules.
God was looking for a bunch of people who were on mission with him. When we go back to the story of the creation of Adam and Eve, we’re told that we were made in the image of God or as the image of God, which means that we represent God and we extend his influence in creation. And that’s what that means to be human is to be on the same team, to be part of the family business, to be in not only a relationship with God, but on mission with him. It’s why at Mission Hills, we say that our whole purpose is to help people become like Jesus and join him on mission because that’s what God ultimately made us where. He made us for mission.
And while fear might be a good way to get people to comply with all the rules, it’s a terrible way to involve them in the mission. Like when my kids were little, we made a decision and we did the same thing that I think probably a lot of you who are parents did. And that is that, you know, when somebody gave something to our kids or did something for our kids and they didn’t say anything, we would lean down and go, ”Hey, what do you say?” And they would go, ”Oh, thank you.” Okay. We wanted them to say thank you. But here’s the interesting thing, what we didn’t do and probably a lot of you didn’t do is we didn’t make a rule, you must say thank you every time. And we didn’t back up that rule with a penalty that they were afraid of facing.
Like we could have easily said and if you don’t say thank you, whatever they gave you were taken away. And they probably would have complied with the rule because of they’re afraid of the consequence, but we didn’t do that. And you probably didn’t do that because at the end of the day, I didn’t want kids who said thank you just because that was the rule and they complied with it out of fear. What I wanted was kids who were actually grateful.
See, Coletta and I decided early on in a marriage, we wanted one of the things that defined us, as a family was that we would be a family of gratitude. We’d be known by gratitude. And then when our family doubled and we had two more people in the family, we wanted them to be part of that sort of that mission. And so we led them, we encouraged them, we modeled for them, but we didn’t make a rule and enforce it by fear because we wanted them to become grateful people. And by the grace of God, that resulted in two adult girls who are actually incredibly grateful people. Like that was a parenting win for us.
Just so you know, we do not have an unblemished track record as parents, okay? Like we tried to fix all the things we were like, okay, all the things that we, our parents screwed us up, we’re not gonna do that to our kids. And we didn’t, we invented new ways to screw them up, okay? So we’re not perfect parents at all, but maybe like many of you, in this one, I think we actually saw the win, but it was a win of mission. There they’re part of the mission of being a family of gratitude, not just a group of kids who are afraid of what happens if you don’t comply with the rules. And that’s really what Paul’s talking about here.
Yeah, fear might be a good way to enforce compliance, but it’s not a good way to involve people in the mission. And that’s really what God’s looking for. And that’s why the Spirit doesn’t use fear. It’s not part of his toolkit. And really we could say it this way. God didn’t give us the Spirit to keep us in line, but to bring us into the family. You’re with me, church? God didn’t give us the Spirit to keep us in line and keep us following the rules. He gave us the Spirit to bring us into the family, to involve us in the family business, the family mission.
That’s an incredible change in identity, but it’s also an incredible change in motivation, isn’t it? It’s a much better motivation. And he says this. He says, ”And by him,” and by the Spirit, ”We cry, Abba, Father.” He says, ”By the Holy Spirit, we cry out Abba, Father,” which is kind of an interesting, our little phrase there. Abba, Father in the original, you may know that the Bible wasn’t originally written in English, it was originally in the New Testament written in Greek. But in this particular case, we actually have a Greek and an Aramaic word. Abba is an Aramaic word, and there’s a Greek word for father that gets translated into father.
So you’ve got an Aramaic and a Greek, and both of them were actually terms for father. He literally says, in some sense, we cry father, father, but it’s in two different languages. Why? Well, probably because the Greek word for father is a little bit formal. It’s a little bit technical. The Aramaic word for father is a warm word. It’s an affectionate word. I’ve actually heard people say that it probably should be translated as daddy. And then that might be true. I think that might lose some of the original sense of the word, because there is still a reverence there. It’s not overly familiar, but it is warm. It is affectionate.
And what Paul’s saying here is that the Holy Spirit actually calls us to see God, it enables us to see God with affection, not fear. Affection, really, that’s what it’s about. And notice, he also says this. He says, ”And by him, we cry.” ”We cry Abba, Father.” And that Greek word for cry there, it’s an emotional word. It’s actually always a word that’s used for an emotional outburst, something that’s welling up in us, then that it bursts out of us. It’s a deeply emotional word. So it’s not just that this is the language that we use. It’s actually something that we feel.
And so what he’s ultimately saying is that the Spirit brings us to see God with affection, not fear. The Spirit moves us. The Spirit fills the wind of our sails and transforms us from the inside out. Not primarily by what he says to us in terms of new information, not primarily by strength that he gives us to break old habits, not primarily by a new voice that we can listen to. No, the Spirit’s main work in our lives, its foundational fundamental work is to help us see our Father with affection rather than fear.
And then he says this, it says, ”And the Spirit himself testifies with our spirit, that we are God’s children.” Listen to that, the Spirit himself testifies. That’s a powerful word. It’s actually an emotional word. I love when I get to speak at churches where people shout things during messages. I love that. Yeah. Awesome. I remember years ago I was speaking at a church and I was kind of getting, going on something and people were kind of feeling it and somebody stood in the back and they went testify and I was like, yes. And that’s the word that Paul’s using. It’s like, bring it home, man. But like, man, get it in there because it’s not just, “Oh, here’s some information it’s now no this is a heart thing.” Like man, man speak this in a way that that moves people. It’s an emotional word.
And what he says here is that the Spirit himself testifies, brings it home to us what? That we are God’s children. The Spirit testifies in an emotional way that we are God’s should. What he’s essentially saying is this it’s a two-way street. This affection business, it’s two-way. The Spirit stirs our affection for God and testifies of God’s affection for us. Did you know that God is affectionate towards you? I heard an amen. I’m glad there was one.
I didn’t hear a broad swipe. And then probably the reason I didn’t get a lot of amens there is because, honestly, if you’re a little bit like me, that feels a little bit uncomfortable. Maybe it’s because like me, you grew up in a home where God was, he was powerful. He was Holy. And, yes, he was loving, but there was a sense of distance there. And that might’ve even been fueled by the fact that you grew up like I did in churches, where fear was a big part of the motivator. And it tends to keep God at a little bit of a distance. And so the idea that God is affectionate towards me, it’s a little bit of a struggle. My guess is that some of you feel that.
Several years ago, I was talking to a young man, he had kind of a troubled relationship with his parents. And as we talked, it became clear that he basically spent his whole life feeling like he was kind of under a performance standard and that if he didn’t perform to their standards, then there was a withholding of affection. In fact, he kind of felt like, you know, unless I get the right grades, unless I have the right kind of friends and unless I’m doing all the right things, then there’s a distance in our relationship.
And he said something to me and I’ll never forget it. He said something very powerful. He said, “Hey, I always knew my parents loved me. I’m just not sure they really liked me.” “I always knew they love me, but I never really felt like they liked me.” And he said that, and I had this light bulb moment because in one sense, you know, I’m really grateful, I never had that with my parents. I think my parents loved me and I also felt like they liked me. But he said that and I thought that’s exactly how I think God thinks of me. That’s exactly what I think is true of God. I think God loves me, but I’m not at all sure God likes me.
See, I have always believed God loves me. I mean, I know the verses, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” I’ve always believed that, but on some level, I think I always felt like God kind of has to love me. It’s almost like he doesn’t have an option. I mean, I remember the Bible saying that God is love, so of course he loves me. He didn’t really have any choice. And that whole God so loved the world, that feels kind of big and generic, but it’s not personal. It’s not intimate. It’s not affectionate.
So yeah, I believe that God loved me, but the idea that God liked me, honestly, if I’m gonna be completely honest, I always felt like God probably loved me a little reluctantly. Like I was kind of hard to love because of all the ways that I fall short, of all the ways that I’m sure I disappointed him, all the ways that I still hadn’t overcome the power of sin in my life. I always felt like God probably loved me a little reluctantly. And if God loved me, reluctantly, then liking me was out of the question. And it was in that season of my life that I began to read the gospels again.
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, those stories of the life of Jesus. And as I read those stories in that season in my life, I noticed something I’d never really noticed before. And that is that Jesus seemed to like people and not just the good ones. Not just the righteous. And in fact, honestly, if God, or if Jesus disliked anybody, he seemed to dislike religious people, which made me a little nervous. But he seemed to like sinners. He seemed to like people who are far from God and he seemed to genuinely have some affection for them.
It’s like when he called them to come follow him, it wasn’t just so they could get right by him. It was so that they could be right by him. So they could be with him because he really seemed to wanna be with them. He had an affection for them, a warmth for them. And honestly, that’s what won them over. They were won over, not by the rules. They’re won over, not by fear. They’re won over by affection. And I saw that consistently in the life of Jesus. And then I ran across this description of Jesus by one of those followers who was won over by his affection for them. He said, this, “The Son, Jesus, is the image of the invisible God.” He said, “We don’t see God, but we see his Son, Jesus. And in Jesus, we see everything that’s true of God that we can’t see.”
Then I came across this description of Jesus by one of those followers who had been won over by his affection for them. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being. Jesus is the exact representation of the very being of God, that what we see in Jesus is exactly what God is. That what we see Jesus do is exactly what God does. And what we see Jesus feel for people is exactly what God feels for people. And when I saw Jesus feel for people was an affection. And it occurred to me, this was transformational in my life. And it may be transformational in yours. You may have never heard of this, but you need to hear it today because this is what Paul’s getting us to understand. This is the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives. This is the fundamental concern of the Spirit as he speaks to you. This is the truth that he speaks to you. Please hear it. God likes you. He likes you.
And again, that might be hard for you to believe it may not be the environment you grew up in. You grew up in an environment dominated by fear and the idea that God loves you is hard enough. The idea that God likes you seems inconceivable, but that’s what Paul is saying. The Spirit stirs our affection for our Father, but he also testifies to our Father’s affection for us, that we are his sons and daughters, his beloved sons and daughters, his be-liked sons and daughters. God likes you. Listen to me, if you’re struggling, God likes you. If your marriage is a mess and you know that it’s at least a little bit your fault, and it’s always at least a little bit your fault, God likes you.
If you had a blow up with your kids on the way to church today, God still likes you. If one of your kids has left the family and there’s a brokenness in that relationship, and you’re wondering, you know, “What did I do to cause that?” You know what, regardless of anything you might have done to cause that God still likes you. If your finances are a mess because you’re drowning in debt because of unwise decisions, God still likes you.
If things at work are a mess because of decisions you’ve made that you shouldn’t have made, God still likes you. The sanctity of life weakens, so listen, if you’re reeling from the announcement of an unplanned pregnancy, outside of God’s intentions for you, God still likes you. If abortion is part of your story, God still likes you. Whatever it is that you’re struggling with, if you’re falling back into addiction, just this past week, God still likes you. If you have a sin that you just can’t seem to get over, God still likes you.
And please understand, I’m not saying that sin doesn’t matter. Of course, it matters. Jesus didn’t die for something that doesn’t matter. Of course, our sin matters, but he did die for it. He did pay it off. He did cancel the debt that we owe because of it. And why did he do that? Because he likes you. Listen, this is not a truth that you can afford to let slip away. This is transformational truth. It is simple, but it is slippery. There’s so many voices that will constantly speak condemnation and judgment and fear, but that’s not in the Spirit’s toolkit.
What the Spirit speaks to you is this truth, God likes you. So listen, here’s what I want you to do. Get your phones out. And I want you to put a reminder on your phones that it’s gonna start tomorrow. You start whatever time but set it every day for the foreseeable future and at 8:00 a.m. or whatever to set that reminder is gonna come up and is gonna, “Hey, just remember God likes you.” When you’re doubting it, God likes you. When you’re having a hard time, believing could be true, God likes you.
And I’m also gonna give you a prayer. Maybe you pray this prayer when you see that reminder, this is the prayer. Holy Spirit, help me feel my Father’s affection for me. And you might go, well, “Wait, can we pray to the Holy Spirit?” Yeah, Holy Spirit is God. Of course we can pray to Holy Spirit, especially when we’re doing things that God’s Word tells us. The Holy Spirit is all about. And what Paul tells us here is the Holy Spirit is all about stirring our affection for our Father, but also testifying to our Father’s affection for us speaking to us the truth, the transformational truth that God likes you. Would you pray with me?
God, it almost feels too simple to land on and that I recognize. And I, and I know there are people listening to this who feel this. It is a powerful truth that you would have affection for us that is incredible. And, Lord, I see in that a fresh wind from your Spirit to begin transforming, to begin living in a different way. Not because we’re afraid, but because we’re the recipients of affection. We love you. We like you. And we’re blown away that you love us back, that you like us back. And in fact, it is your affection for us that allowed us to come to this place that we can cry out, Abba, Father. Lord, help us to grab a hold of this truth, sink it deep into our lives, water it by your Spirit and bring fruit out that will not come from any other source.
If you’re a follower of Jesus, would you join me right now? Would you begin praying for the people that are listening to this message that don’t know God as a Father, that don’t have a relationship with their Father based on faith in what Jesus has done for them. And if that’s you, I just need to speak to you for a moment. It might be that this is the first time that you ever heard that God loves you. And even beyond that, that he likes you, that he has a deep and abiding a passionate affection for you, so passionate that he sent his own Son to pay the price of your sins so that you could be with him again. That’s how much he loves you. Jesus died on the cross to pay the price of all the wrong that you’ve done. Three days later, the Spirit lifted him from the dead to prove that he had accomplished what he set out to accomplish. And that same Spirit can be yours. That same resurrection power can be yours, both for eternal life, but also even right here, right now, speaking this incredible truth that God not only loves you, he likes you.
And it all comes from faith, by putting our trust in what Jesus did for us. And if you’ve never done that, you can do it right now. I’m gonna encourage you to do that. If you’re ready, you’re just gonna have a conversation with God. Just close your eyes, bow your head, wherever you are. And just to have a conversation with God. You can do it in your heart. You can do it out loud. It doesn’t. He knows everything, but you’re gonna say something like this to him. Just say it after me. God, I know I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned and I’m sorry. Thank you for sending Jesus to pay the price of my sin. Jesus, thank you for dying to set me free. I believe you rose from the dead and I understand that you’re offering me salvation, forgiveness, a new life, a relationship with a Father who loves me and likes me. I’m ready to receive all that, Lord. So, Jesus, I’m making the choice. I’m choosing to put my trust in you and what you did for me. I’m choosing to follow you from here on out. Amen.
We’ve had several people make that decision already this weekend. Can we welcome them into this relationship with our Father? That’s awesome. I’m so excited for you. If you’ve made that decision for the first time today, we would love to celebrate. We’d love to get you some resources to begin experiencing everything God has for you. So here’s what I’d love for you to do. Let us know you made the decision.
If you’re watching online, you can click the button right below me that says “I commit my life to Jesus.” If you don’t see that, or if you’re a place where that’s not an option, just text the word Jesus to 888111. Text Jesus to 888111. Either way, you’re gonna get back a link to take you to some resources to help you begin experiencing this new relationship with God. We’d love to put that in your hands. God likes you. Is that good news? Amen. Amen. Hey, let’s stand up. Let’s celebrate together this incredible and transforming slippery, simple but powerful truth.
HOPE OF GLORY
Everyone has questions about suffering and why it is all around us. We know that even as believers in Christ we will still experience pain in this life. But our Christian hope is that we are now placed in Christ for eternity and we look to the future glory to come. We wait for that glory, making our way there through patience and prayer, knowing that to experience resurrection, you must first experience a death. We wait for that time with eager anticipation.
Reza: Well, good morning, Mission Hills, it is so great to be here with you. I am three weeks post-operating on my knee, and so I’m gonna go and have a seat the whole time here. Made it through all my years of playing football, and sports, and everything but I turned 43 and went skiing with my kids and had to have surgery right after that. So I guess that’s just how it goes. But it is so good to be here together. You know, I’ve been reflecting on how great it is to be together, whether we’re together gathered here in the auditorium, thanks for being here, or we’re together gathered digitally, it doesn’t matter.
One of the great things about church is when people gather, we’re reminded that we’re not on this journey alone. That as we look around this auditorium, or even on the feed as we look at the comments, we realize, we are in this with other people. And so together is amazing. And one of the reasons that the church gathers the people of God gather regularly on a weekly basis is so that we are reminded so that we can retell the story of the Gospel and recenter our hearts on God.
And so today, friends let’s continue our worship. We worship through song; we worship through giving. And now we worship through studying the Word and receiving from the Lord. And so we’re gonna continue in the series that Pastor Craig launched us off in four weeks ago, called Fresh Wind. And so we’re taking a look at one chapter in the Bible, we’re looking at Romans chapter 8. Many theologians and people over the years have said, “If there’s one passage to preach over and over again, it’s Romans chapter 8.” Because Romans chapter 8 really gives us the foundation of what the Gospel, the story of Jesus is all about.
And so if you have a Bible with you I invite you to open the Romans chapter 8. If you don’t have a Bible with you, if you have the Mission Hills app open that up, or if you have the Bible on your phone or your device, I encourage you to take it out because we’re gonna go through verse by verse. So we’re gonna take a look at some realities of what the person who wrote this, the Apostle Paul, he was trying to help us understand some foundational things. Not just about Jesus, not just about church, not just about history, but core issues about ourselves, and who we are, and how do we wrestle through the things that we wrestle through on a regular basis. So that’s where we’re going.
In Romans chapter 8, the first verse itself, the first verse, this little, you know, thick theological, you know, section of the Bible starts off and it says, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Like, there is no condemnation. Like there could have been a period right there and Romans chapter 8 could have been one verse and it would have been good. Like, I don’t know about you, but I need to hear that, “There is no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus.” We’re gonna talk about what does it mean to be in Christ Jesus.
And then Paul starts talking about this thing called the flesh. And all throughout his letter to Romans even other letters that he wrote, he speaks of the flesh. And so when we think of the flesh, we think of like the body, you know, the matter that makes up our body. Paul is saying the same type of thing but he’s using it as an illustration for sin. Because here’s what he’s talking about, this is where he’s going. He talks about the flesh is weak, and if we have our minds set on things of the flesh, and then we’re gonna be acting out in the flesh.
You know, earlier in the Book of Romans in Romans chapter 5, Paul is reminding the Romans of how the world got infected. You see, we have to remember before we continue on, the world that we see today is not the world that God intended. When God created what he created, he did not create it with destruction, and death, and disease, and pain. It was not a world that was created like that, but yet there was an invasion that happened, there was an assault that happened on God’s creation.
And Paul is gonna be saying right here in Romans chapter 5, he’s gonna be talking about sin assaulting, sin invading, invades the world through one man. And so he writes Romans chapter 5, that’s exactly what he says, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man.” So he’s talking about this one, he’s talking about Adam, the first one that God created.
That when Adam and Eve in the Garden when they disobeyed God when they went their own way. When they say God, I don’t care about your standards, I want what I want, I’m gonna get what I get, I’m gonna get everything that I…that’s what I wanna pursue. And friends, you and I find ourselves in the exact same place. That we find ourselves oftentimes ignoring God’s saying I’m gonna gratify things of my flesh.
But see what Paul says is like sin entered the world at that time. So when Romans chapter 5 sin into the world through that one man, Adam, and he continues on in the rest of verse 12. And he says, “Sin entered the world through one man and death came through sin.” Not like death, like as soon as we sin, we’re gonna drop dead and die. Although there’d be a lot less sinning happening if like I watched somebody sin and they died like I’m gonna back off there. He’s talking about a spiritual death, we’ll talk about that, in a moment.
Death comes through sin. And in this way, death came to all people, because all have sinned. You see, sin has entered the world through Adam. And because we’re spiritual granddaughters and grandsons of Adam, that generational curse of sin has been passed down to our spiritual DNA.
You see, Paul talks about this very specifically in the rest of his letter to the Romans, and to the Corinthians. And he talks about this phrase that when we are born, we’re born in Adam. As sin entered the world through this one man in Adam, so sin entered the world. And not only did we become infected; all of the world became infected. So we’re gonna…that’s kind of where we’re going. I wanna set the stage a little bit for where Paul has taken us in these 7 verses, we’re going to look at verse 18, to 25.
You see, but the reality is when we are in Adam, we’re spiritually dead from God. Not that God is angry with us. Not that God is just like, we’re a disgrace to him or anything like that. It’s not as if God is sitting there checking off the boxes, saying, “Okay, you did that, you did that, no you gotta go to the other place.”
But the reality is when we sin, when we’re born in Adam when we’re infected with sin, we’re spiritually dead. Because God and his holiness is separate from unholy things. God and his righteousness and in his purity cannot be in relationship with people, his creation, that is unholy. And so because of our sin, we are incapable of being in relationship with God, because there is this great gulf, this chasm that separates us an unholy humanity and a holy God. And so that’s what it means to be spiritually dead because we are separated from the Author of Life. And when you are separated from Life, you are dead.
So Paul is saying that when we are in Adam, we are spiritually dead. And since Adam initiated that first sin, it’s been passed down generation, after generation, after generation, after generation after generation. And we find ourselves in Adam, we’re self-centered, we’re rebellious. And we’re condemned to live a life separate from God for all of eternity.
But what Romans 8 leads us to, and the reason it’s such an important work, and the reason we’re taking out a chunk of our year studying this one chapter, is because it shows us that God condemns sin, in the person embodying the work of Jesus on the cross.
So the last couple of weeks this is where we’ve been in verse 11 Paul talks about that the Spirit following we have the Spirit of Resurrection life in us. And that the Christian life following Jesus isn’t about rowing harder, it’s not about getting ourselves to shore. It’s not about enduring and pushing as hard as we can. But it’s about simply lifting the sails and catching the fresh wind of the Spirit. And the more we learn on what it means to listen to the Spirit and follow the impressions of the Spirit, the more we listen to the Spirit, the more we’re able to experience a life that is coming, and the life we’re to experience now.
And then last week, as Pastor Craig led us in Romans chapter 8, verse 17, this is what we read, as we finished out last week. Says, “Now, if we are children…” which we are, we are children of God, we are God’s children, “Then we are heirs, heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.” You see, everything that we have come to know about being an heir comes true in this place. That we have an inheritance that is coming, that we are heirs of God. That God cares.
You know, it’s easy for us to say that God loves us because we think well, that’s what God’s supposed to do. God loves us like God is love that’s what he does. He’s supposed to love us. But I wonder if again, many of us in our heart would say, but I just wonder if God even likes me. I get that he loves me but am I even likable?
A lot of times we read this and we understand, but the reality is yes, that’s true that God loves us, and God likes us. So yeah, we’re children of God and God does love us, but as we continue studying through this, we see that there’s something there for us to fully understand and what is being communicated to us in the midst of this passage.
See because then he goes on and he says, “If indeed we share in his sufferings, in order that we also share in his glory.” See, why would Paul take like this curveball? Why is Paul like talking about like, hey, we’re children of God, we have the Spirit of Resurrection in us, there’s no condemnation for that is in Christ,” but then at the very end, say, actually, and “Indeed, if we share in his sufferings, in order that we might share in his glory.”
You see that’s kind of where we’re at because the reality is, Paul understood that we as followers of Jesus, he knew that we’re gonna need to know that despite our faith, despite understanding that we are no longer in Adam, that something new has happened. Even though there’s new life available to us we’re still gonna experience suffering in this dark world. And so he’s given us an idea, and a picture of what that looks like.
You know, as we think about all the faith systems of the world, if you think of every religion, that you can have Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, all the different faiths that are out there, they all basically come after this reality that God is holy. Many people basically everywhere understand that God is holy, and humanity is not.
And yet, I remember I was watching this conversation, this debate that was happening on a university campus, and they had different faith leaders there. And this is the conversation they were having, that God is here, God is holy. And it’s almost as if the illustration they use this illustration that God is on the mountaintop, and all of humanity is at the base of the mountain, trying to figure out how to attain to climbing up that mountain to try to reach God.
And so the Jews come up these switchbacks along the back of the mountain, the Muslims say they take this trail up. Hindus come this way, other faiths system, and then Christianity has a path as well. But I’ll never forget, because this Christian leader, he was talking, he says, “Well, what if, what if it’s not God here at the top of the mountain and we’re all trying to figure out what trail is right to take up there? What if it’s God getting up from the top of the mountain and he himself making the trek down the mountain to come be with his people?” Now, wouldn’t that be great?
Well, the reality is, that is the story of the Gospel that’s exactly what we see. 1 Corinthians chapter 15, verse 22, we understand that in our natural state, were born in Adam in sin, for in Adam all die spiritually separated from God. So in Christ, all will be made alive. So there’s this transformation that happens when we surrender ourselves to Jesus, that we are no longer in Adam, we’re no longer in our flesh. But we are plucked out of that, and now we are in Christ. And when we’re in Christ, we’re no longer spiritually dead, but we are alive. See, this is the basis, this is everything that Paul has been talking about and where we’re leading into today.
So as Paul’s talking about the sufferings…and I don’t know about your Bible, but in my Bible in many Bibles, this section, verse 18, there’s a paragraph and the heading for this is Present Suffering and Future Glory. You see, here’s the paradox of Christianity. The paradox of Christianity and where we sit right here in 2021, is we sit and we live sandwiched between the already Christ came, Christ died, Christ is risen. So we live between the already and the not yet, Christ will come in and there’s future glory.
And so the question that we’ve gotta answer well, what about our present sufferings? What about our present circumstances? Like that’s where we sit, we’re in the middle of the already and the not yet. That’s the paradox of Christianity and that’s where we wanna talk about here today. This is where Paul is taking us in verse 18.
Then in light of what Christ’s victory has done in the past, and the coming victories that come, how do we experience the things that we’re walking through? You just take a simple glance at our newsfeed on our phone or open the news or have just a conversation with somebody and you know that there is incredible suffering that has been happening all around us. How do we handle these current circumstances? It’s a great question for us to consider.
As we look upon the summer on the streets, and there was lives lost, and there was rioting, and there was looting, and there was destruction, and it was bad. And then we have a divisive election and political unrest, and disease, fear, disillusionment, all of it is running rampant. So how do we make sense of this? What do we do in the meantime? So this is where Paul is taking us.
And what Paul is not saying that what we need to do is just hunker down, pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, and just get through the suffering. Just row ourselves to shore, that’s not what Paul is saying to us. But he’s gonna give us something different to hold on to, that it’s not about knowing certain things to get through our sufferings. It’s not about being strengthened to get through our sufferings, but it’s about having a certain posture.
So we’re gonna talk about what is the posture that we’re to take. What’s the opportunity as Christians the postures that we’re able to take as we walk through our current circumstances sandwiched between the already of Christ’s victory, and the not yet of Christ ultimate victory over all things. See, this is where we’re diving into.
So a couple of main points. The first one is this, that the pain that we experience in the present, cannot compare to the glory that is to come. That’s something for us to understand. It doesn’t mean that what we’re experiencing today is not important. It doesn’t mean to minimize the stuff that we go through today. It doesn’t mean that we are to ignore and just kind of think our way out of things. But we have to understand that our present pain cannot compare to the glory that is to come.
You see whether you’ve been a Christian for a long time, or maybe this is your first time in a church, or maybe you just happened to stumble upon this online, here’s the thing we all no matter where we’re at in our spiritual journey, we’ve all got questions about suffering. Why in the world would God allow certain things to happen? How do I get through the stuff and the junk that’s going on in my life? And why do I think the things that I do? Why am I experiencing this brokenness in this relationship, or financially, or whatever it might be?
But here’s the truth about Christianity, and especially for those of you that aren’t yet Christians, I want you to understand this and hear this. Christianity has always been and will always be the hope of God through Jesus and Jesus only that’s played out in the lives of real people living in real circumstances. That’s Christianity. It’s not some fantasy, but it’s an authentic rugged faith because it’s always been about the hope of God through the work of Jesus, and Jesus only played out in the lives of real people living in pretty messy circumstances.
So let’s find ourselves. Meet me in Romans, chapter 8, verse 18, and let’s see what the Apostle Paul is saying here. He says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us,” not to us. This is huge it’s not the glory that’s gonna be revealed to us, or the glory revealed about us but it’s the glory revealed in us.
And so the language that he’s using here when he talks about, “Our present sufferings aren’t worth comparing to the glory that’s gonna be revealed in us” here’s what he’s comparing it to. He’s talking about…do you know those scales where you put some weight on one side and another weight on another and you just kind of see which one weighs more? What is the language that he’s using here is he’s talking about a weighted scale comparing. And he’s saying our current circumstances, even though they’re hard… You see the Christians in the first century, they didn’t have it very easy. Paul himself was imprisoned and flogged many, many, many times. He was shipwrecked.
But he says our circumstances, our current suffering, it will not outweigh the future glory that will be revealed in us. Not that our circumstances aren’t important, not that they’re not real, but they’re just not gonna weigh as much as the future glory that’s gonna be revealed and what is to come.
In verse 19, “For the creation, waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.” So creation he’s not talking about nature. He’s not just talking about the oceans, and the mountains, and the grass, and the trees, although he includes that. When he talks about creation, “For the creation waits in eager expectation, the entirety, the totality of what God created waits in eager expectation for what? For God’s children to be revealed.” See he’s going back to what he just wrote in verse 17 about we are God’s children, that we cry out to him Abba, Father.
You see, when Paul wrote this, he didn’t write a sentence and then add numbers we added that later. This is one continuous thought, for Paul. And so what he’s talking about when God’s children be fully revealed the creation waits in eager expectations, almost standing up on tippy-toe, for the children of God to be revealed. There is something huge that Paul is trying to communicate that we’ve got to grasp friends. About what it means for God’s children to be fully revealed and creation will be made right, once again.
You see what Paul is hearkening what he’s alluding to, is this idea that there will be a new creation, that we will be made new. And here’s the thing about new creation, this is important we gotta understand this. New creation is not cleaning up old creation. New creation is not restoration, and it’s not regeneration. New creation is new creation. It’s brand new, it’s fresh, it’s never been experienced before. And so what Paul is saying is there is something more that is coming that all of creation waits in eager expectation for. And that’s something that is coming is God’s children being fully revealed. We’re gonna talk a little bit about what that means.
Before we do I want us to just think a little bit about you know, when something tragic happens in our world, maybe we…you know, something happens there’s a funeral we go to or, you know, we have this temptation to placate the situation and we just use catchphrases. And we use phrases like, “Well, everything happens for a reason.” Can I tell you that’s not in the Bible? Like nowhere in the Bible does it say everything happens for a reason. Like there’s no reason. You know the reason evil things happen in this world because evil people do evil things. And sin has even infected all of the things that we see in this world, that death and decay has even infected all of creation.
See, there’s things that have happened throughout history. The Germans that torpedo the Lusitania cruise ship that killed thousands of British citizens which sparked the United States get involved in World War I and multitudes of people dying from their death, disease, famine, going across the world, and hurricanes and earthquakes. There’s not a reason that God makes that happen. Or 9/11 people flying planes in the building. You see, there’s no reason for that.
But yet, but yet, at the end of Romans chapter 20 towards the end, we read that “God is able to take all things and work them out for the good of those who love God.” He doesn’t make all things happen. But he’s able to turn them all for the good of those who love him. And the reason that we have disease, death, and pain, is because the power of sin is at work in us and in the world.
You see suffering is a result of creation’s sin and rebellion. That’s why we have suffering and death, and disease it’s not what God intended. But sin has even infected not only our body so that we experience death and decay, sin has also infected all of creation. So all of creation is decaying and experiencing death and destruction.
But yet, creation waits in eager anticipation. It’s almost like a child on Christmas morning just knocking on the door of their parents saying, “I wanna go down, I wanna open those presents.” Waiting in eager expectations for God’s children to be fully glorified. But as we think about this, let’s just be authentic as Christians because there is a lot that happens through Scripture, and there’s a lot that happens through our lives that we can’t fully comprehend all the time.
You know, even as we read through the Old Testament, we read things about God and we hear God say, hey, because my people acted in disobedience, I’m gonna punish them. Or even through the prophets if you act this way, you will be punished by God. And then we read the story, the narrative of Job in the Old Testament and we find Job had horrific things happen to him. And even his friends and other people were saying, man, God must be mad at you like what did you do Job? Like, you must have really made God…God is angry with you. But if you read the narrative, Job was completely innocent. There was no reason for that.
So what do we do with that? How can both of those be true? How do we have a God that punishes us for sin, and yet how do we have innocent people experiencing suffering because of the sin of others? You see, the only way that we can even wrap our minds and comprehend this, the only way that we can make sense of this is because it comes together on the person of Jesus on the cross. Because on the cross God is both at the same time punishing the work of sin of his wrath being poured out on Jesus on so he’s punishing for sin. And at the same time, you’ve got an innocent suffer, who cries out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
And so we continue in Romans chapter 8, verse 20, “For the creation was subjected to frustration not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, sin and hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay, and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” Verse 22, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth, right up to the present time. Not only so but we ourselves who have the first fruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship the redemption of our bodies.”
And so not only is creation waiting with anticipation, but creation is also groaning. And we’re gonna talk about this in a moment. Creation is groaning for this new life, for this new creation to come about. You know, what groaning is about? Groaning…I’ve heard it said that groaning is like deep down in our bones, we know what’s happening shouldn’t be this way. It’s like deep down we know it’s not supposed to go the way that it’s going right now. Sometimes all we can do is groan.
You know, as we watched the riots, we watched the racial unrest as we watched people die on screen. As we see the election, as we see people that have said certain things and simply post a sentence or two on social media and because of that, now, there’s two people that aren’t friends anymore. Even family members won’t speak to one another because of a social media post. Or a couple of weeks ago, no matter what side of the aisle that you’re on, the stuff that we saw at the Capitol Building, the unrest, and the brokenness, sometimes all we can do is just groan.
When we see an assault on just the way of life that we know here in America happen to the Capitol, there’s just nothing in us all we can do sometimes it’s just simply groan. And yet creation even looks forward to something different.
You know, it’s funny, as you read here you see in verse 23, “Not only so but we ourselves who have the first fruits of the Spirit, we groan inwardly…” I’m sorry, in verse 22. “We know the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” You know, it’s funny like, this is how, you know, Paul was single and not married. Any married person, any married man who has a wife, who’s had children knows don’t you ever compare anything to childbirth. Like, I compared my knee surgery to childbirth with my wife three days afterwards, it did not go very well.
But what Paul is saying is like, look, there is groaning and there is pains almost like all of creation is in labor. Going through these pains and the suffering that even labor pains weren’t a part of God’s creation, that was brought in with the fall back in Genesis. That even the labor pains are looking forward to a new creation, just when a mother gives birth to a new baby but goes through the labor pains. All of creation is groaning because of the sin waiting for God’s children to one day be fully revealed in all of our glory.
So here’s where we sit. Suffering is not God’s invention but it’s because of creation’s sin. The present pain cannot compare to our future glory. So what is the posture that we take in the midst of our suffering? See, there’s no answers for this is what you do. I wish I could tell you if you just believe this and think this, you’re gonna get through your suffering and it’s all gonna work out well. I don’t know if it’s all gonna work out well for us on this side of eternity. But here’s what I do know that what Paul is pointing to this future glory that far outweighs the present suffering is something that we hope for.
And there’s a difference between wish, wishing, and hoping. Wishing is just wanting something to happen. Hope has substance. Hope like there is a certainty because you have something to hold on to as you hope.
So we’re gonna talk about what posture do we take in the midst of our suffering? Where is Paul taking us? What is he talking to us about? When he wrote a letter to the Ephesians, he wrote a letter to the Ephesians people in Ephesus, and in chapter 1, he talks about this Holy Spirit. And he says, “The Holy Spirit is a deposit inside of you, guaranteeing your inheritance that is to come.” And so the hope that we hold on to is found in the Holy Spirit that is placed in us the moment that we surrender ourselves. When we’re plucked out of being an Adam and placed in Christ, the Holy Spirit comes and dwells in us.
And so what we hold on to is the certainty that God has given us a handle to hold on to in our current circumstances, who is the Holy Spirit that gives us the hope that we need to look forward to the future glory that is to come.
Paul uses this phrase, and he’s using it in another letter to the Colossians in Colossians 1:27. And he talks about the mystery of the Gospel. And see, in the first century, the Gospel was absolutely a mystery. Because if we go back to the illustration of the mountain top with God on the mountain, the Jews would view God on the mountain and all of God’s people were around there. And yet there were 600 plus laws that God had instituted, and then the Pharisees added more and more regulations that they had to attain, and they had to do. And if they didn’t do that perfectly, they would fall short of God’s holiness.
And yet God made a way through the Day of Atonement. And so the high priests once a year would sacrifice an animal and that animal’s blood was spilled, it would cover the gap between man’s sin and God’s holiness. And so what Paul says hey, here’s the mystery the Gospel is a mystery because Jesus came and said, I’m not abolishing the Law, you still gotta be holy to be in relationship with God, but I am actually gonna fulfill the Law on your behalf. Where every other religion says do this, do this, do this, do this, do this. Christianity says Christ has already done it we put our faith in that work that he did on the cross.
And here’s the mystery that Paul’s talking about to the Colossians. The mystery is this Christ in you, the hope of glory. So not only are we plucked from being in Adam and placed in Christ to be made alive, Christ is actually in us through the Holy Spirit. And that’s the hope of the glory that we look forward to. We hold on to the hope in us that Christ is in us. And yet we hold on to this hope because what is to come is something greater than we’ve ever experienced.
So what is our Christian hope in? Our Christian hope is not, get through the stuff that we’re going through in our lives. It’s not growing us in the midst of pain, yet all that stuff is true. The Christian hope is not let’s live to be 85, 95, 105-years-old. The Christian hope is not let’s make a lot of money, it’s not prosperity, it’s not making sure our political agenda is lifted up. The Christian hope is none of those things. The Christian hope is greater than all of those. The hope that Paul references is the hope that we are now placed in Christ.
Verse 24 and 25, “For in this hope, we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all, for who hopes what they have already have. But if we hope for what we do not yet have we wait for it patiently.” So as we wait, there is a way that we wait for this hope that is to come. And the way that we wait, waiting with hope entails patience and prayer. Waiting with hope entails patience and prayer. So there is a great hope that we have and the hope that we have is nothing that we experience here.
The Christian hope is greater than anything we can think of because the Christian hope is something new that creation is never seen before. Do you know what Christian hope is? Do you know what the glory that is to come that far outweighs our present circumstances and our suffering? The Christian hope is resurrection, that you and I because we are placed in Christ. Christ was resurrected from the grave. Christ overcame death. You and I are resurrection people.
And so as we’ve experienced the dry bones of death, of relationships, of finances, of dreams, of marriages, of businesses, the death of things that we wish were gonna be coming true, we have a greater hope. And the greater hope is this that you and I are resurrection people. That we are people that have the fresh Spirit of God breathing upon the dry bones of everything in our lives that comes back to life. And to experience a resurrection, you’ve gotta first experience a death.
And so as Paul is writing to these people he’s saying very clearly, that in the midst of our present suffering and circumstances, there is a hope that we hold on to. And we know we can hold on to that hope because we are in Christ, and in Christ, as Christ raised from the dead, we too rise from things that seem dead. And ultimately, the glory to come is that we will one day be resurrected with brand new bodies with a brand new existence, and we will be fully glorified.
And that is what all of creation waits in eager anticipation for, for the consummation of God’s ultimate plan for us to be resurrected once again. So the dead will rise, we will be reunited with loved ones, and all will be made right. “For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.” It is a gift.
And I believe there’s some of us here today, listening to the sound of my voice in the auditorium and all through the stream. And as we heard earlier, through all the countries that are listening, “If anyone is in Christ, you are a new creation the old has gone, the new has come.” I don’t know about you but sometimes I need to be reminded that because I feel like a lot of my old self keeps creeping up, but I remind myself I am now in Christ.
But yet I know there’s some of us that are listening, that recognize that I’m still living in Adam, I’m still living by the ways…my mind is still fixated on things of the flesh, my action is still fixated on things of the flesh. All I wanna do is gratify my flesh. Friends, this is a day for us to realize there is new…that doesn’t have to be the end of our story. “Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come.” I invite you to surrender today.
As I was praying and preparing for this message and studying and reading there was a song that just came to mind over and over. It’s an old hymn. It’s a hymn that I absolutely love. So I wanna read just the first few lines of this hymn, read the chorus, read the verses. And I invite you to just sit, maybe close your eyes and just consider these words. Let’s see what the Spirit would say to us.
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name
On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand
When darkness veils his lovely face
I rest on his unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
Friends, can you pray with me as we prepare our hearts to receive Communion? Lord, thank you for today. Thank you that there is new life found in you and you are in us. So Lord, thank you for your grace and your goodness for the reality that we recognize that one day we will rise and be recreated on the day that you return. So, Father, we wait with all of creation as we groan with the things that we experience but understand that the future glory outweighs anything that we see. Amen.
The Holy Spirit is active in our lives because God has always known you as his son or daughter, even before you existed. He had a plan for you to become all he wanted you to be. When you say yes to Jesus, you are forgiven completely. The end goal for you is to be glorious! Through the Holy Spirit, your prayers and your circumstances can be worked through God to his glory and your redemption.
Craig: Hey, welcome to Mission Hills. So good to have you with us today. If you’ve been with us the last few weeks, you know we’re in the midst of a series called Fresh Wind. Actually, we’re rounding third base today. We’ll be wrapping this series up next week. But if you’re just joining us, let me catch up real quick. What we’re doing in this series is we’re leaning into something that’s really at the very heart of Christianity, and yet somehow it seems too often, gets pushed to the periphery, off to the edge. And it’s closely related to kind of an interesting thing Jesus did right after his resurrection. He rose from the dead. He gathered his disciples. And he did this kind of strange thing, and here’s how John who was there and experienced. Here’s how John described it. He said, “He breathed on them and then he said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.'” He breathed on them which, obviously, not COVID friendly, just set that aside, right? He breathed on them and then he said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” If you were with us a few weeks ago, you may remember that we kind of saw that what Jesus was doing, he was having a little bit of fun. Because there’s a play on words because the Greek that he was speaking here, the Greek word for breath, and the Greek word for spirit are very closely related to each other. And so what Jesus was doing as he was giving them the Holy Spirit, was he was actually demonstrating for them something about how the Holy Spirit would do his work in our lives. He’s basically saying the Holy Spirit works kind of like wind, pushing us forward, filling the sails, and helping us to move forward and becoming what we’re intended to be. Apart from our working really hard at, our job isn’t really to row hard and work hard to move forward, it’s actually to raise the sails so the Spirit can do that.
Now, see. Every religion has rules. Okay? Every religion has rules. The fundamental difference is that every other religion says, “The rules are how you get accepted by God,” that if you work hard enough at following the rules, God will accept you. Christianity says, “No, the rules show us what we should be.” They paint the picture of who we really are supposed to be, but they also demonstrate that we fall short of that. But Jesus died for all the ways we fall short, Jesus died to pay for all the sin that we’ve committed, to set us free from the guilt, to cut the anchor so that we can begin to move forward. And then he gave us the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit’s job isn’t to enforce the rules. The Holy Spirit’s job is actually to move us forward. I like to think of it this way. Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit so that we could be what the rules tell us we should be. Does it make sense, church? That’s the purpose of the Holy Spirit so that we could be what the rules tell us we should be. The Holy Spirit actually becomes the force that moves us forward becoming the men and the women that God always designed us to be.
Now, over the last several weeks, we’ve been talking about how exactly the Holy Spirit does that. Today, we’re gonna lean into three things, three powerful things that relate to the Holy Spirit. Number, well, one and two, are things the Holy Spirit does for us, ways the Holy Spirit moves us forward. But the third one is, is where the Holy Spirit is ultimately taking us. What the end goal is. What he’s moving us forward towards. I want you to go ahead and grab a Bible and join me. We’re gonna be in Romans chapter 8 starting in verse 26 today. And again, if you’re just joining us, here’s what you need to know about Romans. It’s written by a man named Paul. A man who spent his entire life trying to follow the rules, but always realizing he was falling short. Then he put his trust in Jesus. He saw that what Jesus did on the cross paid for sin. He said, “I’m gonna follow Jesus.” He received the Holy Spirit. He began to become the man that he’d always been trying to be by following the rules, but wasn’t really making any progress in. And he’s writing the Book of Romans to a group of people that he’s wanting to help them understand how it is the Holy Spirit does this. And so he gives them these two things the Holy Spirit does and ultimately a picture of where the Holy Spirit’s taking us. And so he begins the section this way.
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.” Now, we’ll pause just a moment and go, “What does he mean by in the same way?” Well, if you were with us last week, Reza showed us one of the things the Holy Spirit does, and that is the Holy Spirit gives us hope. Actually, I love what Reza said. He said, “Hey, we need hope because we have to wait on God.” That’s kind of what the last section was talking about. And I love what he said. He said, “The only thing worse than waiting on God is wishing we had waited on God.” That is a great line. Because the reality is if we give up waiting, we don’t experience what it is we’re waiting for. We stop short of experiencing it. Okay. So, we have to be able to wait, but… Can I get an amen on this? Waiting is hard. Amen. Yeah, it’s hard. So, what we need when we’re waiting is we need hope. And that’s what the Holy Spirit does. The Holy Spirit gives us hope. He tops off our hope tank when it’s getting low so that we can keep waiting. Well, now what Paul says was kind of in the same way, this is the Holy Spirit giving something, in the same way the Spirit helps us in our weakness. So, basically, the Spirit gives us hope when we’re waiting and strength when we’re weak, right? It’s all he’s saying, “Holy Spirit gives us hope when we’re waiting and strength when we’re weak.”
But, and this is so important, the way the Holy Spirit gives us strength is different than the way it gives us hope. The way I think of it, there’s kind of two categories of help. There’s what I call help at a distance, and then there’s help in the trenches. They’re both good, but they’re very different. Help at a distance is when you kind of top off the tank. You see somebody needs something, you send a resource to them, and they’re able to use that to keep going, right? That’s a good thing. In 2020, we did a lot of that as a church. We have all our global partners, and because of your generosity, we were able to send them a whole lot of money above and beyond our normal support for them, and they were able to use that to get food and clothing, and medical care for people who were really hard hit by the pandemic in other countries. Okay? That was hope. That was help at a distance. And it was a really good thing. Normally, however, we would also send out short-term trips. We would send people from Mission Hills, they’d go work with our global partners alongside them, and they would actually give the clothing and give the food and help people understand the Gospel and do medical care for people. That’s help in the trenches. Right? We didn’t get to do that in 2020. I don’t know if we’re going to get to in 2021, but we’re moving back towards that. But see what I’m talking about. Two very different categories of help. Okay? Both good, but very different.
And what you wanna understand is that when Paul says, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness,” the word that he uses in the original Greek this was written in, for help is always a help in the trenches word. He’s not saying the Holy Spirit tops off our strength. It’s not like the Holy Spirit looks at you and goes, “She’s getting a little bit weak. I’ll give her a little bit of juice.” It’s not what he’s saying. This is actually help in the trenches. This is a coming alongside. In fact, it’s kind of an unusual word and there’s only a handful of times that it gets used in the Bible but let me share with you one of my favorite other uses of this particular word that Paul is using there. It comes in, in Numbers 11, verse 17. If you wanna look there, we’ll put it on the screens. This is about Moses. You remember Moses? Moses is the guy that, you know, the burning bush talked to him, God used him to set the Israelites free. Well, after they were free, they ended up in the desert and all the Israelites kept coming to Moses wanting decisions, they wanted advice, they wanted judgments, they wanted mediating disputes, and those kinds of things. And Moses was getting burned out. And so God said, “Okay. Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to appoint 70 people that are gonna help you with this.” And this is what he said, this is Numbers 11:17. He said, “I will come down and speak with you there and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you, Moses, and put it on them. And they will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone.” And I love that phrase “Share the burden.” And in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, that’s exactly the same word that Paul uses when he says the Holy Spirit helps us when we’re weak. He shares the burden.
So, this isn’t help at a distance. This is not topping off the tank. This is the Holy Spirit actually getting into the trenches with us and helping us to carry the burden. So, what Paul is really saying is, the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness by sharing the bearing. Does that make sense? He’s actually doing something for us that we couldn’t do on our own. He’s taking over what we are unable to do. And that’s a powerful statement. And then the question becomes, “Okay. Well, how is he doing that? How is he sharing in the bearing?” And that’s what Paul ultimately goes on to say, “Well, here’s the two things the Holy Spirit does for us.” And so he goes on and begins by saying this, he says, “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”
Now, what Paul says there might seem a little bit strange because he uses words that we don’t use a lot, right? First off, he used the word intercede, which is not a word that we use very often at all. And he also talks about wordless groans, which also seems a little bit strange. But what Paul is saying here ultimately is actually fairly simple. Let’s just kind of break down some of the language he’s using. He says, “The Holy Spirit intercedes for us.” Literally intercedes means to act as a go-between. Okay? This is somebody who kind of acts as, you know, a go-between between you and someone else. So, if you can think back, remember back when you were in middle school or high school and you kind of liked a guy or girl, and you didn’t dare actually go up and go, “Hey, I like you. Do you like me back?” That would make you a total stud in middle school or high school, right? But that’s not what we did. What did we do? We go, “Hey, can you go talk to her?” Right? We go to a friend and go, “Just find out if she’s got a date for the dance yet. Find out if maybe she likes me. Take this note.” I like you. Do you like me? Check yes or no, right? You don’t hand-deliver, you get somebody else to do it. Well, that person who’s doing that for you, they’re interceding for you. They’re acting as a go-between. Now, the problem with that analogy is that that’s because we’re afraid, right? And we don’t have to be afraid to go to the Father.
So, maybe an even better way to think, if we ratcheted it up a notch, is in hospital sometimes there’s a role called patient advocate. This is a person who works for the hospital and they understand the systems, they understand the process. They know what’s possible, and so their job is to kind of, like, intercede between the patient and the hospital. They’re supposed to go to the hospital and make requests on behalf of the patient for what the patient needs, but the patient honestly might not even know to ever ask for that because they didn’t know that’s how it worked, but they didn’t know that was possible. That’s kind of what Paul is talking about here. He says the Holy Spirit is kind of acting as a go-between between us and the Father, and specifically, he says, “When we don’t know what to pray for.” We don’t know what’s possible. We don’t know what we should ask. The Holy Spirit acts as a go-between. Okay?
Now, he says he does that through wordless groans. And there’s a lot of confusion about that phrase, and so we need to lean into it just a little bit. Some of you may have heard the teaching that this wordless groan is a reference to something called speaking in tongues. Now, a couple of years ago, we did a series called Equipted. If you didn’t hear it, you probably wanna go back and listen to it. It was a whole series on what we call the gifts of the Spirit, because when the Holy Spirit comes into us, one of the things that happens is, not only does he forgive our sins and begin to change us from the inside out, but he gives us a gift. Every follower of Jesus has at least one spiritual gift. That is the way the Holy Spirit kind of announces he’s here. He announces. He manifests his presence through us. And one of those possible gifts is something called speaking in tongues. Speaking in tongues is a supernatural ability to speak a language that you didn’t learn by natural means. Okay? And some people have read these wordless groans as a reference to that gift. I don’t think that’s what Paul’s talking about here. Okay? And I’ll give you three reasons why.
First, Paul says these are wordless groans. And the word that he uses for wordless typically means inaudible, means that it can’t be heard, it’s not out loud, it’s behind the scenes. And speaking in tongues is always audible. It may not always be understandable to everybody, but it’s always audible. It’s always hearable by everyone. So, I don’t think that’s what Paul is talking about here. Second reason I don’t think he’s talking about speaking in tongues here is simply because speaking in tongues, Paul makes very clear, is a gift for some believers. It’s a real gift. I’m not denying it’s a real gift or that it still operates today, but it’s a gift that some believers have. Not every believer has that gift. Every believer has a gift, but not every believer has that gift. But it’s very clear here that Paul is talking about something the Holy Spirit does for every single one of us. If you are a follower of Jesus, this is something the Holy Spirit is doing for you. So, I don’t think that’s a reference to speaking in tongues. And the third reason I don’t think it’s a reference to speaking in tongues is because he talks about wordless groans. And that word groans is important whenever Paul uses. In fact, we saw him use it last week and we’ve seen it a handful of times in Romans, but also throughout the Bible. Every time the word groans is used, it’s a reference to kind of just a deep and profound longing. And it’s usually, it’s a longing by God’s people for God to move. Does that make sense? It’s often used, actually, in the Old Testament to speak about God’s people when they were enslaved in Egypt, groaning for God to do something.
So, it’s a deep longing for God to do something. And because of that, actually, I don’t think it’s the Spirit groaning for us. I actually think what’s being said here is the Spirit starts doing what he does. He starts interceding for us because of our wordless groans. That doesn’t come across real well in English because there’s no real easy way to translate what’s going on here. But the point is, I don’t think these are his wordless groans. These are our wordless groans. We groan wordlessly. We have this deep, profound longing, so deep, and so profound, so desperate, that honestly, we just don’t even have words to express it because of what he said at the beginning. We do not know what to pray for. We do not know how to pray. It’s that experience that launches this ministry of the Holy Spirit. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a place where you didn’t know how to pray. Anybody? Yeah, quite a few hands. Online? Maybe still you haven’t been there.
I remember I think the first time I experienced that, I was probably about 12 years old. My grandfather was in the hospital, my dad’s dad. And he’d been a smoker his whole life and he had emphysema. It just destroyed his lungs. And he’d been in a lot of pain for a long time. He’s in the hospital. His lungs would collapse. There wasn’t really much hope of recovery. If he did recover, we knew it was gonna be a lot more pain for as long as he continued to live. And I remember I’d only been a follower of Jesus for about a year or so there, and I remember being in the hospital going, “I don’t know what to say, Lord.” I mean, I didn’t know. Should I pray for healing or should I pray for a homecoming? Right? Should I pray that God would heal him or should I pray that God would take him home? I knew he was a believer. And I was like, “I don’t know what to say.”
Sometimes we get there because of a situation like that. Sometimes we get there. Sometimes some of you may actually be in that place right now where you’re going, “Just do something, God. I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s this or that. I don’t even know what the possibilities. I came and see the possibilities. But God, I need you to do something.” It’s a place of deep desperation. And that’s where the word listeners comes from. It’s like, “I don’t even know what God, but would you just do something?” It’s what Paul’s talking about here. And he says that in that place the Spirit acts as our go-between. The Spirit intercedes for us. And what he’s basically saying is this. He’s saying that the Spirit puts words to our deepest longings and he shares them with the Father for us. That’s it. That’s all he’s saying. That the Spirit puts words to our deepest longings and he shares them with the Father for us. When my kids were really little both, you know, just still infants, they would do this thing. They’d cry. Right? It’s what babies do. They cry. And sometimes you could tell, like, they’re desperate. Like, they really want something. The problem is I had no idea what they wanted. Right? And so I’d have to go and I’d pick them up and then, “Okay. Are you hungry? Are you hungry? Are you hurt? Did you get pinched in the crib or something? Did you have a bad dream? Do you need comfort? Do you need company? Do you need your diaper changed?” I don’t know what it is. Right? And honestly, I’m not sure they knew what it was. I think sometimes in that stage, there’s wordless cries because there are no words. And even if there were, I don’t know. I just know I need something, right?
Now, this is not a super flattering image, let’s be honest. But sometimes we get in that place in life. We’re like infants and we’re crying. They’re wordless. We’re just groaning, “God do something. And I don’t even know what I should ask you to do.” But the Holy Spirit comes and he puts words to those deep longings. And then he shares that with the Father. Here’s why this is great news. It means that we don’t have to know how to pray for our prayers to be powerful. We don’t know how to pray. It’s okay. You don’t need to know how to pray. You don’t need to know what to pray for, for your prayers to be powerful, because the Holy Spirit is doing this for you. Now, I’m gonna be honest with you. This assumes that we are praying. Okay? But this assumes that we’re crying out, that we’re like the infants. I don’t know what it is, but aah. It assumes that we’re doing that. It assumes that we’re taking that to God. And the Holy Spirit then comes alongside and translates that.
Now, what I don’t understand is I don’t understand why we have to cry out. I don’t fully understand why we have to pray. I’m gonna be honest with you. I know that’s terrible for a pastor to say, but there’s some parts of prayer I don’t understand. Okay? Anybody else? Good. Well, I think you’re probably in good company because I have questions too. I mean, I don’t understand. I read in the Gospels where Jesus says, “Your heavenly Father knows what you need before you ask.” And I’m like, “Question. Then why do I need to ask? What’s the point of that?” And I don’t know. I mean, I can make a guess. I think if we don’t ask, if God acts before we ask, then we don’t always know where it’s coming from. Right? If it just shows up, we’re like, “This is amazing. Life’s good. It all works out.” No, it doesn’t. God works it out. Right? So, I think that may be one of the reasons that we have to ask. But there’s still questions that I have around prayer.
Here’s what I know about prayer, though. Number one, I know that prayer is important to God. I know that our prayers are important to God. 1 Thessalonians 5:16, God says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, pray constantly. Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Now, God is not gonna tell you to do something that doesn’t matter. God’s not into busywork. You understand that? Clearly, prayer is important to God. I also know that prayer is powerful. James, the brother of Jesus said, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” It’s powerful. It does something. It accomplishes something. Things happen that wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t prayed. I know it’s powerful. And I also know this. And this is where the real mystery comes in, but I know it. I know that God often waits to move until we pray. You hear me, church? God often waits to move until we pray. Brother James says, “You do not have because you do not ask God. It’s not that God is unwilling, it’s not that God is unable, it’s not that God is ignorant, but God is waiting.” And again, maybe that’s because if he acted before we asked, we wouldn’t recognize where it was coming from. But this is what I know. I know that prayer matters to God, I know that prayer is powerful, and I know that God often waits until we pray. So, what do we need to do? Pray. And this is the point I was getting. Even when you don’t know what to pray for, even when all you can do is just cry out to God and lay your longing before him and going, “I don’t know, God. Just something.” And the Holy Spirit is like, “I got it.” And the Holy Spirit puts those words to our longing and he carries those words to the Father.
Basically, one of the first things the Holy Spirit does for us is the Holy Spirit gets things moving in the spiritual realm. So, your prayers… Listen to me. Your prayers start things moving in the spiritual realm. It’s what prayer does. Prayer starts things moving. Even if it’s the cry, like, the cry of the infant, but it gets me up and into there to start to figure it out. The thing is we don’t have a God who has to figure it out because the Holy Spirit is interceding for us. Our prayer starts things moving in the spiritual realm, so we gotta pray even if we don’t know what. It’s what the Spirit does. The Spirit empowers our prayers. The Spirit empowers our prayers. What do we have to do to raise the sail? We have to pray. Crank the sail up even if it’s inarticulate, I don’t know, God, just something. The Spirit is like, “Okay. The wind fills the sails and we move forward.” It’s one of the things that the Spirit does, he empowers our prayers.
Here’s another thing the Spirit does for us, another way that he comes alongside us in the trenches and he’s sharing in the bearing. Paul says this, one of the most famous verses in the Book of Romans, “And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who’ve been called according to his purpose.” I love that Paul says, “We know,” right? Not we guess, not we think, not we hope, not we… We suspect maybe. He says, “No, we know because we’ve seen it.” The Bible is filled with stories of God working even in very difficult things, bringing good out for his people. And the ultimate demonstration, of course, is in the person of Jesus. I mean, Jesus, the Son of God, who was nailed to a cross, like, that’s the definition of a terrible thing, right? When Jesus was executed, that’s terrible. And yet, what did God do with it. He turned it into the basis for our forgiveness. Jesus died so that we could be free of the consequences of our sin. And by trusting in what he did, we could be forgiven and righteous, not by our effort, but by what he did for us. Okay. That’s a really good thing coming out of a really bad thing. Okay. So, he says, “We know that God works in all things, bringing this good.” Now, when he says all things, he means in all things. And that means good things, obviously, but in this context, he’s especially thinking of the bad things. When he says all things he’s thinking about, even the things you can’t imagine good coming out of, even in those moments when you don’t know what to pray for because it’s just bad and you’re just desperate. He says even in those things. God’s working to bring good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose.
Listen, I hope it never comes across that I’m saying that if you follow Jesus, life will get easy. I hope you never hear me say anything like that because it’s not true. The reality is that following Jesus is hard. And when you follow Jesus, you’re gonna have difficult periods of life. Jesus himself said, “In this life, you will have trouble.” Now, here’s the thing. That’s true whether you’re following Jesus or not. You understand that, right? In this life, you will have trouble. The question is not whether or not you will face trouble, the question is whether or not you will place that trouble in the hands of somebody who can do something good with it. For people who are not following Jesus, this is not a guarantee. Sometimes apart from faith in Jesus, bad things are just bad things and they just accomplish bad things. But in the hands of Jesus, they can be turned into things that actually produce good in us.
Listen, following Jesus has not been easy for me. My first job in ministry as a youth pastor, I had parents who got together and tried to get me fired. Man, that was painful, but God used it to build something in me. My second job in ministry, I found that the pastor was doing some things he shouldn’t have been doing and I had to ask him to leave. And he spread some lies about me and passed some rumors that weren’t true, and I had to endure that. And that was painful, but it was also something that God used to help develop a little bit of a thicker skin that I need to be able to do what’s necessary even if it’s not necessarily what’s popular, right? My youngest daughter… I’m sure you’ve heard the stories. My youngest daughter had two years of chronic abdominal pain. We went to that place of desperation, like, we’ve tried it all, and I’ve prayed all the prayers and I don’t even know. I’m just, “God do something.” Right? And God used that in her life and he used that in the life of our family in ways that were good. My oldest daughter just about a year and a half ago went through a horrific breakup with a young man that we thought was gonna be joining the family, and that was painful in a way I can’t even begin to describe in our life, in her life, and yet, man, God used it in her life. He used it in our life. He brought good out of it.
And chances are, as I’m going through my list, you’ve got your own list, right? You’re thinking of things that you look back and you go, “That was bad, but this thing that came out of it was actually really good.” And it doesn’t mean that it transformed the whole thing. And it doesn’t mean that God lets you go through it just so that you could get that good thing, but the reality is that in the hands of God, no bad thing is just a bad thing. There’s always a good thing coming out of it. Now, I’m gonna be honest with you again and I’m gonna tell you that I know that’s true, but sometimes I find myself wondering, “Hey, God, couldn’t you have pulled the good thing off without the bad thing?” Right? “Couldn’t you have gotten to the good place without going through the bad place?” Right? “Couldn’t you have prevented… Why didn’t you prevent this?” Anybody ever wonder why God didn’t just prevent those things? Yeah. I don’t know.
But here’s what I know. Here’s what I’ve come to understand is, God’s not in the prevention business. He’s in the redemption business. And I see it even as a parent, I recognize that sometimes, our attempts to shield our kids from pain actually short-circuits their potential. It short-circuits their ability to grow into the men and women that we long for them to be. Now, that doesn’t mean that God never prevents anything. In fact, I think one day, we’re gonna stand in front of God and go, “Why did you let that happen?” He’s like, “Well, did you see this good thing?” “Yeah, but a little bit of prevention would have been nice.” He’s gonna go like, “Okay. Let’s open up the files. Let’s show you all the things that I didn’t let happen.” “Well, why didn’t you let those things happen?” Because there was no point.
Listen, I believe that God never allows us to go through something that doesn’t have a purpose. There is purposeless pain, I believe it’s out there, but I believe that God prevents it from happening for the followers of Jesus. But those other hard things are just prevented. Yes, it’s because he’s not in the prevention business. He’s in the redemption business. And I think it’s important to understand that this isn’t something that the Father does. And this context is pretty clear. This is actually something that the Spirit does. The Spirit who is in there with us. This is what the Holy Spirit is doing. He’s bringing these good things out of what we’re going through. He’s weaving this into our lives. Okay? So, this is really the second thing that the Holy Spirit does. This is how he’s sharing the bearing. The Spirit redeems our circumstances for God’s purpose. The Spirit redeems our circumstances for God’s purpose.
And then the question becomes, what’s that purpose? Because that’s what he says. Right? He says, “We know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him who have been called according to his purpose.” Okay. So, what’s that? What’s the end goal? What’s the destination? Where’s the wind of the Spirit as he is empowering our prayers and redeeming our circumstances? Where’s he taking us? For those God foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son that he, Jesus, might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called, those he called he also justified, those he justified he also glorified.
Now, here’s the thing. We could spend a lot of time unpacking each of those individual words. Paul has chosen each of those words very deliberately. There’s meaning and significance behind them. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with going deep into the meaning and significance of each of those words, especially confusing ones like predestined. Right? It’s complicated stuff. We could definitely do that. But I think it’s important to recognize that every word that Paul chooses there really is a brushstroke in a big picture that he’s painting. And you really can’t understand the significance of the individual words unless you understand the big picture. And so I think that’s where we really need to focus in and go, “What exactly is he saying here? What exactly is this purpose, this plan of God? Where’s he taking us?” And he said it right off the bat, right? He said that we would be conformed to the image of his Son. In other words, as we say it at Mission Hills, that you would become like Jesus. That’s our mission at Mission Hills. We’re here to help people become like Jesus and join him on mission. And I’ve had pushback every now, and people would go, “Become like Jesus. That sounds a little, I don’t know, presumptuous. It sounds a little grammy, that we would become like Jesus?” Yeah. Because that’s what God says that we might be conformed to the image of his Son. Conformed isn’t a little bit like. Conformed is like in lockstep with. Conformed is just like.
Now, obviously, you know, we’re never gonna have the power of God or the omniscience of God or any of those things, but in terms of the character, we are actually supposed to have the same character that Jesus himself has so that Jesus will be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. That’s you. That’s me. That’s the end goal that we would become that. And I love the way Paul then unpacks that. He says, you know, “God didn’t just discover you.” It’s not like God was kind of looking around and he’s like, “Oh, there she… Oh, interesting. I didn’t know she was there. What should I do with her? He’s interesting. I wonder what I could do with him.” That’s not what happened. God foreknew you. He knew you before. He knew you before you were born. He knew you before your parents existed. He knew you before your great, great, great, great all the way back. He knew you from the very beginning of creation itself. And foreknew means not just had knowledge of but had love for. It’s an intimate knowledge. In other words, he knew you as his children.
We talked about this a few weeks ago. The goal is the Spirit comes and adopts us as children of God, as sons and daughters. That’s how he knew you. He knew you as his son and his daughter. He didn’t just know you before. He had a plan for you. He predestined you. He had a development track that he wanted you to be on. He always wanted you to be on a particular path leading you to a particular destination. He predestined you. And he didn’t just have the plan. He’d let you know that he called you. He called out to you. He called out his love for you. The greatest demonstration, of course, is in his own Son Jesus that he sent to die to pay for the price of all your sins so that you could be adopted. He declared his love for you. He called you. And he did something very personal too. He began to speak to your heart. That’s why you ended up saying yes to Jesus because God was calling you. You heard it and you responded to it.
But he didn’t just call you. He justified you. He took his Son’s death as payment for your sin. So, we talked about a few weeks ago, that’s how God justifies forgiving us. He didn’t just go, “Your son doesn’t matter.” Of course, that matters. But his Son paid it off. And so he forgave you. So, the anchor is cut. You can actually begin becoming what he wants you to become. And what does he want you to become? What’s the last word there? That you might be glorified. He glorified us. And you know what glorified means, right? It means impressive. It means God’s ultimate goal was that you would become a man or a woman that is impressive, glorious, bright, and shiny. And here’s the thing. God’s painting a picture of who he wants you to be that if you could see yourself right now, if you could see the man or the woman that God is making you to be, if you could see yourself as you will be, you would go, “That cannot possibly be me.” That’s where God is taking you. That’s where the Holy Spirit is taking you. He’s making you glorious. And I know that sounds presumptuous, but that’s what the Word of God says.
Bottom line, the Spirit empowers our prayers and accomplishes… He empowers our prayers, and he accomplishes God’s purpose in our lives. He redeems our circumstances so that he can accomplish God’s purpose of making us glorious. How many of us would like to be glorious? How many of us are there? No. We’re not gonna get there on our own. We don’t have to get there on our own. We don’t have to work hard to get there. We just have to raise the sails and let the Spirit do what the Spirit does. We gotta pray and the Spirit will empower our prayers. We gotta trust and the Spirit will redeem our circumstances to accomplish God’s purpose of making us men and women who are glorious.
Let me just ask you some questions. Question number one. What is a burden I’m carrying that feels like too much, that’s just feeling like too much right now? So, my guess is many of us are in that place. And that’s okay. Understand you don’t have to carry it. The Holy Spirit wants to carry that with you, for you. Which leads to the second question. Where have I been hesitant to pray because I don’t know how to pray? One of the ways we begin to experience the Spirit’s power is we just begin to pray even when we don’t know what we should pray for. Even if it’s an inarticulate cry, we lay it out there, we lay it before our Father and the Spirit will empower it, turn it into what it needs to be. But God often waits to act until we ask. Where’s an area where you’ve been hesitant to pray because you weren’t sure how to pray?
And maybe this question too. Where am I longing to see God redeem? What area of my life am I longing to see God redeem? Maybe an area of your life right now that you’re like, “I don’t have the words. I just want God to do something. And I’m desperate to see him bring some good thing out of it.” I promise you, he can. If you’re going through it, there is good to be had from it. He may not be in the prevention business, but he is in the redemption business. What does it look like to trust him? Maybe to ask even for eyes to begin seeing what he’s doing because that gives us hope too as we begin to see those little inklings, “Oh, I see what you’re doing here.”
And I wanna ask you one last question too. If it’s true that when we’re in a relationship with God through faith in Jesus and the Holy Spirit is in us, he’s empowering our prayers, he’s redeeming our circumstances in order to accomplish God’s purpose of making us glorious. If that’s true, it’s not only true for us, it’s true for everybody we encounter. You will never meet anybody that’s not true, that that’s not God’s ultimate dream for them. And so I think it’s important to wrestle with this question. Who do I know who needs to know what God has planned for them? What about helping people become like Jesus and join him on mission?
We’re gonna wrap this series up next week. The following week we’re gonna start a new series called Come Find Your Mercy. We’re gonna take a look at several stories from the Gospels where Jesus was willing to build into people. He was willing to begin a relationship with people long before they cleaned anything up. And yet, as Christians, oftentimes what happens is, we go, “Yeah, God saved me before I got it fixed up, but then now that I’m saved, I’m still living in shame. I’m still living crushed over the guilt of all I’ve done,” as though somehow that’s gonna help things along.
We’re gonna look at four stories from the Gospels that share, now, there is mercy for whatever it is that you are holding over your head because God’s not. It’s gonna be a great series for people who don’t know Jesus yet. So, I’d encourage you to think about that question. Who do I know that needs to know what God has planned for them? That’d be a great series to invite people to. Start thinking about that. God has plans to make you glorious. And he’s got the Holy Spirit in you doing the day in, day out work of making that happen.
Would you pray with me. God, it’s not easy to see the glory that’s coming in the midst of the gory details of life here now. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine that this is what you’re leading us towards, partly, because of what we’re facing, but also because we know ourselves, and it’s just hard to imagine that we could ever be glorified, that we could be glorious. But this is what your Word says. And we understand that this is what your Spirit in us is accomplishing. And so, help us to take hold of this truth, to do the work necessary to raise the sails to catch this wind of the Spirit. And though we ask that you’d put on our hearts right now, the names of people that we’re connected to that have no idea that that’s your plan for them.
And Lord, also we recognize that in this moment, there are probably people listening to this message that came into here with no idea that that was God’s plan for them, no idea that that was even a possibility. And they’ve heard these promises of what the Holy Spirit can and does do in our lives, and they’re going, “I don’t know that I have the Holy Spirit because I don’t have a relationship with God. I haven’t had faith in Jesus.” And if that’s you, can I just speak to you for a moment? Yeah, everything we’ve talked about today is true of the followers of Jesus. This is what God does because of the Holy Spirit that’s in the followers of Jesus. Apart from faith in Jesus, these promises aren’t true for you, but they can be because this is God’s desire for you. He loves you. He loves you so much he sent his own Son to die for you. Jesus died on the cross to pay the price of our sin. Three days later, he rose from the dead. And he offers us forgiveness and freedom and all the stuff we’ve been talking about today, simply by putting our trust in him. And if you’ve never done that, is there any reason why you can’t do it right now?
Let me show you how. Wherever you are, you’re just gonna have a conversation with God. It goes like this. Just say something like this. After I say it, say it to God. “Hey, God, I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned. I can’t be good enough. I get that. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying to pay for my sins. I believe you rose from the dead. And I understand that you’re offering me forgiveness, eternal life with God, the power of the Holy Spirit. And I want all that. So, Jesus, I’m putting my faith in you. Jesus, I’m gonna trust you. I’m gonna follow you from here on out.” Amen.
I’ve already had several people make that decision this week. And could we just celebrate their entrance into the family of God as our brothers and sisters? That’s awesome. And hey, if you’ve made that decision for the first time, we so wanna celebrate with you. We wanna know about it. Would you just do this for me? If you’re watching online, you can click the button right below me that says, “I committed my life to Jesus,” or if you don’t see that, if you’re live at one of our campuses, do this, text the word Jesus to 888111. Either way you do it, the same thing is gonna happen. We’re gonna get you back some truth, just some resources to help you begin living out this new relationship with God that comes from faith in Jesus. It’s gonna help you to follow Jesus and experience everything that we’ve talked about today, everything God has for you. So, please let us know.
God bless. We’ll see you next week.
In your belief in Christ, there are no other adversaries who have even a chance of overcoming Jesus. God is for you. No one and no thing can separate you from Jesus. Your salvation isn’t based in your performance, but in God’s purpose for you.
Craig: Hey, welcome to Mission Hills. So good to have you here today. We’re wrapping up our series, “Fresh Wind.” The last several weeks we’ve been kind of leaning into a truth that’s at the very heart of Christianity but somehow seems to get pushed off to the edges way too often. And it’s basically…this is the way we said it, it’s that following Jesus isn’t about rowing hard. It’s not about trying harder. It’s actually about raising sails to catch the fresh wind of God’s Spirit.
So when we say yes to Jesus, Jesus gives us two things. Number one, he gives us forgiveness. He forgives all the ways we haven’t been righteous. The second thing he gives us, he gives us his Holy Spirit, who’s the power of God, to actually make us become what trying hard never really could. He actually begins to change me inside out, so we actually become righteous. We become the people that God’s laws point us towards. So we said it last week, Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit so that we could be everything that the rules tell us we should be.
The rules tell us how God intended us to live, what kind of people we should be if we’re really righteous. But we can’t get there by trying hard. But Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit so we could actually make progress in becoming those kinds of people. The kinds of peoples we saw last week that are, to use God’s Word, glorious. The kinds of people that if we saw ourselves now, if you could see yourself as the man or the woman that you will become, you wouldn’t believe that could possibly be you. But God is in the process of transforming you into that by the power of his Holy Spirit.
Now, for the last number of weeks, we’ve covered a lot of ground. What we’re gonna see today as Paul wraps up Chapter 8 in the Book of Romans is that he kind of brings everything together in…well, it’s really kind of boils it down to one clear idea. One very simple idea, but as is often the case, it’s also a slippery idea. It’s an idea that’s a little hard to believe could actually be true. And I’m kind of excited to share it with you, so why don’t you go and grab a Bible. Start making your way to the Book of Romans. We’re gonna be Romans Chapter 8, starting in verse 31 today.
And what Paul is gonna do here as he kind of brings everything to conclusion. From this chapter he’s gonna ask us seven critical questions. There’s seven different questions he asks. And his understanding is that we’ll actually know how to answer these questions because of what we’ve seen throughout the Book. And here’s what he says, this is Romans 8:31, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things?” What should we say in response to these things?
And of course, the first question we’re gonna ask is, well, what are these things? And the answer is, this is all the truth that we’ve seen in Romans 8 throughout the series. It’s the truth that “There’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” That if you said yes to Jesus, God no longer has any condemnation for you. It’s the truth that the righteous requirements of the Law have been met not by us, but in us, by faith in what Jesus has done for us. Because of what Jesus did, all the requirements of righteousness have been met for us, just not by us. It’s the truth that we’re adopted as God’s sons and daughters, we’re no longer slaves to sin, we’re sons and daughters of God.
It’s the truth that the Holy Spirit brings resurrection power into all the areas of our lives where there are dry bones, he brings new life. It’s the truth that the Holy Spirit speaks of God’s affection for us, not just that God loves us, but that he actually likes us as his children. The Spirit gives us hope when we’re waiting, and the Spirit gives us strength when we’re weak.
And throughout all of this, the Holy Spirit is moving us forward in becoming everything that God designed us to be, as we saw last week, that we would become like Jesus. That we would be conformed to the image of his Son. That we would become, well, brothers and sisters, that Jesus would be the firstborn of many brothers and sisters. We saw that last week, that we would become glorious.
All the truths that Paul has been unpacking in this chapter, he now asked the question, “Okay, so what do we say in response to that?” Like, what does that mean? If you boil it all down, what does this say? And his answer is essentially it says that God is for us. Says that God is for us, so maybe let’s make that a little bit more personal. Did you know that God is for you?
God, your Creator, the King of the universe, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, God is for you. He’s on your side, he’s in your corner, he’s got your back. He’s longing to see you succeed. He’s not actually looking for you to fail. He’s not waiting for an opportunity to condemn you because you didn’t quite measure up. He’s actually for you. He’s not just watching and waiting. He’s waiting in and doing for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves. God is for you.
And then I realized that might be a slippery truth. It might be something that’s a little hard to believe. And maybe that’s because you grew up in a church, or you grew up in a home that showed you a God that, honestly, he was more like a stern judge than he was a loving Father. Or maybe, honestly, maybe you didn’t grow up in church, maybe what you heard about God, you only heard from other Christians who were condemning you, and who were judging you for your sin. And it felt like God wasn’t for you, it felt like God must be against you because they were against you. And if that’s your experience, it may be very hard to grab hold of this idea that God is for you.
But that’s the essence of what Paul has been saying throughout this chapter. And it’s the essence of how he wants us to answer the question, what shall we say? If God’s done all these things, why has he done it? And the answer is because God is for you. And I know that because he goes to the next question, he says this, he says, “If God is for us…” I mean, that’s how you’re supposed to answer the first question. “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
And you understand what he’s saying is if God’s on your team, guess what? You’re on the right team. If God’s on your team, your team wins, like, you know that, right? Like, if God’s on your team, if God’s on your side, there’s no question what the outcome of this whole thing is gonna be. God’s going to succeed. If God is for us, who can possibly be against us, right? Now, that doesn’t mean we don’t have people that are against us, doesn’t mean we don’t have things that are against us. We all do. We do have enemies, right? Other people can be against us. You might have people in your life who are not followers of Jesus, and as a follower of Jesus, you may feel the tension there, you may feel conflict there, they may be against you.
And I wish it was just people who aren’t followers of Jesus, the truth of matter is, other followers of Jesus might be against you. Unfortunately, as Christians, we often draw these little circles, we’re like, “Well, I’m this kind of follower of Jesus, you’re that kind of follower of Jesus.” And pretty soon as we draw these smaller circles, we begin to go, “I’m not really sure you are a follower of Jesus because you’re not in here, you’re not checking off the boxes, you’re not exactly like me.” And so sometimes there’s friendly fire within Christianity.
We end up spending so much time kind of fighting with each other over things, the little things that divide us, that we don’t pay nearly enough attention to the big things that unite us as followers of Jesus. But you may have that experience, that even other followers of Jesus are against you in some way. And governments might be against you.
We’ve got a global partner in India right now that that particular state in India where he serves, they’ve made it illegal to share their faith in Jesus with anybody. So governments might be against you. We have spiritual forces of evil that are against you. There is a devil, there are demonic spirits, they are enemies of ours. So it’s not that Paul is saying we don’t have any enemies. What he’s saying is we have no enemy with any hope of victory, you understand that?
He’s not saying, you know, you’re not gonna face difficulty, you’re not gonna face adversaries, or you’re not gonna have an enemy. He’s saying no, you’re gonna have those, but none of them have any hope of victory. None of them can win. None of them can keep you from becoming everything that God designed you to be. No one can stop the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. You have no enemy with any hope of victory.
It’s a little bit like there’s a commercial out there right now that there’s a couple kids on a basketball court, and they’re picking teams for a game. And NBA legend Charles Barkley is in the lineup. And he’s, like, three times taller than any other child there. And the first girl picks, she’s like “I’m gonna take him.” And everybody else is like, “We should just go home,” right, because if Charles Barkley is on your team, your team’s gonna win, right?
So Paul is saying if God’s on your side, nobody can actually have any victory. Except that it’s actually better than that because Charles Barkley could, like, step on a child and, like, twist an ankle or something and be out for the game. That’s never gonna happen with Jesus. Nothing is ever gonna take Jesus out of the battle. Nothing is ever going to make it so that Jesus can’t win. It’s just never gonna happen. So we have no enemy with any hope of victory.
Paul asks the third question. He says, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for all of us, how will he not also, along with him,” along with Jesus, “graciously give us all things?” Understand the point of the question is, hey, if God hasn’t refused to give us his only Son, what exactly would God refuse to give us? If God has been willing to give us that incredible gift, at what point would you expect God to go, “No, that’s just too much?” And it’s just there’s no such thing, it doesn’t make any sense.
I mean, if somebody writes you a check for $100 million and you come back and go, I need a $100 loan, it’s not gonna be like, “Sorry, I’m tapped out.” No, if someone is willing to go to that length for you, then there’s really no length that they’re not willing to go for you. That his point.
Now, I do wanna say, though, this because it’s important. What Paul is saying is essentially that God’s grace has no limits, okay. God’s grace has no limits. You’re not gonna run out of forgiveness. You’re not gonna run out of strength. You’re not gonna have to go back to your Father for anything that you need, and have him go, “No, you’re just asking too much now.” It’s just never gonna happen. God’s grace has no limits.
But we do often find ourselves in positions where we lack things, don’t we? Where we don’t feel like we have all things. And in fact, I’ve heard people use this verse, they’ve twisted this verse to say, “Well, it says that God will give us all things, so if you don’t have all things, it’s your fault. You don’t have enough faith, you’re not praying hard enough, you’re not believing enough, or something like that. Because it says right there in black and white, it says, ‘He’ll give you all things,’ so you should have plenty. And if you have anything less than plenty, then there’s something wrong with you because God made this promise.” And that’s a twisting of what God’s saying here, okay.
The reality is, as followers of Jesus, we will often find ourselves in positions where we don’t have something. I’ve been there and probably you have, too. There have been times in my life where I wasn’t really sure how I was gonna put food on the table. There have been times in my life that I didn’t know where the next mortgage or the rent check was coming from. There have been people in my life who didn’t experience the healing that I was praying for and longing for. We’ve probably all had those experiences. You can go through your own list.
And sometimes what happens is we read a verse like this, and we begin to go, “Well, I don’t understand. If this says that God will graciously give me all things, then why don’t I have these things?” And what we need to understand is that this isn’t a promise that God will give us everything that we want. This isn’t a promise that God will give us everything that we wish we had. This isn’t even a promise that God will give us everything that we think we need from our limited perspective. What this is, is it’s a promise that God’s purpose will be accomplished. He will give us everything necessary to accomplish his purpose in our lives.
In other words, this isn’t a promise of plenty. This is a promise of purpose. It’s not a promise of plenty. It’s a promise of purpose. It’s a promise that God’s purpose in your life will be accomplished. What’s that purpose? That we would be glorious, his Word, we saw it last week. That we will be conformed to the image of his Son, that we will become like Jesus. That Jesus would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters, that’s you. That we would actually become men and women that God longs to see us become. It’s gonna happen, he says.
We’re gonna become those people that if we could see ourselves now, we’d go, “There’s no way that could ever be true of me.” But he says it will happen. God will never withhold anything that’s necessary for us to become those people that he designed us to be. There’s nothing that God will hold back that’s necessary for us to experience his purpose in our lives. It’s not a promise of plenty. It’s a promise of purpose.
He says, “Who, then, is the one who…” I’m sorry, “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It’s God who justifies.” Says, “Who will bring any charge against those that God has chosen? It’s God who’s justified.” And justified is really another word for forgiveness. The point is, God’s forgiven our sins. So if God’s forgiven our sins, who else is gonna come back and say, “No, no, no. You’re still under condemnation for your sin. You’re still guilty, you’re still a sinner, you’re still not worthy.” If God has forgiven us, who’s gonna do that? His point, basically, is that we’ve been cleared of all charges at the highest possible level. If God has done it, there’s no one else to bring them up again.
I mean, imagine that I didn’t pay my taxes, and so the town of Castle Rock, where I live, they came, and they said, “Hey, you didn’t pay your taxes.” And I go, “Yeah, I don’t have the money.” And they’re like, “Okay, well, you know what, we’re gonna forgive your tax debt.” Awesome. It’s great that Castle Rock did that, but Douglas County could still come at me and go, “Yeah, that’s great that they did that, but you still owe us.” And Douglas County might forgive it, but the State of Colorado could still come and say, “Yeah, that’s great that they did it, but we’re a higher level, and we’re saying you gotta pay up.” And even if the State of Colorado forgave it, the IRS, who is not known for mercy and grace, right, the IRS could go, “Yeah, it’s great that they did that, but you still owe, we’re at a higher level.”
And his point, though, is that when God has forgiven, there’s no one higher to do the accusation again. There’s no one higher to bring in the charges again. The charges have been cleared at the highest possible level. And so there is no one to bring a charge against us and say that we’re not God’s sons or daughters, that we’re not forgiven, that we’re not free. And then he asked this question, he says, “Who, then, is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus, who died, more than that, who was raised to life, is that the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”
Jesus is for us. Jesus is standing before the Father for us. And so who’s gonna bring a charge against us? If Jesus who died and then rose to life is acting on our behalf, then who’s going to possibly condemn us? And he’s kind of answering or asking and answering the same question he just asked. You know, who’s gonna bring a charge? No one. Well, who’s gonna condemn? It’s no one. But he’s explaining why it is that there’s never gonna be another charge against us. And how we know that we can be free, that we don’t have to worry about that charge.
He says we know that there’s not gonna be another charge against us because Jesus died for us. In other words, God didn’t just drop the charges, he paid the price. God didn’t just drop the charges, he didn’t just go, “Yeah, let’s just pretend like you never sinned.” Because that wouldn’t be just, because we did. We are sinners. We’ve all sinned. We’ve all fallen short of the glory of God. We have not met the requirements of righteousness by our own behavior. We’re not capable of doing it. We’ve actually done wrong things, and the Bible is very clear that there’s a wage to sin, it’s death. But Jesus died for us. He paid our debt with his death.
And because of that, it’s not like we have to worry that, you know, it didn’t take or it doesn’t count. No, Jesus paid the price. The debt has been canceled; the account has been closed. And we know that because he didn’t just die, he rose from the dead, right? And that’s so important, right? Because if Jesus was on the cross, and even if he said, as he was hanging on the cross between the two thieves, if he said, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing,” we could look at that and go, “I think that means I’m forgiven. I think that means Jesus’ death paid my debt. I think that I’m free from condemnation. I think that’s true.” And it might have been true, but there’d be no way to know if it was true if Jesus had stayed dead.
See, it was Jesus rising from the dead that proved that he actually purchased our forgiveness. It is his rising from the dead that proved that death no longer had power over him. And of course, death is kind of a lapdog of sin. Sin has a price. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death.” But if death no longer has any power, then it means that sin itself has lost its hold. So the resurrection of Jesus is the proof that this has actually happened, that he’s canceled this debt, that we are truly free.
So Paul says, “Stop worrying.” You might condemn yourself, you might hold shame, and guilt, and condemnation over your own head, and other people might do that. But as far as God’s concerned, it’s just not true of you anymore. And you don’t have to worry that it’s ever gonna come back again to haunt you. No, it’s forgiven, you’re free. I love the way Jesus himself said it. Jesus said, John 8:36, he said, “If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed.” He’s the only one who can do that, but he has done that, so you’re free.
He says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Who is capable of getting in between you and Jesus and separating you from the hold that Jesus has on you because of his love? And the answer is no one. “Who shall separate us from love of Christ,?” No one can separate us from Jesus, no one. Can’t be done. And he leans in a little harder. He says, “Shall trouble, or hardship, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake, we face death all day long, we are considered a sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
And he’s asking a very similar question to the last one. And the last one was, you know, who can separate us? And it was a who question, who can do it? And the answer is no one, no one, there’s nobody. There’s no person, there’s no government, there’s no devil, there’s no demon. No who can separate you from Jesus. And now he goes into kind of the other category, which is the what category. Because you might be going, “Okay, I know that none of them can do that, but what about these things?”
And he goes through a list of things to say, hey, there’s no thing that can do it either. I mean, really, what he says is no one can separate from Jesus, and no thing can separate us from Jesus. Which, I don’t want to get too complex here, but I think if he said no one can do it, and no thing can do it, that’s all the things, right? Like, there’s nothing that you might think, “Well, what about…” that doesn’t fit into one of those categories. It’s either a one or a thing. And he says there’s no one, there’s no thing, which means that nothing you can come up with.
And we come up with stuff all the time. We’re like, “Well, hey, but, Paul, well, did you think about maybe this could?” He’s like, “No.” “Well, but what about that?” “No.” “Well, did you think about this one thing that…?” “No.” No one, no thing, nothing can separate us from Jesus. It’s just not gonna happen.
Now, it’s interesting the list that he chooses to use to illustrate that idea. He uses interesting list of things, trouble, and hardship, and persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, or sword. And the reason he’s chosen those things is because those are things that the followers of Jesus in the first century, especially, these are the things that they faced because of their faith. These are things that happened to them because of their faith in Jesus.
Some of those are obvious, right? Trouble, and hardship, persecutions, religious persecution. You might go, “Why famine and nakedness? How does that have anything to do with Jesus?” Well, in the first century, the followers of Jesus were often…they were sort of pushed out of their communities. They weren’t really part of families because they didn’t follow either the Jewish traditions or the Roman religions and the Emperor’s, and so they were kind of off on their own.
And so when a famine would hit, or when there would be kind of a lack of materials for making clothing and things like that, the communities would often band together and share what they had so that people could survive. But the Christians were left out of that because they had put their allegiance with Jesus.
And so Paul says, “Hey, you might have been separated from that community by your faith, but nothing can separate you from the one that you have faith in. Nothing can separate you from Jesus.” And the reality is, is we have to recognize this, that following Jesus doesn’t guarantee peace with the world. But it does guarantee victory over the world.
I can’t tell you that following Jesus doesn’t mean that you’re not gonna have trouble. I wish I could. Can I say the least favorite thing of mine that Jesus ever said? Is that even okay to say? Like, I have a list. There may be a sermon series there, my least favorite things Jesus ever said. And at the very top of that list is when Jesus said, “Hey, in this world, you will have trouble.” And specifically, he meant trouble because you’re following me. He said it’s gonna happen. I really wish he hadn’t said that.
But what Paul’s saying here is, yeah, in this world, you may have trouble. I can’t promise you peace with the world. But he says from faith in Jesus, you do have a promise of victory over the world. I love the way he says that. He says, “In all these things, we are more than conquerors.” And he uses an interesting word in the original Greek this was written in, that word “more than conquerors,” it was very rarely used. But it was used of someone who had such an incredible victory, that it really kind of felt like it hadn’t even been a contest.
It’s like if you won a battle, and you won it so decisively. Or you won an event in the Olympics so decisively that, honestly, it didn’t even feel like you were competing. I mean, imagine for a second, it’s Usain Bolt running against a toddler, okay. Like, there’s no question. And you don’t even call that a win, right? I mean, they take off on the track, Usain covers, you know, that thing five times while the toddler is trying to make his way past the first 100 yards. Is that a victory? Oh, yeah, but it’s a hyper victory, right? It’s almost its own thing.
And that’s what Paul says here, he says in all these things that come against us, we are more than conquerors, we’re hyper victorious. And I think what he’s referring to is what we looked at last week. It’s this idea that God works in the midst of all things, bringing good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. What’s his purpose? To make us into the men and women he designed us to be. To make us, to use his Word, glorious.
And he says in all things, God works in the middle of them, doing what? He’s bringing good. In other words, all the things that Paul’s talking about here, all these things that come against us because our faith in Jesus, not only do they not keep us from becoming what Jesus made us to be, but they actually become the instruments by which God accomplishes us becoming what he made us to be. Those things that we face actually deepen our faith, they deepen our perseverance, they deepen our trust in Jesus, they give us strength to move on, they give us so many things.
So those things not only don’t stop us, they actually become the instruments of our advancement. Which, I gotta think, has to tick the devil off to no end, right? The devil is like, “Okay they wanna follow Jesus? All right. Let’s send this persecution against them.” And then the persecution actually serves to deepen our faith and make us more like Jesus. And the devil’s like, “Dag gummit, that’s not what I meant. Okay, all right let’s try…how about this one? We’ll send this against them. That did it, too. What the…” Right? It’s what Paul is getting at.
Even those things that look like they ought to be slowing us down in becoming what Jesus made us to be, they actually become the instruments of our advancement. We’re hyper conquerors, we’re more than conquerors. Says, “For I’m convinced,” not I hope, not I think maybe, but I’m convinced, so I’ve become persuaded of it. “That neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” He says nothing can separate us. Nothing.
And it’s interesting how he goes about making that point that literally nothing can separate us. He uses a figure of speech. Some of you are gonna love this. This is a little bonus for you. He used a figure of speech called a merismus. A merismus is a figure of speech where you talk about a package of things by describing the outside ends of it. You just name the outside extremes, but you really mean the whole package.
It’s like we do it all the time, we say, “I’ve been thinking about you night and day,” right? Meaning I’ve been thinking about you all the time. Or we go, you know, like, “I covered the manual from A to Z,” meaning I covered not only those two letters but everything in between, right, you know. I covered the story from start to finish. And the point is it’s all of the things, right?
And that’s what Paul’s using, but it’s interesting, he only really needed one of those. He really only needed to say, “I’m convinced that neither height nor depth can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus,” and that would have immediately meant all the things that you can think of are incapable of separating us. Nothing can separate us. But he didn’t just do one thing, right, he, like, piled them on. He goes, you know, so, “Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor demons, nor the present, nor the future, nor any powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation.” Which, honestly, that last phrase, “Nor anything else in all creation,” is a little insulting.
Because it’s almost like Paul is assuming you guys might be a little dense. I’m trying to communicate that nothing could do it, and I’m and I’m piling on merismuses…or is it merismi? My Latin teacher would be very disappointed in me, I don’t know. But it’s merismus upon merismus, it’s piling layer upon layer, “Hey, nothing can do it.” And then he kind of breaks the pattern to go, “Nor anything else,” as though, “Just in case you’re a little stupid.” Or just in case you’re a little bit slow and you’re thinking, “Well, but what about…?” No. No matter what you can think up, it can’t do it. It can’t separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. Nothing can separate us.
And I think it’s important to understand that what Paul is saying here is one of the clearest teachings of a doctrine that we call the doctrine of eternal security. The doctrine of eternal security says that when we begin a relationship with God through faith in his Son, Jesus, that that’s a relationship that is secure. We don’t have to worry about it going away because we didn’t somehow match up to his standards, that we didn’t somehow check off enough boxes of righteousness, that we didn’t fail too many times, this is not gonna change anything.
I mean, we didn’t get into a relationship with God because we got righteous. We got into a relationship with God by faith in Jesus. And so failing to be righteous, falling short, continuing to struggle with sin, none of that is gonna change the nature of the relationship. And God’s love that we can’t be separate from, it’s not a static love. It’s a love that actually keeps moving us forward towards God’s purpose for us.
Another verse that says basically the same thing is in the Book of Philippians. Philippians 1:6 says, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” The love of God that we can’t be separated from, it’s not just holding us fast, it is moving us forward, becoming more and more of what Jesus always designed us to be.
Now, let me be perfectly honest, not everybody believes the doctrine of eternal security. This is one of those places that some Christians disagree. In my opinion, I’m not gonna get all the nuances that this verse in Romans as well as in Philippians and several other places, the clearest teaching of Scripture is that our adoption is irrevocable. And the reason I say it that way, sometimes people go, “Well, you know, once saved, always saved.” Or, you know, “Even eternal security is kind of the same thing.”
But a better way to say it is that our adoption is irrevocable because all of this is in the context of our adoption as sons and daughters. We’ve seen that several times in our study of Romans 8, that we weren’t just forgiven, we were adopted into the family. Jesus didn’t give us the Holy Spirit to keep us in line, he gave us Holy Spirit to bring us into the family. We’re adopted as sons and daughters. And adoption is irrevocable.
That was especially true in ancient Roman society. This was written, of course, to Christians who were living in Rome. And in Rome, they had this idea of adoption, a father could adopt a child. But what’s interesting is that there was no way to end it, at least on the part of the child. The child couldn’t emancipate themselves. In the modern world, we have this thing called emancipation, where a child can actually basically sue their parents to be set free from them. So they’re no longer in that relationship with them.
But that didn’t exist in ancient Rome. They’d never heard of that. They wouldn’t even begin to imagine that. No, if you’ve been adopted, that’s permanent. The only one who could break that adoption would be the father who adopted you. And what Paul has just said very clearly is God will not do that. He will never do that. And so our adoption is irrevocable. God’s purpose for us is undeniable. The Spirit’s mark on us is indelible. His love for us is unassailable.
Why? Why do we have that confidence? Because that’s what it is. Some people sometimes struggle, they go, “Well, the problem with the doctrine of eternal security is that it’s a license to sin.” You know, if you know, you can’t lose your salvation, you’re just gonna go out and do whatever you want. That’s an abuse. And it’s not what’s really meant here at all. Eternal security isn’t a license to sin, it’s the confidence to keep going. It’s the confidence to know that you can always come back to your Father, and his grace has no limits. You’re never gonna come back one too many times, and he goes, “I’m done with the forgiveness, I’m done with you.” It’s just never gonna happen.
It’s the confidence to move forward. It’s the confidence that emerges from, as you began this passage, it emerges from this truth that God is for you. He’s for you. He’s not waiting and watching for you to mess up, he is for you. He’s waiting in and doing for you what you couldn’t do for yourself. He’s waiting in through the power of the Holy Spirit and helping you to actually begin to move forward in becoming what he always intended you to be. God’s for you. In some ways, the entire eighth chapter of Romans boils down to this simple truth. God is for you.
So as we wrap this up, I wanna ask you two questions. Two things that I’d encourage you to wrestle with. First question is just this, what’s working against me believing that God is for me? Because chances are you have someplace in your life where you struggle with that belief.
If you sit down this week with a life group, or a men’s group, or a women’s group, and you talk about this, I think you’re gonna find that almost all of us have some level or at least some place of struggle in our lives where we sort of know it intellectually that God is for us. He didn’t die for us because he was disappointed in us. He didn’t die for us because he was so angry at us. He died for us because he loves us, because he likes us, because he’s for us. We get it here, but sometimes it’s hard to hold on to here. Sometimes it’s hard to take to heart.
And I think it’s important to wrestle with the question what’s working against me believing that? It might be as we said earlier, it might be that you grew up in a home where God was pictured more as a stern judge than a loving Father. It might be because other followers of Jesus gave you that picture of the Father. It might be because you’re caught in a performance mindset. Because the world teaches a performance mindset, right? If you perform well enough, you get accepted. And if you don’t perform well enough, then you’re on the outskirts, you’re on the outs. It’s easy to bring that into our relationship with God.
Maybe it’s because you’re listening to the voice of sin. We can still listen to the voice of sin, and it not only leads us away from the Father who is for us, but it also…it speaks guilt, and condemnation, and shame upon us. “Look at all the ways you screwed up, there’s no way that God’s for you anymore. Look what you did, you did it again. There’s no way that God is still for you.” That voice speaks that lie. And maybe that’s where your struggle is. But ask yourself that question, what’s working against me believing that God is for me?
Second question is this, what enemy do I need to remember has no hope of victory? What are you facing in your life right now that feels strong, it feels big, it feels scary. And it feels like it’s keeping you from moving forward in everything that God designed you for and called you into? What do you need to remember this truth that if God is for us, that we have no enemy with any hope of victory? Where do you need to hold on to that truth?
Maybe there’s somebody speaking the lie that, “No this is big enough,” into your life. Maybe somebody else is coming against you and saying something like that. But honestly, maybe it’s just you. Maybe you are your enemy. Anybody else ever feel like their own worst enemy? I know I do. Maybe it’s your own voice that’s speaking guilt, and shame, and condemnation, making it hard to hold on to that truth. That nothing we face can possibly keep us from what God’s called us to.
We’re gonna start a new series next week, I wanna encourage you to make sure you don’t miss this. It’s called “Come Find Your Mercy.” And it’s gonna be important for two different kinds of people. One kind is a person that who’s their own worst enemy. The person who feels like, “Surely God can’t love me. Surely God can’t like me. Surely God can’t be for me because I’m a mess.” You know, we live under that cloud of guilt and shame, and what does it look like to get out from under that cloud and to step into the light of God’s mercy. That may be something that you really need to hear.
The other person that this series is gonna be powerful for those of us who wanna be on mission with Jesus, not just becoming like Jesus but joining him on a mission. Because the reality is what we’re gonna do in this series, we’re gonna take a look at stories from the Gospels, where Jesus accepted people before they cleaned up their act. And it was actually his acceptance, it was his love, it was his affection, that changed them from the inside out. And so it may be that we need to recognize that as the hands and feet of Jesus in the world, that we’re supposed to have mercy on others as well. So that we can give them a picture of a Father who is for them rather than a judge who’s against them.
So it may be that you need to step out from under the cloud of shame and experience God’s mercy for yourself, we’re gonna see that. But it may mean that you need to find your mercy to share it with others so that they see the truth of a God who is for them. Because that’s an incredible truth, isn’t it? I mean, just think about it for a minute. God is for you. If you can hold on to that, it will change everything. God is for you. The King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Creator of all things. He knows your name, and he is for you. Is that good news, church? Can I get an amen?
Craig: I’m not sure you feel it yet. Let’s ask it again. I’m gonna say it again, and if you know that this should be life-changing truth, if you know that if you could take hold of this, this would change everything, even if you’re struggling to actually grab hold of it but if you know how powerful it is when I say this, just give me an Amen, right? God is for you.
Craig: He’s not against you, God is for you.
Craig: He doesn’t hate you. Does he hate your sin? Yeah. Please don’t think that, you know, anything I’m saying means that God doesn’t care about sin or that we’re making light of it. No sin is serious business. Jesus died for it. It’s clearly a big deal. But I’m saying God hates your sin. He does not hate you. And the reason God hates your sin is because God is for you.
Craig: You’re getting it. The reason God hates sin is because your sin separates you from him, and he is for you.
Craig: God hates the fact that your sin draws you away from him, and it slows you down in becoming everything that he designed you for. It slows you down in experiencing everything that he has for you. God hates what sin does because God is for you.
Craig: God is for you. Would you pray with me? God, it really is a simple truth, but it’s a hard truth to remember. It’s so easy to find ourselves, honestly, just worn down under the sense of guilt, and shame, and frustration. Lord, it’s hard enough to believe that nothing can separate us from you. Even our sin. But to go beyond that and to believe that not only can we not be separated from you, but that you are for us, it’s an incredible truth, Lord, and it’s just way too slippery.
So Lord, would you us give sticky fingers and sticky hearts to allow us to get ahold of that truth, take it in, to plant it deep. And in that truth, to find the confidence to keep raising the sails to catch the fresh wind of the Spirit, leading us into everything that you have for us.
If you’re a follower of Jesus, would you just take a moment right now, just pray for the people listening to this message who aren’t followers of Jesus, who don’t have a relationship with God through faith and what Jesus did on the cross. And if that’s you, can I just speak to you for a minute? This may be the first time that you’ve ever heard of the idea that God is for you. But yeah, God hates sin, but he hates sin because he loves you. And he loves you so much that he sent his own Son to pay the price of your sins so you wouldn’t have to be separated from him. That he did all this because he is for you.
And if that’s hitting you for the first time and you’re going, “That’s a God I wanna know. That’s a God I want a relationship with,” then I want you to know that God longs for that relationship more than you can imagine. And everything we’ve been talking about in this series, everything we were talking about today, all these promises, all this security, all this good news, it’s ours in Christ Jesus. It’s ours in a relationship with God through faith in Jesus.
And if you’ve never said yes to following him, if you’ve never begun that relationship, you can begin it right here right now. I’ll tell you how, just close your eyes, bow your head. You’re just gonna have a conversation with God. You can do it out loud, you can do it in the quietness of your heart, it doesn’t matter. But you’re gonna basically say something like this, just repeat something like this. Say it to God.
God, I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned. I’m not righteous. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying to pay the price of my sin. I believe you rose from the dead to prove that you’d done it. I understand you’re offering me forgiveness, a relationship with a God who is for me. The Holy Spirit to move me forward into everything that God has for me. I’m ready to accept your gift. I’m ready to begin a relationship. So I’m making a decision right now to follow you, Jesus. I’m gonna put my trust in you, Jesus. I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.
We’ve had several people make that decision this weekend, can we just welcome them into the family? It’s awesome. Hey, if you made that decision for the first time today, we wanna celebrate with you. So would you do this for me? Would you either click the button right below me if you’re watching online? It says I committed my life to Jesus. Or if you’re not in a place to see that, you can just text the word Jesus to 888111. When you do that, either way you do it, you’re gonna get the same thing, you’re gonna get a link, it’s gonna take you to five things we want you to know about this new relationship and what it looks like to begin living a relationship with a God who is for you. Because that is a powerful truth that will change everything. Amen. God is for you.
Craig: Why don’t you stand up and let’s celebrate that truth together. God bless. We’ll see you soon.