Who is the Holy Spirit?

holy spirit, the_t

There was a boy riding on his bicycle outside a church. The priest saw him and told him to come into the church and the boy said, “But my bicycle will get stolen!” The priest said, “Don’t worry, the Holy Spirit will take care of it for you.” So they went inside. And while they were inside, the priest was showing the boy how to make the sign of the cross and told the boy to repeat… “In the name of the Father, and of the Son…” And the boy said, “Amen!” And the priest goes, “What about the Holy Spirit?” The boy replied, “He’s outside taking care of my bike!” The Holy Spirit is often left outside the church. An afterthought. We desperately need to recapture the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the church. How crucial is the Holy Spirit in the Christian life? We shall discover today. [Pray]

Romans 8 is probably one of the best known and loved chapters in the entire Bible. Romans 8:28, 38, 39 are verses that many Christians have memorised. But if you read this chapter, you will be struck by the sheer number of times the Holy Spirit is referred to; 19 times in the first 27 verses. The Holy Spirit is crucial this important chapter in the book of Romans. What is the book of Romans about?

The great Reformer, Martin Luther, said this about the book of Romans, “This letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament. It is purest Gospel. It is well worth a Christian’s while not only to memorize it word for word but also to occupy himself with it daily, as though it were the daily bread of the soul.” In essence, Romans is the gospel/good news summarised. If Romans seeks to answer the question, “How are we saved (Satan, sin and hell)?” then Romans chapter 8 tells us that the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit is crucial.

How many of you have heard this saying before, “The Christian walk is difficult”. Whenever I hear that statement, I always say, “I disagree. The Christian walk is not difficult. It is impossible.” Humanly impossible. Which is why God gave us His Holy Spirit. If the Christian walk was merely difficult, God wouldn’t have needed to do so. Just put in effort, it is difficult but you can do it. No. You and I need the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, therefore, is indispensable in the Christian’s life.

In Romans chapter 8, we are going to see 4 ways in which the Holy Spirit works in the Christian’s life. Now, because I’m going to focus on the Holy Spirit’s work in a Christian’s life today, I will not be talking about the role of the Holy Spirit in the world and I will not be mentioning much about the external working of the Holy Spirit through a Christian. Do miracles still exist? What about the gift of healing? Or speaking in tongues? I give you a quick take on this.

You have to do your own study. My personal conclusion is this. The Spirit’s gifts still exist. They are in operation today. Healing, speaking in tongues, even raising the dead etc. But the gifts are given differently to each believer. In other words, not everyone has the gift of healing. Not everyone has the gift of speaking in tongues. But every true believer, every Christian has been given certain spiritual gifts. So don’t envy other Christians gifts, but seek to use the gifts God has given you to build up the church.
1. The Holy Spirit saves us
We’re going to read in Romans chapter 8, v. 1-4.
Rom. 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Rom. 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
Rom. 8:3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,
Rom. 8:4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

In these verses, the Apostle Paul uses legal terms to describe salvation. Imagine being in a law court, and God is seated as Judge. We stood condemned under God’s holy law because we broke it. And it’s mind-blowing that God’s law is described as ‘the law of sin and death’ (v. 2). Was there anything wrong in God’s law? No! The flaw was in us. We are sinners. We do not live up to God’s holy law. We stood condemned. We deserved punishment. We deserved hell. Conscious, eternal torment. God is holy. His law is perfect. But we fell short.

Give you an illustration. My son Samuel, loves toy cars and I’ve bought him many, many Tomica toy cars. Now in the study room in my house, I have a study table and in one of the drawers, I keep a few personal Tomica toy cars. Mine. Personal. (It’s said, guys don’t grow up. It is true!) Anyway, I give strict instructions to my children that those cars are mine; they (particularly Samuel) are not to take them out to play. But guess what, there was one day I came home and found one of the cars taken out of the box, obviously played with. ‘Samuel, come here. Did you play with daddy’s Tomica car?’ ‘But, I like.’ Samuel stood condemned. He knew it was wrong, but he did it anyway. He was in danger of “hell”. I’m just kidding! But I hope you see the point.

So what did God do? He saved us. How did He do it? By sending His Son.
Rom. 8:3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,
Rom. 8:4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

God the Father sent Jesus His Son to be like one of us, taking on human form. Living the perfect life in order to fulfill perfect righteousness, and dying a sinner’s death for our sakes… Jesus took our punishment, ‘he condemned sin in the flesh…’ (v. 3). Let me illustrate this. A duck hunter was with a friend in the wide-open land of southeastern Georgia. Far away on the horizon he noticed a cloud of smoke. Soon he could hear crackling as the wind shifted. He realized the terrible truth; a brushfire was advancing, so fast they couldn’t outrun it. Rifling through his pockets, he soon found what he was looking for–a book of matches. He lit a small fire around the two of them. Soon they were standing in a circle of blackened earth, waiting for the fire to come. They didn’t have to wait long. They covered their mouths with handkerchiefs and braced themselves. The fire came near–and swept over them. But they were completely unhurt, untouched. Fire would not pass where fire already had passed.

Jesus took upon Himself the punishment for our sin. And if we would run to that circle of burnt and blackened earth at the cross of Calvary where Jesus died for our sin, the fire of God’s judgment will no longer touch us because God will not punish us again for the punishment He meted out on His Son. So the question is, are you in Christ? Technically, we are saved by the cross of Jesus Christ. But it is the Holy Spirit that applies the forgiveness of Jesus Christ, God’s salvation to us.
Rom. 8:4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Which leads us to Point 2.

2. The Holy Spirit sanctifies us
From v. 4-13, two phrases dominate and are contrasted: ‘the flesh’ and ‘the Spirit’.

Rom. 8:4 (b) who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Rom. 8:5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
Rom. 8:6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

Rom. 8:7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.
Rom. 8:8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Rom. 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
Rom. 8:10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
Rom. 8:11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
Rom. 8:12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.
Rom. 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

As you read these verses, one thing is clear. There are two ways of life that Paul describes and they are set one against the other. Life in ‘the flesh’ which is bad, life in ‘the Spirit’ which is good. What do these terms mean? Now ‘flesh’ does not refer to literally, the flesh on our bodies. Neither does it refer to our physical life, bodily instincts or appetites (food, sex etc). Life in ‘the flesh’ rather refers to corrupted, fallen, unredeemed human nature. And it is contrasted with life in ‘the Spirit’ which refers to forgiven, redeemed, Holy Spirit-filled people. Put it simply: a non-Christian way of life versus a Christian way of life.

There was a true story of a famous Christian evangelist who shared the gospel with a notorious mafia boss in the United States of America. And to his surprise, the mafia boss decided to become a Christian. This was big news. It appeared in the headlines in the newspapers. But in the weeks that followed, this mafia boss continued in his criminal activities. The evangelist was puzzled and so he approached the mafia boss and said, “I thought you decided to become a Christian? Why are you still involved in criminal activities?” And the mafia boss replied, “Oh, I’m now a Christian mafia boss!” Friends, there is no such thing as a Christian mafia boss. It’s an oxymoron.

The principle here is very simple. Who you are determines how you live. Let me repeat that. Who you are determines how you live. If we are Christians, the Holy Spirit indwells us. The Holy Spirit has come to make His home in us. And He will sanctify us. The word sanctify simply means making us more and more like God in His holiness. We are being formed into the image of Jesus Christ (we read that later on in v. 29).

v. 5 shows us that our mindset, our preoccupation indicates to us our nature: whether we’re Christian or non-Christian. If we are not Christians, our only pursuit is self. Our desires, our pleasures, our way of life. We choose. But if we’re Christians, the Holy Spirit gives us new desires. Instead of living to please ourselves, we live to please God. We follow His leading. We seek His glory. So young people, let me ask you a question, I want you to answer it honestly. “What do you set your mind on (what do you think about frequently)? What gets your attention? What drives you? What do you get excited about?”

And whichever way we choose to live our lives, there are consequences.
Rom. 8:6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
Now this verse refers primarily to eternal consequences. The non-Christian set on his way of life will end up in hell. The Christian set on God’s way of life will enter the life of the kingdom of God, heaven. But this verse also has a principle for life here on earth. Now the difference between the consequences of a non-Christian way of life and a Christian way of life is not always clear here on earth. On the surface, sometimes it seems as if non-Christians have it better than Christians. More freedom to do what they want. Don’t need to attend church, fellowship, serve, tithe. Can date anyone they want. Can have sex with whomever they want.

But dig below the surface. You may find a different picture. Emotional death. Relational death. Spiritual death. Maybe some of you identify. You’ve lived life on your own terms and it’s just not working out. You hit roadblock after roadblock. Everything seems empty, meaningless. And God invites you to live life in the Spirit. Living life God’s way, following the Holy Spirit is not a guarantee of an easy life. But in the midst of challenges, there is peace, there is joy. Those of you who have experienced this know exactly what I’m talking about. Life with God is meaningful and purposeful.

Let me quickly elaborate a little more on this before we move on to the next point.
Rom. 8:12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.
Rom. 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
To paraphrase this, we are to kill sin before sin kills us. Let’s be clear, none of us have the power to kill sin; only by the Spirit of God in us. Only He can give us the desire and power to overcome sin. But, I think, our problem is, we may not want to or we may not see the seriousness of sin. Paul here gives us two reasons to kill sin: one negative, one positive.

Negatively, if we don’t deal with sin in our lives, sin will kill us. Simple example, pornography. If you don’t kill it, it will kill your relationships. Study was done to explore the reasons for marriages that have broken down. And what they found was interesting. Sad but interesting. What they discovered was a large percentage of the couples in the study cited pornography as a key factor for their marriages breaking down. If you don’t kill sin, sin will kill you.

Positively, if we deal with sin in our lives, we will truly live. That’s the promise of God here in Romans 8. We will flourish as God intends. We will experience the blessing of God. So young people, don’t play with sin. If there are areas in your life the Holy Spirit is pin-pointing, deal with them. Deal with them decisively. Deal with them thoroughly. Deal with them continually. And the Holy Spirit will give you the desire and the power to do so. And when you do fall, don’t beat yourself up, Christ’s blood covers you. Confess ,repent, stand up and press on. Point 3.

3. The Holy Spirit sustains us
We live in a fallen world. There is evil. There is suffering. The Bible tells us we shouldn’t be surprised. It’s only going to get worse as the end of the ages draw near, for the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ. And this is a problem because it challenges our faith. Do you ever feel discouraged when you see the injustice, violence, the immorality, the promiscuity in our society and our world? I do. I guess the talk of the town recently is this company called ‘Ashley Madison’; some of you may have seen a Facebook set up saying, “Block Ashley Madison – Singapore”. Ashley Madison is basically an online dating website business based in the United States that facilitates married couples seeking affairs, to help people commit adultery. They’ve set up branches in Asia (Japan, Hong Kong). And they want to setup a Singapore branch. I’m thankful that we have a decent government. Several leaders have stood up to say, we do not want this. But friends, this is the world we live in. And it wages war against our Christian faith. The Holy Spirit comes in to sustain our faith and He does so as revealed in 3 ways in these few verses.

a. The Holy Spirit reminds us of our glorious future.
Rom. 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Rom. 8:23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

These verses paint a picture of cosmic as well as personal suffering. The word used is ‘groan’. Creation groans. We groan. Both feel the effects of sin. But the promise is when Jesus returns, He will redeem creation. He will redeem us. We will enter into a glorious existence in the new heavens and the new earth. No more pain. No more sickness. No more suffering. No more sorrow. Pure joy in the presence of God. That’s our destiny and inheritance, and our motivation to press on in our walk of faith.

b. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us.
Rom. 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
Rom. 8:27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes have a dilemma when I’m going through difficulties… what shall I pray? Shall I pray for God to remove the difficulty? Or shall I pray for God to give me strength to overcome? What if God intended to remove the difficulty and I prayed for strength to overcome. ‘Aiyah, I wanted to remove the obstacle from you, but since you prayed for strength to go through it, ok lor!’ or… vice-versa… ‘Eh, I need you to go through this trial to develop your character, but you keep asking for deliverance. Never learn. Ah, never mind, I’ll make the trial longer.’

We may not know what we should be praying for… but the Holy Spirit does and He guides us and aids us in our prayers. So, we should pray. Not only that, the Holy Spirit Himself intercedes for us and He does so according to the will of God. The Bible in addition, tells us that Jesus also ever lives to make intercession for us. We are covered in prayer. Ah, so, we don’t need to pray right? *Eeehhh* wrong conclusion.

My wife and I know each other pretty well. We knew each other for about 7 years before we got married. We’ve been married for coming to 8 years this November. Sometimes we know what each other is thinking even without saying anything. Does that mean we don’t need to keep speaking? No. Because how else can our marriage grow in depth of intimacy. Similarly, prayer is not merely for the purpose of asking for requests, it’s fundamental to growing in our relationship with God.

But the assurance of the Bible is that the Holy Spirit prays for us. We are covered in prayer according to the will of God. And this is tied closely with the third way the Holy Spirit sustains us.

c. The Holy Spirit works everything out for our good.
Rom. 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Rom. 8:29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
Rom. 8:30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

At first glance, this sounds incredible ‘all things work together for good’? Can the Bible really mean that? Yes, but first, we need to define the terms. What the Bible does not say is that all things that happen to us are good. Bad things do happen to us. Bullying. Discrimination. Injustice. Etc. These are bad things. But what God does is He sovereignly shapes these things, making them work together for good. But what does good mean? Does it mean every evil thing that comes to us becomes miraculously good? Like someone takes a gun and shoots you and as the bullet heads towards you, it miraculously becomes ice cream? Not really. Rather, the good that v. 28 refers to the being conformed to the image of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. v. 29.

If you are a Christian, the way the Holy Spirit sustains your faith is to take every situation in your life (whether good or bad) and uses them to make you more like Jesus. That’s your greatest good, and it brings God the greatest glory. Finally, Point 4.

4. The Holy Spirit secures us
One night as my wife and I were doing our nightly family devotions with our children, and as we were reading a Bible story and I asked the question, “What does the Holy Spirit give us power for?” And my daughter, Samantha, replied, “To help us love God!” Wah. Holy ground. Now that’s true, but not the first order of business. The Holy Spirit does empower us to love God. But more fundamentally, the Holy Spirit empowers us to know that God loves us, and to keep us in the love of God. Let me say that again. The Holy Spirit helps us to know that God loves us, and keeps us in the love of God. (v. 31-39).

Rom. 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
Rom. 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
Rom. 8:33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
Rom. 8:34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
Rom. 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
Rom. 8:36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
Rom. 8:37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Rom. 8:38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,
Rom. 8:39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

There is an old, old song that goes, “What the world needs now, is love, sweet love.” And it’s true. We need to be loved. We long to be loved. And in the verses we just read, God tells us that He has shown us how much He loved us by sending Jesus on the Cross for our sins (v. 32). Let me ask you a question. In our world today, what would you say is the biggest problem with love relationships? I would humbly submit, impermanence. They don’t last. Marriages are breaking down. Vows are being broken. And contrasted with the frailty of human relationships stands the unchanging, unfailing love of God (v. 35, 37, 39). The Holy Spirit secures us in the love of God.

Finally, I want to focus on one particular aspect of the Holy Spirit’s revelation of God’s love to us.
Rom. 8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
Rom. 8:15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
Let’s face it, ours is a ‘fatherless generation’. And I’m not only talking about fathers who have left the family (through divorce or abandonment). Some of us are in families where our fathers may be around but they are distant and disengaged or demanding and demeaning towards us. It shouldn’t be like this, but it’s reality. And the fact of the matter is, we are heavily influenced by our fathers; whether for good or for bad.

Why do girls go out with, get attached to, and even sleep with their boyfriends who are basically “douchebags”? Because they’re looking for the love and affection they never got from their fathers. Guys, we are affected as well, perhaps differently but definitely. Why do we pursue success, achievements, accomplishments so hard (bgr, studies, sports, hobbies etc.)? Because we’re looking for the identity and affirmation we never got from our fathers.

And girls and guys both are looking at the wrong source of identify and significance. The Holy Spirit comes to us to point us and help us turn to the true source of significance and worth. He tells us we are “children of God”. God is our Heavenly Father and we are His children. Loved by Him. Accepted by Him.

Response
As we draw to a close this afternoon, God invites us to respond to Him. At the end of the day, the Holy Spirit is not merely a principle nor a power… the Holy Spirit is a Person, who wants to relate to us. But He can be resisted, He can be grieved, He can be quenched. How shall you respond to God today?

[PRAY]

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