Led by the Spirit
Scripture - Romans 8:12-17
Romans 8 is the high-water mark of Paul’s letter. That fact is generally conceded by all interpreters of this great letter. It may very well be the high-water mark of all of Paul’s writing. Someone said, “We enter this chapter with no condemnation, we close with no separation & in between all things work together for those who love God.”
Friends, how can it get any better than that? We find that there is to be given to the child of God in this life joy & peace. We are to live for God in the very presence of sin. Sin is not to dictate our life’s
purpose. Paul has already shown that there is nothing in the justified sinner that can produce this ideal state. The new nature has no power & the old nature has no good. Then how is a child of God to live for God? Paul cried for outside help in chapter 7: I’m a miserable human being. Who will deliver me from this dead corpse? In other words, who is going to enable me to live for God?
Chapter 8 gives us the modus operandi: the means by which the victory is secured.
This chapter introduces us to the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification. The Holy Spirit is mentioned 19 times in chapter 8. A life that is pleasing to God must be lived in the power of the Holy Spirit. As Paul said to the Ephesian believers: Don’t get drunk on wine, which produces depravity. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit in the regenerated life of a believer, delivering the believer from the power of sin – even in the very presence of sin - & performing all of God’s will in the life of the believer.
< v. 12 > In other words, we are not to live according to the flesh. God created us body, mind, & spirit. When humanity sinned, our spirits died to God. Remember that God had warned: Don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good & evil because on the day you eat from it, you will die (Genesis 2:17). After Adam ate of the fruit, he lived several hundred years – physically; but spiritually he died immediately. Humanity was turned upside down. The body, the old nature, the flesh became dominant. Today mankind is dead spiritually. Thankfully, regeneration – faith in Christ – means that you are turned right side up, that you are born again spiritually, & that you have a nature that wants to serve God.
Oh, sisters & brothers, to stay close to Christ is the most important thing. You can be active in Christian work, as active as a termite, yet Christ can be in outer space as far as you are concerned. The unsaved person says they owe it to their flesh to satisfy it. They may rationalize their dishonesty by saying, “A person has to eat.” A celebrity has said, “I live for sex, & I have to have my needs met.” We hear this kind of talk today everywhere. Satisfying the old nature has plunged our nation into gross immorality! But God says that we as believers are not debtors to the flesh. Friends, the flesh - & we all have it – is a low-down, dirty rascal. And we do not owe it anything!
< v. 13 > If you live on the basis of selfishness, you are going to die – die to God. That is, you have no fellowship with God. I am not talking about a theory; if you are a child of God, you know this from experience. If you are a child of God & you have unconfessed sin in your life, do you want to go to church? Do you want to read your Bible? Do you want to pray? Of course not! You are separated from God.
But if you put to death the actions of the body with the Spirit – you cannot do it by yourself – you will live. Let us be practical now. What is your problem today? Booze? Drugs? Sex? You may say, “I do not have those problems.” Then how about your thinking? How about your tongue? Do you gossip? Do you lie? Whatever your problem is, why don’t you confess it to God, then turn it over to the Holy Spirit? Brothers & sisters, if you deal with it in reality, you will not need the psychiatrist’s couch. He will not help you. He can shift your guilt complex to another area, but he cannot get rid of it. Only Christ can remove it; that is God’s business. Jesus says: Come to me, all you who are struggling hard & are carrying heavy loads, & I will give you rest – so that you will know what it is to have your sins forgiven.
< v. 14 > That makes sense, doesn’t it? God does not drive his sheep; he leads them. When our Lord told of the safety & security of the sheep, he made it clear that they were not forced into doing his will & that of his Father. He said: My sheep listen to my voice. I know them & I drive them out! No, no, no! And they follow me. They are the ones who are safe & secure; they follow Christ. They are led by the Spirit of God. They hear his voice because they have a new nature, & they follow him.
I have been preaching the Word of God for quite a while. I have found that those who are his sheep will hear his voice. The others – they hated me & wanted to get rid of me. Why? They were not his sheep. The Lord Jesus said: If the world hates you, know that it hated me first. A pastor friend came to me & said, “I am having all kinds of trouble!” I asked, “Who is giving you trouble?” Brian said, “My church officers & my Sunday school teachers.” So, I asked him what he had been doing. He said, “Well, preaching through the Bible.” I said to him, “Thank God. You will find that a lot of your folk are not really his sheep.” Friends, his sheep will follow him – they have to because they are his, you see. That is what Paul is saying.
< v.15 > You didn’t receive a spirit of slavery to lead you back again into fear – the spirit of fear is not within you, wondering about your personal condition, unhappy, & despondent. Instead, you are filled with joy because you are God’s child. And the Spirit of God wells up within you, saying: Abba, Father.
The word Abba is an untranslated Aramaic word. The translators of the first English Bibles, who had great reverence for the Word of God, who believed it was indeed the Word of God, would not translate it. Abba is a very personal word that could be translated “Dear Daddy.” We do not use this word in reference to God because of the danger of becoming overly familiar with him. But it expresses a heart-cry, especially in times of trouble.
< v. 16 > I found this true when I went to the hospital for my angioplasty, which turned out to be a stent. I turned my face to the wall, like Hezekiah did, & said, “Lord, I have been in this hospital many times. I have held the hands of folk & prayed with them, & told them, ‘Oh, just trust the Lord. He will see you through.’ Lord, I have told them that, but this is the first time I have been here. Now I want to know whether it is true or not. I want you to make it real to me. If you are my Father, I want to know it.” And friends, he made it real. At a time like that, the Spirit of God cries out, Abba, Father – it just wells up within you. How sweet it is to trust in Jesus, just to take him at his word!
< v. 17 > If we really assures the fact that the child of God will suffer with Christ. I think a better translation would be ‘since we suffer with him.’ I do not think the if is as important as some folks make it out to be.
Sisters & brothers, what are you enduring for Christ today? Whatever it is, Paul makes it clear that it is just a light thing we are going through now. But there is a weighty thing, an eternal weight of glory that is coming someday. In eternity we will wish that we had suffered a little bit more for Jesus, because that is the way he teaches & trains us. Hebrews 12:6: Because the Lord disciplines whomever he loves, & he punishes every son or daughter whom he accepts.
This then is why we are debtors. We are debtors to the God who loves us, who has saved us, & who is leading us home to the land we have been promised, the great new creation. Inheriting that, we shall forever be in God’s debt, & should recognize that already & live accordingly. Debtors, after all, are under an obligation. Some Christians speak & live as if everything simply comes to us from God while we sit & merely receive it. But God’s gift & call to us are not for ourselves alone, but for the purpose of working through us to bring about the transformation of the world. Some people get anxious about implying we have to do anything ourselves as Christians at any stage of the process, as if such action appears to compromise the free grace by which we are saved. But Paul declares that we are debtors. We have to live in a particular way, a way which anticipates the glory, the rule over creation, which we will eventually share with Jesus.