Craig Smith - Where Our Longings Lead
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.