Craig Smith - The Way to Glory
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.