David Jeremiah - The Ministry of the Holy Spirit
A few years ago, a woman by the name of Joyce Daugherty who lived in Louisville, Kentucky, traveled to an orphanage in Ukraine to adopt a child. It was there that she saw two-year-old Kristen. Kristen's beautiful blue eyes framed the edges of a facial tumor, what they call a hemangioma, but even that tumor couldn't hide this little baby's grin. "Kristen's eyes were so alert," said Joyce Daugherty, "that I just kept watching her. I couldn't take my eyes off of her. There was something special that that tumor could not hide. I could have taken any of the children I saw with me, and at the same time, I knew if I adopted Kristen, she'd have more than a new start, she'd have a new life".
Many Ukrainian families are afraid of a child with any kind of disability. In fact, sometimes, mothers in Ukraine even take them to an orphanage or just abandon them in public because they think it's some sort of curse on their family if one of the children has any deformity. But Joyce Daugherty chose Kristen and when they got back to Louisville, a surgeon removed the hemangioma and the thin scars from the surgery soon healed and everything about Kristen changed dramatically. Her whole life was changed. What the Daughertys did for Kristen, God has done for us, but so much more. With all of our blemishes and scars, he has taken us into his family and that's the good news of today's sermon from Romans chapter 8. We belong to the family of God.
Now, the first 11 verses of the 8th chapter have shown us what Christ has done for us, how he delivers us. Remember the verse: "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus". Not only has he delivered us from the penalty of the flesh and the power of it, but also even from the practice. He has given us his Holy Spirit so that we can deal with all of this. But what you need to know about the writings of Paul concerning the 8th chapter of Romans and concerning most of his Epistles is that Paul follows a pretty routine process when he writes. Here's what he does. He gives you all of the doctrinal things, all the theological, all the biblical things you need to know in the beginning, and then he makes a transition into, "Now that you know all this, here's how you should respond to it".
That's true in Romans, it's true in Ephesians, it's true in Galatians. Paul gives you doctrine first, and duty second. He gives you exposition and then he gives you exhortation. He says, "What you believe determines how you behave". Do you believe that? We have proven that not just in biblical terms but across the whole realm of any kind of discipline, and that is what you believe about something will determine how you behave because of it. And what Paul is telling us in the book of Romans is this: if you really believe that God has rescued you through Jesus Christ from your old life, given you this new strength over the flesh which gives you the opportunity not to sin, before you couldn't help yourself. Now you can. If you believe all of that, what responsibility do you have because that's true? If this is true, if God has loved you so much that he's done that, there's certain things that he wants you to know.
Now, this pattern of doctrine first and duty second is what makes Christianity different than all of the other religions. You see, in religion, the other religions, if you wanna put categories around it, in religion it goes like this. Your acceptance with God is based on what you do. To the degree that you work hard and live a good life, you'll become a child of God. That's what they teach. And it's involved with catechisms and classes and standards and regulations and rules and all of that stuff. But God turns that around. God says that's not the way it works. Christianity is the exact opposite. Listen carefully. Christianity says that your acceptance with God is based not on what you do for God, but what Christ has already done for you.
So in Christ, God makes you his child and then he asks you to obey. Totally different process. And this is the model that Paul follows here in Romans 8. He tells us that a person who's been blessed by God the Father is to respond obediently to the Holy Spirit who lives within him. Yes, it's wonderful to be a child in the family of God, but it comes with some responsibilities. Can I get a witness? He is obligated to live in a new way, even though he is by no means capable in his own life. How many of you know if you try to live the Christian life in your own strength, you'll be a failure. And we've failed, haven't we? We've all tried that. The Christian life is not hard. The Christian life is impossible, apart from the Holy Spirit. So what God does is he puts you in his family, he tells you some things that you need to do and then he gives you the Holy Spirit to help you do it. But there's a wonderful cooperative that goes on here that we can't forget. God gives you what you need to obey, but he wants you to obey.
This is a little bit sticky for the lot of people. Some people think, "Well, I'm a Christian. I'm just gonna hang out and let God do his work". "Let go and let God," they say. They don't wanna lift a finger to do anything of themselves, so they just think God's gonna do it. How many of you know that doesn't work? God wants us to obey and, in the process of obeying, God helps us by his Holy Spirit to do it. But we are still responsible. The Bible says we're to "work out our own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in us to will and do for his good pleasure". God is doing his work in us. He's putting the Holy Spirit in us. He wants us to take steps of obedience so the Holy Spirit can work in us to make us the people God wants us to be. So the first thing you need to know from Romans chapter 8 is the believer is responsible to the Holy Spirit. Verse 12 says: "Brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh".
Before we became Christians, we didn't have any choice. You might have thought, "Well, before I came a Christian I was a pretty good person and I didn't do all the bad things. I did some things that I shouldn't have done". Listen, let me tell you what the Bible says. "We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. There's not one righteous, no, not one". If you doubt that, read Romans chapter 3 this week and you will be totally convinced. Even our motives are bad before Christ comes to live within our heart. But when Christ comes, he doesn't take away the old nature, he just gives us a new nature and enables us to live our lives according to his will. Verse 10 says in Romans 8 that "the Holy Spirit who lives in us is the spirit of life". And that means that when he comes to live within our heart, he brings life with him. The Bible calls it abundant life, new life, real life.
We may not all understand what happens when we become Christians and the process we go through, but something changes. The Bible says: "Old things pass away; and behold, all things become new". Something happens in us when the Spirit of God comes to live within us. Our sins are gone, our guilt is gone. We know that we're gonna go to heaven some day when we die. Everything about life is changed for one simple reason: that God loved us, sent his Son to die for us, and in the process gave us his Holy Spirit to live in our hearts. And we then are responsible to live this new God-given life and put to death those things which get in the way.
Now here's where we're gonna find out how we cooperate with God in the living of this Christian life. We are reinforced by the Holy Spirit in doing it. Here's what it says in verse 13: "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". Now let me just get clear about this. When you become a Christian you have still the old nature. You know that. We've always joked about that. If you don't believe that, ask your partner. They will verify the fact that you still have the old nature, amen? So you don't get a chance to eradicate the old nature. Paul is not telling us here that there's something you can do to make all of those things that are still a part of the old nature go away. Here's what he says: You can crucify the deeds of the old nature. You can get rid of the old nature? No, but you can take care of the things the old nature wants you to do and you can deal with those.
John Stott puts it this way. He said, "There is a kind of life which leads to death, and there's a kind of death that leads to life". There is a kind of life that you can live, free and fancy and doing whatever you want to. That kind of life will end up with spiritual death, separation from God. But there's a kind of death, said Stott, that you can give to the things of your body which are not godly, the things that the old nature still wants to produce in you. You can deal with those things and that will bring life. The automatic outcome of living according to the flesh is death, but if you are empowered by the Holy Spirit you can live a life that is not at all described by death but is totally described by life. Now here's the thing that comes as a surprise to a lot of people. When you become a Christian and the Holy Spirit comes to live within you, he doesn't just totally put you on the outside as a non-player and take over and you just sit back and watch him do it. I've heard people preach that. It goes like this: Let go and let God.
Well, if you let go and let God and you don't think you have anything to do with this, you're gonna end up not getting where you wanna go. The 17th century pastor and theologian, John Owen, wrote an entire book on this verse, and his advice goes like this: "If you aren't killing sin, sin will be killing you". This is what Paul is talking about when he wrote these words to the Galatians. Listen to what he said. He said, "Those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and its desires". Paul says that when, as Christians, we discover that things from our old life are slipping back into our life and starting to take hold in our lives, how many of you know that happens? When you become a Christian you don't just get rid of all your old experiences and sometimes things that were true of you before you became a Christian, that's what we call the flesh, sometimes those things get back into your life and all of a sudden you look up one day and you said, "Man, what am I doing here? I'm a Christian. Why is that happening"?
Paul says when those things happen, you have to crucify those things and you have to take that responsibility and deal with them. You don't just sit around and wait, "Well, I'm just gonna wait for God. Maybe he'll take it away". No, he won't. God isn't gonna do for you what you're unwilling to do for yourself. By the Holy Spirit's power, he will help you obediently do what he asks you to do but you have to take, so let's just talk about. What does it mean to crucify the flesh? There are some characteristics about crucifixion that we all know from the Passion narrative. Crucifixion is personal. You've got to do this yourself. This is not a corporate deal. This is not something we do together as a church. We don't come together on Sunday and, together, this Sunday, we're gonna all crucify the things in our body that shouldn't be there. No, you have to do this yourself.
Crucifixion is individual, personal. It's something that you do in the power of the Holy Spirit. You crucify the thing that's in your... just think about something and I'm not gonna get, I don't know your life and I have no idea of naming anybody's sins so you can all relax and be comfortable. I remember reading about a young man who was studying to be a priest. And after he had his first confession, his mentor came to him and he said, "Son," he said, "you did okay but you've got to figure out some way to respond to their confession by saying something other than, 'Wow.'" So if I knew what was going on in your heart today I'd probably be saying, "Wow," right? And so for all of us. So what happens is you know something's in your life that shouldn't be there. You're a Christian. You're a child of God. You're in the family of God. You're a privileged person. You're in God's family. He put you in his family. And when you're in God's family, he has certain expectations of you and some of the thing you may be doing right now are not on his list of things he expects you to do. So you have to deal with that. That's what the Scripture says. You do it personally. And you do it painfully. How many of you know sometimes those things get in your life and they get really attached to you and it's not easy to say "no" to them.
I remember reading a story about a pastor who was having a counseling session with a young lady, and this young lady had gotten herself into a relationship where I think she was in college and she was a really wonderful Christian girl, but this relationship was taking her away from God. It was not a good healthy relationship. And this person that she was involved with was trying to take her away from the things that God expected of her as a child of God's family. And so, in that meeting with that pastor, she decided she was going to deal with that, and the pastor said, as she talked about what she was gonna do to break off that relationship, she began to shake emotionally. It was so powerful, it was so painful her to think that she had to do that, to go back and deal with that relationship.
How many of you know that if you're in a relationship and it's not taking you toward God but away from God, that's a relationship you need to get rid of. That's a relationship you need to crucify. I'm not trying to get in anybody's life or tell you how you should manage your love life. I'm just saying that it's possible for a Christian to get into a relationship and that relationship can take them way away from God's purpose in their life. And it's not just relationships. It's attitudes. Here's what Paul says: "However painful it may be, crucify it. Deal with it". And crucifixion is also pitiless.
I remember watching "The Passion". Couldn't help but cry to see the way they brutalized his body. And then when they put him on the cross, how pitiless it was. Listen to me, you have to deal with the things in your life that aren't godly in the same way that the Roman soldiers dealt with Jesus Christ on the cross. That's what it means, to crucify the flesh. They put nails in his hands and in his feet and it was permanent. Sometimes, when I talk to Christians, I hear them talk about, "Oh, yeah, well, I know I'm doing some things. But I'm sure one of these days I'll get... when I turn 80, this will all go away," right? No, how many of you know the things that are in our lives that shouldn't be in our lives, don't naturally go away? You gotta confront them. You gotta deal with them.
And the whole idea of crucifixion is to help us understand how brutal we need to be with the things that are in our life that ought not to be there. We're Christians, we're children of God. The Holy Spirit lives within us. And there are just certain things that we may allow ourselves to get into and when we do that it just destroys the peace and joy and the life that God wants us to know. And when we deal with those things, what will happen is God will bring back that sense of peace and joy and life that we once knew before all of these things started to reappear.
I hope this is helpful to you because what I want you to know is this: you can know the joy of the Lord in your life as a Christian, and when he identifies something in your life, and it may not be anything like a relationship. It might be some little simple thing. I mean, I tell you what. Television can be one of those things, the Internet can be one of those things. You all know there's a list of things that can get in your life and start messing up your relationship with God. Whatever they are, just be determined in your heart, "I am not gonna tolerate that. I'm gonna prosecute it to the fullest extent, and get it out of my life". The Holy Spirit reinforces us when we do that. When we take that responsibility, we sense him coming along to help us. Then the believer is ruled by the Holy Spirit. Did you know that?
Verse 14 says: "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God". What does it mean to be led by the Spirit of God? Well, if you're a Christian, God gives you the Holy Spirit in your life and when you become a Christian, something really does change in your heart. The Holy Spirit is like the automatic sin detector in your life. You know, the Holy Spirit can make you really uncomfortable if you're doing something you shouldn't do. He comes to be your guide, he comes to be your tutor, your teacher, your leader. And when the Holy Spirit is in your life, you have a whole new sense of direction. The Holy Spirit loves to take the Word of God and help you understand how that Word of God relates to your life. When you're reading the Scripture, you may have read it a hundred times over, but all of a sudden, now you're a Christian, and you really wanna walk with God and you read and it jumps off the page.
I read "The Focused Life" which is a little book that we created some years ago which is where you read five psalms every day and one chapter of Proverbs, and it's in a little book that we bound. And so if you do that, you can read the Psalms through and Proverbs through every month. And it's amazing to me how many I've read through those chapters only to read something like I had never read it before. What is that? That's the Holy Spirit in your heart taking the hard drive of God's Word, the Holy Spirit is the software, and he brings out of the hard drive the truth that leads and guides and directs you. The Holy Spirit leads. He leads in godliness. But he also leads in general. How does he lead us? Here's one of the best paragraphs I've ever read about the Holy Spirit and how he leads. I want you to listen to this very carefully because this will tell you what to expect from the Holy Spirit as he leads you in your life. Here's what it said:
"The Holy Spirit never coerces, never compels, never puts on the pressure, and never bullies. He does not drive, he leads. He leads, we follow. He leads us into all truth. He leads us in the path of righteousness. He leads us step by step. He leads gently, understandingly, unerringly. He leads us in our daily quiet time. He leads us by the godly counsel of Spirit-taught men. He leads through the circumstances of life. He leads by gently witnessing with our spirit in the innermost recesses of our being. He leads by quickening our conscience. He leads by encouraging us or by restraining us, by assuring us or reproving us. He leads but he never drives. He never gives us that "now or never" feeling or that, "Do this or else," urging. He leads and we follow one step at a time".
The Holy Spirit is the gentle leader of the Christian. It's the gentle inward awareness that God is with you, that he is in you, and if you listen carefully to his sweet voice, he will take you where he wants you to go. When you become a Christian, the Holy Spirit comes to live within you to encourage you from the inside out to be the person God wants you to be. So now you're in the family of God, you've got the Holy Spirit, you're dealing with the things in your life that shouldn't be there, and God says: "For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom you cry, 'Abba, Father.'"
According to the 15th verse of chapter 8, we have been brought into the family of God through the process of adoption. The word for adoption in the Greek language is really interesting. It means to place a son. It means to take somebody who's not a son and make him a son. Somebody who's not in the family and put him in the family. Somebody who might not be in any family but he's taken, like Mrs. Daugherty did with little Kristen. She took that child and put her in her family. She adopted her and made her her own child, gave her her name, gave her all the privileges of being a part of that family. That's what God has done for us. He's adopted us into his family. How many of you know we don't have the right to be in God's family. We don't. Somebody had to do something for that, so God took us out of our whatever we were in and when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, we become the children of God. The Bible says when you're adopted, you become God's child.
Now, the other thing that happens here is also very interesting. When you get adopted, you get to call God by a new name. Because the Bible says that when you're adopted, God's name is Abba Father. "By whom we cry out," verse 15, "'Abba, Father.'" Let me talk to you just a minute about that. That's one of the most tender terms in the Bible. It actually means Daddy or if it were a grandchild, it would be Pappy. That's what my kids call me, my grandchildren, or Papa. It was an ordinary family word in the days of Jesus. Abba was a common word. It conveyed intimacy, tenderness, dependence, complete lack of fear. Modern English equivalents are Daddy or Papa. In other words, an everyday infant could call their father "Daddy".
Now, here's the interesting thing about this term, men and women: no Jewish person, no Old Testament person, would have ever dreamed of using this very intimate term to address God. Jesus always used this word in prayer to his Father, except when he was on the cross. When you become a part of God's forever family, when you're adopted into his family, you end up gaining a relationship with God that gets away from all of this "God is so far away". Now God becomes so dear to you, you call him "Abba, Father". You refer to him in intimate term that's reserved only for people who are in the family. If you're not a Christian, you don't get to do that. In fact, it's the very term that Jesus used to teach us to pray. How are we supposed to pray? "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be your name". Same terminology.
I gotta tell you something. When we are afraid, when we're filled with terror, that's when we cry out "Abba, Father". He hears us when we're at our lowest point. I can't think of anything more wonderful and glorious than to know that your heavenly Father cares about you. When you cry out to him, "Abba, Father," he hears you. And then, here's the fifth thing about the Holy Spirit in this chapter: the Holy Spirit reassures the believer. He comes to reassure you. Here's a verse of Scripture that I truly, have to be honest with you, I've misunderstood this passage of Scripture my whole adult life. And I finally got it right. I mean, I'm not perfect. I try to be accurate as I can but I never realized the impact of this verse. Here's what the verse says: "The Spirit himself witnesses with our spirit that we are the children of God".
Now, here's how that is normally understood. Somebody comes and say, "Are you a Christian"? "Yes". "How do you know you're a Christian"? "Well, let me tell you how I know I'm a Christian. The Spirit of God witnesses with my spirit that I'm a Christian. That's how I know I'm a Christian". Now, that may be true, but that's not what this verse means. This verse does not mean that there's an emotional sort of a mysterious way that if you're a Christian, God witnesses by his Spirit with your spirit that you're a Christian. That's not what it means. I've always thought that this verse meant that God's Spirit gave testimony to my spirit that I was a Christian. In other words, it was like an inward sort of confidence that I belonged to the Lord.
And there's a sense, maybe, where this is true, but let me tell you what it really means if you dig into it. Paul is not saying that the Holy Spirit bears witness to my spirit that I am a child of God, but rather that the Holy Spirit witnesses with my spirit that I am a child of God. In other words, at the same time that I am praying and calling God my Father from within my spirit, the Holy Spirit is doing the same thing from within me so that there are two who call God Father every time I pray: the Holy Spirit and my spirit. It's a dual evidence of my sonship. When I call God "Father," the Holy Spirit is witnessing right alongside me. He's saying, "Yes, yes, David Jeremiah's your son, Father. He's yours. He belongs to you".
Listen to me, what this means is that my sonship doesn't rest for affirmation upon my spirit alone with all of its ups and downs. My sonship rests upon the authority and affirmation of the unchanging testimony of the Holy Spirit of God who lives within me. I am not a son of God just because I say I am. I'm a son of God because I say that I am and the Holy Spirit who lives within me, he's saying the same thing, and the two of us are in agreement: David Jeremiah is a son of Abba, Father, the living God. If you're a Christian, whenever you think that maybe something's happened and you're not a Christian anymore, just remember, it's not about you. You can say you are or you're not, but the Holy Spirit who came to live within you when you became a Christian, he is constantly affirming within you that you belong to the Father, that you are his child. And in these days with so much uncertainty all around, friends, we need the assurance that we belong to God, that he is with us, that he is our Father, that he cares about us beyond anything we could ever imagine.
Here's number six: the believer is rewarded by the Holy Spirit. Look what it says in verse 17: "If children, then heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him". In this verse, the Bible tells us that in the future, because we're in God's family, certain things are true. First of all, we're God's children. If you're in the family, he's Abba Father. Who are we? We are the children of God. John 1:12 says: "As many as received him, to them he gave the right to become," what? "The children of God". 1 John 3:1 says: "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God".
Martin Lloyd Jones said, "The most wonderful thing of all is not that my sins have been forgiven, nor that I may enjoy certain experiences and blessing as a Christian. The thing that should astound me is that I am a child of God". I'm a child of God. Not only are we children, the Bible says here in this verse that we're heirs. We're heirs of God. An heir is one who has not yet received his inheritance but is anticipating it. 1 Peter 1:4 says it this way: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead," now watch this, "to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away".
One of these days, we're going to inherit eternity. We're gonna be with the Lord forever. We're gonna be in heaven. We're going to be heirs with God. But here's the most important term in this verse. We're not just children, we're not just heirs. We are joint heirs. That's what it says. Joint heirs with Jesus Christ. What does that mean? Well, let me explain to you what it means 'cause it's one of the best truths in the whole passage. If a man dies leaving a large farm to four heirs, the estate is divided evenly, and each heir receives 25% of the whole. But if a man leaves a farm to four of his sons as joint heirs, then each son owns the whole farm. Each one can say, "This house is mine. Those barns are mine. Those fields are mine".
When the Lord tells us that we are heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ, what he is saying is that God the Father has given to the Lord Jesus Christ his inheritance and everything he gave to the Lord Jesus Christ he gives to us. We are joint heirs with Jesus Christ. Everything God gives to Jesus, he gives to us. We're not just a fourth of what he got, not a half of what he got. Because we're joint heirs, we own the whole farm, wow. I'm a joint heir of Jesus Christ.
When I read what God says about Jesus Christ concerning the future, it's true of me. Why is that? Because I'm a joint heir. I'm a joint heir. So those are all the things we have and, you know, one of the things that's so much fun for me as I teach the Scripture, especially in an Epistle like this, is it's just an incredible reminder to us of what it means to be a child of God. What it means to be in the family of God, all that God has done for us, all the blessings we have. And what I realize more than ever before is that sometimes we don't enjoy those blessings, either because we don't know what they are, we've never discovered them, or we just have a laziness about us that doesn't want to explore it. And in the process of doing that, we miss out on the provision of God.
Several years ago, when our son Daniel was finishing his first year in college in Louisiana, Donna and I had taken a trip out of the country and because this was a very difficult experience for Daniel and therefore for us as well, we were trying to keep in touch with him any way that we could while we were gone. When I talked with him on our first night out, I asked him what his money situation was like. I said, "We're gonna be gone for ten days and I wanna make sure you're not broke". He said, "Dad, I just have a few dollars left and I'll be totally zeroed out in a couple of days". I thought that I would be able to wire him some money or send him some money from one of the ports we visited, but I discovered back then how hard it was to do that and, when you're out of the US, I didn't know how to go about it so I was really concerned.
Each night I would talk to Daniel and ask him how he was doing and every night the stories got worse. He had a Texaco credit card that we left him for his truck and he was going to the Texaco gas station every morning and buying food from the food mart for breakfast. One of his friends came over to borrow a movie from him and Daniel said that he would lend him the movie if his friend would take him out for ice cream. He said, "Dad, I'm desperate".
Well, I thought about that. I was really worried about it, and trying to figure out what to do. And realized that Daniel was scrounging around for pennies and quarters he had saved and it reminded me of what it was like for Donna and I when we went to seminary. All of us have stories like that in our background if we started the way we did. All I could think about was my poor son, I was so worried. At about halfway through our time away, I casually mentioned to Donna that I was really worried about Daniel's money situation, because I couldn't find a way to get any money to him, and she looked at me as a matter of fact and said, "Well, David, I put $100 in his account just before we left".
Somehow I didn't know that, and more importantly, Daniel didn't know that. And for a whole week he was scrounging around, trying to get along on pennies when he had $100 in the bank and all he had to do was go to the ATM and withdraw it. I wonder how many of us are scrounging around on spiritual pennies when we're sons and heirs and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. Don't have to do that anymore. I just told you, you have got money in the bank. What he has done for you is so amazing. So let me ask you, are you gonna live like you are an heir or are you gonna scrounge around the rest of your life, just trying to get by as a Christian? You know what I hear from some Christians?
Listen to me. "I try to live as close to the edge as I can without going over the edge". And what they mean by that is, live as carnally as you can as a Christian, just don't step over the edge and do something that will ruin your life. You should be trying to live exactly the opposite way. Live so close to Jesus you're not even tempted for some of this stuff. Don't live like you don't have any inheritance, because you have the inheritance that is the same as that which was given to Jesus Christ. You are joint heirs with Jesus Christ. Let's commit ourselves as we go forward this week, that we're gonna live like that. We're gonna live according to our privilege. We're gonna be children of God and we're gonna be proud to be children of God, and we're gonna live like children of God, amen? Amen.