Allowing God’s Spirit to Lead You

Romans 8:12-17

July 29, 2007 | Brian Bill

Aren’t you glad that the Holy Spirit still moves in and among His people today?  He’s going to do that right now as we look to His Holy and inerrant Word because He will illuminate that which He also inspired.  Let me read 1 Corinthians 2:12 and then let’s pray: “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.”

Two weeks ago we learned that there is no condemnation for the Christ-follower.  Last week we rejoiced in the fact that we have been given the companionship of the Holy Spirit.  As we continue in our sweet study of Romans 8, we come again to the little word “therefore,” this time in verse 12.  This is a clue that Paul is now moving from instruction to exhortation; from what God has done for us to what is expected from us.  As a result of having no condemnation and having the companionship of the Holy Spirit, Paul is going to describe our debt, our delight and our destiny.  Let’s look first at our debt.

Our Debt

You and have been given so much, haven’t we?  With all that we’ve received comes some responsibility.  Check out verses 12-13: “Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation-but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it.  For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”  Paul uses the word “brothers,” which literally means “from the same womb” to remind us of the closeness that Christians have with each other because we are in the same family.  The word “obligation” refers to one who owes another and is under duty to live a certain way.   We have a moral compulsion as Christians and we’re obligated to the Almighty in at least two ways.

1. Don’t live like you used to. 

If you’re a born again believer, you are now someone you never were before as 2 Corinthians 5:17 says: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”  Too many of us fall back into flesh-living instead of faith-living.  Friends, you and I owe the flesh nothing because it has never done us anything good.  In fact, we feed the flesh way too much already!  Producing either self-indulgence or self-righteousness, living for the flesh leads only to death.  I came across this acrostic for the word F.L.E.S.H. that is helpful to remember: Following Long Established Sinful Habits.  

2. Put disobedience to death. 

Too many of us cater to the flesh when God tells us to crucify it

Dr. Charles Ryrie has called Romans 8:13 the most important single verse on the spiritual life.  Some translations use the word “mortify” which means “to kill.”  We must avoid being passive about sin in our lives.  “Putting to death the misdeeds of the body” refers to “slaughtering sin” in your life.  This same word is used in Romans 8:36: “…We are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  John Owen challenges the believer to “be killing sin or it will be killing you.”  This is similar to what we emphasized last week: “Think about what you think about” in order to capture our thoughts to make them obedient to Christ.  Too many of us cater to the flesh when God tells us to crucify it.  There are two aspects of putting the misdeeds of the body to death that appear at first glance to be contradictory.

  • Positionally it has already been done.  Galatians 5:24: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 
  • Experientially we must do it.  Colossians 3:5: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.”

Let me see if I can explain this.  We must apply by faith what God has already done in fact.  This goes back to what we learned in Romans 6:11: “Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”  By faith we count our position as true in our actual condition.  This is in the present tense which means we must do so continually, habitually and actively.

Here’s another caution.  While we are told to slaughter sin, notice carefully that we’re to do this “by the Spirit.”  It’s not a matter of me alone doing this nor can I just sit back and wait for the Holy Spirit to do it.  It’s not an either/or but rather a both/and.  It’s a beautiful balance: I must do it by the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit chooses to do it through me.  These are complimentary, not contradictory truths.  We see this in Philippians 2:12-13: “…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”  I must do it…but it’s God who works in me to do it.  He has His role and I have my responsibility.  We could say it this way: I cannot do it without the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit will not do it without me.

What does this mean practically?  Let me suggest some ways to slaughter sin in your life.

  • Recognize how sin works (James 1:14-15).
  • Identify your spiritual ‘soft spots” (Jeremiah 17:9). 
  • Confess and repent when you sin (Psalm 32).
  • Turn from sin within the first five seconds of the temptation (Proverbs 4:15).
  • Don’t deal with sin on a superficial level; get to the heart (Jeremiah 6:14).
  • Starve sin by making no provision for it (Romans 13:14).
  • Place hedges between yourself and sin (Proverbs 5:8).
  • Look for the way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13).
  • Fill your mind with good things (Philippians 4:8).
  • Submit to the Holy Spirit (Zechariah 4:6) and be filled daily (Ephesians 5:18).

Jesus paid a debt He did not owe and we owe a debt we can never fully repay…but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.  

Our Delight

We have a definite obligation to God for all that He has done for us.  Next, in verses 14-17a, Paul describes some privileges that are ours.  We move now from duty to delight.  Proverbs 8:30: “I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence.”  This is the heart of the good news in the Book of Romans.  I should say that I resisted the urge to develop each of these in greater depth for the sake of time.  

1. The Holy Spirit leads us. 

Delight #1 is found in verse 14: “Because those who are led by the Spirit of God…” Aren’t you glad that we don’t have to stumble around and wonder what we should do or the direction we should take?  God has given us the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us.  The Greek word translated “led” means “to show the way, or to guide.”  While the Holy Spirit certainly leads us in very specific and personalized ways, first and foremost He has changed the trajectory of our entire lives and leads us in such a way that we follow the path of the Lord.  Listen to these words from Psalm 143:10: “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.”  The Holy Spirit is always at work controlling, comforting, or convicting us.  And we are either grieving Him or pleasing Him.

2. We are loved as God’s children. 

Our second delight is spelled out in the last part of verse 14: “…are sons of God.”  I read this week that some parents in New Zealand named their son “4real” because they were impressed with the reality of his birth.  This distinctive name was eventually blocked by the courts because New Zealand law forbids the use of numbers when naming babies.  This name is certainly better than the bizarre one chosen by two sets of American parents who have named their sons “ESPN.”  

Friend, if you have received Jesus Christ, John 1:12 says that you are a child of God.  He calls you “son” or “daughter” and no court can ever take that away from you.  I love Isaiah 43:1: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”  As one of God’s children, you are His.  And Isaiah 49:16 says that God has engraved you on the palm of his hand.  2 Corinthians 6:18: “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”  If you wonder how God feels about you and what kind of name he calls you, check out 1 John 3:1: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!”

In the parable of the Prodigal Son, after falling on hard times, the wayward boy had been practicing his speech in the hopes that he could be hired on as a field hand in his father’s business.  The father would have nothing to do with this because his boy was not a servant…he was his son.  Listen to these wonderful words from Luke 15:21-24: “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick!  Bring the best robe and put it on him.  Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Bring the fattened calf and kill it.  Let’s have a feast and celebrate.  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’  So they began to celebrate.”  If you are a son or daughter of God, He celebrates you.

3. We have freedom, not fear. 

If you are a child of God there is nothing to fear because the Holy Spirit is with you and in you

We can delight that the Holy Spirit leads us and that we are children of God.  The third delight is that we no longer have to live in fear as seen in verse 15: “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear…”  Servants need to fear but sons and daughters of the King have freedom.  Friend, what are you afraid of right now?  If you are a child of God there is nothing to fear because the Holy Spirit is with you and in you.  Hebrews 2:15 says that you and I no longer have to fear death: “And free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” In the place of fear God has given us freedom as 2 Timothy 1:7 says: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (KJV).

4. We enjoy an intimate relationship with the Father. 

The second half of verse 15 contains some pretty amazing truth – Delight #4 is that we are adopted into God’s family and we can call God our daddy: “…But you received the Spirit of sonship.  And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’”

  • We’re adopted into God’s family. 
  • We can call the Almighty “Abba.” Because born again believers are adopted into God’s Family, one of our delights is to cry out “Abba, Father.”  The word “cry” means to “call aloud, to shriek.”  We have the amazing privilege of calling the awesome, majestic, all-powerful God of the universe “Abba,” which is an untranslated Aramaic word that means “daddy.”  This term of endearment speaks of an intimate relationship and was used by Jesus when He cried out in the Garden of Gethsemane in Mark 14:36: “‘Abba, Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you.  Take this cup from me.  Yet not what I will, but what you will.’”  This is a good model for us in that we approach our “Daddy God” with confidence and yet we commit to do His will, whatever that might be.  I love it when our girls call me “daddy” and God loves it when His children do as well.  

We have communion with God because of our adoption and we can communicate with Him because He invites us to call him ‘Abba.’  I love what Martin Luther said about this verse: “This is but a little word, and yet notwithstanding, it comprehendeth all things…Although I be oppressed with anguish and terror on every side, and seem to be forsaken and utterly cast away from thy presence, yet I am thy child, and thou art my Father for Christ’s sake.”  This chorus captures it well:

Near, so very near to God, nearer I could not be.

For in the person of God’s Son, I am as near as He.

Dear, so very dear to God, dearer I could not be.

For in the person of God’s Son, I am as dear as He.

But if you’re like me, there are times when you may wonder if God really does care for you.  It’s at those times that the Holy Spirit goes to work in yet another way.  

5. The Holy Spirit assures us of this relationship.

Fifthly, we can take delight in the decree of verse 16: “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”  Notice that phrase, “The Spirit himself.”  This is very emphatic and it shows us that the Holy Spirit is a Person, not an inanimate object or power or some “Star Wars” kind of force.  We are given the objective truth of Scripture that born again believers are in the family of God.  One example is 1 John 5:13: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”  Go back a few verses to 1 John 5:10 where we see that this is not just something for our heads, but also our hearts: “Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart…”  According to 1 John 4:13, one of the roles of the Spirit is to give us certainty about our salvation: “We know that we live in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.”

The Holy Spirit gives inner testimony with our spirit that we are adopted into God’s family and at the end of time He will stand with us and testify before God the Father as to our adoption.  2 Corinthians 1:21-22: “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ.  He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”  

The commentator Barclay points out that this reference to the Spirit testifying builds on a picture from how adoptions worked in Roman culture.  When an adoption was finalized, the ceremony was carried out in the presence of seven witnesses who would testify as to the legitimacy of the adoption, thus guaranteeing that the one adopted had full rights as a child.

The Holy Spirit confirms our adoption and therefore we can have confidence that we are a “King’s Kid.”  He gives independent testimony and then he corroborates the testimony of our own spirit.  According to Deuteronomy 19:15, a matter can only be decided based on the testimony of at least two witnesses.  As one pastor put it: our human spirit says, “I am a child of God, ABBA FATHER!”  The Holy Spirit says, “Yes, she is a child of God, ABBA FATHER!”  And out of the mouths of two witnesses, it is settled.

The nineteenth-century British pastor Billy Bray (that’s good name for a preacher) got saved out of a life of drunkenness and was so overjoyed by God’s grace and goodness that he said, “I can’t stop praising the Lord.  As I go along the street, I lift up one foot, and it seems to say, ‘Glory.’  And I lift up the other, and it seems to say, ‘Amen.’  And so they keep on like that all the time I am walking.”  Maybe we should try that.

6. We are named in God’s will. 

Did you hear that Oprah Winfrey made $260 million last year?  That’s nothing compared to Bill Gates, the richest man in the world.  Wouldn’t you like to be named in their wills?  Friends, believers in Jesus Christ have something even better.  Our sixth cause for delight is that we are heirs of God according to verse 17: “Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ…” Beth has told me that when she was growing up her dad would often correct her when she would say that someone who had a lot of money was rich.  He would gently remind her that only those who know Christ are truly rich.

  • We are heirs of God.  As an heir of God you are in God’s will and you share in God’s family fortune.  Ephesians 1:8: “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.”  And 1 Peter 1:4 says that this inheritance is guaranteed: “And into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-kept in heaven for you.” 
  • We are co-heirs with Christ. Friends, if you know Jesus, then everything that He has is yours!  Being a co-heir with Christ means that everything Christ has, we have.  But it’s only because of our connection to Him.  

Don’t forget that our duty comes out of our delight.  God has given us so much, hasn’t He?  It would be easy to think that life is just going to be easy now.  That leads to our final point – our destiny.

Our Destiny

Check out the last part of verse 17: “…If indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”  This theme will be developed in greater detail in the verses that follow but suffice it to say that we must go through grief before we enter glory.  We are heirs of God but the full benefits of this will not be poured out on us until eternity.  Our present grief prepares us for future glory.  In the meantime, we will share in the sufferings of the Savior.  Since Jesus suffered, we should be prepared to suffer ourselves.  Suffering doesn’t necessarily mean that something is the matter; rather it is a mark of our sonship.  

Philippians 1:29 is a good corrective for us when we wonder why we’re going through stress or sickness or mockery or outright persecution: “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him.”  Acts 14:22 is another passage to hold on to when you have problems – a passage you won’t hear a prosperity preacher expound: “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”

When the Holy Spirit moves…He really moves!  Our students experienced that in an amazing way on Thursday night when they had a foot washing service – it lasted until 12:30 in the morning!  Here’s a question.  Have you experienced the moving of the Holy Spirit?

  • Recommit to living out your debt to God.
  • Remember what to delight in.
  • Refocus you mind on your final destiny.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?