Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Spirit Himself Testifies

Read Romans 8

Paul wrapped up the 7th chapter with an interrogatory provocation—his specialty—and then answered with an exclamatory affirmation.  He was no stranger to those either. But the expository explanation comes in the next chapter.

Paul was being Paul using his literary skills but he had more, much more to say on these subjects.  That brings us to chapter 8.

What a pitiful person I am that I can’t even live fully for God when I know how much he loves me.  I know that very love in Jesus Christ.  I know it well.  It is very personal and real; yet, it seems that I give in to my human nature time and time again.

My mind which really wants to follow Jesus with everything I have is at war with this physical creature that carries my mind around all day.

Jesus, thank you for saving me.  Thanks be to God for loving me so much that you have made me right with you, because I sure was never going to get there on my own.  And that brings us to the 8th chapter and this point:

In Christ there is no condemnation.  We who have received this gift of life in Christ are not condemned even though our scorecards might say otherwise.  Our hearts and minds are set on following Jesus and they belong to God’s own Spirit. 

Paul said, “Now hear this.  Get this straight.  For those of you still in school, this will be on the test!”

We have an obligation to follow the Spirit’s leading.  We are freed from our rule following, flesh governing law.  That only showed us that we were on the path to death.

But the Spirit of God that brought Christ from the grave to life is with us to bring us to life in the here and now and for eternity.  Our relationship with God has changed.  Perhaps restored is the better verb.

We have moved from being a people who tried to follow rules in order to win God’s approval and we could never get them all right to being sons and daughters of a loving Father.  We are sons of the almighty God.  His Spirit works within us to recognize this relationship as we cry out Abba, Father, Dada.

In this relationship there is no condemnation.  We are God’s kids. 

Think of your own children.  Maybe skip over the terrible two’s and a few teenage years, or not—they are all precious to us.  Some gave us gray hair or hair loss or heart attacks, but our children are precious to us.  We would never condemn them.  We condemned many of the things that they did, but we would never condemn them. We would never kick them to the curb. 

Okay, when they are 40 or 45, maybe they need to move out of the house and get a job.  In today’s economy, maybe wait until they are 55 or 60.  I am being purposefully facetious.  We will never disown our kids.

No matter what they did or what they will do, they are our kids and we love them.  Sometimes we concurrently want to blister their bottoms or put them in time out for life or whatever parents do these days but they are always our children and we always love them.

This is our relationship with God, except in this relationship we are the kids.  We are the kids and we have the best big brother ever.  We are brothers and sisters in Christ.  We are heirs with Christ.  This God’s family stuff is just covered in benefits.

Paul was on a streak here:
·     No condemnation
·     Led by the Spirit
·     Adopted as God’s own kids
·     Siblings and heirs with Christ Jesus
·     Share in the glory of God that we know in Jesus

Then he threw in this bit about suffering.  Just as our brother suffered, so we might suffer as well.  Share in the glory—share in the suffering.  Wow, there’s always a catch, at least it seems that way sometimes.

Paul continues and notes that it is not a balanced scale here.  A little suffering now and then a little glory later—no, that’s not what he is saying.  Whatever suffering we have now pales in comparison to the glory to come.  The greatness of the glory that we will know is so extensive that it makes our suffering seem minuscule.  The time will come when we won’t even remember it.

Now when we are suffering in any form:  physical pain, loss of a loved one, being dejected, homeless, penniless, unfriended on Facebook, or whatever other extremes we might face; that is the biggest thing in our lives at that time.  It many ways when we are going through something it sometimes seems bigger than life.  Paul reminds us that the glory that awaits is so great it will make the worst of the worst of our suffering seem like nothing.

This is not just a promise.  It is something that the entire creation has been waiting for since it’s been broken.  The entire creation yearns for this glory and reconciliation.  And one of the biggest signs of that future reconciliation is us.  The sons and daughters of God will be revealed. 

Those who are led by the Spirit will step forward and be known as God’s children.  We long for the same thing that the entire creation longs for—complete reconciliation.  The Spirit of God within us wants to cry out for this reconciliation and the glory that we will all realize one day.

We hunger for it because God’s Spirit lives within us.  God’s Spirit lives within us.

Sometimes we think that God’s Spirit is there just to tell us what to do.  “C’mon Spirit, do I take the job or not?  I’m counting on you Spirit, do I pay my gas or electric bill or partially pay both?”

When we put the Spirit of the Living God in that kind of box, we miss out on so much.  God’s Spirit is within us and is testifying to his love for us.  Are we listening?  Do we hear the Spirit?  Are we trying to give God’s own Spirit multiple choice questions when his answers are not only narrative but poetry in motion?

Are we looking for the Spirit to participate in the mundane when he lives within us to bring us to the divine?  Of course the Spirit knows what’s happening in our lives—jobs, bills, relationships, stress, 2 losses for the Sooners before conference play even began.  Yes, the Sprit knows everything that we are dealing with.

We need to understand the syntax of the Spirit.  What?  We need to understand that God’s Spirit doesn’t have to have our words to communicate and to testify.

God’s Spirit—the same Spirit present at the creation of the world—doesn’t need our words.  The Spirit is not limited by our lexicon.  It moves in our hearts and minds and causes our bodies to groan as it speaks in God’s own language—love.  The Spirit calls out to Father and Son to begin this divine dance in our lives—this Perichoresis.

The Spirit is inviting us to let God go to work with us—Father, Son, and Spirit embracing us as the crown of the creation that we were made to be.  Sometimes we just don’t want to let go of our carnal nature.  Sometimes we claim the struggle as our own and wont’ let go.

Have you ever not known what to pray?  You knew things were upside down.  You knew you were hurting.  You knew that you didn’t know what to ask for but you knew to come into God’s presence and just let the Spirit take over.

The psalmist said, “Be still and know that I am God.”  Sometimes we just need to close our mouth and shut our eyes and open our heart up to God and let the Spirit talk with Dad and Jesus.  They will do all the talking.  We don’t need to interject.  Our minds need to be set on “receive only” mode.   We don’t need to check things off of a list to make sure they didn’t miss anything.  We don’t need to hashtag any key phrases.

We need to just be still and let the Spirit of God that lives within us handle this end of the conversation.

What happens, and some here know this all so well, is that we realize what Paul realized 20 centuries ago.  Whatever is going on within us and whatever is going on around us  and whatever is happening to us is just grist for the mill for those who love God and have answered his call.

He will take everything—things that we can make sense of and things that make absolutely no sense at all to us—work for our good.  He will take all things and make them work for our good.  This is not a statement for the general population.  This is for us. 

For those of us who have accepted this wonderful gift of salvation, we realize that Christ Jesus is not only our brother, but we are on a journey to be more like him every day.  He is our model.  We are being made in the image and likeness of our brother, Jesus.  On another day, we might take a trip to the potter’s house to enhance this metaphor.

For now, know that we will always be God’s children.  He will never stop loving us.  His Spirit lives within us and knows exactly what we are going through when we suffer.  God takes everything that happens to us and uses it to make us more like Jesus.

That’s bigtime.  That’s not just God’s peace within us.  That’s not just knowing that things will be okay.  That’s not just getting through life.

That’s victory.

That’s the perfect time for another one of Paul’s interrogatory provocations. 

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Paul, of course, answers his own questions.  God loved us so much that he gave his Son for us.  If he would do that while we were still alienated from him, how much more will he do now that we are his kids and in right standing with him?  

How much more will he do for us now that his own Spirit lives within us?

Paul loved answering questions with questions.  He gives us this to think about.  The Spirit is with us.  Jesus intercedes for us with God the Father.  What can get in the way of us bearing everything to God?  Really, what can get in the way?

The sword?

We have already overcome all of these things by being right with God.  In Christ Jesus we have been victors over whatever the world might throw at us.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Sometimes we think that everything is out of whack.  Look at the world.  It surely seems to be a complete mess.  But for us, things are just what they should be.

We need to stop trying to get in sync with the world and know that we are right with God, that he will never condemn us, and that the victory we know in Christ Jesus goes far beyond anything that we may face now or in the future.

Why?  For us, there is no condemnation.  There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus!  We live in God’s love.  We are his kids and that’s forever. When we suffer, we know there is so much more glory in store for us that our suffering won’t even be a distant memory.

We know that God’s Spirit is within us and God is for us.  Even when we don’t know what to say we need to hear God saying, “I’ve got this.”  His own Spirit that lives within us is testifying, “I’ve got this.”

There is nothing that will separate us from God’s love.  We might try to go run and hide from God.  We might try to ignore him, but he is not going away and he is not kicking us to the curb.  We are his kids and even our worst mistakes will be used to shape us in the image and likeness of Christ Jesus.

Joseph told his brothers, “What you intended for evil, God used for good.”

Paul tells us that God will take everything happening to us and everything happening within us and use it to make us more like Jesus.  His love is at work in us.

Paul wraps up this chapter with one of the most declarative statements in all of his letters.  It is worth keeping.  It is not on our memory verse list but you might want to put it on yours or at least bookmark it in your Bible.

 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Now that is an affirmation that we should hold on to and remind ourselves and each other of every day.  This 8th chapter has been full of affirmations.  It is almost a greatest hits collection in itself.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.

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.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
God’s own Spirit is alive within us and wants to testify to us and through us.  Last week we noted that we still have to wrestle with sin, but we don’t have to wrestle with God’s Spirit.

Let his Holy Spirit testify to us and through us.  Let God’s Spirit truly live with us.


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