Summary: How do you know you’re Christian? Do you know what being a Christian involves and brings with it? That’s what Paul talks about to the Romans in today’s text.
March 13, 2005 Romans 8:16-18
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God or you could even say co-heirs with Christ, since we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
This text is not one that many Lutherans are familiar with. It talks of listening to a communication of the spirit within. Lutherans are leery of such communications, because many times such communications are actually from the devil. In the 22nd chapter of 1 Kings, kings Ahab and Jehoshaphat met together to determine whether they should attack Ramoth Gilead. A whole slew of prophets came forward and said, “go ahead and attack.” But one prophet by the Micaiah said what really happened.
1 Kings 22:19-23 I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with all the host of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left. And the LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’ “One suggested this, and another that. Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the LORD and said, ‘I will entice him.’ “‘By what means?’ the LORD asked. “‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said. “‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the LORD. ‘Go and do it.’ “So now the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The LORD has decreed disaster for you.”
All of these prophets were sure that they were speaking for the LORD, but in reality they had the wrong spirit. They were only speaking lies. They shouldn’t have trusted the spirit within.
In the same way, when Luther met with Zwingli at the Marburg Colloquy, they had reached an impasse at the Real Presence in the Lord’s Supper. Ultimately, Luther said to Zwingli, “yours is a different spirit.” The spirit that he was listening to and so confident in - it was not God’s Holy Spirit - because he was not basing his faith on God’s Word but on reason. It’s a part of our heritage, then, to question that inner calling, that seeming “spirit” and feeling within that the world likes to point to. We simply don’t trust it. All too often that “spirit” is only being led by our sinful flesh or the devil himself.
Yet in today’s text, Paul talks about a testimony of the Holy Spirit with the spirit - the regenerated part of the Christian. How do we know what spirit this is? How can we trust it? Is it just a feeling? What does it - the Holy Spirit want to say to us? We’ll find out as we listen to Paul tell us to -
Listen to the Spirit Within
I. Know what you are
First of all, when we listen to the Spirit, He gives us IDENTITY. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. The Holy Spirit wants us to have an unwavering conviction that we are God’s children. It’s kind of like Peter - when Jesus talked to him after the resurrection. Three times - Jesus - God Himself - asked Peter if he loved him. In the midst of this questioning - in which most of us would have begun to question our own faith - Peter held fast to what the spirit within told him. He said to Jesus, “Lord, you know all things. You KNOW that I love you.” Peter knew who he was - in spite of his weakness.
How do you really know if you’re a Christian? Is it just a feeling? It’s more than that - although feelings are definitely involved. Paul explains what this testimony involves in vs. 13-15. There are two things that testify to you that you are God’s children. Romans 8:13-14 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, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
The first testimony is reflected in your lifestyle. What are you living according to? Those who have the Holy Spirit within do not live according to the sinful nature. “Live” is a present active indicative. It is an ongoing and regular part of your lifestyle - living literally in accordance with the “flesh”. When the decisions you make are made to please your flesh - then you know that you are being dominated by the flesh. For instance, a child who lives day after day knowingly ignoring his parents wishes for him to clean his room, is living according to his own lazy flesh. A man who buys a yearly membership to Playboy and indulges his eyes in the pleasure of that flesh day after day, is not led by the Holy Spirit. A wife who lives in constant hatred of her husband has chosen the way of the flesh. It doesn’t matter what you say you believe if your on-going actions give a completely different story. When you knowingly continue in sins that you know are wrong, you know that you do not have the Spirit - for the Holy Spirit cannot live with such unrepentant ongoing behavior.