STRAIGHT FROM ROMANS 8 - The Spirit Who Intercedes
August 11, 2019
Romans 8:26-27 (p. 787)
Anyone here ever have to depend on someone else for something? I know that’s almost a rhetorical question, because all of us have!
But think about a time where you were sick…or injured…or had just gone through surgery…(I’ve got a bunch of those memories in my internal filing system.)
The time I remember being physically the weakest was before my back fusion surgery…I’d taken epidural shots for 3 years, they’d helped for a while, and then they stopped helping…I spent a week in the Old Methodist Hospital in Louisville having spasms and intense pain…the only option I had back then was surgery…but I couldn’t walk, couldn’t sit, couldn’t stand…if I wanted to get somewhere I tried to crawl…
If I wanted to eat, someone had to fix it or get it for me…If I wanted coffee, the same thing. If I needed a book across the room, I needed help to retrieve it. It was the one time in my stubborn, self sufficient life that I could not do what I wanted to do without someone helping me…
I think of that time in my life when I consider our text today and the description the Apostle Paul gives of the Holy Spirit…it even starts out…
“In the same way, the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness.”
Last week we talked about suffering...and what it has to do with our glorious inheritance. This world is decaying…it is sinful…our bodies are temporary like “jars of clay”…Because those things are true, life will bring its share of troubles, scars, and trials…Jesus clothed himself with the same temporary flesh, so he truly understands…
And there is also suffering because you are a servant of Christ. You step into the world, you lift up the middle rope and enter the ring as a Spirit-led child of God. By intentionally doing this…it’s not if you get hit…it’s when.
This truth is the inescapable reality…it’s what causes the born again, Spirit-filled follower of Jesus to hope for a future glory. Those of us who seek to live Christ-directed lives long for a face to face meeting…“We wait eagerly for our adoption as sons…the redemption of our bodies for in this hope we were saved, but hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has. But if we hope for what we do not have, we wait for it patiently.” (v. 24-25)
And just as I needed Kari to be my helper during the physically weakest time in my life…God’s Word says, “In the same way…”
I. THE HOLY SPIRIT HELPS US IN OUR WEAKNESS
The Apostle Paul creates a bond between believers and God and each other in this scripture…He uses two words very powerfully…“Us” and “our.” It's not just “me,” or “mine,” or “I.” It’s “us”…it’s “our.”
You remember verses 16? 17? “The spirit testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children…Now if we are children then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ…”
And then that suffering thing came up…Even creation itself is groaning like a woman in the pains of childbirth. Hoping…waiting…for redemption. Weakness…it reminds us of our inability. It's humbling because it lets us know you can’t do it all…you need someone else.
[I knew this kid who had feet and legs so crooked he had to wear special shoes attached to braces as he learned to walk. He was cross-eyed and had special glasses to help correct the astigmatism. He constantly had his family in the emergency room…He ate paint one time, got hit in the leg with a shovel in boy scouts, smacked his head on the side of the pool while diving…not once, but twice. He put the handbrake lever through his side while riding a mini bike…almost 100 stitches…missed his lung by less than an inch. He was burned over 50% with 3rd degree burns. He broke his hip when he was 18. Both knees have been surgically repaired. He had a heart attack when he was 34. After years of epidurals to relieve the back spasms and pain that left him almost an invalid, he had his spine fused. At 42 they discovered he needed another knee surgery. They discovered that all of the major arteries in his heart were so blocked, they were almost severed, so they put in 3 stints. In the last 4 years I’ve had my back fused, both hips replaced, rotator cuff surgery and another serious heart attack 8 days after that shoulder surgery.]
Folks, there are a lot of things I don’t know, but I know about weakness…at least where this mortal body is concerned.
No one likes to suffer, no one likes to be weak, but its in this place that we discover the power of God…Paul understood that as he begged God 3 times to take away a “thorn” that ravaged his body. God said, “No,” but he said more than no…
2 CORINTHIANS 12:9-10 (p. 808)
Weakness is the area where God flexes His muscles and shows His children how strong of an “Abba” Father He is.
It’s the place we discover…
II. I DON’T ALWAYS KNOW WHAT’S BEST FOR ME
Romans 8:26 says, “We don’t know what we ought to pray for.”
I can tell you what we all pray for in a time of trouble, weakness and suffering.
“GOD GET ME OUT OF THIS NOW!”
It’s important for me to emphasize this scripture is provided for Spirit-filled, adopted sons and daughters who are heirs of the Almighty God.
The Holy Spirit will convict those outside the family of God…but He only intercedes for those who are born again.
When the Spirit intercedes…it’s from within the temple/our bodies. When He groans with a power beyond words…it’s from within.
And as God searches our hearts…He knows how His Spirit thinks…it’s His Spirit!!! Remember the Spirit himself testifies with our Spirit. God’s Spirit interprets our wants, needs, desires, hurts, inabilities, weakness through the filter of God’s will.
And God’s will is always to form us into the image of his son (Romans 8:29). And God’s will is always to give us what’s best for this to happen. We think what’s best is healing, comfort, riches, and ease. How can suffering be what’s best? How can pain be in the favor of God?
I’ll tell you how…weakness lets us depend on God’s power over ours. Suffering helps us let go of this present world and makes us long for a better home.
When Paul says, “We don’t know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”
There have been two times in my life where I hurt inwardly so badly that I could not understand what was happening, or a way out where God could be glorified.
“Wordless groaning” is the perfect description of what the Holy Spirit did in my soul.
[There are times I’d like to just put some cute little story in my sermon that doesn’t cost me emotional and spiritual transparency. But this isn’t one of them…one of the two times I experienced “the wordless groaning” of the Holy Spirit involved my youngest daughter coming to me when she was 15 years old and telling me she was pregnant. 2007 had been a really hard year and this put me on the floor in tears. All I could imagine was…it’s over for her…the white picket fence, perfect marriage and great life I had planned for her in my mind…it’s gone…over. Kari and I laid on the floor and just groaned in pain…But we still trusted God in the midst of what we thought was a situation that would change Karissa’s future forever. We were right, but not in the way we thought.
When we trust God in the midst of our weakness and brokenness, He goes to work…It doesn’t mean He instantly snaps His fingers and does what we believe He should…He begins to do what He knows is best.
He did this as we lifted “groanings of the heart” to His throne. A beautiful baby boy named Peyton. Karissa experienced forgiveness and grace as she raised this child…with us. She got in a great school for teenage moms, she began to excel and grow. She became the recipient of a huge scholarship…graduated college…fell in love with an amazing man who is Peyton’s daddy. A year and a half ago he was joined by Oaklynn, who loves her brother more than anyone else.
Here’s the truth…I couldn’t see or imagine any of this…but God already could. I think that’s exactly what Paul was saying when he wrote “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever! Amen.” (Eph. 3:20-21)
I promise you I wouldn’t have prayed for God to work like this…for my daughter…but I wouldn’t take a billion dollars for the results to be changed. It was a million times beyond what I could ask for or imagine. She genuinely met Jesus through this journey and then shared a message of hope with thousands of other young girls who were where she was.
“The Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”
III. SO, WHY IS PRAYER SO ESSENTIAL?
So why pray? Well if you’re lost…if you’re in the midst of conviction…the place where God’s Spirit is drawing you into a relationship…then prayer is essential. It’s the first surrender in the process of salvation…with whatever words you want. It’s I surrender…I’m guilty…I need a Savior…I want to be your child…I want to follow Jesus. It’s not all there is, but…conviction leads to confession…repentance is the real sorrow for sin, our sin that turns us around toward God. Baptism is visible union with Jesus. Death, burial and resurrection…through the gift of the Holy Spirit…and if there has been a true rebirth…our life afterwards bears fruit…in our attitude or in our actions. We begin to grow up into mature Spirit-filled and led followers.
So why did and do I pray? As a Christian…why do I pray when there is such a thing as God’s Will?
I’ve genuinely had people say to me…“If it’s God’s will, there is really no need to pray about it…God’s not going to change His will.” It’s kind of a “Que Sera Sera…whatever will be” approach to our relationship with God. It doesn’t create the closeness of a Father and son or daughter sharing their hearts intimately. It views God as removed, but in control…nothing like Jesus’ (God’s only Son) relationship through prayer with His Father while here on earth.
God’s perfect. He is all knowing…all encompassing and all powerful…
Satan’s goal is to create distance between human beings and God for those that are eternally separated with him in Hell…but also for carnal (worldly) Christians who sit on their own throne, making their own decisions with worldly wisdom (sometime very successfully) but keeping Christ at their feet.
No need to communicate intimately…I’ve got this! If that’s true, why (and I’m looking ahead a touch) does Romans 8:34 say, “Who is he that condemns?” (Satan condemns. His very name means “Accuser.”) Verse 31 asks “If God is with us…who can be against us? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?” (v. 33)
God’s goal, His all encompassing purpose of heart, isn’t to condemn us to Hell…it’s to save us. He gave Jesus, his only Son, for that purpose. “Christ Jesus, who died…more than that, who was raised to life - is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us!” (v. 34)
“Jesus is the one who searches our hearts…He knows the mind of the Spirit…because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s Will.” (Romans 8:27)
You see the goal of the born-again, Spirit-filled and Spirit led child of God, the one who is a co-heir with Christ in a future inheritance…is to become like Christ Jesus. That’s God’s plan for us as well. That’s why the Holy Spirit works from the inside out. Jesus wasn’t much to look at outwardly…but inwardly He was grace and truth…He was and is God in the flesh…God with us. He left His Holy Spirit (Holy is His work, not His first name).
That’s why in our weakness...He groans…for answers that go beyond words. There is a connection between our intercessor in Heaven at God’s right hand…and His eternal Spirit in our hearts. Why would we need intercession if God cannot be moved to answer, to protect, to work, and to change us and circumstances for our good and His glory?
Paul writes to Timothy, the pastor, leader at the church in Ephesus…and says, “There is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
(1 Tim. 2:5)
This statement is right after he tells Timothy…Pray! I urge you that requests, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving be made for everyone…
Intercession…mediation…someone who puts themselves in the middle of two people who are separated…and works to reconcile. Jesus is the only mediator between us and the Father…not Mary, not the Pope, not select clergy. Jesus alone works for the reconciliation continually for his people…a people who have his Spirit molding, working, comforting, teaching, counseling, interceding…especially in our weakness.
What do we then do…? We plead for others…kings, those in authority…my neighbor across the street, our enemies. Why…because if God is not breaking the person’s heart we’re pleading for…no conviction or realization of sin can occur…
And this kind of prayer changes our hearts to be shaped like Jesus.
Let’s pray for that…