Summary: A sermon on the Holy Spirit and sanctification from Romans 8:5-13 (Material adapted from Dr. Jack Cottrell's book, Set Free, the last chapter of the book)
What a tragedy if Clark Kent never knew that he was Superman? Can we imagine Clark Kent on his deathbed, looking down and muttering, “What’s that big ‘S’ on my T-shirt? Superman? What’s that?” How sad! All his life he could have been catching speeding bullets and leaping tall buildings at a single bound, but he just did not know he had this power.
Even sadder is the fact that many Christians on their deathbed will figuratively look down and say, “What’s that big ‘HS’ on my T-shirt? The Holy Spirit? What’s that?”
Last week we talked about the struggle that Paul and all of us have against sin even after we are justified in Jesus Christ, even after we die to sin. This struggle continues because we are only partially redeemed; our souls have been renewed, but our unredeemed bodies are still a stronghold for sins’s lusts and power. As Christians we continue to battle against sin, and even the Apostle Paul felt the burden of this conflict in Romans 7:14-25.
How can we win this battle? The regeneration of our spirits is a start, but it seems that more is needed for a victorious life. Good news! God has given us more! The “more” is the gift of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, as Paul explains in Romans 8.
When God gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit in Christian baptism, the first result is an instantaneous regeneration of our sin dead souls. But when this happens the Spirit does not simply touch us as if with a magic wand and then depart. He actually moves into our hearts and bodies. The Spirit literally “dwells in you,” as Paul says 3 times in vs. 9-11.
For what purpose do we receive this gift of the indwelling Spirit? For power. What kind of power? For moral power: the power to resist temptation, the power to defeat the devil, the power to obey God’s will and to be faithful even under difficult circumstances. In a way that cannot be explained, the Spirit encourages us and reinforces our own weak wills so that we can put to death the misdeeds of the body- vs. 13. The Spirit gives courage, conviction and determination to our wills.
One reason many Christians struggle with sin and find themselves constantly slipping is that they do not know about this God given power that can help them win this battle. May know that the Spirit dwells within them; but they do not know why, or how to access this power.
The Holy Spirit is our God given power for sanctification, if we will but call upon Him and depend upon Him instead of our own puny willpower.
We mentioned prayer last time in our battle with the flesh. But what specifically should we be praying that the Holy Spirit will help us with?
The sanctified life through the Holy Spirit stars on the inside and then shows Himself on the outside through a Christian lifestyle.
Thesis: Let’s talk about the inward and outward changes brought about by the Holy Spirit.
By conversion to Christ, we have experienced changes in our hearts. 2 more inward changes:
The actual desire to be holy as God is holy.
Before Christ, we sometimes did things that were outwardly good, but not necessarily because we wanted to. We did them because of pressures from others, but we actually wanted do the opposite. Even after coming to Christ, we may still find ourselves wanting to do something we know is wrong, but we “do the right thing” because others expect this of us. Even though we know that certain things we do are sinful, and even though we may in a general sense want to be good, these sins are so attractive to us that we find it difficult to rid ourselves of them. The very meaning of the word for “lust” is “a strong desire.”
What we need to do is to call upon God through the power of His HOly Spirit to strengthen our wills so that we will actually come to hate specific sins and want to be rid of them.
Philippians 2:12: “work out your salvation with fear and trembling”. This seems to be impossible and even a contrary command to grace. Look at the next verse. “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose”. The power for accomplishing this is “God who is at work in you,” which I take to be the indwelling Holy Spirit. The “fear and trembling” are not the fear of terror at the prospect that we might fail, but the fear of awe and reverence that God the Spirit Himself is working within us! The Spirit is within us not only to help us do the things that please God (to work) but also to help us to want to do them (to will).