Sunday, February 24, 2019

190224 The Father God

Romans 8:12--17 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
In the past two weeks, we have looked at the central passage in Paul’s letter to the Romans. We have seen something about our relationship to the indwelling Christ. We have looked at our relationship to the indwelling Spirit. Now we come to consider our relationship to the first person of the Trinity, the Father God. For the person who has received Christ Jesus as Lord has been set free in the Son of God by the law of the Spirit of life. In this passage, we see that we are able to call God “Abba, Father ”! How do we arrive at that blessed place? We are adopted by God the Father into his family. The idea of being adopted into God’s family is the opposite of being born into a human family. Adoption follows conversion and is God’s response to our faith. The Holy Spirit, who is also the Spirit of the Son, allows us the privilege of calling God our “Daddy”. The work of the Holy Spirit gives us assurance of our adoption. After we have become children of God we receive adoption into the family of God as the result of saving faith.
In order to better understand this let’s look at a couple of verses that make it clear that adoption follows conversion and is God’s response to our faith. First…
In the beginning of John’s Gospel. Let’s look at John 1:11-13. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
In regeneration we are made spiritually alive. As a result, we are able to come to God in prayer and worship. We are able to hear his word with receptive hearts. Believers in the name of Jesus have received him and are given the right of adoption allowing us to become children of God.
We need to recognize that God did not have to adopt us into his family. He has other creatures who are spiritually alive and do not have the privileges of family members. Angels, for example, would fall into that category! The writer of Hebrews makes it very clear that angels are a different category of creation. The angels are ministering spirits who are sent to serve mankind. Our Father put humans in charge of the creation, not angels (Hebrews 2:1). Paul, writing to the Corinthians, tells us that we are to judge the angels.
God is our Creator, our Judge, our Lord, our Teacher, our Provider, our Protector, and our Sustainer. Yet the closest relationship that we can have with God is his role as our heavenly Father. Relating to us as a Father shows very clearly that he loves us and that he understands us. He takes care of our needs and gives us many good gifts. The greatest gift is Himself in the person of the Son and the Holy Spirit. Without that gift we would not have salvation. What about…
Those who do not believe. Let’s look at Ephesians 2:1-3. And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Before a person comes to faith in the Lord Jesus — and there is no other way of salvation — we are spiritually dead. Unbelievers are totally unable to do spiritual good. That is a hard concept to wrap our minds around. There is no doubt that Scripture teaches us that everyone is in spiritual bondage at birth and we remain in that condition until we come to faith in Christ.
Humanly speaking unbelievers are able to do many things that are good but we must remember that “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Isaiah 64:6). Unbelievers are not even able to understand the things of God correctly. The Bible tells us that the “natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). We cannot even come to God on our own power. That statement flies in the face of much that passes as evangelism today. To say to a person “read these four scriptures and pray this prayer and you will be saved” goes against the very words of Jesus. Jesus says, “no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). If we have a total inability to do any spiritual good in God’s sight doesn’t that mean that we have no freedom of choice with regard to salvation? Those who are outside of Christ make many voluntary choices. They decide what they want to do and they do it. There is a kind of freedom in those choices. However, since we are born in fundamental rebellion against God, as well as a fundamental preference for sin, unbelievers do not have the most important freedom! They do not have the freedom to do right spiritually nor the ability to be pleasing to God. If God gives anyone the desire to repent he or she should not delay and face the possibility of hardening their own heart. The ability to repent and the desire to trust in God is not naturally ours but is given by the Holy Spirit. If you sense God calling you to repentance please respond quickly. The writer of Hebrews tells us “Today, when you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 3:15). We are born separated from God and we are unable to save ourselves.
The Bible teaches us that…
We are children of God through faith. Let’s look at Galatians 3:25-27.  But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Before Jesus came into the world the consciousness of God as Father was quite limited. The privileges of membership in God’s family did not come until Christ came and the Spirit of the Son of God was poured into human hearts. As children of God through faith, we have the privilege of calling God “Abba! Father! ”…
And relationships have changed. Let’s look at 1 John 3:1-3. See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
In fact, all relationships change to some degree. With salvation, we enter into a deep, deep, love of God that goes beyond anything we can know as a human without him. The gift of faith allows us to be called the children of God! John, in his gospel, talked about those to whom Christ gave the power to become children of God! Remember they “were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13). We cannot save ourselves nor can any other person grant us salvation. This is only the work of God and it brings us into new relationships all around. As God’s children, we are brothers and sisters in Christ. The Christian faith is unique! No other religion (and I don’t mind calling it a religion) is treated as harshly as Christianity. The world does not know or understand why we are like we are. We not only have a new Father and an untold number of brothers and sisters…
We have a new older brother. Let’s look at Hebrews 2:10-13. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.
11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, 12 saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
13 And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.”
There was eternally a Father-Son relationship! The role of the Father in creation and redemption has been to plan and direct the Son to implement our salvation. It is the role of the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, to complete the work of salvation by convicting of sin and testifying about Jesus.  Throughout eternity the Father has been the Father, the Son has been the Son, and the Holy Spirit has been the Holy Spirit.
The writer of Hebrews takes us to Psalm 22:22 and shows us that the passage belongs to Jesus. “I will tell of your name to my brothers” since Jesus and the children of God all came from the Father Jesus was not ashamed to call us “brothers”! We are told “he had to be made like his brothers in every respect” in order to bring about salvation (Hebrews 2:17). Being like us Jesus was tempted in all ways like us.
In the Roman world and throughout most of the history of the human race the oldest son is viewed as the head of the household when his father dies. As such he is superior to the rest of the family. That imagery certainly works in the relationship of Jesus to his family. He has become our older brother and we are subject to him, even to the point of kneeling before him, praising him and obeying him. Since we have come into this new family…
We have family responsibilities. Let’s look back to Hebrews 12:7. It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?
Discipline implies responsibility. As children of God, we have the responsibility of growing to be like him. Jesus spoke of our proving our relationship to him.
It is a great privilege to receive discipline from God. The Lord disciplines who he loves. He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. Proper discipline has always been the foundation of an orderly life. In Proverbs we find “whoever spares the rod hates his son (Proverbs 13:24). And, the rod and reprieve give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother” (Proverbs 29:15).
As a result of our new relationship…
We have a new way of living. Let’s look at 1 Peter 2:11-12. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
We have the responsibility of living a life that brings honor to our God and Father. I can remember several times when my mother told me “The Bray family doesn’t live that way!” She wasn’t claiming we were better than anyone else she was just simply saying that we did have standards to live by. The same is certainly true of becoming Christian
There are many benefits, or privileges, that come to us with our adoption into the family of God. One of the greatest privileges is being able to speak to God to relate to him as a good and loving Father. He loves and understands us in ways we cannot really imagine. We have an inheritance in heaven. We have the privilege of being led by the Holy Spirit. We have the privilege of sharing in Jesus’ suffering and glory. Because we have become God’s children we relate to one another as members of a spiritual family. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. As God’s children we are able to imitate our heavenly Father. Have you entered into that faith relationship with God? The Bible tells us that today is the day of salvation.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton, Ill, Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

190217 The Indwelling Spirit

Romans 8:8-11 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
Chapter 8 is the central passage in Paul’s letter to the Romans. It begins with “no condemnation” and ends with “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Without question, this material has had a great impact on my life. In it, we learn that the law of the Spirit of life not only gives life but empowers the believers to do what is right. Even the rules given by God on Mount Sinai and those that followed the 10 Commandments could not enable man to save himself. We see two ways of living, according to the flesh and according to the Spirit.
We need to live out how we are. Let’s look at…
The evidence of the flesh. Found in Galatians 5:19-21. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
This is a very depressing list. As we look over it we see that not much is changed in the last 2000 years. TV, social media, even the day to day news reflects these attitudes and actions.
There was a pastor who had made the choice not to have a television in his home. He had one child, a son, who had never seen television. One day his son came home from school and asked if he could spend the night with one of his classmates. After checking it out the pastor and his wife agreed that their son should go to his friend’s house for an overnight stay. So for the first time, this eight or nine-year-old boy saw television! He didn’t even get to the evening programming! When the news came on he watched in horror. He called home and asked his father to come to get him. He was in tears as he asked his dad why? Why did people do those horrible things? His eyes had been opened and his heart had been broken.
I suppose it was necessary for this young man to be exposed to the evil in the world because it is impossible to avoid it.
The works of the flesh. What do we mean when we use the term “flesh”? We are certainly not talking about our physical body. Instead, we are talking about a spiritual lifestyle.
A good definition is: “Flesh refers to the old ways or patterns by which you have attempted to get all your needs supplied instead of seeking Christ first and trusting Him to meet your needs.”  Gillham, Bill. Lifetime Guarantee.
Let’s look again at the list. Sexual immorality is so built into our society that it hardly seems immoral anymore. Impurity is found in the mind as well as the body. Sensuality refers to feelings and often is the precursor to drug addiction. Then we look at the socially acceptable idolatry that is so common in our society. Sorcery is just laughed at as a parlor game. Enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, all are reflected in our current society. The works of the flesh result in envy drunkenness and orgies. People who are following these things are under a curse and need to be cautioned that what we plant is what we reap.
Paul presents this list and then it is…   
Compared to the Spirit. Let’s read on Galatians 5:22-23. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Just a few verses before this passage Paul tells us that “the whole law is fulfilled in one word: you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:14). So if love fulfills the law the fruit of the Spirit becomes our path to freedom.
I believe we can look at this list and let it instruct us in how to love. The fruit of the Spirit is love! “God’s love means that God eternally gives of himself to others.
This definition understands love as self-giving for the benefit of others. This attribute of God shows that it is part of his nature to give of himself in order to bring about blessing or good for others.
John tells us that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). We see evidence that this attribute of God was active even before creation among the members of the Trinity. Jesus speaks to his Father of “my glory which you have given me in your love for me before the foundation of the world (John 17:24), thus indicating that there was love and a giving of honor from the Father to the Son from all eternity. It continues at the present time, for we read, “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into his hand” (John 3:35). Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology (pp. 198–199)
Growing out of love is joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Love contains the whole of all that God desires for us and requires from us. The leading of the Spirit produces the fruit of the Spirit and that is the fulfillment of the law turning aside or propitiating its curse.
The flesh points to death. Let’s go back to Romans 7:18-20. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
At first glance, we might say that Paul represents all the good in the world. However, his own judgment is “nothing good dwells in me… In my flesh” he tries to do good but finds he does not have the ability. It seems that the evil habits built into his life — flesh — dominates his activities. Indwelling sin that has not been rooted out by the indwelling Spirit is constantly controlling his life. This passage is Paul’s spiritual autobiography. And if we are candidly honest it is ours as well. It’s necessary for the truths taught in Romans chapter seven be presented before the victory in Romans eight. But the reality is Romans seven and eight are side-by-side in our lives. There are days when the flesh seems to dominate our experiences. There are other days when the Spirit dominates and we can almost feel that we have the victory. Day by day we experience frustration.
Thomas a Kempis (1380-1471) wrote of the same frustration: “I desire to enjoy Thee inwardly, but I cannot take Thee. I desire to cleave to heavenly things, but fleshly things and unmortified passions depress me. I will in my mind to be above all things, but in spite of myself I am constrained to be beneath, so I, unhappy man, fight with myself and am made grievous to myself while the spirit seeketh what is beneath. O what I suffer within while as I think on heavenly things in my mind; the company of fleshly things cometh against me when I pray.” (Taken from The Imitation of Christ).
The flesh leads to death but…
The Spirit is life and peace. Let’s read the words of Jesus found in John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. The Spirit gives us the kind of life that counts. It is the kind of life that transforms us into new creatures in Christ Jesus. Not only does the Spirit transform us the Spirit transforms the world we live in.
When evangelist D. L. Moody described his conversion experience, he said: “I was in a new world. The next morning the sun shone brighter and the birds sang sweeter … the old elms waved their branches for joy, and all nature was at peace.”
The flesh with its constant attempts to give us a contented life without Christ is really no help at all. The flesh becomes our attempt to have our needs met without our Lord in charge of our life. Please, read and reread the Gospels as found in the New Testament. Jesus spoke words that are spirit and life and the Gospel writers — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — recorded them for us. What a glorious privilege we have to open the word of God and have the Spirit of God — who is the author of the Bible — interpret it for us. The Spirit gives us life eternal because…
The Spirit brings the believer into Christ. Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 12:12-13. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
We are not born again in a new way of living alone. Instead, we are part of the body of Christ. He is the head of the body and the body represents all men and women everywhere who have come to faith in him. We are joined together to share our joys and our suffering.
John Fawcett wrote the words that we often sing after we partake in communion. Blest be the tie that binds Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds  Is like to that above.
In the third verse, we find these words: We share our mutual woes,
Our mutual burdens bear; And often for each other flows The sympathizing tear
In one Spirit we all are baptized into one body. Not into lonely isolation but into a fellowship of loving Christian family.
The Spirit points us to life, gives us peace, brings us to Jesus who is our Lord and Savior. Not only are we brought to Jesus we are incorporated into his spiritual body that has existed through the ages and we will be eternally united with each other. Each believer fits into a special place in the life of Christ. And we are brought there by the Holy Spirit. Not only are we given life by the Spirit but also…
The Spirit guards us. Let’s look at 2 Timothy 1:13-14. Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14 By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.
Paul is talking to his son in the faith. Timothy was a believer when Paul met him but Paul took him under his wing and helped him to mature in Christ. So Paul is encouraging Timothy to remember the sound words that he taught him.
Paul goes on in the letter to Timothy encouraging him to take the good deposit — which is teaching and training — and give other men the same words who would then be able to teach others one Christian generation after the other. How do we know that what we teach, indeed what we have been taught, is right? We rely on the Holy Spirit that Jesus gave to the church as an interpreter and guide. The Spirit guards us day after day after day! And as a part of the guarding that we receive…
The Spirit guides us. Let’s look at the words of Jesus found in John 16:13-15. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
The Spirit has always been present. In the beginning of the creation, the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. The selfsame Spirit throughout history has guided and guarded his people into the truth. Throughout the Old Testament, the Spirit moved upon godly men giving them God’s word for themselves and for the future. In our age, the Spirit who was present with Christ in his baptism came on the day of Pentecost in power and gives guidance to God’s people. Guidance is given by taking the truth and interpreting it for each generation. We do not have to depend on men unless we are guided to them by the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit has guided the church through the minefields of false teaching and false practice. Jesus told us that the purpose of the Spirit is to glorify Jesus. He takes Jesus’ gifts and gives them to us. He takes the gifts of the Father and makes them ours. So that everything we need is given to us.
The Spirit is life and peace! The Spirit brings the believer into Christ! The Spirit guards us! The Spirit guides us! When we say that we are in Christ we are asserting that in him we live and move and have our being. Think about these things! They are the gift of the eternal God!
The indwelling Spirit was promised by the Lord Jesus while he was on earth. Jesus identified him as “another Helper” who will be with us forever (John 14:16). And in the same passage he goes on to say “I will not leave you” (John 14:18). Indicating that when one is in Christ Jesus he or she is clearly in the Holy Spirit. When people become Christians the Holy Spirit begins a process of cleansing us and equipping us. Jesus promised that when the Spirit comes he will convict the world concerning sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8). This convicting work enables us to make a decisive break with the pattern of sin that dominated our lives. The Spirit gives growth in grace and knowledge. If you will place your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ the Spirit of God will do his work freeing you of the past habits and giving you a new way of living.

All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton, Ill, Standard Bible Society.