JULY 8th, 2018 PASTOR DON PIEPER
In Paul's Footprints ROMANS 1:1-16; 8:1-16
“WALKING IN THE SPIRIT!”
So what kind of letter is this, this letter to the Romans? I mean, it's like no other letter Paul, or any of the other apostles, ever wrote. It reads more like a theological essay then a personal letter.
In a way, it's kinda like the mysterious letter Hobbes received one time...
Calvin: Hey, Hobbes, you got a letter.
Hobbes: A letter? For me? Wow, I never get letters! What fun! A letter for me! I wonder who
sent it? I wonder what it says? What could this possibly be?
Calvin: OPEN IT AND FIND OUT, YOU LUNATIC!
Hobbes: Don't get huffy. I want to savor this...
Calvin: Well? Well? What'd you get?
Hobbes: It looks like an invitation.
Calvin: So what does the invitation say, you dumb hairball?
Hobbes: Call me names, will you? I'll read it when I'm good and ready.
Calvin: AARGGHH! Oooohh! Mpf! Ggh! Rrghghmfmpf!
Hobbes: Ok, now I'm ready. ...Ahem.... “Dear................Hobbes...”
Hobbes: Well, well! It's an invitation to Susie Derkins' birthday party. How nice.
We get to go to a birthday party!
Calvin: That stupid Susie.
Hobbes: Maybe we'll play 'Spin the Bottle'!
Calvin: OH, GET REAL! (from The Essential Calvin and Hobbes, p. 202)
Okay, there are some major differences between Hobbes' letter and that of Romans. There's no mystery who Paul's letter is from as Paul identifies himself immediately: “This letter is from Paul.”
His letter is sixteen chapters long as well, unlike a simple birthday invitation and he writes, in part, not to invite them to come to his home but to invite himself to theirs! “I long to visit you so I can bring you some spiritual gift...” (Romans 1:11) On the other hand, there are a couple of similarities.
Paul's letter must've been a wonderful surprise. No other apostle had written them. Like Hobbe's letter, it contains good news – a term that Paul uses repeatedly throughout the letter. And this Good News is also an invitation of sorts to a party – a kingdom of God party! So what else do we know?
Well, we know that all his other letters but one, were written to churches he'd planted, but here, Paul writes to a church he's yet to visit – and he's excited: “When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.” (Romans 1:12)
We also know from references in the Book of Acts, and Paul's other letters, that Romans was written from Corinth around 57 AD towards the end of Paul's third missionary trip. The church was born years earlier when Jews from Rome, present in Jerusalem on Pentecost, returned home: “On the day of Pentecost all the believers present were filled with the Holy Spirit... At that time there were devout Jews from every nation in Jerusalem... (Among them were) visitors from Rome.” (Acts 2:1f.)
In Second Corinthians, Paul pointed to a battle waging within us.... In Romans he revisits that theme: “There is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is within me – that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong!
Oh, what a mess I am! Who'll free me from this life dominated by sin and death? The answer is Jesus Christ our Lord who brings victory by revealing a new way of living by walking in the Spirit (Romans 7:21-25)
So how does this work? What does this new way of living look like? Paul offers four insights:
1) When you open the door of your heart to Jesus the Holy Spirit enters in.
2) His life-giving Spirit sets you free by guiding you into a whole new mindset.
3) Learning to follow the Spirit helps you grow into the very likeness of Jesus himself.
4) The Holy Spirit living within you has life-giving power.
In his letters to Corinth, Paul wrote: “No one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Cor 12:3) Paul echoes that teaching here in Romans 8: “Remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all... The Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you... For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm we are God's children.”
(Romans 8:9, 11, 16)
Paul makes it clear that as we open our hearts to Jesus, His Spirit comes to live within us. This echoes the promise Jesus himself made when he said, “Behold! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in...” (Revelation 3:20)
As the perfect gentleman he is, he doesn't force his way in, he stands at the door of your heart, knocking, waiting for you to open the door. He knocks sometimes by sending people into our lives who give witness to his love and grace. Other times by providing God moments that grab our attention.
Second, the Spirit sets us free by guiding us into a whole new mindset. “No longer follow your sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit. Those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. Letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.” (Rom 8:6)
So how does that work? How do we follow the Spirit? By putting one foot in front of the other!
Step 1: Learn to recognize Jesus' voice. Jesus said: “(I am he) who calls his sheep by name and leads them out. I walk ahead of them and they follow me because they recognize my voice.”
How do we come to recognize his voice? By listening to and studying scripture. As you come to know his heart and the things that're important to him you'll recognize his words to you...
How do we follow the Spirit? Step 1: Learn to recognize Jesus' voice.
Step 2: Learn what pleases the Spirit. Paul wrote: “Those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.” (Romans 8:5) How do you learn to do that? Listen for what he's up to in the places in Scripture that focus on him. Jesus talks about him, Paul talks a lot about him and the book of Acts tells of the Spirit's influence on the early church!
As you read through Acts you'll see that the types of things that are pleasing to the Spirit are when followers of Christ are actively helping, healing, witnessing, glorifying and otherwise loving on others in Jesus' name. As Paul put it: “The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22)
How do we follow the Spirit? Step 1: Learn to recognize Jesus' voice.
Step 2: Learn what pleases the Spirit. And Step 3...? Learn from others.
There are a number of Christ followers here who actively seek to be led by the Spirit who could mentor you. Carol has been mentoring several women; Amber & Olivia just hooked up with Anne Louise; Josh & Ken are mentoring our youth. Another way to be mentored, is by opening yourself to any number of literary mentors...: John Wimber, Catherine Marshall, Nicky Gumbel, Robby Dawkins...
Get mentored! How do we follow the Spirit? Step 1: Learn to recognize Jesus' voice.
Step 2: Learn what pleases the Spirit. Step 3: Learn from others. Step 4: Pray and practice!
It's a process of learning to trust that God wants to directly and personally lead you in order to make your life more meaningful, more significant, as you increasingly look at life and faith as an adventure in discovering what that next thing God has in store for you, from moment to moment...
I sense his leading thru inner nudges. It starts with a willingness to be used or led, with prayer. Scripture is clear - 'God is on the move' – our job is to try and keep up and in step...! It's an adventure!
[DVD clip from the film, The Hobbit; ]
To follow the Spirit's leading, to get in step, means taking the risk of stepping out in faith, leav- behind my comfy Hobbit hole and recliner chair, and that adventures will mean I won't be the same.
A third insight Paul shares in Romans 8: Learning to follow the Spirit helps us grow into the very likeness of Jesus himself.: “All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. Now we call him, 'Abba, Father.' For His Spirit joins with our spirit. We are God's children!”(Rom 8:14-16)
Have you ever noticed how when a baby is born people like to determine which parent the baby most resembles. My brother used to tease me that when I was born people thought I resembled the alien in the TV show, My Favorite Martian. Thanks bro. Funny thing, it seems like even a person's pet comes to resemble their human parent – or is it the other way around?
Anyway, as God's children we ought to resemble him as we grow up, or grow into Him. So it is that Jesus puts his Spirit in us to help us so transform, which happens as hang out with him, give him our ear..., and learn to please His Spirit. As a friend of mine likes to pray, 'Less of me & more of you!'
Fourth: The Holy Spirit living within you has life-giving power. We see this throughout the Bible starting with the opening verse where we're told “The Spirit was hovering...” (Genesis 1:2)
as God created all of life. The same word is used when God breathes life into Adam. And Paul gives witness to the same: “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you!” (Romans 8:11) Trust that...!
That's what makes prayer ministry so exciting. We've seen that time and time again. I recall how our small group gathered around a young woman in the group whose was going thru the emotion-ally exhausting experience of seeking medical help to conceive – for the third time, with no results. We prayed over her week after week, and she soon started getting past the hurdles. She went on to a have a baby boy, followed not long thereafter with conceiving triplets. We may've over done it!
I think I think of my friend David who was all torn up inside over a working relationship gone sour. He was so full of anxiety and anger. So we prayed – and he experienced a life-changing peace! He's now the director of EEMN and believes strongly in the power of prayer. Then there's Josh who was healed of a gall bladder infection at an Alpha retreat and Nicky who was healed here one Sunday morning when we invited the Holy Spirit to stir among us...! God's Spirit has resurrection power!
“All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God!” Paul declares. (Rom 8:14) God wants to lead you by the Spirit as the children of God, as a family, loving on others in the same selfless radical way that God, in Christ, has and is loving on you, that through us, as the Body of Christ, led by His Spirit, we may bring to life, in this place and time, the kingdom of God, as we give up our own agenda to embrace his and as he leads us from the darkness of selfishness into the new life of the Spirit!
“The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you!” (Romans 8:11)
God is on the move and following his lead, walking in His Spirit, is the adventure of a lifetime!