E100 – January 7, 2018

“Controlled by the Spirit” – Romans 8


The Baptism of our Lord – January 7, 2018


Introduction: What “controls” you?

Who / What “controls” you? Kids / teens say mom & dad control them, make up rules, cramp their style. Some people are “controllers” – they have to get their way, they manipulate others, they will even use passive aggressive behaviour to accomplish what they want. Sometimes there are things that captivate a person, control a person, and that desire for them just never goes away. In this category are things like alcohol, drugs, video games, TV sports, sugar-laced foods, coffee or coke, gambling, cigarettes, pornography. Even the yearning to gossip and spread rumors is strong and dominates the conversation of some people. Some of those things we call addictions. Most of them probably are. I could unpack and emphasize any or all of those addictions, but let me just say something about pornography that I read from an online article by the American Psychological Association. In the olden days, you had to have the courage to publicly buy a magazine and wonder who might see you. Now there is the triple-A effect – the accessibility, affordability and anonymity of the internet puts adult content right at our fingertips. University of Arkansas psychologist, Ana Bridges, says that “When porn use becomes so intense in frequency or duration, it starts to interfere with the other aspects of a person’s life.” It’s not just relationships that are damaged. Psychologists describe anecdotal reports of people losing their jobs because they couldn’t control the urge to visit adult websites at work. We need to be careful and vigilant when it comes to things that control us.

I realize that I have stepped on some toes here today, and some of you are wondering why I’m picking on you, but that’s the prophetic part of my role as a pastor – to point out with God’s law where people, where you, fail to live God-pleasing lives. When things or people control us, that’s not what God wants for our lives.


  1. What God wants – Romans 6

What God wants for our lives was captured in our Epistle reading in Romans 6.

To sin more and more so that God can do what He does best… forgive us, more and more and more – no that’s not what God wants!

He wants us to die to sin, to no longer be slaves to sin, to not be addicted to sin – any of those things that potentially control us and ruin our relationships, our work and our very lives.

He wants us to be connected to Jesus’ death and resurrection by Holy Baptism. You see, water kills, but it also makes alive. God wants our old sinful self to be drowned daily with all its evil desires, and He wants a new person to rise daily to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

He wants us to be dead to sin, but alive in Christ.


  1. Controlled by the Spirit

Romans 8 reveals a different alternative when it comes to control of our lives. It’s not about people or addictions. It talks about the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ controlling our lives. In the first 7 chapters of Romans, Paul talks a lot about God’s judgment and the law, sometimes pointing out specific sins that control people, but not backing down from the seriousness of our sins with statements like: “there is no one righteous, not even one,” and “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and “the wages of sin is death.” That’s serious business. Unless we can find an escape from our sin, we will pay for it with our very lives. In chapter 7, Paul makes it personal, seeming to despair of his own situation, and writing: “what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing… it is the sin living in me that does it.”


With those words, Paul concedes there that even in him, arguably the greatest Christian missionary in history, sin is a controller. But he starts chapter 8 with a new reality: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” No condemnation, no guilt, no shame, no punishment – for those who are in Christ Jesus, for those who are baptized into Christ Jesus, for those who are led and controlled by the Spirit of Jesus.


Sometimes we think that way, don’t we? We think that when something bad happens to us, we have done something specific in the past to deserve it. If you’ve seen me limping a bit in the past few months, it’s because I hurt my knee in September and then again this past week. Is God punishing me because of a certain sin? I might deserve a sore knee or worse because I am a sinner, but to say that God afflicts me with this sore knee because of something I have done is unbiblical. God has punished Jesus for all my sins… ALL my sins!! Isaiah 53 makes that clear: Jesus took my infirmities, sorrows, transgressions and iniquities. “The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” And Romans 8 wraps it up – “There is NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus.” No condemnation, no guilt, no shame, no punishment – for those who are in Christ Jesus, for those who are connected to Christ Jesus in a relationship of faith. God doesn’t punish you or me for our sins.


The Spirit of God frees us from the law of sin and death. The Spirit frees us from the control of people and things that would lead us away from God and His grace in Christ. The Spirit leads us to a life controlled by our creator.


Paul points out very clearly the contrast. “Those who live according to the sinful nature – that is, controlled by things of this world – have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” On the one hand a sinful nature mindset, on the other hand a Holy Spirit mindset. Paul adds, “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” He concludes this paragraph about the contrast between the sinful nature and the Spirit by saying that “those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” CANNOT PLEASE GOD! The writer of Hebrews says virtually the same thing: “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”


But then Paul emphasizes that new reality for us again by saying, “You, however, are controlled by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.” In other words, if you are a God-person, if you are a person of faith in Jesus, if your life is oriented toward God, then you have a different controller – not alcohol or gossip or video games or pornography – but the very Spirit of God. And that changes everything. Paul spends the rest of Romans 8 describing the changed lives of those people who are controlled by the Spirit.


(Oh, and I believe Romans 8 is one of the top 5 chapters of the Bible. It’s full of good stuff!!)

  1. Spirit-controlled lives

a. Headed for resurrection

If your life is controlled by the Spirit of God, one of the side effects is that you are headed for resurrection from the dead. In verse 10, Paul says “If Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.” A dead body, but a living spirit. But He goes on in verse 11 to say that even our bodies will come back to life. “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you.” We confess that belief regularly when we speak the words of the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” If you want to read more about that, you can read 1 Corinthians 15 – the resurrection chapter – another one of the top 5 chapters of the Bible!


b. God’s children / heirs

The next thing that Paul assures us of is that we are God’s children, God’s heirs. In verse 14, he says, “Those who are led by (controlled by) the Spirit of God are sons (and daughters) of God.” He goes on to add, “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.”

Many of our small groups have just finished studying the book Loved and Sent. The word “loved” was about our identity; the word “sent” was about our purpose. The word “heirs” is also about our identity. It’s a wonderful word that indicates a relationship with the Almighty Creator. Because we are God’s children by faith in Jesus Christ, we also stand to inherit all of the good things that God has for us – not because of something that we have done, but simply because of our relationship with God, and because of His goodness and grace. When my paternal grandfather died, I inherited a small amount of money that helped us on the way to being home-owners. When my maternal great grandmother died, I inherited this teddy bear made from her seal-skin fur coat. I didn’t earn those inheritances. I didn’t even know I would be getting them. They were given to me – GIVEN – simply because I was a beloved member of the family.

God has wondrous things to give us – things that we don’t even know about – when we are beloved members of His family.


c. Sufferings don’t destroy or discourage us

The third blessing of a Spirit-controlled life is that sufferings of this life don’t destroy or discourage us. I don’t know what sufferings you have experienced in the past year or so, or what you are going through now. Maybe it has been the death of a loved one. Maybe it was loneliness over the Christmas season just passed. Maybe it is reduced health, or financial hardship, or strained relationships, or being significantly challenged by one of those controlling addictions.

When Paul wrote about present sufferings, he wasn’t writing specifically about those kinds of things. He was writing to Christians in Rome who were being threatened with being thrown to the lions because of their faith in Jesus. Later in the chapter he gives an indication of what he was thinking about: trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword. (So, he doesn’t include lions!) But Paul says that even those sufferings and threats “are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” The glory – God’s radiant presence awaiting believers in heaven when this life is over. You see the graphic on this verse… suffering < glory. The glory is greater. That’s why sufferings don’t destroy us. There is something better.

Paul goes on to say that we have hope, hope in something that we don’t know or experience or even see in this life. Because that’s what hope is… an expectation of something that you don’t already have, but something that you fervently desire and wait for patiently. Suffering can’t destroy hope.

Paul concludes this little section by assuring us that the Holy Spirit also intercedes for us in our times of suffering and weakness, when we don’t even know what to pray for. Hope sustains us in suffering, and the Holy Spirit helps us in prayer. Sometimes the circumstances of our lives or our mental horizons limit our prayer life, but the Spirit knows what we need even before we ask.


d. God works all things (even bad things) for good

Verse 28 is a precious truth that deserves memorization. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Notice that it says “in all things” – in ALL things!! It’s easy to see God working for our good when life is sailing along. But we don’t always see God’s hand in those times of suffering.

Charles Spurgeon, the great English preacher, was once riding in the country. His eye noticed a weather vane on a farmer’s barn. On the arrow of the weather vane were inscribed the three words: “God is love.”

Alighting from his coach and walking up to the farmer, Spurgeon asked, “What do you mean by that? Do you mean that God’s love changes with the wind?”

“Oh, no!” said the farmer, “I mean that whichever way the wind is blowing, God still is love.”

The farmer understood the truth of Romans 8:28 – in ALL things, God is love, in ALL things God works for our good. We may not understand it at the time, we may not see it right away, but in God’s eternal wisdom, God’s works good for those who love Him.


e. God is for us

Another precious gem is found in v. 31 – “If God is for us, who can be against us?” An equally valid translation from the Greek is, “SINCE God is for us, who can be against us?” It’s really more of a statement than a question. Paul is saying, “God is for us!!” That means that whoever is against us, whatever is against us is irrelevant. It’s kind of like that saying, “One plus God equals a majority.” Yes, it doesn’t matter who is against us, because God is all powerful, and is on our side. Paul fleshes that out by explaining how we know that God is for us – He didn’t spare His own son, but gave Him up for us and sacrificed Him for our sake! God also justifies us / forgives us for His sake. Then he says – again, as he did in verse 1 – that there is no one to condemn us. If God justifies us, then condemnation from any other source is of no consequence. God’s statement on our spiritual standing is the last word. God is for us!


f. We are super-victors! God’s love is relentless, never-failing!

Paul concludes this amazing chapter with a declaration of God’s relentless, never-failing love for us. He starts by saying that in all of the struggles and hardships and sufferings of life we are “more than conquerors.” “More than conquerors” is the English translation of one Greek word, hyper-nike, which we could translate as super-victors. When we are controlled by the Spirit, when we are connected with Jesus, we are super-victors – because Jesus is a super-victor over sin and death and the devil. Then… well, let’s just give Paul the last word: “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (PAUSE) Let’s pray…

Post a comment