[Humpday is here! For those following along at home, please keep everyone here in your prayers – for energy as we continue to engage with the talks and material, and for God’s Spirit to be at work as we open His word!]
Morning Talk | Living in the Spirit | Romans 8:1-17 | Tony Rowbotham
In Romans 8 there are 22 references to the Spirit. In the great epistle outlining the gospel there are +30 references to the Spirit – so in this chapter alone are 2/3 of all the references to the Spirit.
But before we get into the chapter we need to consider the hard subject of sin.
Sin (through the lens of addiction)
Tony is big on songs regarding addiction. He grew up in a small town where everyone knows about everyone – nothing is hidden in small towns. And there’s a small part of Tony that appreciates that he is only ever one decision away from ruining his life – one decision from unravelling everything he values in life.
One of the songs he loves is Johnny Cash’s ‘Hurt’. Some lyrics:
“I hurt myself today, to see if I still feel.
Chorus: “what have I become, my sweetest friend”
End: “if I could find a way, a million miles away, I would keep myself, I would find a way”
There is a big sense of regret and sadness, and a reality that you’re caught up in a bigger issue than yourself and hurting yourself and being unable to escape – but at the end of the song he reflects that he cannot escape.
Greenday – 21 Guns
“When your mind breaks the spirit of your soul
Something inside this heart has died, you’re in ruins…”
Another great song about addiction – your mind wants something, and it will break you in the process of achieving it. In addiction, you become the agent of your own demise. This song expresses that feeling of being trapped by addiction.
Addiction is a helpful lens to understand sin. It is oppressive – and if we could choose another way we would.
Another example – in Australia gambling is a massive problem. Porn, drugs, alcohol, nicotine, sex, games, work, phones, acceptance, FOMO, fashion, looking good/slim – you can be addicted to anything. They can often be good things, but they turn on us and trap us. Though we seek to be released we just cannot. The power of sin is like the power of addiction – and as Christians, we wish we could stop, be changed, yet our experience teaches us that we are not in control, we are not masters, we are enslaved.
But… in Romans 8 we will see something powerfully different.
1. Sin rules us with an overwhelming mastery (Romans 5-7)
Sin entered the world through Adam, it entered through him and through him into the world comes death. Sin is an all-encompassing master – no one can escape his influence, for all will die.
5:20 – the Law was brought into the world to increase trespass – Law was brought in not to restrain sin, but to make it more apparent.
Sin rules and reigns – and we are condemned by it.
7:21-24 – Sin undoes my good, even when I want to do what is right I’m a prisoner to it. It undermines even my best intentions. I’m a wretched man because of sin and the Law.
We are like people on the verge of drowning at the beach – we’re in our final throes before we drown, we’re needing to be saved.
2. ‘set free’ by Christ (Romans 6:6-7, 7:6-7)
Yet in our helplessness we have been given a connection that changes everything.
6:5-7 – here is this big truth that the Holy Spirit has made real for us – that we have been set free from sin because, by faith, we are united with him. We’re not set free from sinning, but we are set free from the consequences of sinning. We are no longer slaves to sin. The very things that Jesus has gone through we too have gone through.
Jesus died, and we have died with him. He was buried, and has been raised – and we too have been raised, and in such a way that we have been set free from slavery to sin through our connection with Christ.
7:4-6 – we’ve been set free from sin and the Law to belong to Christ. Many Christians continue to be under law – trying to keep parts of it – but if you return to the law you diminish what Jesus achieved on the cross.
3. ‘now no condemnation’ (Romans 8:1-2)
Notice the ‘now’ – which is present. It’s not a future, and it’s not provisional. If you are in Christ you are no longer condemned by sin or the Law. If you were a slave to sin you would be condemned.
4. Realm: flesh OR spirit, NOT flesh AND spirit (Romans 8:5-8)
8:8 when your mind is governed by the flesh, your sinful nature, you cannot please God. So in 8:9 Paul writes that you’re either in the flesh or in the Spirit – in one realm or in the other. We’re not conflicted, jumping between the two (that’s not what Paul says) – Paul is unequivocal: are are ruled and are in the realm of the Spirit – so when we sin we sin in the realm of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not a plugin while we live in our sinful flesh.
5. ‘you, however….’ (Romans 8:9-11)
Jesus gives us his Holy Spirit, which transfers us from kingdom to another (to use his words from Colossians) – in the language of Romans 8 we’re not in the realm of the flesh but in the realm of the Spirit.
So who are we listening to? Do we listen to the voice of our flesh – which tells us that sin is winning and we deserve to be condemned? This voice is speaking a half-truth. We do deserve to be condemned. But in Christ that condemnation is gone. Though you sin as a believer the Spirit will give life.
This tension is there in 8:10 – though your body is subject to death because of sin the Spirit gives life. When you sin as a Christian you are not being controlled by the flesh. Even when you want to sin you are not being controlled by the flesh – because the flesh will not have the final say, it will not condemn you – because Christ has died for us and we have been given His Spirit. And the Spirit speaks a word to us that takes us back to Christ.
The Spirit helps us to go back to Jesus when we sin – but he’s not just simply an addition to our lives. He changes the realm that we live in.
So when we sin we sin no longer as slaves to sin. A slave to sin has no say in their eternal destination. We’re not headed to death and judgement because the Spirit of God takes us back to the cross of Christ where we died and to the resurrection of Christ where we have been raised as well.
We do not deserve this. No, not at all.
Isn’t that incredible?
6. ‘we have an obligation’ (Romans 8:12-13)
If you have been taken from deserving the judgement and condemnation of God to now no longer being condemned – you are going to be so thankful! You’ll rejoice, be happy, and want to repay that in some way? Not repay in the same way as ‘must’ – but out of delightful joy.
So our obligation now is to live for the Spirit – and put to death the misdeeds of the body (we’ll pick up on that tomorrow morning).
Another obligation is to preserve this understanding of teaching and living in the realm of the Spirit. If we preserve this we will not lose the grace of God, and we will not slip back into the Law.
This is not easy – the early church in the New Testament shows us how much the church struggled to keep trusting and teaching and preserving this truth. Preserving grace for the NT church was not easy for them to do and it will not be easy for us to do. Our tendency will always to be to go back to the Law.
And we will find it really hard for ourselves – because we listen to our own experience more than the Word of God, and we will forget so easily and quickly what Jesus achieved on the cross for us and the victory of his resurrection.
How do you handle the dilemma of sinning and wishing you didn’t, desiring it on one hand and hating it on the other? Our confidence in this dilemma has to be in Jesus – the confidence that we will live because of Jesus. The realm of the Spirit is a realm which always draws us to Jesus – where he reigns, where sin and death and law do not have the final word over your life.
Are you harder on yourself than Jesus is when you sin? Probably most of us are.
Remember: Jesus has taken us and transferred us into his Kingdom, and given us his Spirit to help us and transform us even in the midst of the messiness of sin and life. The realm of flesh no longer masters us. We might feel the frustration of sin, but we have a new master, we live under a new reign – that master is Jesus and he rules us by His Spirit within us.
And what he will do with us by His Spirit will be amazing.
[Wow. Just wow. Tony has lovingly smashed us again and again with these gospel truths about our new identity in Jesus. How I pray we would never forget these wondrous truths!]
Evening Talk | John 15:18-16:33 | Jesus, Persecution and the Power to Persevere | Paul Grimmond
1. What is your most treasured possession?
The problem in working out what our treasured possession is – we have so much in our lives that is replaceable. A phone? No. Photos? Now on the cloud. Lots of the stuff we have is not really stuff we treasure now. Why is this? Because we have so much of what we need in our lives so that we can go from one thing to the next. We live in a world of constant distraction – we have so much of what we require that we get bored with life. There’s not much we have in life that gets us new excited.
Paul’s prayer for us – that we would learn to treasure the word of God this evening.
This is the longest section we’re going to deal with this week – and we’re going to have to hold this all together. Like last night the themes in this passage interweave each other – but there’s a new set of themes.
2. Obvious themes misapplied
i. If you belong to me, the world will hate you
15:18-21; 16:2-4, 20 – there’s a big picture of persecution and the world hating, seriously hating, Christ followers.
ii. But I will empower you to witness
15:26-27 – the Spirit will come from the Father and his job will be to testify to the nature and character of Jesus – and he will be at work in his people to witness about Jesus as well.
16:7-11 – a picture of the Spirit coming to convict the world of how it is doing wrong, but then after this the focus flips.
16:12-15 – the Spirit will come to convict (passages before) but he will also come to witness to Jesus and help you remember all that Jesus has said.
Pattern we see – suffering, witness, suffering, witness. At the end of chapter 16 it will close with joy – but the main theme is suffering and empowered witness.
iii. However, it’s not all about you!
Something that happens to Christians is that we’re challenged to think and read through the Bible as a book written for us – and that is right on some level. But the problem is that not all of the Bible has been directly written to you. All of the Bible has been written for you, but not all of it has been written to you.
15:22, 24 – who is spoken about here? Is this about the non-Christians in our world? Has Jesus spoken to everyone in our world? No – probably a reference to those who had seen Jesus in the flesh (the Jews of his time).
15:27 – that is also not us – because we have not been with Jesus from the beginning.
16:2 – how many of us have been kicked out of synagogues? None of us.
16:12-13 – how many of us cannot bear the truth now so that we’ll need the Spirit later to know the truth?
See how the whole of this section of the gospels is Jesus words to the disciples about what is just about to happen and take place as Jesus is going to the cross. The Bible is written for us but not necessarily always to us.
So how is this passage written for us as believers 2000 years after all of these events have taken place?
3. The presence of the Spirit in the age of persecution
i. The disciples are witnesses
One of the disciples jobs at this point as to directly witness to Jesus. They were the ones who experienced the ministry of Jesus – and have been with Jesus – and that is what qualifies them to make them witnesses. This is incredibly significant for your faith. How do you know the Jesus you believe in? Have we seen him with our eyes? Have we spoken to him? We know Jesus because his witnesses recorded it down in the scriptures for us.
So how reliable are the eye-witnesses?
ii. The Spirit will teach them after Jesus has gone
16:12-15 – Jesus tells them that he has lots of things to tell them but they can’t grasp it now – but after he’s gone the Spirit will help them understand these truths – more truths to grasp now. Jesus’ earthly ministry was not the end of his teaching ministry, he had not yet taught all that he had to teach.
What was one of the qualifications for a disciple after Judas had gone? Acts 1:21-22 – someone who was a witness to Jesus from the start, and who saw the resurrection.
4. How is this God’s word for us?
John 2 – Jesus driving out the temple money changers. 2:21 – Jesus speaks of the Temple of his body. Who that day knew that Jesus was speaking about his body? Answer: nobody. Not even the disciples. 2:22 – when Jesus was resurrected and they received the Spirit they remembered what he had taught, they had seen the events of Jesus life, and they understood what he was saying.
Jesus’ promise in John 15-16 to give his disciples the Spirit is a wonderful promise to ensure that His word is fully and finally given to us!
Friends – do you see that what these verse in John are is not a promise to you that the Spirit will come to you and guide you – but are a promise to the disciples that they will be led into all truth for our benefit? This means that every single word in your New Testaments is Jesus’ word to you.
All of God’s truth is Jesus’ truth – and the Spirit will take this and make it known to his Disicples… making it known to us.
So where do we sit in this text? We’re not Jesus, and we’re not one of the disciples, but we are those who will believe because of their testimony.
Acts 14:22 – Jesus’ teaching of being hated by the world is repeated by Paul to all Christians.
1 Thess 3:2-4 – same thing that Paul writes – repeating what Jesus has said in the gospels about being hated.
2 Tim 3:12 – same thing again.
Question: Are you like me? Grimmo has a thing that if he’s nice enough everyone will like me. [That is definitely me. – Steven] Who was the nicest and most gracious, most godly, most wisest person in all of history? Jesus. What did they do to him? They nailed him to the cross because people hate righteousness. The world hates goodness. So if you want to live the way Jesus lived people will hate you – they don’t like it when you tell the truth. They don’t like it when you stand for biblical truth: sexual immorality is bad for us; refusal to gossip; they stop speaking when you enter the lunch room. That’s a badge of honour – you are enough like Jesus that they are embarrased by the way they live.
Being like Jesus, owning what he had to say, will cause the world to hate you.
Caveat – don’t be hated for being a sinful idiot. But if you want to live for Jesus they won’t love you.
So how much do you treasure your Bible? In countries where persecution is extensive and hard – it’s amazing to hear how believers go to great lengths to obtain a Bible. Do we realise what we have in our Bibles? What do we do with this truth?
Grimmo shares about his dating a woman in Uni (who would later become his wife). He was in Sydney, she was in Lismore (Northen NSW). Phone calls were expensive. So they had to write letters to each other. And every time he saw an envelope it was his delight to read it. He would read it and re-read them because he so delighted in her – he wanted to know her and hear from her and treasure her words.
Surely we should do more than that with the Spirit inspired words of Jesus.
What is the work of God’s Spirit in this world? The greatest treasure of the Spirit’s work is the Word which has been given to us.
The world might hate us, but that’s ok. Because Jesus is going to come back and make it all worth it.
[I am absolutely stunned, floored, and in awe. Holy Spirit – thank you for preserving your beautiful Word for us!]