Sermon for Sunday, July 19th, 2020, the Sixth Sunday after Trinity
The Lessons: Psalm 139:1-11, 23-24; Genesis 28:10-19; Romans 8:12-25
The Text: Romans 8:12-25
The Topic: The necessity of being led by the Spirit
In her Dear Abby newspaper column, Abigail Van Buren shares a letter from R.T. Holland of Los Angeles who tells of an article from the medical section of Time Magazine. The magazine cited a man who went to a psychiatrist complaining that he was always hearing radio broadcasts. Thinking to humor him, the psychiatrist asked what he was hearing right then. The man replied that he was hearing Rudy Vallee broadcasting from the Steel Pier in Atlantic City.
After much questioning, he discovered that the man worked in a glass bottle factory and had gotten some silica crystals in dental cavities. The combination of the silica, saliva and some bridgework in his mouth had literally transformed him into a walking crystal radio receiver!
The psychiatrist referred the patient to a dentist who gave his teeth a thorough cleaning, filled the cavities and redid the bridgework. As a result, the patient “went off the air,” and was able to concentrate, and lived happily ever after.
Those who are filled with the Spirit are, in a sense, “tuned into a heavenly frequency” and carry songs around with them wherever they go, “speaking in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in their hearts to the Lord.”
– pp. 439-440, Robert J. Morgan: Preacher’s Sourcebook of Creative Sermon Illustrations. Dallas, TX: Thomas Nelson, 2007
It is necessary for every Christian to be led by the Holy Spirit.
ROMANS 8:12-17: THE HOLY SPIRIT MUST DIRECT OUR LIVES
Our Second Lesson today begins by pointing out that Christians do not owe anything to what is called “the flesh”, or the worldly, carnal nature of human beings. We are not compelled to live according to its principles (Romans 8:12). Why is this so? Earlier in his Epistle to the Romans, St. Paul emphasizes that by virtue of our Baptism, we can no longer live in sin, because in Christ we died to it (Romans 6:2). Instead, we must yield ourselves completely to God as those who have been raised from the dead (Romans 6:13b, KJV). Though Christians have the freedom to choose to live worldly lives, or “live after the flesh” (Romans 8:13a), they will die spiritually if they live like that. Instead of living by the same principles as those live who do not live the Christian way of life, we are called to put to death the deeds of the carnal nature with the help of the Holy Spirit, and doing so brings life to us. We must be aware, then, that there is a continual spiritual struggle in each of us, a battle between good and evil, a battle St. Paul describes clearly in Romans 7. One great purpose for which the Holy Spirit is given to each of us is to help us mortify in ourselves every sin, and everything that stands in opposition to God’s will. In every matter of life, in every decision, we must be led by the Holy Spirit, and this will be sure proof that we are God’s children (Romans 8:14).
ADOPTION AS GOD’S CHILDREN
The Holy Spirit, St. Paul proceeds to explain, is not a spirit of bondage or slavery, but the Spirit of adoption, who assures Christians that they are indeed God’s adopted children, and it is by means of the Holy Spirit that we can even call upon God, and cry, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15). Now the word “adoption” translates a Greek word meaning “sonship” or “acknowledgement as God’s son”. A slave in ancient times was in bondage and afflicted by fear, depending on the severity of his master, but the son in a household had the right of inheriting his father’s property and all the responsibilities that came with it. Now the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16-17), and what we are to inherit with Christ is God’s eternal kingdom. This same Spirit of God leads us to experience sufferings with Christ, in whatever way God calls us, so that we may be conformed to him and may share in his everlasting glory. These sufferings that we share with Christ come to us as we suffer opposition from others and resistance on account of our faith in the Lord Jesus, even misunderstanding when others who know us fail to understand the way in which the Holy Spirit is directing us.
THE BALANCE BETWEEN PRESENT SUFFERINGS FOR CHRIST AND FUTURE GLORY
The motto of the high school I attended in South Africa was nec aspera terrent, which means, “Nor do rough things terrify them.” The school’s official line on this was that education should include sports and outdoor adventures, such as long hikes and camping in the wild. But years afterward, as I was reflecting on the fact that Bishop John Armstrong, the first Bishop of Grahamstown had founded the school, it occurred to me that he may have been speaking of the rough things clergy may face, particularly as he intended the school to produce some students who would offer themselves for the ordained ministry.
Whatever sufferings and trials we face in this present age, St. Paul concludes, are not worth comparing to the glory of God that shall be revealed in us who believe (Romans 8:18). The whole of creation is in pain and travail until now, and is waiting to give birth to a new heavens and a new earth, a new world of God’s creating, and, as St. Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 15, the mortal will be changed into the immortal and the spiritual body of the believer will be raised up in place of the physical body which has died.
The constraints of our time, and the physical limitations put in place by our authorities in this pandemic are all signs of a world subject to mortality and of an age which must give way to something entirely new, in which there is true spiritual liberty. Now in this time, we must continue to believe that we are saved by hope, which cannot be hope if we fully see and understand what we are hoping for, but by hoping for what we do not yet see, we wait for it patiently (Romans 8:25). Then we become like the prophet Elijah, who, after prophesying to King Ahab (1 Kings 18:41) that there would be abundant rain after a long drought of three and a half years (James 5:17), prayed for the rain and sent his servant seven times to see if there was even a cloud in the sky, and only the seventh time, the servant saw a little cloud arise from the sea (1 Kings 18:44). And soon after that the rain fell. Elijah believed God’s word and prophesied it before he actually saw the rain fall.
What about you? Will you stand firm on the promises and the hope of God’s kingdom, believing that its glory far outweighs the current distress on earth? Are you saved by this hope?