Bibla Devotions

The Holy Spirit in the Letter to the Romans



2008-01-15 – “The Spirit of Holiness”


4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans1:4)

The letter to Romans is Paul’s appeal to the Christians in Rome to support him on his intended mission to Spain. Paul is not introducing himself but his message: The Gospel. From the very first verses he is talking about the Gospel and in particular about Christ and the Holy Spirit.



In verse 3 Paul talks about Christ’s human nature and now in verse 4 he makes reference to Christ’s divine nature and the Holy Spirit’s role in this.



Paul gives us two important items of information about the Spirit:



Firstly: He is the Spirit of Holiness – this does not mean that Christ was not holy in Himself, but simply that the Holy Spirit is the ultimate expression of holiness. Over the next couple of weeks we will see that the Spirit is the one who calls us to holy living and cultivates holiness in us.



Secondly: He is the _Powerful_ Holy Spirit – In His holiness, He confirms that Christ was sinless and holy and that His sacrifice on the cross was a perfect sacrifice. How does he confirm this? By raising Jesus from the dead.



Here’s an incredible thought: Christ carried the punishment for sin for all. Therefore He experienced the wages of sin – death – for every human being. When they placed Him in the tomb, He was dead, dead, dead. Dead multiplied by the number of human beings that will and have ever existed. But He rose from the dead, dead, dead _through_ the Holy Spirit and the power displayed vindicates His holiness.



This Powerful and Holy Spirit works in you and me!

2008-01-16 – “Working from the inside out”


A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.

(Romans2:28)


In the early church, people attached a lot of value to the culture of Judaism because Jesus was Jewish and the gospel came to and through the Jewish traditions and laws.



Pretty soon aspects of Judaism became a “been there done that” ticklist.

“Proselyte baptism?… done!” (adopting Jewish culture)

“Circumcision?….done!”

“Kosher eating?…..done!”

“Observing the many finicky ritual laws?….done!”



The danger was that faith became a matter of external practices – the ticking off of a list of rituals.



Paul tackles the most contentious of these – circumcision. There were forces in the early church that insisted that any male who became a Christian _had_ to be circumcised.



But it is not the outside of the body that matters. Circumcision has to do with purification and the most important place of purification is the heart. It is the Holy Spirit who performs this purification – carefully cutting off the the desires, grudges and false values that lead us into sin.



The Holy Spirit is the careful surgeon who removes the areas in our lives where impurity can grow and infect our inner-lives. When we allow Him to work in us then we are no longer people-pleasers but God-pleasers.



To what extent do you judge yourself and other Christians by external values? How open are you to letting the Holy Spirit “operate” in your inner life? It can be painful, but it is always for our good!

2008-01-17 – “The Love Pourer”


3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

(Romans5:3-5)


In Romans 5 Paul describes the incredible work of the Holy Spirit in those who give their lives to Jesus Christ. Christians throughout the centuries have clung to these promises that even in our suffering God is at work to make us stronger people.



In the midst of our suffering God works in us to produce perseverance, character and hope. Of these three hope is the “odd one out” because we don’t expect it. Most of us have seen that suffering produces cynicism and despair. So where can hope come from?



Hope does not come from our circumstances but from our sense of identity. When we listen to our suffering circumstances we feel neglected, discarded and forgotten. When we listen to the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit we hear “You are loved and precious.”



Paul tells us that God has _poured_ His love into our hearts. The word “poured” implies an abundance. The Holy Spirit in our hearts indicates that we belong to Him – that He will be with us – that He will not let us go.



Think about the people that Paul is writing to: Christians in Rome were persecuted, thrown to the lions and gladiators, covered in tar and set on fire in Nero’s garden, blamed for the fire of Rome, run through with a sword when they didn’t bow down to Caesar’s statue, and ultimately driven into the catacombs.



It is not our circumstances: health, wealth and prosperity that defines God’s love for us. God’s love for us is made real in sense that I am not alone, that the Holy Spirit is at work in me _especially_ in the tough times.



I have had the privilege of seeing this in action: As a pastor I walk alongside people who go through the most difficult trials. I have seen people carried, strengthened and hopeful in even the grimmest circumstances. The Holy Spirit pours bucketfuls of love into their hearts and they are open enough to receive it.



Thank you Lord that you _pour_ your love into us. Help us to listen to You rather than our circumstances.

2008-01-18 – “New Management”


But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.



(Romans7:6)


Paul uses a powerful image to describe our BC (Before Christ) and AD (After Christ) situations.



Our BC has us living by our broken sinful nature accountable to the law. The law is unbendable and we are unable to attain it.



Christ has done two incredible things for us:

1. He has met the requirements of the law for us, by paying the price for our failures. This means that we do not start in a position of debt.



2. He sends His Spirit to live in us and the Holy Spirit transforms us from the inside out so that we no longer live by our brokenness, but by our new life in Christ.



We can grab hold of the AD life when we stop trying to satisfy the law in our own strength and embrace what Christ has done for us and welcome the Spirit to work in us.



The Spirit doesn’t just help us obey the law, He plants the principles of the law deeply in our hearts and with the principles in place, we can make the right decisions even in situations for which there are not specific commandments.



Living by the Spirit is to maintain an open heart to the nudgings and promptings of the Spirit.

He _will_ nudge us:

- Closer to Christ in worship and life

- Closer to others in care, compassion and sharing

- Away from things that distract, defile and destroy us



But I have to die to my past – my stubborn independent streak that tries to do it “my way.”

2008-01-22 – “A new operating system”


5 Those who live according to the sinful nature 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. 6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace (Romans8:5-6)

Those who know me well know that I enjoy playing with computers. Those who know a little bit about computers know that I use a different “Operating System” on my computer.



What is an operating system? (No, don’t think about scalpels and ECG machines.) In computers the operating system provides a set of handles and interfaces to allow the users and programmers to access the hardware and resources of the computer.



The operating system decides how information is displayed on the screen, how the mouse movements and clicks are interpreted, what message to send when the printer is out of paper and how to store information on the hard-drive and so on.



A few years ago I decided to put a new Operating System on my computer. I did it because I had some difficulties with the underlying philosophies and practices in the old one. The initial changeover was difficult, and I had to learn a different way of doing things. I constantly found myself tempted to going back to the “old way.” Old habits die hard!



But as I progressed I found new avenues opening up to me. I realised that there were new freedoms that were available to me, and although there were restrictions within those freedoms, I embraced them gladly because I was happy with the underlying philosophy.



As human beings we can run under our own old “Operating System” which interacts with the world from a specific point of view, but Paul warns us that the Sinful Nature (our built-in “Operating System”) is unable to bring us life. Its underlying philosophy is greed and self and means that we don’t co-exist with others very well. Running under the old “Operating System” brings Spiritual Death.



Or we can try another “Operating System…”

(More tomorrow!)

2008-01-23 – “A new operating system continued…”


5 Those who live according to the sinful nature 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. 6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace (Romans8:5-8)

Romans 8 is one of the most significant chapters on the Holy Spirit’s work. Yesterday we talked about Operating Systems. Today I’d like to make the analogy a little more practical.



As tempting as it is to say that the Holy Spirit is the “New Operating System”, I think that this would be erroneous. We cannot reduce the Spirit to principles and values. I think the new operating system is GRACE. Grace is a God-given lifestyle where we realise that Christ has done all for us and that any good we do is an act of praise and celebration.



So, why does Paul make the Spirit so central to the new life? The Spirit is not just a “personification” of the “new operating system”: He is the Co-author, Coach and Guide.



1. Co-author: The whole idea of salvation, the incredible sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, Pentecost, the Second Coming and Eternity are envisaged, architected and executed by the Triune Godhead. The Spirit was, is and will be present in all of God’s work,



2. Coach: The Spirit is the one who challenges us from the point of spiritual unfitness to a place of strength and growth. He is able to nudge us to “keep going” when we are tired. He is able to educate in the principles of the “game.” When we fail, He picks us up and shows us where things went wrong.



3. He is our guide. Edmund Hillary (who died about two weeks ago) was the first to climb Everest’s highest peak- but he did not do it alone. He had a guide to take him through the foothills and the pathways. He had a guide who helped him bear his burdens (their supplies). Sir Edmund had companionship, guidance and encouragement on the ascent.



And so do we!

2008-01-24 – “Resurrection Process”


11 And 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.

(Romans8:11)


Resurrection is not just pie-in-the-sky one-day-when-you-die.



In Ephesians, Paul explains that we are spiritually dead when we live by our sinful nature. For as long as sin runs the show in our lives, we are in a process of dying that will continue to and through our physical death and result in separation from God – the final and ultimate stage of the dying process.



This process of death is terminal – we cannot stop it or reverse it on our own. The root cause is our sinful nature that is the cancer that leads to this death. We cannot change our sinful nature on our own.



God does two incredible things: Christ’s death on the cross is like the surgery the removes the “tumours” of our sin. The Holy Spirit who comes to live in us is the “chemo” that deals with the “rogue cells” in our natures that cause the tumours of actual sin.



Death is a _process_ that is at work in us from they day we are conceived in our sinful world, and, if left unchecked, will continue into eternity. The Holy Spirit brings us to Christ so that we may receive forgiveness and enter into a life-giving relationship with Him

through the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives.



Resurrection is not just pie-in-the-sky one-day-when-you-die, it is the daily transformation from within that is initiated, empowered and effected by the Holy Spirit. His power at work in us will ensure that death has no hold over us physically or spiritually.





2008-01-25 – “Daddy”


15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. (Romans8:15-16)

Christ does not offer a distant, cold and impersonal relationship with God. For those who follow Him there is the warmth of the Saviour’s grace and the incredible security and comfort of the Father’s love.



If we remember that the normal human reaction to God’s divine holiness is to hide as Adam and Eve did, then it is incredible to think that we can move from that automatic fear and reticence to the place where in hope and trust we find ourselves praying “Our Father.”



This is not a move that we can make in ourselves. In a way we can say that our broken sinful nature leaves us incapable of trusting and believing that we can be God’s beloved children. The one who helps us relate to the Almighty Holy Creator of Heaven and Earth as “Daddy” (That’s what “Abba” means) is the Holy Spirit.



We’re good at doubt, mistrust and fear. The Holy Spirit brings a sense of safety and security that allows us to trust God as a loving heavenly Father.



I have come across folk who have had cold or abusive earthly Fathers but have come to a place where they can say “My earthly Dad was not a good Father, but I have found comfort in a good heavenly Father!”



And we should not forget that although the primary image God uses is Father, there are also plenty of Maternal images for God that are to be found in Scripture. The point is that God is more than just male or female and is the Ultimate Parent. We get to be God’s children and enjoy the incredible security and comfort that children have.



This is nothing other than the incredible work of the Holy Spirit who brings us into a warm, comforting and affirming relationship that allows us to confidently say “I am a child of God!”

2008-01-29 – “Groaning”


23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans8:23)

Paul has been talking about all creation groaning as it longs for Christ’s Kingdom to come in all of its glory: an end to suffering, division and pain. This groaning is something that God’s children experience too.



There is a sense the the presence of the Spirit in our lives is a guarantee that “this world is not our own” and that there is “eternity in our hearts” and as far as this world is concerned, we “are just passing through.”



Because of the Spirit’s working in our hearts, we instinctively know that there is something better ahead and this knowledge inspires us to hope for and prepare for a Christ’s coming kingdom.



One would think that the hope of a new world would make us poor citizens of _this_ world, but it has been my experience that those who clearly understand the hope and joy of Christ’s coming kingdom are the ones who are hard at work at making this world a better place.



Eternity in our hearts does not give us a sense of escapism – doing nothing in this world and waiting for pie in the sky – rather, eternity in our hearts strives to make some of it true even now.



When we groan with longing for the closeness and joy of Christ’s coming kingdom, the best response is to work to make it happen in the present.



When we are hard at work to make this world a little bit like the world to come, it is a sure sign of the Spirit’s work in us!

2008-01-30 – “Prayer Process”


26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.



(Romans8:26-27)


(I can’t say it much better than I said it in a devotion on this passage in Mar 2006…)



When I am on my way to a tough meeting or appointment, my wife Brenda does an amazing thing. As I drive off she’ll catch my eye and say “I’m praying for you.” It’s something that really comforts me because she really knows me, genuinely cares about me, and clearly understands my strengths and weaknesses.



Martin Lund started a week long series on prayer at our church in Grahamstown with this passage and these words: “Did you know that 24/7 you are a prayed-for, prayed-in, and prayed-through person?”



It is an incredible thought that God would live in us by His Holy Spirit. It is even more amazing that He would pray for us. Paul implies that it is a passionate prayer, He will _groan_ with concern and care as He searches our hearts and brings us to God.



Our prayers are really a kind of piggybacking on a constant stream of prayer that God the Spirit prays in us. He knows my needs. He knows my successes and failures and He prays anyway! His intercession means that we are sympathetically represented to God in order to obtain assistance and favour.



This gem on the Spirit’s intercession comes to us in the context of Paul talking about present suffering, the world in labour pains, and the call to hopeful patience. In the midst of these challenges there is this stunning assurance: Even when we don’t know what to pray for, there is SomeOne who prays for us!



When I come to asking for help, He’s already started!

2008-01-31 – “The Bottom Line – part 1″


17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.



(Romans14:17-18)


Every time the church forgets the truths contained in these verses, decline, error and ineffectiveness follows.



God gave us His Spirit so that we could enjoy a living, dynamic, moment-by-moment relationship with Him. The problem is that a living relationship offers us less control than rules, regulations and ritual do. Often the church and individuals reduce living relationship to cold ritual and a friendship with God becomes cold legalistic formalism – a matter of eating and drinking or not eating and drinking.



God has an alternative to our effort-based attempts to be “kosher.” He designed us to be in a living friendship with Him through the quiet inner presence of the Holy Spirit.



The Holy Spirit lives in every human being who has truly committed themselves to Christ. He is able to do three very important things in us:

1. He will be the inner-compass who points us toward what is right and away from what is wrong or harmful to us.



2. He will give us peace and assurance in the midst of the storms of life. I have seen people face the most appalling situations with an incredible serenity and hope. I have also seen others crack under circumstances that seem pretty trivial. The difference? When we stop trying to be in control and give up trying to do it “by ourselves” we come to a place where the Spirit can give us peace. But we have to let go.



3. The Spirit will produce joy: a deep contentment and happiness in us. In spite of our deadlines and pressures there is a deeper well: the secure knowledge that God is good and that He loves us.



These things are available to us. We’ll look at the “how?” tomorrow…

2008-02-01 – “The Bottom Line – part 2″


17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.

(Romans14:17-18)


Life in the Spirit can be a life where we experience righteousness, peace and joy. The question is “How can I have this?” and “How does it work?”



The rest of our journey through the Epistles are going to echo and verify the answers to these questions.

So let me get to THREE KEY PRINCIPLES of Life in the Spirit:



1. We have to understand the nature of the Spirit’s presence in our lives: At no point is the Holy Spirit a “possessor” or “body snatcher.” He is a quiet presence in our lives who we can acknowledge or ignore. Some people liken the Spirit to a coach, but then we can’t think of a loud football or basketball coach who shouts and directs and dominates. Rather we have to think of a quieter wiser coach who will wait for us to come to Him. (Mr Meaggi of “Karate Kid” comes to mind – but analogies can be tricky…)



2. The Holy Spirit will not do anything in our lives without our consent and co-operation.

- He will nudge us about things that need to change,

- He will give us the courage to decide to make a change,

- He will help us avoid pitfalls along the way

- and He will give us the strength to make the changes.

but we have to:

(1)listen,

(2)respond and

(3)take initiative.



3. The Holy Spirit’s presence can also be likened to a polite guest. If we had a guest staying with us, he would be involved in our lives, sharing in our chores and experiencing our joys and sorrows with us. But if I start yelling at Brenda or watch a movie that is offensive or if I abuse alcohol, our guest would withdraw to the guest room and be less involved in our lives.



Maybe these three principles sound trite and insufficient. Maybe you’re thinking “C’mon Theo, there must be more!”

Spend some time mulling over these three principles and ask yourself if you’ve really thought about them in any kind of practical depth.



We’ll take one more pass at this passage next week…

2008-02-05 – “The Bottom Line – part 3″


17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.

(Romans14:17-18)


Over the last two devotions I’ve delved quite deeply into the riches contained in these verses – at times it’s been quite technical. Today I’d like to summarize with a simple image. Bear in mind that all images have their limitations.



Imagine the scene: You’ve been selected to serve as the South African ambassador in Moscow. It’s an important posting and you would love to excel.



Two weeks before the big move you have a terrible nightmare: You dream that you get there and it turns out that your Russian lessons have been woefully inadequate, that the social nuances are much more complex than you imagined. Each night you prepare like crazy for the various activities in your programme for the next day, but when the day comes, you use the wrong fork, kiss the wrong cheek, dish up what you think is chicken and it turns out to be something horrible and you keep on mispronouncing names and misunderstanding people’s comments.



In your dream this goes on day after day. You really want to succeed, but no matter how hard you try, you just keep failing and because of this your confidence is shot and your nervousness reveals itself in clumsiness. You jerk awake covered with sweat and with a loud cry because in your dream you have just spilt sherry over the Tzar’s white dinner jacket.



Your spouse wakes at your cry and asks “What’s the matter?”

You explain and their answer “It will be alright,” calms you down immediately and you sleep like a baby.



Why?

Your spouse is a native of Moscow and their parents are highly placed figures in the political scene. You won’t have to study and sweat, you will have a quiet prompt who will advise, guide and illuminate you. Through their insights you will learn to enjoy and to love the people, the city and the culture.



All you need to do is keep the marriage good…



17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.

———————–

I’d love to hear your comments….





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