If you joined us last week, you hopefully remember that we discussed the significance of the law in our lives. We talked about how the law serves as boundary lines for us. In his letter to the Romans, Paul gives credit to the law for uncovering his existing sin. His humbleness is evident as he refers to himself 60 times in the chapter as he describes the battle of doing what’s right over doing what his flesh wants him to do. He says it like this in Romans 7: 18. “I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn I can’t make myself do right. I want to but I can’t. 19 When I want to do good, I don’t; and when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway. 20 Now if I am doing what I don’t want to, it is plain where the trouble is: sin still has me in its evil grasp.”
Do you ever have those days (or perhaps longer) when you feel as if you can’t do anything right? It seems as if temptation is lurking over your shoulder seizing every opportunity to tempt you. You hit the snooze button way too many times. You grab a PopTart instead of making an egg white omelet. You speed up as the light is turning red. You make a decision not to answer the phone because, well, you have caller ID and you see that it’s someone you’re avoiding. You know you should walk away from the conversation but the gossip is just too juicy. The “Hot Now” neon sign is glowing at the local Krispy Kreme. The possibilities of temptation are unlimited and on our own, we are unequipped to fight against them.
There was this preacher’s wife who decided along with her husband that they really had to save more and spend less starting in the New Year. Well, she went shopping and found the dress of her dreams. It cost way too much, but she had to have it.
When she showed it to her husband, he exclaimed, “After all we said about spending less money, how could you?”
She replied, “The devil made me do it.”
“Didn’t you tell him ‘Get thee behind me, Satan’?” asked the exasperated preacher.
“I certainly did,” she replied, “but he said ‘It really looks great from the back!!!!!”[i]
Temptation and sin are all around us on the outside and, because of our sinful flesh, we fight it on the inside as well. Sometimes we resist and do what’s right and what pleases the Lord. Sometimes we fail. But we are assured that as children of God, there is no condemnation. We have freedom.
“So now anyone who is in Christ Jesus is not judged guilty. 2 That is because in Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit that brings life made you free. It made you free from the law that brings sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2 ERV
Such a simple, basic element of our Christian faith but what priceless security that gives us! Through the sacrifice of Jesus, we are declared “not guilty” even though we commit the crime. We don’t have to pay the penalty for the crime because Jesus has already covered it. He served the sentence that we rightfully deserve. “The law of ‘double jeopardy’ states that a person cannot be tried twice for the same crime. Since Jesus Christ paid the penalty for your sins, and since you are ‘in Christ,’ God will not condemn you.” [ii]
Is that not incredible? That should be life-changing for us not just once, but every doggone day of our life! I’ve always wanted to be at Target or Walmart when a good Samaritan walks in and makes the announcement that they are paying for everyone’s purchases. We hear of this happening, especially during the holidays. I’ve often thought it would be my luck that I would be standing there with just a box of baking soda and two cans of chicken noodle soup when that happens. I imagine I’d be looking at those around me with a buggy full and think they were getting a much better deal than me. They would be walking away with hundreds of dollars worth of stuff and I’d be leaving with about $10 worth. There just may be a part of me that would want to pick up just a few more items because, after all, I wasn’t paying the price.
I believe that we sometimes look at sin in the same way; especially when facing the temptation to follow the flesh. We stand there clutching to that tiny bit of pride that keeps us from apologizing to someone and asking for forgiveness. We have our cart that holds just that one little white lie and maybe a small portion of covetousness. And then we are reminded that Jesus already paid the tab. As a result, our sinful flesh wants to pick up more items, throw them in the buggy because, after all, the price has been paid. We want to get as much out of the deal as we possibly can. But there’s something that kicks in to stop us.
Romans 8:4b – 5 ERV Now we don’t live following our sinful selves. We live following the Spirit.5 People who live following their sinful selves think only about what they want. But those who live following the Spirit are thinking about what the Spirit wants them to do.
In almost everyday situations, there is no question in our minds as to what we’re supposed to do or not do. The Holy Spirit is very opinionated; if we’ll listen. Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone who interrupts you frequently? They’ll hear you mention one little bit of information and they’ve already come up with a plan of action, a solution, and more advice than you could ever want. You try desperately to get them to listen because there’s a twist in the story, or perhaps a resolution has already been made if they’ll just listen to the whole story, but they go on and on. You stand there while they give a lecture on why their opinion is so golden and everyone just needs to listen to what they have to say. I’ve found that I am a bit leary in sharing information with these types of people because I don’t feel as if they really listen to me. Their know-it-all dominance causes me to retreat and stay quiet until there is a moment of silence in which I feel free to speak. It’s aggravating and frustrating, to say the least. But how often are we doing that to the Holy Spirit? As soon as He starts speaking, we pipe up with our agenda, our own thoughts, our own justification, and I can just picture the Holy Spirit clam up and waiting for a moment of silence. Being still, being quiet doesn’t come naturally to us. We have to be intentional to listen to the Holy Spirit and His way of thinking.
Romans 8: 6 ERV If your thinking is controlled by your sinful self, there is spiritual death. But if your thinking is controlled by the Spirit, there is life and peace. 7 Why is this true? Because anyone whose thinking is controlled by their sinful self is against God. They refuse to obey God’s law. And really they are not able to obey it. 8 Those who are ruled by their sinful selves cannot please God.
Have you ever collected something? There are all sorts of things that people collect. There are normal collections such as stamps, coins, antique glassware. And there are other collections that are, well, unusual. There are some who collect the labels off of bananas. One man collects moist towelettes while a woman has a virtual museum of burnt food that she has acquired. More than likely, you’ve had a collection of some kind at some point in your life. I’ve had a few. When I was in my early 20’s, I had an affinity for penguins. I don’t know why. I still think they’re cute but I don’t really know why I got so carried away with them and collected them like I did. My family and my friends all knew I loved penguins and so I ended up with a ton of penguin items. I had penguin clocks, penguin dishcloths, and spatulas, a penguin lamp, shirts, socks, soaps, you name it. I was literally surrounded by all things penguin. Whenever I went shopping, I looked for penguins. When people that I knew were out shopping and they spotted a penguin, they thought of me and most times, would get the item for me. I associated myself with penguins and I was always on the lookout for anything with penguins. If I had a choice of items and one of those items was a penguin, it wasn’t a choice. It was automatic that I would select the penguin item. I gave up my penguin collection many years ago. I don’t have a single penguin item in my home. It was a fleeting fascination. That’s how it is with many collections, isn’t it? Though not for all.
Whenever I think of collections, I think of a friend of mine that I had growing up. She lived down the street from me and we often had sleepovers at her house. Her dad collected cuckoo clocks. In fact, he had inherited his father or grandfather’s collection and had continued to add to it. The clocks were located all over the house and they were all working clocks. The first few times I went to her house, I couldn’t NOT hear the tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock that was constantly in the background. As we tried to study for algebra or a science test, the rhythmic tick-tocks kept me distracted. My friend, however, would laugh at me because I would begin to rock back and forth, tap my pencil or pat my hand in sync with the tick-tocks. She wasn’t affected in the same way because it was a sound she was used to hearing. For her and her parents, it was a soothing sound. In fact, she couldn’t sleep very well at my house because she had become so accustomed to being lulled to sleep by the tick-tock, tick-tock. Well, as we all know, cuckoo clocks are notorious for chiming every hour and her dad’s collection was no different. Every hour, there was a symphony of “cuckoos” that rang through the entire home. Oh, how many times I was startled awake by that sound. I would ask her why the chiming of the hour didn’t wake her up every hour. She said that it wasn’t as if she just ignored the sounds; she was very well aware of the sounds. But the tick-tocks and the hourly cuckoos were not distracting to her; but they were calming. The tick-tocks were relaxing and the hourly chimes kept her aware of what time it was. What was bothersome to me was actually comforting to her. It’s been more than 40 years since I’ve been in that home. I’ve lost touch with her so I don’t know what happened with her parents and all of those cuckoo clocks, but I do know that I never see a cuckoo clock and not think of her and her family. You see, they were surrounded by cuckoo clocks. Even after all of these years, I still make a connection between her family and cuckoo clocks.
What if we were that passionate about collecting words from the Holy Spirit like that? What if we were still and quiet long enough to hear the sounds of the Holy Spirit all throughout the day like the tick-tock of a clock as he gives us guidance? “Yes”. “No”. “Don’t say that.” “Stop and pray.” “Let them have the right of way.” “Don’t watch that TV show.” What if we didn’t ignore His sounds, but rather found them comforting and soothing? What if we were so in tune with His voice that when He speaks, we aren’t startled awake, but are able to perceive it as an alert? “Speak up and defend God’s Word.” “Stop! Don’t stoop to their level.” “You can make it to church on time if you get up now!” Any of these ring true for you? And the most critical question is what if we were so identified with the Holy Spirit that when people saw us, they saw Him?
Romans 8: 14 ERV “The true children of God are those who let God’s Spirit lead them. 15 The Spirit that we received is not a spirit that makes us slaves again and causes us to fear. The Spirit that we have makes us God’s chosen children. And with that Spirit, we cry out, “ Abba, Father.” 16 And the Spirit himself speaks to our spirits and makes us sure that we are God’s children. 17 If we are God’s children, we will get the blessings God has for his people. He will give us all that he has given Christ. But we must suffer like Christ suffered. Then we will be able to share his glory.”
God gave us His Holy Spirit to live inside of us not to enslave us, but to connect us in an intimate way with God. Abba, as Paul uses in this scripture is an informal and heartfelt word for the word “father”. As we are filled with the Holy Spirit continuously, we should be yielding to His voice, His directives and we should be conformed daily to that of the Spirit of God.
There’s a fascinating phenomenon that can occur when a person receives a transplant of some kind. A woman by the name of Claire Sylvia was 47 years old when she received a heart and lung transplant. She was interviewed by a reporter because she was the first person in New England to undergo this particular process. She told a reporter that when she was asked what she wanted to do first after the operation, she said that she was “dying for a beer right now.” This was strange to Claire, as she’d never enjoyed beer in the slightest before. Over the coming days, she also found that she was experiencing cravings for foods that she’d never liked or even eaten before, such as green peppers, Snickers chocolate bars, and strangely, McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets, something which she’d never had a desire to eat.
Unbeknownst to her, Timothy Lamirande was 18 years old when he died in a motorcycle accident on the same day as Claire’s transplant. He had been on his way home from a local McDonalds restaurant. A bag of Chicken McNuggets was found in his jacket pocket when doctors removed his clothing in a desperate attempt to save his life.
Claire was able to meet Tim’s family and they confirmed that her newfound cravings were Tim’s favorite foods. She not only received Tim’s heart and lungs but his tastes for certain things as well.
William Sheridan is another example. He had taken up drawing as a simple hobby to pass the time while he wanted for a heart donor; although he wasn’t very good at it. However, one of the first things he noticed following his surgery in 2006 was that all of a sudden, his talent for art had seemingly improved tenfold. He was able to meet the family of Keith Neville, his donor, who was a 24-year-old talented artist. William’s inclination for art started when he wasn’t gifted in that area. But after the transplant, that desire to draw was enhanced and supported with a new talent for it. [iii]
These are just two stories out of many in which a physical transplant gave life, gave them new families as well as traits, desires, and talents they didn’t have before. For every one of these stories, there are multitudes of stories as to how the transplant of the Holy Spirit has given life, placed people (you and me!) in the family of God, as well as giving us new traits, new desires, and new talents that equip us to glorify God. Our part is to let Him; give Him the control to lead us, guide us. Much like the tick-tock of a clock, we need to just be still and listen for the calming, comforting, and directive sound of the Holy Spirit. Chances are He’s speaking. Are you listening?
[ii] Be Right by Warren W. Wiersbe
We have to listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit!
Let Him finish speaking!