Led By the Spirit
Ro 8:12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors--not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.
13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father." 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
The story is told of a scientist who did an experiment with a frog. He took a frog and put him on a 10 foot section of cardboard that he had marked off in increments of feet. After he placed the frog down, he commanded it to jump...and it did. It landed on the 10 foot mark. So he noted, “frog with four legs jumps 10 feet.
Then he cut off one of the frog’s legs and repeated the experiment. This time the frog could only manage about 8 feet. So he noted: “Frog with three legs jumps 8 feet.” He continued the experiment by removing one leg at a time and noting the decrease in distance jumped each time.
Finally the frog had no legs left and the scientist commanded him to jump, but the frog couldn’t do a thing.
No matter how loud the scientist shouted, no matter how much prodding, the frog couldn’t move, and so he noted....”Frog with no legs turns deaf.”
And Paul wrote, “if you live according to the flesh you will die.” . . Just think about that for a moment. Suppose you live your life only answering to your flesh...only doing what you want to do with no concern for God and His Word.
On Judgement Day, you’ll be like that scientist screaming for your flesh to testify on your behalf, but your flesh can’t do a thing.....it’s dead. Wouldn’t it be better then to put your trust in something living? Like the living eternal Spirit of God?
This is the point that Paul is trying to get across to us this morning, don’t go through life being led by your flesh, rather be led by the Spirit of God.
In v12, he says in, “Therefore!” Quick teaching point for you. Always remember that when you see the word “therefore,” in the Bible, you need to go back a couple of verses to see what the “therefore” is “there for.”
And without going into a lot of detail, Paul has reminded us in the preceding verses that the Holy Spirit dwells in all believers. So Paul says, “because the Holy Spirit has been deposited in you by the grace of God at your baptism, you are now a debtor. God has deposited something eternal in you and He is expecting a return. Indeed, He demands it. “Faith without works is dead.”
Think about it. What did the Master do to the one who buried his God-given talent? (Which by the way is representative of God’s grace) “Mt 25:14-30) He cast him into outer eternal darkness! What did Jesus say in Jn 15 about vines that don’t produce fruit? They are thrown into the fire! What did He say in our Gospel lesson today? “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire”
The point is, God has given you grace, now He wants you to use it. He wants you to invest it in His kingdom. Now, we must be very careful here, lest we fall into the trap of believing that our good works save us. They don’t. They are only proof that salvation has occurred.
If salvation were being taught in a physics class, we would say that our works are a natural reaction to the action of faith. It’s like those steel ball things that you see on the desks. One ball slams into another ball and produces a reaction. Works cannot help but flow from true faith and that’s why they are so important. That’s why Jesus says in our Gospel lesson today:
“Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, BUT HE WHO DOES THE WILL OF MY FATHER IN HEAVEN.”
What does it mean to “do the will of the Father?” It seems rather important that we know wouldn’t you say? The will of the Father concerning our salvation can be summed up in three things. I call them the Three B’s of salvation. It is the will of the Father for you to be baptized. It is the will of the Father that you believe, (trust) and it is the will of the Father that your faith bears fruit
All three are necessary elements of salvation. But alone, they are worthless. Baptism alone won’t save you. Faith alone won’t save you and works alone won’t save you....yet all three together are a necessary part of our salvation, AND all three are connected to the Word.
Without the word, baptism is just water. As Luther states in the catechism, “Baptism is not simply water, but it is the water used according to God’s command and CONNECTED with God’s Word.
Without the Word, it is impossible to have or maintain faith, (Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.
Without the Word, we have no way of knowing how to live according to God’s Word and the Psalmist reminds us in Ps 119:11 “Your Word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.
It’s sort of like the Trinity. Faith in God the Father alone won’t save you. Faith in the Son alone won’t save you, and faith in the Holy Spirit alone won’t save you. But faith in all three in one package is a necessary element of salvation.
Now, the baptism part of this is easy. You were baptized as an infant and all the riches of Christ were given to you at that time. God gave you the faith to believe in Jesus, and He gave you the Holy Spirit to help you do His will, to produce good works as you live the Christian life.
But what happens? In time, the devil, the world, and your flesh tries to get you to ditch your faith. Doubt creeps in. “Did God really say?” And if we aren’t diligent with God’s means of grace, we can lose our faith, which is one of the essential elements of our salvation.
“Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” SO we need this word to keep coming to the ears of our heart, and we need to believe it and trust it in order to keep our faith
And so we come to church on Sunday with a heart ready to listen and hear His Word, and we open up our Bibles daily with hearts ready to listen and trust His Word. This is what God has ordained as His method of continually bringing faith to you. “Faith comes by hearing.”
The third element of salvation, (bearing fruit) comes from the action of the Holy Spirit as we respond to His teaching and prompting from the Word. As Paul writes here in Romans, it is the Spirit who puts to death the lifeless and lawless deeds of the body.
These lawless deeds (defiant actions against the Word of God, or indifference to it) must be put to death BY THE SPIRIT in order for us to live (V13) Again what does Jesus say to those who practice lawlessness? “Depart from Me! I never knew you!”
So this “doing” lawful deeds is important stuff!
How do we do it? How do we put to death the deeds of the Body? We trust the Spirit to do it, and how does He work? What does He use to put to death the deeds of our body? He uses the sword of the Spirit....the Word of God.
Not only does the Word show us how to live God-pleasing lives on a day to day basis, but also through heartfelt confession and hearing the Words of Christ, I forgive you!” We hear them every Sunday as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper and the worthless deeds of our flesh, (sin) are put to death and buried in the sea of forgetfulness, they are drowned in the blood of Jesus.
This cycle of confession, repentance, and forgiveness is necessary spiritual breathing and the Holy Spirit will always lead you there. It’s His business to slay your lawless deeds.
In v14, Paul makes it clear that only those who are led by the Spirit of God are legitimate children of God. We had better know then what it means to be led by the Spirit. The word “led” here means to be driven.
And so the bottom line question for all of us is who or what is driving you? Is it your flesh, or the Holy Spirit? Being “led” by the Spirit of God is not some sort of feeling. Countless Christians have been led astray by that one! “But it feeeeels so right!” Is the mantra of those driven by their flesh.
I’m glad it feeeels right, but have you checked what God says about your action in His Word? Can you picture that excuse on judgement day? “Hey flesh, tell the Father how right it felt when I committed this, that, or the other sin.” Flesh! Flesh! Hmmmm, flesh loses feeling on judgement day.
No, to be led by the Spirit is to be driven to trust and obey the Word of God, regardless of how you “feel.”
Paul says something very interesting in v15. He says “you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear,” The Word “bondage” underscores the truth that in our baptism, we were declared to be slaves to righteousness, but this is a different kind of slavery. A different kind of driving force behind us.
It’s not the whip of the cattle driver, but rather the gentle prodding of the crook of the shepherd.
It’s not the obey Me or I will squash you mentality that so many people have of God, but rather the willing obedience of a son to a loving Father. This is still another gift of the Spirit given to you in your baptism.
The Spirit that assures you of God the Father’s great love for you and allows you to approach Him as “daddy.” Abba Father!
Let me show you what it is like to be led by the Spirit of God. Open your Bibles to Acts 9:8
Ac 9:8 Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.
Imagine a blind person being led by another person. They aren’t standing behind them and pushing them and shoving them, and whipping them when they make a wrong turn? The German Shepherd isn’t snarling and growling and nipping at their heels to get them across the street.
No! They are gently led.
Then observe the blind person. Are they kicking and screaming at the dog as it gently leads them across the intersection? Do they dig their heels into the ground when a friend is leading them by the hand? Of course not. They quietly, willingly, and trustingly follow the one who is leading them.
Do you think it is easy for the blind person to have that kind of trust? Certainly not initially. It takes strength and courage to trust that person or that dog.
It’s the same way for us as we seek to trust and obey the Word of God. We need to be strong and courageous as Joshua was. God had this word for Joshua as he was about to lead the people into the Promised land.
Jos 1:7 "Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go.
8 "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
9 "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."
Be strong and courageous when it comes to trusting and obeying God’s Word. Are not these commands from God? Can He not be trusted?
How does HE do it? V8! With this Book of the Law, (The Word of God!) He tells Joshua to get into the Word! Let it not depart from your mouth. Be ready to speak it to yourself and others! Meditate on it day and night, that means ever have it on your mind.
Do you know what it means to meditate on God’s Word? Bill Gothard says, “meditation is imagining the action involved in carrying out the command.” For example. I was reading from Jonah in yesterday’s Portals of Prayer.
I was stopped in my tracks by Jonah 2:8, “Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.”
I thought of the great human need of steadfast love. I tried to imagine what it would be like to forsake the hope of ever receiving it. How devastating to be without the hope of steadfast, (unfailing) love! But that is the lot of paying regard to vain idols.
The action that I pictured was to be alert and aware of putting other things before God. When you think about it, paying regard to vain idols is the equivalent of being led by the flesh rather than the Spirit!
So as you read and meditate in God’s Word, get a mental picture of actually carrying out obedience and trust of God’s Word.
Why is it necessary to carry those mental images with us? “So that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it.” So that you will see the opportunities to trust and obey as life happens, and you will be able to put your meditations into practice.
And finally remember the promise of God, “I will be with you wherever you go.” Even as Jesus promised His disciples and you and me. “I will be with you always even to the end of the age! .
I won’t walk you into a pole, or lead you into a ditch. I will always lead you along the best possible route. It won’t necessarily be easy, but it will be the best! The best possible route is always found in trusting and obeying God’s Word. This is the nesting place of the Holy Spirit.
It is where He is always found. And responding to God’s Word with trust and obedience is what it means to be led by the Spirit. This week, you likely bopped into a couple of poles, and fell into a couple of ditches because you did not obey or follow the lead of the Holy Spirit as it relates to the Word of God.
This is called sin. I pray that the Spirit is even speaking to you now, to come forward and receive forgiveness for your sins at the Lord’s Table. I pray that He is leading you to put the deeds of your flesh to death under the body and blood of Jesus as you trust His words, “given to you for the remission, the forgiveness of your sins.
And I pray that you will leave here reinvigorated, strengthened by His renewed presence in your life so you will have the strength and courage to follow Him in trust and obedience this week, so that the belief given to you in baptism, will bear fruit for God’s glory, giving the evidence of God’s saving grace in your life.
Let’s pray: Abba, Father. Thank You for filing those adoption papers for us on Calvary 2000 years ago, thank You for making us Your children through baptism and the gift of faith. We confess Father, that we have been negligent in our duties as Your children. We have not put to death the deeds of our flesh as You have asked us to do. We have become lazy and preoccupied with the toys and pleasures of this world. Thank You for sitting down with us this morning and reminding us of our responsibility to confess, repent, and receive Your forgiveness and to seek to do your will according to Your word. Give us the Spirit that we need to do these things not out of compulsion, but out of a heartfelt desire to please the One who took us in and adopted us on no merit of our own. In the name of our Brother and Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we pray, Amen.