When speaking of the Holy Spirit, we recognize that the Spirit has freed us from the false notions about being a Christian. You see, whether we like it or not, God intends for us to engage our minds. He uses letters, words, phrases, sentences, chapters, and books to communicate His Word. He communicates propositions, ideas, worldviews, and calls his followers to proclaim and compel others to turn to the Good News of what it means to be right with God.
Verses 9-11 makes it clear as crystal what a Christian is:
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
A Christian is this—the Spirit of God dwelling in you. We see this in verse 9, and verse 11. If you were not here last week, you need to read John 15:1-11 when Jesus told His disciples that you must be connected to the vine (Jesus being that vine), for apart from Him you can do nothing. It was a passage of self-examination.
This passage serves the same. Are we in the flesh, or are we in the Spirit? Are we relying on external duties? What’s happening in the private chambers of our heart? What’s happening in the privacy of our homes?
What a blessed gift God has given us in the Spirit. Some churches though have not been helpful in explaining the role of the Holy Spirit. Some say when you receive Jesus, you receive Him as a “first blessing,” but the Spirit comes later in fullness with a “second blessing” or “anointing.”
But what are the implications? When Jesus said, “I will not leave you as orphans” (John 14:18) he then promised to send the disciples the Holy Spirit who would be a counselor, comforter, one who convicts of sin, and connect them with the Father. If we do not receive the Spirit until the later, then Jesus lied! He did leave us as orphans! We see that in verse 11 that the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead raised us—but we see that phrase if the Spirit dwells in you.
But he did not simply save us to keep us company! We were saved and sealed by the Spirit to serve. We each have been given gifts in various measure in order to be His hands and feet here in this fallen world.
There’s a story of Niccolo Paginini willed his elegant violin to the city of Genoa. As he did so, he demanded that it never be used. It was a gift designated for preservation but not destined for service. In the same way, when the resurrected Christ willed his spiritual gifts to the children of God, he commanded they be used. They were gifts, not destined for preservation but destined for service.
G. Campbell Morgan says,
A man full of the Spirit is one who is living a normal Christian life. Fullness of the Spirit is not the state of spiritual aristocracy.
You say, “How can I tell that the Spirit dwells in me?” Ask yourself this:
- Do I love Jesus with all I have, wanting to know Him and please Him more than anything?
- If I sin against Him, does the Spirit convict me to confess and turn from my sin? If the Spirit of God dwells in you, he will kick out that which does not belong to God.
- Am I bearing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)?
- Do I have a desire to find out and exercise the gifts God has given to me and to be content with the measure to which God has given them (1 Corinthians 12)?
- Do I have a love for other believers as His disciples, rather than a judgmentalism against them because they are not the way we want them to be? If you’re judgmental against others, you’re wanting them to be like you because you think you have it all together. As Ron Dunn once said, “Some believers think they have it all together, waiting for a vacancy in the Trinity.” True love for others is wanting them to be more like Christ than anything else. This involves in the church (attending, supporting, loving, challenging, encouraging) as well as outside the church.
You see, the Spirit sets us free not simply from sin, but to serve. We were once hostile to the things of God—we did not nor could not obey him. By the Spirit who shows us Christ’s work on the cross in taking our sin, showing us the empty tomb in conquering death on our behalf, we are set free from sin… and we are able to obey Him!
This is true independence! Through Christ, He has freed us from the sin that weighs us down, from the self that loves for that to happen. John Adams, our second president, once said, “The jaws of power are always open to devour, and her arm is always stretched out, if possible, to destroy the freedom of thinking, speaking, and writing.” But through the power of the gospel of Christ, we are not devoured by that power, but delivered from the very power that would oppress us—our sin and ourselves.
Will this be your independence day? You don’t need to wait for July 4th—you may surrender now to the One who will set you free indeed.
(From the sermon preached on Sunday, June 30, 2013. To listen to the entire sermon, click here.)