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Books of the Bible - Romans
Christ's Spirit and My Spirit



Romans 8:1-11

The following story is told by Charles Spurgeon, the great preacher from London in the 1850s. In the days of Nero, the Roman emperor, and in the days when the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to Romans, there was a shortage of food in Rome. The people were hungry. Some were starving. Everyone was worried about where the next meal would come from. At that same time, there was an abundance of food in Alexandria, Egypt, on the banks of the Nile. The Nile River would flood, and with fresh water, there was plenty of corn and wheat in Egypt. So merchant ships would sail from Rome to Alexandria, Egypt, and you would expect that those boats would bring back corn and wheat from Egypt. Did they? No. The ships were filled with sand to be used in the Emperor Neroís gladiator games. There was so much blood from animals and blood from human beings, they filled the circus floor with sand to soak up all the blood. Sand for gladiator shows. The ships were filled with sand, of all things. One day, an owner of a ship came down to the wharf and saw the sand being unloaded. He saw all the hungry and starving people who wanted more than sand. They wanted to be fed with wheat and corn. So this ship owner ordered his ship captain to bring back a shipload of wheat, rather than a shipload of sand. And when that ship arrived in Rome, all the hungry people were enormously happy that the ship did not have sand but corn and wheat and that they would have a meal of food that night. Ö Spurgeon went on to say to the effect, ďNo ships filled with sand from me. No sands of philosophical speculations about God in my preaching. No sands of psychological speculation about human nature in my sermons. There will be nothing in my ship but the Gospel, the revealed truth of God, the bread of life so greatly needed by hungry people."

The book of Romans is a ship filled with the finest grain. No sand. The book of Romans is a ship loaded with the finest wheat. No sand. In the book of Romans, the ship is loaded down with pure spiritual food, the gospel, the good news about Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul always brings the Gospel, always brings food to feed our souls and transform us.

Today, we reach chapter eight in Romans and there is more food for the soul than anywhere else in the Bible. Chapter eight is one of the finest chapters in the Bible. If you count up all fourteen letters which have been attributed to Paulís authorship and you count up all the chapters in those fourteen letters, you will discover that Paul wrote one hundred chapters. And if Paul could select one chapter out of his hundred chapters that he wrote, I think would chose Romans eight as his favorite.

The first and previous seven chapters of Romans had focused the power of sin in our lives, and these seven previous chapters set the stage for chapter eight. For seven chapters, we heard the Apostle Paulís ideas about sin. We canít escape sin; it is like our shadow and we never get rid of the shadow. Or, we canít pay for the penalty for our sin.  Or, the sin of Adam was powerful and spread throughout the whole world and  all of history and spread to you and me  Or, last week, that which I want to do, I do not do, and that which I donít want to do is precisely what I do because of the power of sin in me. What a miserable person I am. Romans 7:26 is the transitional verse into chapter eight. Who will help me to escape the bondage and power of sin in my life? ďThanks be to God for our Lord Jesus Christ.Ē So the sermons prior to today are a prelude for chapter eight.

And so today we move into positive territory; we move into chapter eight. What word or words have we not mentioned in the previous sermons? What word? Can you guess? You have not heard this word since Romans 1:4. What word?  The Spirit. The Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Christ. Godís Spirit. These words are all used interchangeably. When you get to chapter eight, it is as if Paul turns on the water faucet in the kitchen. No, we have to have more power than that. Paul opens up the fire hydrant and the water all gushes out. No, we have to have more power than that. It is as if he releases the valve on a geyser in Yellowstone Park and the water starts gushing up into a high fountain. No, we have to have more power than that. Paul opens up all the flood gates that are located underneath the tallest dam in the world,  and suddenly the water from the above reservoir rushes down through those flood gates and roars up with power, generating electricity for all electricity and lights. So also, suddenly, in chapter 8, Paul turns on the faucet, the hydrant, the valve, the flood gates, the power of the Holy Spirit. For seven chapters, there has been silence about the Holy Spirit.  And then, in chapter eight, we hear twenty-one specific references to the Holy Spirit. In chapter eight, there is an overflowing of the Holy Spirit, a gushing of the Holy Spirit, like a release of water through the sluices of a high dam and the water come swirling out of the dam with thundering power. Twenty-one times he mentions the Holy Spirit. Twenty-one times he directs our attention to the Spirit, the Spirit of Christ,  the transforming power of the Holy Spirit for our lives.

As I said to you last week, during this summer sermon series, we have heard one sermon on chapter three, one on chapter four, one on chapter five, one on chapter five, one on chapter six, one on chapter seven, and now we have plans for five sermons on chapter eight. Why so many sermons on chapter eight? Because this chapter is one of the most grand chapters in the whole Bible. Because this chapter is the high water mark of Paulís whole theology and all his letters. Because this chapter is the most nutrient of all of Paulís chapters. Because this chapter is practical in showing us how important the Holy Spirit is to our daily lives. Because in chapter eight, he lets the Spirit flow. Chapter eight reaches the peak, the zenith, the top of the mountain in the book of Romans. So we slow down in this sermon series, and we spend five weeks on the study of chapter eight.

Would you please take our your bulletin insert for a brief Bible study on Romans 8:1-11.

Simply count the number of times that the word, Spirit, is found italicized in these eleven verses. It comes under Spirit, Holy Spirit, Spirit of God, and Spirit of Christ. How many times to you see the word, Spirit? Ten times in eleven verses.

Verse five and six: notice the phrase, ďset their minds on the things of the Spirit.Ē  

Focus on the word, mind. ďThose who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.Ē Todayís sermon will focus on what it means to ďset our mindsĒ on the things of the Spirit. What does that mean? We know the mind is powerful and influential in our lives. For the Apostle Paul, the mind is the controlling center of the human being, and the mind controls both the body and the emotions. We know that our minds control or direct our bodies. My brain tells me fingers to move, and see, my fingers move. My mind tells my arms to go up, and see, my arms go up. My brain tells me nose to wrinkle up, and see, my nose wrinkles up. The power is in the mind. The Apostle Paul tells us that the mind is the controlling center of the physical body but also the emotions. A person telephoned the other day, someone from out of town, and they had the biggest inferiority complex from childhood that was affecting that personís daily life. This person had a fine marriage, fine kids, fine grandkids, fine life, but they still had an inferiority complex from childhood. In spite of all my arguments and persuasions, I could not change her mind about the way she thought about herself. The way I think about myself affects my feelings about myself. For the Apostle Paul, the mind influences both the body and the emotions. So Paul wants the Spirit of God to enter our minds and transform our minds, and thereby transform the way we think, the way we act, and the way we feel.

In verses six to nine, we hear about the battle within us between Godís spirit and our human nature. That will be the theme of next weekís sermon.

Notice also in verse nine that the words, Spirit of God and Spirit of Christ, the Spirit, and Christ; that all of these words are used interchangeably.

Also in verse nine, notice that ďif anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, Christ does not live in you.Ē So the Apostle Paul underscores that it is crucially important for us to have the Spirit of Christ living inside of us. If Christís Spirit does not live in us, neither does Christ.

In verse ten, notice But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. Verse ten is our focus today. When Christ is in you, your spirit becomes alive because of righteousness, because of right relationships.

In verse eleven, Paul says, ďAnd 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.Ē  Paul works with the idea that Godís Spirit raised Jesusí dead body, and that same Spirit that raised Jesusí body lives in you and gives life to your body and personality through this Holy Spirit who lives in you. 

The book of Romans and in these eleven verses in chapter eight, as has been previously said, are all ideas about Christ. In these verses we just examined, there is no history about Christ, no stories about Christ, no miracles of Christ, no parables of Christ, no anecdotes about Christ. But we discover a few profound ideas about Christ, ideas about his gospel, ideas about his Spirit who lives inside of us, who empowers us and transforms us, like water released through a flood gate beneath a dam creates electricity and power. .

So where do we begin?

Therefore I am thinking of images and situations where my spirit has come alive because the spirit of another person has come to be in me. Let me give you some  examples.

Somebody makes my spirit come alive in me. I think of childhood and Lorna Finkelbaum. I remember sitting in the back seat of the car with my parents, being a grump about everything. I was in a sour mood and my face and disposition were totally sour. Lorna walked by the car, stuck her head in the back window of the car and started to talk with me. I became totally alive. My face, my mood, my disposition. The spirit in me woke up and started to move. Her spirit got into my spirit and I became alive.

That is the way with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gets inside of you, you wake up, and you start to move and come alive spiritually.

Another story. Rollie Martinson is one of my best friends. He is a seminary professor from Luther Seminary in St. Paul. I know Rollie is coming and there is a knock on the door, and I walk hurriedly to the door, and my heart explodes with happiness at seeing him. We have so much to talk about. So many ideas to share. So many experiences to relate. When he comes into my life, the spirit in me wakes up and becomes alive. His spirit gets into my spirit, and I became alive.

That is the way with the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit gets inside of you, you wake up and you start to move and Jesus Christ comes alive in you. That is what the Holy Spirit does. The Holy Spirit makes Jesus Christ come alive in you, so that your mind starts to think like Christ.

One more story. Years ago, it was the children and now it is the grandchildren. Many people feel my age feel that grandchildren are more satisfying than their own children, and I am one who agrees. When I see my grandchildren, and we are in the room together, I wait quietly for the moment when Ben, Kate, or Nate will crawl into my lap, give me a hug and tell me that they love me. My heart comes on fire, becomes alive, becomes uplifted. Their spirit gets into my spirit, and I become more alive.

That is the way with the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit gets inside of you, you wake up and the Holy Spirit gets into your spirit and makes you alive. The Spirit affects your mind, and the way you think,  which affects your body and emotions.

The Holy Spirit is the Invisible Presence and the Invisible Power of God living inside of your spirit and mind, and that invisible Presence and Power controls and directs your life. The Holy Spirit affects the way you think, the way you act, and the way you feel.

I think we need to begin with simple analogies. I have two physical illustrations today. On the communion table today, I have two sparklers and I have both a picture and a glass of blue colored water. I need these to help illustrate the importance of Godís Spirit living inside of my Spirit. Christís Spirit ignites my Spirit. Let me explain.

In the childrenís sermon for today, and right now, I have sparklers from the Fourth of July. I set one sparkler on fire and the children loved it. I took the burning sparkler and touched a piece of glass and it did not ignite. Then I touched the burning sparkler to a piece of silverware and it did not ignite. Then I touched the sparkler to a piece of wood and it did not ignite. Then I touched the lighter sparkler to another sparkler and sure enough, the second sparkler ignite? Why? The kids knew the answer. The two sparklers were made of the same thing; they were of the same nature; they were made of the same composite parts.

We are like God. We are made out of the same stuff as God. We are made out of the same substance of God. Godís Spirit sets off our spirits inside of us. When Godís sparkler touches my sparkler, it sets my sparkler on fire. Why? We human beings all have this divine spark in us, this divine glory in us, this divine radiance in us. And so Godís spark was in the person of Jesus Christ and he ignites us, sets us off. Wood wonít do it; glass wontí do it; silverware wonít do it. Other fire will spark the fire in us.

In the analogy of the sparklers, the fire from the lighter was God, and the first sparkler was Jesus Christ. God set Jesus Christ on fire; God ignited the fire of the Holy Spirit in Jesus. Jesus and God were of the same nature, the same Spirit. Ö I took a second sparkler, and that sparkler was symbolic of you and me. Jesusí fire sets us on fire. We are made of the same stuff as Jesus. We are spirit stuff and Jesus ignites the fire in us.  Ö Then I took a third sparkler, and the alive burning Spirit in a Christian makes contact and ignites the Spirit in another person.  

And the fire of Christ in other Christians will set off the fire, the Spirit, in us. That is why we hang around other Christians so often. The fire in them lights the fire in us. Just like girlfriend Lorna, friend Rollie, and granddaughter Kate sets a fire going in me. A piece of music, a part of a worship service, a loving encounter; a special conversation; a retreat, these and other situations can set off sparks within us.

Pastor OíNeal told the story of the high school kids, filled with Godís Spirit, working together down in an orphanage in Mexico, and how the sparks from one person would ignite the spark of the Spirit in another person. He said it was like being an a fire works display on the Fourth of July, there was so sparkles shooting all over the place.

We are fire. We are the Divine Spark, and the Divine Fire from the lives of other Christians helps the fire to get burning in us. The two sparklers help teach us that we and God are composed of the same stuff, spiritual stuff, the invisible spirit of God and the invisible spirit of the person. As Romans 8 says, when Christ is in you, your spirits become alive.

Another way of saying this is that a person is composed of a mind, physical body, psychological emotions and a spirit. Look around the globe and be aware of all the religions of the world. If you look around the world and all the religions of the world, you come to the conclusion that the spirit is an essential component of the composition of a human being. Ö So the question is: what kind of Spirit will be in that person? The Spirit of Christ? The Spirit of Mohammed? The Spirit of Buddha?

Human beings have spirit in us, and Paul wants the Spirit of Christ to enter our human spirit and renew our minds. Christís Spirit affects the way we think, act and feel.

A second analogy. This analogy is the opposite of the sparklers. Here on the table is a glass that is one third full of light blue water. This glass with some light blue water in it is symbolic of all human beings. All of us have some God in us; all of us have this Divine Presence within us; we all have this love inside of us. All human beings of all races and times and nationalities. We have this light blue water, symbolic of the Spirit, in us. Now, we have this pitcher that is filled with dark blue water which is symbolic of Christ, God, and Christís Spirit, Love. Now, we pour this dark blue water into the partially filled glass of light blue water and we notice an enormous change. The glass of light blue water is now filled with dark blue water. The light blue water has changed colors and volume because of the dark blue water poured into it.

The light blue water represents my human spirit. The dark blue represents Godís Spirit. God is love. God is spirit. God made me out of the same stuff, the same blue water, that God is. I love (a partially full glass of light blue water.) God loves (pitcher of dark blue water.) Without being a Christian, I can still be a loving person. I can love my wife. I can love my children. I can love my parents. All human beings are in the divine imprint, the divine image of God. All have the possibility and probability of love because we are all like God. The Spirit is in all of us. And then, the pitcher of dark blue water, symbolic of the Spirit and love of Christ, and pour it into our glass of light blue water, and the water is changed. The waterís color changed from light blue to dark blue. The volume of the water in the glass has changed; that is, the glass is now full. The quality and quantity of the love, the Spirit, the water, has been transformed. So it is that God wants to fill our love with his love, fill our Spirit with his Spirit, fill our compassion with his compassion.

When Godís love is poured into our love, our love is transformed and changed. For example, I love my wife, not only when she is young and beautiful, but now, with the human love transformed in both quality and quantity into Godís love, I love her when she is sick, hospitalized, dying and not at all looking like a queen. I now love my children, not only when they are successful, but when they are failures at school and so many other places. I now even love myself, not only when I am a success, but when I am a glorious failure as a human being. I say I love my neighbor and those in need, but when Christ gets into my love for my hungry and starving neighbor, my love for them changes dramatically.  In all of these loves, my human love has been transformed because Godís love now lives in my human love.

Where do I get this spark of Christ lit inside of me? Where does the blue water get poured into my glass and transform the water, love and spirit inside of me? From Christ. Where ever Christ is to be found. In the Word. In other Christians. In the Sacraments. In prayer.

Romans 8. The faucets are turned on full blast. The water hydrant is opened and the water shoots out. The geyser shoots off its spray of water high into the air. The water fountain is flowing with water. Romans 8 is the highpoint, the apex, the mountain top of Romans. It is the best chapter that the Apostle Paul ever wrote. Amen.


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