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. Sons of God mortifying sin by the Spirit


SONS OF GOD MORTIFYING SIN BY THE SPIRIT

Romans 8:14-16 (ESV) 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,…”

Introduction.

The topic of this sermon is no small matter. Before we can talk about the mortification of sin, we must ask a simple question, and that is, who are the sons of God? Why is it so important? We read in Romans 8:19 (ESV) 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.” CS Lewis made a profound statement when he said: “The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.”

It is plain and simple to state that all Christians are sons of God. We all know that according to John 1:12-13 (ESV) “ …all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” So, at face value, all those who received God, who believed in His name are sons of God, or children of God, because they are born from God.

Paul is silent on the issue of sonship in the epistle to the Romans all the way till chapter 8:14. He addresses many issues, but for the first time now he tells us something that is so intimate which is the privilege of calling God our father. This reality that God is our Father snatches Christianity out of the realm of dead religion and puts it in the realm of a living religion which is based on a real living relationship with the Creator of the universe. It is more than knowing about God, it is to be known by God.

So, who are the sons of God and what does it have to do with mortification?

Let me give you four answers in the text before us, from verses 14-16.

Point 1. It is all who are led by the Spirit of God.

14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”

Notice the little word ‘for’ in verse 14 which serves a similar purpose to the word ‘therefore’ as it points us back to the preceding verses. We are now touching on the heart our last 5 devotions. Paul had already told us in Romans 8:2 (ESV) 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” He also told us in Romans 8:9 (ESV) 9 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.” So the word ‘for’ in part is linked to all of that, but it is more specifically linked to Romans 8:12-13 (ESV) in its immediate context 12 So then, brothers, 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.”

So, Paul, had just told the Roman believers in verse 12 -13 that they must kill or mortify sin, or it will kill them. But the way to kill sin is by the enabling work of the Spirit of God in their lives. Now we saw all of this in our devotions for the last while. What is important here is that the Spirit is not ‘the means’ by which you kill sin, as the Spirit is a person in the Godhead who convicts us and enables us or empowers us to make dead the sin that is still in us. So, the Spirit is not an instrument in our hands, but we are an instrument in His hands.

So, if you link verses 12-13 together with verse 14 Paul is saying is that the proof that you are sons of God is that you are led by the Spirit and the proof that you are led by the Spirit is because you are doing something very practical by the Spirit, and that is to put to death or to mortify the sin or the flesh that still so easily indwells us. If you were not led by the Spirit, you would not have a desire to kill sin, to kill the desires of the flesh. The Holy Spirit is the one who will convict you of sin and empower you to make it dead.

Now, why will we respond to the Spirit and kill sin. Is it simply just because we do not like sin? Or is it because sin has a few bad effects on our lives? No, it is causally linked to sonship. I do not want to sin as sin overshadows the glory of my father in my life, or to put it differently, sin eclipses the Fathers glory and it tarnishes my relationship with Him. The killing of sin has as its basis a trusting in the superior worth of God’s love as a Father.

Too often and in some Christian circles, the statement in verse 14 that those ‘who are led by the Spirit of God’ is too vague and disjointed from the context here. Many believers ignore the issue of sin as depicted in the previous verses and link the leading of the Spirit purely to other stuff, supposed supernatural stuff etc. that is not to be found in the text, or even to be found in Scripture. We all remember the laughing spirit which was called the Toronto Blessing. Paul’s emphasis here in Romans is different. It is very much the same as we saw in our devotions in Galatians 5:18-25 (ESV) 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Then in the next three verses he lists the works of the flesh.  Then he says in verse 22: 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. And then in verse 25: 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

So here in Galatians those who are led by the Spirit are not under law. They have been set free from the condemnation that the law has brought to us due to sin. They are a people who enjoy the fruit of the Spirit, and who live by the Spirit, and how do we live by the Spirit?  Verse 24 of Galatians 5 says that those who are led by the Spirit, who live by the Spirit or who belong to Christ Jesus, or those who have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. That is the same we see in Romans 8 where we see that, the evidence of our sonship is that we are led by the Sprit, and the evidence of being led by the Spirit is our fight against sin through the enabling of the Spirit. Or in the Galatian terms the fighting of the flesh.

Are you a child of God? Are you led by the Spirit? Then I must ask, how are you doing on the sin level? Are you proactively mortifying sin? And Paul means for you to enjoy this. He is telling us these things for our joy and our triumph over the adversities and fears of life. This becomes plain in verse 15.

Point 2. It is all who are adopted by God the Father.

Paul now makes a jump from dealing with sin as evidence of being led by the Spirit to sonship. Romans 8:15 (ESV) 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

So, the question we must ask is how does being led by the Spirit of God in any way prove that we are sons or children of God?

Well, the simple explanation is because of one of the titles of the Holy Spirit revealed in this section. We all know well that the Holy Spirit is our comforter but here He is the Spirit of adoption. Now we know that according to John 1:13 that we are born from above, that according to John 3 we are born again as children of God. Paul now introduces us to another angle of our born-again experience where he says we are ‘adopted as sons’ which is evidenced in our receiving of the Spirit in His fullness. This is literally a legal transaction executed by the Father.

Now the ancient Roman Church would understand what Paul is saying here, as adoption was very much part of their social life. One of the commentators FF Bruce tells us about it in such a beautiful way: “In the Roman world of the first century AD an adopted son was a son deliberately chosen by his adoptive father to perpetuate his name and inherit his estate; he was no whit inferior in status to a son born in the ordinary course of nature, and might well enjoy the father's affection more fully and reproduce the father's character more worthily."

Now think about it for a moment. Paul writes this in that context. Now, you and I know that a child born into a family is a product of the love expressed between a husband and wife, and has nothing to do with the child? My parents to put it plain and simple, did not do window shopping, fall in love with me and say we take him. If they had the choice, they might not have chosen me. An adopted child is chosen by parents and is no less loved by parents than those who have been born into a family. And that is the way it is with God.  Adoption by God is not just a legal reality, but it is backed up by the Father heart of God which is a loving heart.  The Holy Spirit is the one who makes this legal transaction real as we are sealed in the Spirit as sons of God. Let me remind you again of the second part of Romans 8:9 (ESV) “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” We already saw that: “to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” So, sonship or receiving Christ or adoption by the Spirit are all one and the same parcel.

I hope that you can say today that you have received Christ as your personal Lord and Saviour?

Point 3. It is all who acknowledge God as Father.

Romans 8:15 (ESV) 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

So, we are not only adopted as sons by the Holy Spirit, but it is by the Holy Spirit that we cry ‘Abba Father’. Earlier I referred to Paul’s teaching in Galatians as far as being led by the Spirit is concerned. But in Galatians he tells us more that fits with this point. Galatians 4:4-6 (ESV) 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

Do you realise just how intimate the work of the Holy Spirit is in our lives? Without the Holy Spirit you cannot cry Abba Father. Now, how does the Holy Spirit do that? Too often we want to experience strange stuff as evidence. I need this experience or that experience to know that the Spirit of God indwells me. Now we have already seen under the first point that the simple process of making dead or mortifying sin is evidence that we are LED BY THE SPIRIT.

The simple answer under this point is that true children of God do not exhibit a spirit of slavery but a confident, happy, satisfied, loving affection towards God as their Father Father.

So, what is the issue here when we consider the mortification of sin? Let me tell you the story of three young boys sitting behind the stable wall. One of the boys took out some cigarettes and offered some to his two friends. One of the boys declined. When asked why he declined, he simply answered that his father will not approve. The other boy reminded him that his father was more than 1000 km away, to which the boy responded. “Even if my father was a million km away, I love him so much that I will do nothing that will break his heart.” This young boy was not driven by fear, or slavery to some laws of his father like, ‘thou shalt not smoke’, the issue for him was not a spanking or hell, the issue for him was that inner commitment towards, and an inner love for his father.

So, in each of God’s children there is a reality. If you are led by the Spirit, you are a son of God. How do I know you are led by the Spirit? Quite simple, you love what God loves and you hate what God hates and you therefore kill that sin in you before the sin in you kills you. Why do you kill sin? Because you are afraid of hell? No, you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a Spirit of sonship. Ultimately those who are adopted as sons and live by the Spirit kill sin because God is their ‘Father – Father’ and they love Him and do not want their sin to eclipse His glory.

Let me ask a question. Why do you not fall back into sin? Why do you kill sin? Is it simply because you are afraid or because you love? Let me put it in the opposite. If you are not dealing with sin, can I ask you this morning? Just how much do you love God?

Point 4. It is ALL who experience the love of the Father and who love Him in return.

We have already looked at the text. We are adopted by God by His Spirit and we cry out to God by His Spirit.

Let’s look at this love. In another section to the Roman church Paul writes in Romans 5:5 (ESV) “5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Do you see here that the Holy Spirit is the one who poured the Love of God into our hearts? Church family, this is a real, present experience, not just an idea or a future promise. From the moment you are born again, the fullness of the Holy Spirit indwells you and God’s love is poured into your heart by the Holy Spirit. So, you are not only adopted but you are loved.

So, the Spirit brings the Father’s love to us, but as the point indicates he also turns our affections towards God.

One of my problems with dead orthodoxy, where people claim to be people of the Book but they do not claim to be people of the Spirit is that it is in stark contradiction to what the Spirit does in us. If you are simply by the book, then you are simply busy with the things of God and not the God of the things. Did you know that you can love the things of God without loving God? We can be like children who are more excited to ‘clap handies when daddy comes home, because of the things in his pocket for the children alone, instead of the joy of having daddy home’.

I love the way John Piper puts it. He says: “The witness of the Holy Spirit that you are a child of God is not a testimony to a neutral heart with no affection for God's fatherly love so that your neutral heart can draw the logical conclusion that it is a child of God and then try to muster up some appropriate affections. That is not the picture. No. The witness of the Holy Spirit that you are a child of God is the creation in you of affections for God. The testimony of the Holy Spirit IS the cry, "Abba! Father!"

Now, as we draw to a close, I want you to take note of two words, the one is ‘cry’ and the other one is ‘Abba’. Paul could have said that by the Spirit we call God Abba Father. Abba is simply the Aramaic Word for Father. Some say that it is the word daddy, so therefore we cry daddy father. This is not true. This is a kind of a double father outcry here. I believe both words, the Aramaic and Greek are simply to imply deep emotion, it is to imply a deep, affectionate, personal, authentic experience of God's fatherly love. The fatherhood of God is not simply a statement of faith or a doctrine we believe in. It is a power and ability given to us by the Spirit by which we delight in being the children of God.

The testimony of the Spirit, the leading of the Spirit and true living by the Spirit will always cause us to cry, "Jesus, you are my Lord!" and “God you are my Father!"

So, by the Spirit we make dead sin, and by the Spirit we love our heavenly Father intimately because it has become part of our spiritual nature due to our adoption.

So, who are the sons of God? It is those who are led by the Spirit of God. Who are they? It is those who are convicted of their sin and who mortify sin by the very same Spirit, who agree with God that what they are busy with is wrong and against the character of God and the character of being a believer, and who are willing to make dead, to put it aside, to mortify it, to kill it, to put it away, to repent of it, to turn away from it, all by the inner working of the power of the Spirit of God in our life. Ultimately, this is what Christianity is all about. Paul says in Galatians 3:26 (ESV): 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”

Amen!

Soli Deo Gloria

Logos Community Church:- 7 June 2020.