logo Living Water Christian Fellowship logo
Home Recent Sermon Multimedia Sermons News & Events Our Vision Donate Now Through CanadaHelps.org!

“What Difference does the Holy Spirit Make?”

Pentecost May 15/16 Rom.8:(1-8)9-17


At Pentecost each year and especially with sermons about the Holy Spirit, evangelicals may get a little uneasy. Some churches of a more charismatic bent have gone overboard at times and emphasized the need for experiencing the Holy Spirit, Who sometimes does minister to people on an emotional level where inner healing is needed. The New Testament does record manifestations of the Spirit through speaking in tongues, interpretation, and physical healings. But the emphasis of our Lord and the apostles was not on feelings or dramatic display of spiritual gifts, but on living by the Spirit and heeding revealed truth.

      Burton Janes in a ChristianWeek column titled “Putting Feelings in Their Place” recalls an illustration by the Christian writer, Watchman Nee: “...the well-known Chinese pastor, theologian and author, told a parable about a trio of men – Fact, Faith and Feeling – walking on a narrow wall.As long as Faith kept his eyes on Fact, all three proceed nicely.But when Faith turned around to see how Feeling was doing, the two had a great fall.The lesson: “Do not look back to search for the glorious sensation,” Nee suggested. “Simply follow the facts.”

      The Apostle Paul had a profound mystical and spiritual experience - in 2Cor 12(4) he talks about being “caught up to paradise” and hearing “inexpressible things” he was not permitted to tell. Yet his thrust in writing to the early church was not seeking sensational experiences but developing quiet reliance and obedience to the Holy Spirit. So as we open Romans 8 we find half a dozen aspects of spiritual life that deal more with facts than feelings. So – here are “just the facts, please.”


Probably the most astounding aspect of New Testament teaching is that, by the Holy Spirit, God actually comes to LIVE IN His people. Romans 8:9-11: “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you...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.” NOTE: I’ll be leaving out portions as we go because these themes are woven in and out through this passage, so there’ll be some repetition for other parts.

      It’s explicit here that, if someone belongs to Christ, they have His Spirit. To put your trust in Christ automatically means the Holy Spirit is in you. 1Cor 12:3 “...no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” Paul echoes the fact of this indwelling reality in other passages: Rom 5:5 “...God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Galatians 4:6 “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts...”

      To have the Holy Spirit living in you means you need never be totally LONELY again. He’s a constant Comforter / Paraclete / One who comes alongside to help. Think about the ramifications of this for a society focused on materialism, where the doctrine of evolution tells people they’re just random accidents based on collisions of molecules without any real meaning or purpose in their life! People yearn to know their life matters to Someone, to know intimacy and lasting relationship.


Second, the Spirit LIBERATES us from our former bondage, we experience new freedom. There is deliverance from sin’s power that held us trapped in guilt and shame. Rom 8:1-3 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man...” God rendered judgment against sin – the sin whose power had kept us in bondage through our disobedience. That judgment took place at the cross where Jesus died as my substitute: the Holy Spirit takes that verdict and makes it real in my life, enabling me to overcome sin in my day-to-day decisions.

      John 8:32 “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."” Paul told the church at Corinth, 2Cor 3:17 “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Not a freedom for licence, but freedom to behave in a way that pleases God. The shackles of the Jewish dietary and ritual laws were lifted. To the church at Galatia: Gal 5:1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

      So, the Holy Spirit brings to our lives freedom, real liberation.


The Spirit also LEGITIMATES our Christian experience – puts God’s stamp on it as “really real”, applies Christ’s righteousness to us better than any courtroom could. Rom 8:16f “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.Now if we are children, then we are heirs— heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ...” The Greek verb for “testifies with” means “to bear witness”: to what? That we actually ARE God’s children, adopted as His own, by faith in Jesus. And not only God’s children - sons and daughters - but also HEIRS, laying claim to our inheritance.

      The Holy Spirit legitimates this as a “done deal” in our personal spiritual experience. 1John 5:10 “Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart.” Again - testimony is a legal word, like those ‘testifying’ to events they witnessed in the Bosma trial. Also 2Cor 1:22 [God] “set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” Official documents are stamped with a seal that actually leaves a lasting impression on the page. The Holy Spirit is God’s “stamp” or “seal” we’re officially His; the Spirit is His deposit or down payment guaranteeing better things after we die.

      V4 reveals God sent His Son for a specific purpose: “in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us...” The Spirit ‘legitimates’ Christian experience by empowering us to live righteously, to actually DO what accords to God’s law – most generally, by loving Him and loving our neighbour. Jesus didn’t suffer and die on the cross in order to populate the earth with FLAKY Christians. His aim was, Eph 5:27 “to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” The real McCoy, Spirit-infused, Christ’s hands and feet on earth, carrying out His directions.


Next, the Spirit gives us LIFE! We talk about being “born again” as Jesus described it to Nicodemus (John 3:3,5). Baptism, one of the two essential ordinances, pictures us being buried with Christ into death so that we may live a new life (Rom 6:4). The Holy Spirit delivers this new life to us, regenerates us. V2 “the Spirit of life” in NLT is translated “the life-giving Spirit”. V6 “the mind controlled by the Spirit IS LIFE and peace”. V10 “But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet YOUR SPIRIT IS ALIVE because of righteousness” – that is, because of what Jesus did suffering for your sins at the cross, putting you right with God. V11 [if the Spirit is in you] “He who raised Christ from the dead WILL ALSO GIVE LIFE to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you.” This spoken by a man who survived stonings, beatings, shipwreck, being bitten by a poisonous snake... Paul knew for a fact God could keep Him alive miraculously just as long as He had a job for Paul to do! If you need healing – PRAY for God to give life to your mortal body.

      And v13 “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live...” The Spirit GIVES LIFE.


The Holy Spirit doesn’t just help our bodies, but our minds as well. If God’s going to renew us, make us new people, He’s going to have to help us change the way we think, our attitudes, our bent philosophies absorbed from the messages with which the world’s been subtly indoctrinating us.

      What has your mind been set on? What worldview or set of assumptions have you been operating under? Vv5-7 really draw out the implications of life in the Spirit for our thought-life: “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God.It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.”

      Consider carefully what Paul’s pointing out here. It’s IMPOSSIBLE for our soulish mind – our thought patterns induced from the world around us – the mindset bent on catering to our natural cravings – it’s impossible for those controlled by the natural mind to please God, or even submit to His law! Our whole way of thinking, our mindset, our attitudes, need to be reformed, taken over by the Spirit. Rom 12:2 “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is— his good, pleasing and perfect will.” How do you go about letting the Spirit re-shape your thoughts? Sit in a trance passively? No: the Bible is your best friend in helping you develop new categories, new purposes, discerning God’s will, what the Lord’s view on things is. Read it, regularly. Listen to Christian podcasts. Sing Christian worship songs. Let the language of Scripture saturate your consciousness.

      Don’t let this world’s messages hijack your thinking to the point of making you an enemy of God! V7 “The sinful mind is HOSTILE to God.” The root word here is “enemy” - something “hated, odious, hateful.” To the church at Philippi Paul wrote: Php 3:18-19 “For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.”

      Your mind is a battleground. What habits and routines will you recruit to help buttress your consciousness against Satan’s attacks? Will you allow the Holy Spirit to steer your thought-life? Put down the remote and pick up something really worth focussing on eternally for a change. Plunder your church library. Ask your buddy what THEY’VE been reading lately that’s spiritually edifying that they’d recommend. If they just kind of stare at you blankly, you’ve both got some work to do!


The theme of being LED by the Spirit is woven throughout this passage, but I saved it til last as it’s an ongoing project, the daily walk of discipleship. What’s it mean to be “led by the Spirit”? V4 “...us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” NLT “follow the Spirit.” V5 living “in accordance with the Spirit” entails having your mind “set on what the Spirit desires”. V6 the mind is “controlled by the Spirit”; NRSV “SET the mind on the Spirit” – sounds like it involves a very deliberate choice. V9 being “IN the Spirit” not “in the flesh” (NRSV). The classic Christian disciplines of Scripture reading and praying, spiritual songs, confession of sin, memory verses – all help set the stage and make it more conducive to be “in the Spirit”. Stock up on grist for the Holy Spirit’s mill.

      Vv13-14 get down to the nitty-gritty: “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” UGH! “Put to death” the body’s deeds rather than “live according to the flesh”?! (NRSV) That doesn’t sound like FUN! That might even require some – SELF-CONTROL! Oh, wait – isn’t that one of the “fruit of the Spirit”? (Gal 5:22f)

      This ‘putting to death’ deeds that cater to our body’s appetites is NOT easy. Satan will sucker us in through such temptation UNLESS we remind ourselves, with the Spirit’s help, we have something BETTER than the short-lived stimulations he tries to waylay us with. An eternal inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade, kept in heaven for us (1Pet 1:4), a kingdom prepared for us from the creation of the world (Mt 25:34). The short-term pleasure for which the flesh craves – including such ‘respectable’ dainties as wealth and success – ends all too soon in shame and remorse. Rather than our own pleasure, we can make it our priority to keep pleasing God, treasure His companionship, be content as His dearly loved child, recall and relish His promises – and not grieve Him. Eph 4:30 “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”


Wrapping up: Actions reveal identity. The world is hungry to see REAL Christians in action, not flaky Christians; those watching want the real thing, the genuine article, not knock-offs. Living according to the Spirit will demonstrate to others that Jesus accomplished what He said, the Holy Spirit really indwells us. Rom 8:14 “...those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” Actions reveal identity. Are we prepared to be walking showcases for Jesus, displaying Him? Will we prove our identity – that we ARE sons and daughters of God – by our actions, what we DO, following the Spirit’s leading?

      It’s getting harder and harder to satisfy border agents about your identity. About a month ago we were all geared up and excited about going to a Newsboys concert in Toronto. However the day came and they were stopped by Canada Border Services agents – they were missing some piece of documentation. So they were turned back at the border and the concert had to be postponed for months. They couldn’t prove their identity concretely. I just wish they could have played a song or two for the agents and convinced them they were legit that way!

      A famous artist named Gustav Doré once lost his passport while travelling through Europe. When he came to the border station between two countries and was asked for his passport, he fumbled about and finally announced, “I have lost it, but it is all right. I’m Doré, the artist. Please let me go in.” The officer replied, “Oh, no; we have plenty of people representing themselves as this or that great person! Here is a pencil and paper. Now, if you are Doré the artist, prove it by drawing me a picture.” He took the pencil and drew some pictures of a scene in the immediate area. The officer remarked, “Now I am perfectly sure you are Doré: no one else could draw like that!” And he allowed him to enter the country.

      So with us – people are watching closely, to see if our conduct squares with our profession, or if there’s a huge “gap between life and lip”. What the world wants to see is reality in our actions. Are we drawing the picture of Christ, as it were, or something else? When we’re really led by the Spirit of God, then our identity as children of God by faith in Christ will become more apparent. Let’s pray.