Baptism in the Holy Spirit, discerning the spirits, exhortation, experience, justification, killing sin, Matthew Poole, peace, prayer without ceasing, sanctification, sealed with the Holy Spirit, T.A. Sparks, the law, the new self, the old self, Tullian Tchividjian
The Holy Spirit’s method is to set His seal upon us as we move according to His leading; not according to our fancy, choice, aptitude, predilection or ambition. – T. Austin Sparks
Well, what could that mean? The Bible tells us,
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. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Rom 8:13-14 ESV)
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. (Gal 5:18 ESV)
If we read Matthew Poole’s Commentary on Romans chapter 8, verses 13 and 14, we might find out the following.
For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; viz. eternally, and never partake of the glorious resurrection before spoken of. The godly themselves need this caution; they must not think, that because they are elected and justified, &c., that therefore they may do and live as they list.
Through the Spirit; i.e. by the grace and assistance of the Spirit.
Mortify; i.e. kill and put to death. It is not enough to forbear the actings of sin, but we must kill and crucify it. Sin may be left upon many considerations, and yet not mortified.
Evil deeds are called
the deeds of the body, because the body is so instrumental in the doing thereof. There are some, that by body here do understand the corrupt nature, the same that before in many places he calls the flesh: this was called, Romans 8:6, the body of sin, and here it is called the body.
Ye shall live; viz. eternally.
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
This proves the latter part of the foregoing verse: Such as by the Spirit do mortify sin, shall live, for
they are the sons of God; and that appears, because they
are led by the Spirit of God. He doth not say, as many as live by the Spirit, but, as are led by the Spirit; to show (says one) that the Spirit must be the guide and ruler of our life, as the pilot is of the ship, and as a rider is of his horse. The phrase is borrowed (says another) either from those who are guided and directed as a blind man in his way; or from those who, wanting strength of their own, are borne and carried of others: so we are both ways led by the Spirit, for we can neither see our way, unless the Spirit direct us; nor have we strength to walk in it, unless the Spirit assist and draw us along. The Spirit leads and draws us irresistibly and necessarily, and yet not violently or against our wills; though we were unwilling before, yet we are made willing afterwards; so willing, that we desire and pray to be led by the Spirit. See Psalm 25:5 143:10 Song of Solomon 1:4.
Doesn’t that sound wonderful to our ears? If we are indeed led by God’s Spirit, we are sons of God and we are always free from the accusations of the law when we have been enabled to live in the presence of our Lord continually (cf. 2 Cor 3:17). We are even fellow heirs with Christ, heirs of everything that exists in the visible and invisible world, heirs of everything that is still to be created by God. Wow!! But… To be able to live in His presence 24/7, we need to give up our self-will, our plans, our old habits, and all logical reasoning whenever God’s guidance shows us another direction as we would have thought. Although God never forces His will on us, not following His leading means losing His peace for a certain time. However, even this lack of peace can be a sign from God to draw us back toward Him where LIFE is found. Yes, we may share divine, real and eternal life in His presence!
However, if we keep living after the flesh, we will remain in a spiritual condition of death which means to be separated from God’s joyful presence. The devil with his cunning wiles will make sure that we think we are on the right path when we are inclined to believe that God who is love lets us live according to our own desires. Of course, we have a free will and can do what we want. But living in sin was and is man’s choice, never God’s! We must be cautious about supporting other Christians when we realize that they believe Jesus’ grace displayed on the cross had done EVERYTHING on our behalf so that there is now no longer to do anything for us.
Dear brothers and sisters, we need to be careful to discern between real agape love and mere humanistic tolerance. I do understand that someone who came to know legalism in church and finally could escape might be inclined to argue the converse afterwards. Yet the opposite of what was wrong can still be a wrong path. It is true that legalism tries to do God’s work without the Holy Spirit which is something that never works. Instead, people get discouraged and spiritually worn out after realizing that sin (seemingly) cannot be killed. It is also true that we cannot kill sin on our own. But Roman 8:13 told us, “…if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” On the one hand, Jesus’ work on the cross was to justify us by imputing His righteousness on us. On the other hand, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit INTO His temple, i.e., into our own body (cf. 1 Cor 6:19), which is the seal that makes us God’s possession, will eventually bring forth the new creation that has the same mind and heart Christ has. That means, the new self does not want to sin any longer. So, if there is still the desire to sin in our bones, it is the Old Adam nature which can only be killed through the Holy Spirit in a long and, admittedly painful, sanctification process.
Now, let me return to the Holy Spirit’s guidance for a moment. Some people might have been taught that we need the Bible as our only guide. Well, have you ever tried to find clear direction by following ancient Scriptures when your computer did not work, or worse, when your relationships did not turn out as they should have? Whenever we need to make a quick decision, do we open our Bibles before and search for a manual in one of its books? To be sure, we might find some guidelines and principles, but the Holy Spirit’s guidance is not hid between the lines. Instead, we might read there,
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Prv 3:5-6 ESV)
And our Lord told us,
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (Jn 5:39-40 ESV)
Brothers and sisters, we have a free will to choose life over death. God who never changes already set this choice before us in the Old Testament where He said,
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” (Dt 30:19-20 ESV)
God never desired law keepers, but a people who loved Him wholeheartedly and obeyed His Spirit’s nudging and promptings out of LOVE. This is agape love: first loving God and then loving our neighbors as ourselves with exactly that God-given love we have received before (see Rom 5:5). It does not work the other way round. If we begin with loving others by neglecting God’s will for our own life, we might end in humanistic tolerance, and finally in the despair of having been led astray. But since I do not want to finish this article with a saddening note, I chose to paste a positive note from Tullian Tchividjian at the end.
“Legalism says God will love us if we change. The gospel says God will change us because He loves us.” ― Tullian Tchividjian
Thinking twice about that, I wonder, can we truly say that a life without any changes can be a gospel-driven life? 🙄