The Great Eight (Part 15)

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27 ESV). We return to yesterday’s reading to explore with more depth the work of the Holy Spirit as He “helps us in our weakness.” The word “likewise” at the beginning of the reading means that Paul has been giving help to us in what he has been saying and now he wants to give us some more help by explaining that the Spirit himself helps us. The way he has been helping us is by telling us why our sufferings are worth enduring for Christ. All of verses we have seen give reasons for why we should hold fast to our hope in the midst of futility and decay and groaning and death. Now the apostle says, “likewise” – in the same way – the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. So in the next few days of our journey we will look at three questions that I think this text answers. The first question is “What does the Holy Spirit pray for us?” Don’t miss the fact that the way that the Spirit helps us in our weakness is by praying for us. That’s the instrument of our help. I’m often confounded about what I should pray for. That’s never the first order of our prayers. Remember how we talked about “groaning”? That’s the first order of our prayers. We utter an unintelligible cry from the depth of our pain. Then the Holy Spirit makes it intelligible. He puts our groans into words and pleas. The apostle says there are three things in specific that the Holy Spirit says. First, the Spirit asks for things that we don’t know we should ask for; second, He asks for things that we don’t know to ask for because of our weakness; and, third, He asks for things that are in accord with the will of God. Now think about what those three facts imply. When it says the Spirit prays for things we don’t know to pray for, that rules out a lot of things. We certainly know we are to pray for holiness and faith and hope and joy and all the fruits of the Spirit and every other unqualified commandment in the Bible. There is absolutely no doubt that we are to pray for whatever God commands us to do. The revealed will of God is not in question. If God has plainly told us in the Bible to pursue something – like love or faith or righteousness or holiness or courage – then we know we are to pray for it. But this text says that the Spirit is helping us by praying for us when we don’t know what to pray for. Now when is that? What sorts of things don’t we know what to pray for? What are we not sure about? Here’s where the word “weakness” in verse 26 becomes important, and the context of what has gone before. We’ll look more at this tomorrow. This weakness is so important to understand. Know this today: Just pray. Groan. Weep. He makes it work to our...

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The Great Eight (Part 14)

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27 ESV). Christianity is the only religion in the world that affirms that there is one, and only one, true God, and that there are three divine persons in the one God: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ), and God the Holy Spirit. This is called the doctrine of the Trinity. The church did not come to embrace the doctrine of the Trinity because there is a sentence in the Bible that says: “there is one God existing as three persons equal in divine essence, but distinct in personhood.” There is no sentence like that in the Bible. Rather the reason the church has embraced this doctrine is because the Bible unwaveringly speaks of one true God, not three Gods, and yet reveals the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit as God, and as distinct persons. If this perplexes you, keep in mind that we are in no position as creatures to dictate to our Creator what he may or should be like. God is absolute reality. He was there before anything else was, and he did not come into being, but always was. Therefore nobody made him the way he is, and there is no reason he is the way he is. He simply is. That is his name: “I Am Who I Am” (cf. Exodus 3:14). Our role is not to say what can and can’t be in God, but to learn who he is and who we are, and to shape our lives according to his reality which is his will. We submit to the way he is. He doesn’t submit to the way we are or the way we think he should be. And that bring us to the next great truth in our journey. One of the places where the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, is revealed most fully is in this chapter. Today we begin to focus on verses 26-27, but it would be good for us to see what has been revealed so far about the work of the person of the Holy Spirit. What emerges in this chapter is that the Spirit is not just some force or power of God the Father, but a person who works along with the Father and in relation to the Father. In summary we can say that the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus sets you free from the law of sin and death (v. 2); the Spirit helps you fulfill the just requirement of the law (v. 4); the Spirit gives life and peace (v. 6); God will raise you from the dead by the Spirit who dwells in you (v. 11); the Spirit helps you put to death the deeds of the body(v 13); we are led by the Spirit (v. 14); the Spirit bears witness in us that we are the children of God and so gives us assurance of our salvation (v. 15); and, the Holy Spirit is the foretaste and guarantee of our final redemption (v. 23). Therefore, you should love the Spirit as a person. Not as a force or power, but as a person who thinks about you and has emotions for you and works and prays...

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The Great Eight (Part 13)

And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:23-25 ESV). The Apostle Paul says in our reading today that we should set our hope on a redeemed body. Then he says, “We wait for it with patience” (v. 25). I’m not so sure I do a very good job of the patience part of that. Perhaps you have that same feeling. Let’s see if we can dig a little deeper and do better with the patience part of waiting. There is no doubt that we can hope for a redeemed body and still be God-centered. This is not selfish or self-centered. It is what God has created us to be. However, the real hope that brings peace and patience in the wait comes in the understanding of the resurrection. Sometimes it is difficult to get excited about heaven. It can seem that that going to heaven means leaving a wonderful world of excitement and entering a drab world of boredom. After all, who really wants to sit on a cloud and play harps and sing for eternity! Well, part of that lack of enthusiasm is in a misunderstanding of what heaven will be. So, let’s look at that for a few minutes today. God’s final purpose for us is not to have our soul or our spirit floating around without our body in some ghost-like mansion in the sky. His purpose for us is to raise our body from the dead and to make it new and beautiful and healthy and strong. His final purpose is not to take us away from the earth to spend eternity in heaven, but to make a new heaven and a new earth where we will live in happiness forever and ever. And if this new earth where we will live forever were going to be completely different from our present earth, then why would God bother to raise our bodies from the dead? Why not just start over with completely different bodies if he were going to start over with a completely different world? Well the answer is that the world will not be completely different. It is our old bodies that will be made new in the resurrection, and it is our old earth that will be made new when Jesus comes. Therefore, I can say with great confidence that if you trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior and follow him as your Lord, there is nothing good and happy in your life on this earth that will ever be lost. Whatever is bad will be taken away, but all the good and happy experiences will be kept in the new earth forever. In every experience we really will go from death to life; from disappointment to joy; from dread to excitement. And, because that’s forever, I am now able to be more patient in this little while of a...

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The Great Eight (Part 12)

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. (Romans 8:22-24 ESV). So the journey continues. Today I want us to think one aspect of our hope: There is coming a day when our bodies are going to be redeemed and there will be no more groaning. I have walked with many people in the midst of the most painful of moments. Marriages decades in the making suddenly and perhaps unexpectedly destroyed because of a broken promise; dreams of the future destroyed in the unexpected illness or death of a child or young parent; or, the increasing pain and difficulty of chronic illness as it erases the hopes and desires of the future. These are but a few of the things that might bring us to “groan” in life. So often I hear people who intone that “only time will heal.” Perhaps there is some truth in that statement in so far as the ultimate redemption of all things is still a future event; however, we miss an essential truth when we think the passing of time will dull our ache for freedom from the pain and challenge of life. The truth is that time, in itself, is powerless to transform hopelessness to hope, or death to life. Only God can do that. And, He will! We can have a genuine hope in the redemption of our bodies. Our reading declares that we, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Paul teaches us to hope for the redemption of our bodies. He says that it is all right not to want to hurt. It is all right to want to be out of the wheelchair and off the crutches and cortisone and pain relievers. It’s all right to want to see and hear like you could when you were twenty. It’s all right to want to be pretty and handsome and energetic and strong. It is right to want to be reunited with those who have been taken from us in death. This is the promise of a redeemed body when glory replaces groaning. The promise has at least three parts. I wish we could spend more time in each, but our journey is long enough as it is. However, here they are for your meditation and thought: God’s promise is that all pain and disease and deformity and disability will be gone in that day; all sin, which so often takes the body for its base of operations, will be gone; and, this is not because we will be rid of our bodies, but because in a mysterious and wonderfully spiritual way we will have new and glorious bodies which are capable of touch and smell and taste and hearing and seeing. Go ahead, groan today since you know that tomorrow your groans will cease in the power of God shown in the redemptive work of Jesus on the Cross and in the...

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The Great Eight (Part 11)

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:18-25 ESV). To better understand this next paragraph in our journey through “the Great Eight” we will turn to another passage from the Apostle Paul. The principle in our reading is that peace in Christ Jesus that guard your heart and mind. To the Philippi Church he writes, The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7 ESV). I wish this were easier to understand in the face of difficult circumstances and events in our lives. However, the difficulty does not diminish the truth. So, let’s unpack it a bit. We should first note the context of this promise. This is also where we find the condition: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (verse 6). God’s peace is promised to guard those who pray with thanksgiving about everything. This peace will transcend our ability to understand it. There is precedent to this in other readings. We see other gifts of God that are not fully comprehensible to us. The gift of salvation is “indescribable” (cf. 2 Corinthians 9:15). The complexity and wisdom of God’s plan is inscrutable (cf. Isaiah 55:8-9). Even the love of Christ is something so great we will never fully understand it (cf. Ephesians 3:19). Likewise, human reasoning is incapable of fully comprehending the peace of God. The believer who places their full confidence in a loving God becomes thankful in every circumstance; and, that results in the possession of a supernatural peace. It is an inner calm that will dominate the heart. The faithful believer will know peace; his heart and mind are “guarded” by it despite the tempest raging without. No one, especially those outside of Christ, will be able to fathom that peace. To most, it will remain a mystery how someone can be so serene in the midst of turmoil. Our focus is so “then” that the “now” pales in comparison. I often need that kind of peace. Don’t...

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The Great Eight (Part 9)

Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 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. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 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. (Romans 8:8-11 ESV). In this next section of “the Great Eight” the Apostle Paul begins with this very matter-of-fact declaration that “those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (v. 8).  There are many descriptors that can be applied if we stop reading at this point. We could say that we are abandoned, rejected, worthless, ashamed, used, broken, abused, and condemned; however, Paul does not stop here. Every one of those words are crossed through in favor of that one word we all deeply long to experience. We are now redeemed. In Christ Jesus you are redeemed and forgiven for all our sins. In Christ we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses. Here’s how the apostle writes to the Ephesians: In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Ephesians 1:7-10 ESV). This is that mysterious process where we each become a new creation and a son of God in Christ Jesus. Most of you know how much I like to create new things in my woodshop. There is something very satisfying about taking rough cut lumber and working it until it becomes something beautiful and useful. Recently my granddaughter, Faith, had a project to do in her Social Studies class. They were studying the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The assignment was to produce a journal based on the historical reports of that exploration. Faith is quite creative. She asked me if I could help by building her a box to put her journal and a few items in to present her project. Well, making a box is really not much of a challenge; nor is it very satisfying as a creative project. So, we chose a design that would simulate an Italian Jewelry box of the 19th Century. I used some wood that would take stain and “aging” well; trimmed it with some period millwork; and put a clasp, hinges, and handles that represented that look. It was quite beautiful when done and filled with her journal and other items. The wood I used was “scrap.” The box became a treasure. Do you see it? There it is. God, in His great grace, took us, who were little more than scrap, and made us into a great treasure in Christ! Now, that’s good...

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