The Spirit-led Are the Children of God
May 31, 2009 / No. 3465
Dear Radio Friends,
As the Christian church, we remember and celebrate today a glorious event called Pentecost. Pentecost is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit of Christ upon the church fifty days after Jesus arose from the dead, ten days after Jesus had ascended into heaven. On that day the Holy Spirit was given to the church of God to assure us of our sonship and adoption into the family of God. The Holy Spirit was given to us to convict our souls that we are now the children of God through the blood of Jesus Christ our blessed Savior.
As I said, fifty days after His resurrection, ten days after His ascension, Jesus Himself poured out the Holy Spirit upon His church. Why did He do that? We read this answer in the Holy Scriptures: To bear witness to our spirit that we are the children of God.
Our passage today is taken from the glorious eighth chapter of the book of Romans, the verses 14-16. We read: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”
Romans 8 is one of the most cherished chapters in the Bible. Its theme is Our Security in Jesus Christ. It begins with the glorious words, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” And it ends with the triumphant statement: Nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The concern of the inspired apostle Paul in this chapter is to draw a portrait of the believer who is secure in Christ. That portrait of the true believer is that he has the Spirit of Christ in him, given by grace to be in him.
We read in verse 9, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.” And in verse 1 we are told that we “walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Then in verse 13, the apostle said that with the Holy Spirit being graciously given to him, the child of God must kill sin within himself, or that sin will kill him. We read, “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.” The indwelling of the Holy Spirit puts you, by the grace of God, on the path of killing sin within you. You kill sin by having the mindset of the Holy Spirit, a mind that is set on things of the Spirit of God in Christ. When you are set upon the blood-bought promises of God in Christ, your mind will be set on destroying sin within you.
It may sound as if the Holy Spirit is a weapon in our hands. “If ye, through the Spirit, do mortify the deeds of the flesh,” says the apostle. And we ask the question: “Are we not in the Spirit’s hands?” And the answer is, Yes. For we read that “as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” The Holy Spirit, then, is not a weapon in our hands. But we are in His hands. When we put to death sin through the Holy Spirit, it is because we are led by the Holy Spirit. He guides us. He is not a responder to us. But He leads us into battle, and leads us, in the battle, to know that we are children of God. For as many as are led by the Spirit, they are the sons of God. The Spirit-led are the sons of God.
Now, what does it mean to be led by the Spirit of God? It could be made to mean all kinds of things. We could think of some internal, emotional impulse in making a decision. You say, “I believe I was led to this college…to this boyfriend…to this job.” And, yes, we are indeed led by God. We do not minimize seeking to be led by the Holy Spirit in our decisions. For we read in Proverbs 3: “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” But be careful that the Spirit leads you, and that you do not try to lead Him or to pass off your desires as His. To be led means to be governed and to be ruled by the Holy Spirit.
In this context of Romans 8, to be led by the Spirit means to kill sin in your life. It is to be led into warfare with your remaining sin. Notice again how verse 14 begins: “For if ye be led by the Spirit,” that is, the apostle is giving a reason, an explanation. For what? For what he said in verses 13 and 14: “If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body…. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” In other words, killing the deeds of the body, the deeds of sin, is the same as being led by the Spirit of God. When we do something through the Spirit, it is the same as being led by the Spirit of God. Being led by the Spirit is, therefore, first of all, to kill sin in your life. And to be led by the Spirit is also the assurance of being sons of God. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God,” we read, “they are the sons of God.”
So, here, to be led by the Spirit of God is not to say, “I was led to the right college…to the right spouse…or to the right job,” but it is to say, “To be led by the Spirit means that by the Spirit I am led to kill sin, and by the Holy Spirit I am led to know that I am a child of God.” We are given assurance of being children of God when we are led by the Holy Spirit into warfare with our sins.
Are you led by the Spirit of God? Are you at war with your remaining sin? If you would come to me and say, “I’m not sure if I’m led by the Holy Spirit. I’m not sure that the Holy Spirit is mine. I’m not sure that this promised Spirit of Christ celebrated on Pentecost is in me. I’m not sure.” Then I would ask you this question: “How do you feel about sin? Do you know your own sin? Do you have a cavalier attitude about sin?” I would take you to this text and I would read it to you. I would say, “Listen. To mortify sin through the Spirit is to be led by the Spirit of God. That’s His testimony. That’s His work. Don’t make being led by the Holy Spirit into something else first. Don’t make being led by the Spirit first an emotional, indefinable, experience of some sort, or some kind of shaking or speaking in tongues or whatever. No, this is first, this is the work of the Holy Spirit: you will be led to warfare against your besetting sins.
Now, are you indifferent toward your sin? Do you know what the prick of conscience of the Holy Spirit against your sin is? The Holy Spirit leads the children of God in a warfare against their sins. Do you fight sin in your life? Or are you blasé about sin—at least in your own life? Upset about it in other people’s lives, but indifferent to it in your own life. Then you are not led by the Spirit. For the Spirit leads us in a battle against our sins, our personal sins.
And the reason the Holy Spirit is the impulse in us to kill our sin is that we are the sons of God, we are the children of God. The Spirit leads us, says the apostle, to fight sin, to kill sin. By showing us the superior worth of our Father’s love, He assures us that we are the children or God. It follows, therefore, that we will, with that assurance of being a child of God, fight sin. The Holy Spirit leads by showing us Christ as superior to all that sin could ever offer us. He brings us into a love relationship with God. He assures us of our adoption as children of God. In other words, the children of God have the values, the priorities, and the tastes of their heavenly Father.
You say of another man’s son, “I met him the other day, and he’s a chip off the old block. He’s just like you.” So, by grace, the children of God have the traits of their heavenly Father—because of the Holy Spirit. Thus, to be led by the Holy Spirit means that you have new preferences. You have a new love. And you have a new sadness. Your new love is God. Your sadness, your grief, is your sin. To live as a son or daughter of God means that we kill sin in ourselves. All of this is the fruit of being led by the Holy Spirit.
You will be drawn to being like God. You will be drawn to the fountain of cleansing in the blood of Christ. And if you are led by the Spirit of God, you will be drawn to fighting sin in you.
Now the apostle Paul goes on to give a further evidence of being led by the Spirit of God. He says, “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.”
We have said that to be led by the Spirit is to fight sin and to live as a son/daughter of God. Why? Why is that the evidence of being led by the Spirit of God? Because the Spirit is the Spirit of adoption. His fundamental work is spiritual adoption. The Holy Spirit is the One who makes us children of God through adoption. Adoption is a legal act of conferring sonship upon someone who is not the physical offspring. It includes the full rights of a child—the name, the love, the care, the nurture, the inheritance, the discipline of the father. We, cast-away sinners, are by the grace of God adopted to be the children of God. A deep, full-hearted, emotional relationship is established between us and God. We are brought into His family through the payment of sins by the blood of His Son.
And now the Holy Spirit assures us of our adoption. He works in us the assurance that we have been adopted by God. The Spirit gives us, as the adopted children of God, affection for God. For, we read, “Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear: but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” The Holy Spirit does not bring slavish fear of God. The Holy Spirit does not bring fear, so that we say, “Will God love me? Am I good enough? I’d better do more works to make God love me more. Will God destroy me?” But the Holy Spirit leads you to kill sin. He does not put you in a slavish fear so that now you act out of fear. But the Holy Spirit stirs up in us affections for our heavenly Father.
“We have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” He brings you the love of God in the cross, the grace of God in adopting you. And out of that new love, out of that assurance of the love of God, He works in you to kill your sins. The Spirit does not work external compliance with God by fear. But the Holy Spirit works within us affection for our gracious Father, and in that way leads us into the battle against our sins.
This is the evidence of being led by the Holy Spirit and being a child of God. Do you love God? Romans 5:5, “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” It is the experience of the love of God. That is what it is to be led by the Spirit. It is to know that amazing love of God. And, again, as a result of knowing that, that you resist sin, that you are now in a warfare against sin.
The Holy Spirit is the One who gives us to experience the love of the Father—by leading us to the cross of Jesus Christ. There, He assures us of our adoption. There, He gives us the firm resolve that we shall put away our sin and live in all manner of truth and righteousness. Fix your eye of faith, says the Holy Spirit, upon the cross. Who is it who dies there? God the Son. Why does He die there? For my sins. But why does He die there, why did He die for your sin? Because of the love of God for you. And all of that is so personal. It is to know the love of God that surpasses all measure. The Holy Spirit does not give us a notional, theoretical knowledge of the love of God, but a personal, heartfelt, experiential love. He gives us to know that God has loved me in Jesus Christ.
And He gives us to respond by saying, Abba, Father. That is, He works in us affection for God the Father. “Abba” is the word that is not translated. It is the first word in the Aramaic that a child would say to his father. Abba, Father. That is the tender, loving, trusting, joyful response of a son to his father. When the disciples heard Jesus say it in His prayer: “Abba, Father,” they were struck. The Pharisees never prayed “Abba.” They prayed: “Abraham’s God.” “Abba,” was too intimate, too personal, for the Pharisees. But the Holy Spirit makes our adoption an experience. The Holy Spirit works in us that we know the love of the Father. He creates an irrepressible emotion in our hearts whereby we cry out: “Abba, Father.” The Spirit is the power whereby we delight in being made the children of God and we fight our sins.
Are you led by the Holy Spirit? Are you a child of God? Are you adopted? Put your ear, says the Holy Spirit, to the gospel. Put your eye to the cross—and listen. For God commendeth his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Thus we are led by the Spirit of God. You will know that in your heart. You will bow and worship. You will say, “Abba, Father.” And you will mortify, you will kill, the remaining sin within you. May God so grant.
Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, we thank Thee for Thy Holy Word and we pray that it may now rest upon our hearts. Send forth the Holy Spirit to do His blessed work, to take the words of Christ and to imbed them upon our hearts. Give us, by the Holy Spirit, to continue steadfast in the warfare against our own sins, and assure us by the Holy Spirit of the amazing adoption that we have, through the blood of Jesus Christ and because of the eternal love and grace of God for us, that He is our Father for Jesus’ sake. So bless us with Thy own word. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.