Peninsula Community Church
August 21, 2016
Walking in the Spirit – What Difference Does It Make?
Romans 8:1-5 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
I do not intend this to be political but many of you have heard the comments made by one of our leading candidates for president. When questioned about the Benghazi events, Hillary Clinton responded with the words “What difference does it make?” While the acts of that night in Benghazi made a big difference in the lives of those involved, this same mindset can be applied to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We can ignore His work and the command to walk in the spirit or we can follow His word and live a passionate fulfilled Christian life.
I would like to look at this question this morning and the reason I want to do that is because we will focus our attention on what we think is important. Jesus addressed this succinctly in Matthew 6:27 when He stated For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Jesus knew that where we place our passions and the things we give our heart to is the thing we will follow and to which we will commit our life. I had a personal experience that illustrated this to me in a powerful way. A couple of years ago I had the privilege of playing golf with Clayton Bunting, Elmer Towns; co-founder of Liberty University, and golf pro John Ross at the Cascades Golf Course at The Homestead in Virginia. It was a great week and I learned so much about the game of golf while playing that course. One of the things I learned is that I had a tendency to focus on the obstacles in front of me rather than the goal of getting the ball on the green. You see when there was a water hazard I would focus on the water hazard rather than on getting the ball beyond the hazard. And as you might guess I would hit the ball into the hazard more times than I care to mention. It was all because I was placing my focus on the wrong thing.
While Paul is not talking about golf here he is talking about a way of life. In fact, he is talking about something much more important than the game of golf. He is talking about having a meaningful life. He is talking about choosing to focus on the Spirit rather than the works of the flesh. Do you see it in this passage? Paul says to set your mind on the things of the Spirit. Why does he say this? He said it because he understands that what you focus on is what you will do. If we focus on the flesh we tend to act out the things of the flesh. If we focus on what we cannot have and what we cannot do, the desire within us to have those things will rise up and begin to control us. The result is death and pain. So how do we focus on the Spirit and why does it make a difference?
Paul defines focusing on the Spirit in a couple of ways. For one, he calls us to set our minds or to focus our minds. Here is what he says. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. The idea that is presented here is that when we focus on either the flesh or the Spirit we generally come under the influence of the work of either of these motivating factors. To understand this we must understand that the flesh represents the five senses. It is what we see, what we hear, what we touch, it is what we taste and so on. It also represents the mind, will, and emotions. You see none of these in themselves are wrong, it is only when they are not focused in the Spirit that the outcomes can become wrong or evil. When the flesh is the starting point of our decisions, then we are in trouble. We must begin with the Spirit.
Secondly, Paul calls us to walk in the spirit. This also speaks of direction and focus. In Scripture one’s walk represented one’s lifestyle and their actions. We see this in Galatians 5:16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Notice here that Paul deals with the Romans 7 phenomena of the dichotomy of wanting to do one thing but actually doing something else. It is the war within us that creates this turmoil. But we must choose who or what we will follow. We must determine that the Spirit will control our lives and then must seek to walk in the Spirit.
Paul then continues to detail what the flesh looks like and then what the spirit looks like in Galatians 5:19-23. There is a marked difference between the two. Here is the beauty of all of this. Paul makes it clear that we need to focus on the Spirit and not the flesh by relying on the Holy Spirit within us. While it is a choice, we have the Holy Spirit as a motivating factor for us. So with that said let us look at a couple of things about the Holy Spirit so that we can understand the benefit of following Him, setting our mind on Spiritual things, and the difference it makes!
First of all, we need to understand that if you are a believer in Christ you already have the Holy Spirit in you. He is in you and He is acting on your behalf. He is present with you because He is the third part of the Trinity. We sometimes forget this. We forget that He is at work in our lives. For some, we attempt to avoid His work because we have seen the abuses and the false teaching that have come out of some circles as it relates to the Holy Spirit. You see the problem is that I think with get caught up in the debate on tongues and miraculous signs to the point that these things are the focus of our discussion and we forget that He is at work in us. As I noted last week, I grew up in an old time pentecostal church. It was a chandelier swinging, pew hopping, dancing, tongue talking church. Through the years I have seen the good and the bad in churches both Pentecostal and non Pentecostal. I have seen that which was real and powerful and I have witnessed the fake and that which was a manipulation of truth.
As a result, it would be so easy for me to avoid any discussion of the Holy Spirit because of my history but that would force me to miss so much of what the Scripture says about His work. The fact is He is a real person and needs to be recognized for His role in our life. In fact, as Paul states we need to set our minds on the Spirit and not reject His work. In John 15:26 Jesus said that when He left the earth there would be another who would come to walk with us and to guide our lives. That is the Holy Spirit. Here is what Jesus stated But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning. And then in John 17:7 he stated Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.
Jesus reminded us in his message to the disciples in John chapters 15-17 that the Holy Spirit leads us to truth. Here is just one of His statements in this regard. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come (John 16:13). Just as much as Jesus is truth so is the Holy Spirit. Think about this. He was present when the worlds were formed. He was the co-author of the Scriptures. He was present at the baptism of Christ. He is a real person with the real task of leading us to real truth. And how much do we need truth and integrity in us today?
Thirdly, He leads us to an understanding of the truth. The Holy Spirit does not only lead us to truth but He leads us to an understanding of what is truth. Have you ever taken a class in school where you received truth about a certain subject but understanding the subject was another issue altogether? You see we can know a certain truth but not understand how that truth applies. That is the role of the Holy Spirit. He leads us to truth but He also leads us to make application of the truth into our lives. You see the Holy Spirit is more about transformation than He is about information. God’s desire has been and always will be our transformation. He desires that we change for the good. That is the benefit of walking in the Spirit. Does it matter? Yes it does!
Fourthly, the Holy Spirit prays on our behalf when we don’t know what to pray or even how to pray. The Holy Spirit directs us. Paul made this observation. 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). Here is an amazing thing. There are times where we are battling great issues in our life. There are times where we do not know how to pray or what to pray. It is in that moment that Paul reminds us that the Holy Spirit prays on our behalf. Sometimes it is with groans and utterances we might not understand but the Holy Spirit does pray for us and that is all that matters.
So what difference does it make? It makes all of the difference in the world. He is with us and if we focus our attention on Him and His work we will find that living life will become much easier. Note that I did not say easy, I simply said easier. Remember Pauls words. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
So what do you focus on? Do you focus on joy and peace or do you focus on anger and fear? Do you focus on the promises of God or the condemnation of the enemy of our souls? Do you focus on the work of the Holy Spirit in you that teaches truth, transforms your life, and assists in our prayers or do you focus on what you can do alone? Does it make a difference? By all means it does! It is your choice. It is your decision on how you will live and what the outcomes of your life will be. So let us choose wisely. Choose today to follow after the Spirit and to follow His leading so that we can become effective, passionate followers of Christ.
The Scripture is clear. If we walk in the Spirit you will not walk in condemnation according to Romans 8 and you will be able to master the flesh or sin that controls your life. Remember we said it would not be easy because the great tempter is always biting at our heals but be faithful and you will see the fruit. Next week we will continue to look at the work of the Holy Spirit in our life to see how we can be more effective in the Kingdom of God.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom