We speak often of “life in the Holy Spirit” but often it means different things to different people usually depending upon our differing theology about the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. This is unfortunate because life in the Spirit is a much deeper reality than simply whether or not you believe in the supernatural gifts. The idea of life in the Spirit comes from Paul’s discussion of the Holy Spirit in Romans chapter 8. It is here that we look to understand the term. Listen to sermon here.
As is always the case; context is essential to understanding any text. The context for Romans 8 is Paul’s immediately preceding discussion of righteousness by faith which is made possible by God’s grace [the unearned mercy and forgiveness] which came from Jesus death on the cross. By Jesus’ death we have been freed from life under the law. We have been freed from a life lived under the burden of struggling to keep rules and religious rituals to deserve God’s love. Life in the Holy Spirit is another way of saying “life under Grace rather than law”. Paul starts his discussion of life in the Spirit by clearly setting forth this truth.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering… Rom. 8:1-3
Wait, there is more good news. Not only are we free from condemnation under law but we are free from our own sinful nature [self focus, self love, and living for mere pleasure].
…And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Rom. 8:3-4
In view of this great free gift of grace, we have an obligation to live according to the Spirit. It is not an obligation not under any law but merely the natural response coming from one who has received the gift of a new capacity for living a new and far superior way.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. Rom. 8:12-13
This gift of a new capacity for a new kind of life comes because of a genuine change of identity that the Holy Spirit accomplishes. And this is the very heart of what it means to live in the Spirit. This is the truly good news: “… those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to son ship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Rom. 8:14-16
Every gift that we experience comes from this foundational change of identity. This is the heart of the matter. This is the quintessential definition of life in the Spirit. We really are His children!
In view of this change of identity this is what we should expect:
- Freedom from the fear of failure – Slaves and employees fear failure at their jobs but a child can never fail at being a child.
- An experience of the love of the Father. “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children”. Rom. 8:16
- A faith which is relational, not programmatic or religious. Our behavior [obedience] comes from receiving the Father’s love [through the Holy Spirit]. It is simply the natural human response to being loved – it is simply love returned.
- Because it is relational it is a life that proceeds from intimacy with God. It is conversational – heart to heart, mind to mind, emotion to emotion, and spirit to spirit. Jesus said, “my sheep hear my voice”. Jesus speaks to us through His Spirit. His thoughts are mixed with ours.
- A life lived in the daily expectation of “momentary guidance”. Scripture is our “thank you” manual for living a life of thanks to God, but God wants to be more for us than a book. He wants us to be open to hearing His voice [his thoughts] on a moment by moment basis e.g. my dad’s direction to be a certain place at a certain time. & calling Elfreda to tell her how much she had grown as a Christian in the last year…
- A life lived in the expectation of supernatural spiritual power flowing through our lives:
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 1 Cor. 12:7-10
My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. 1 Cor. 2:4-5
Question: Do you expect to see supernatural power displayed through you?
- A life of Risk. To live our lives in the expectation [faith] of the promises of the Holy Spirit we will express that faith by risking obedience to the clear commands of the Bible and also to what we think may be the momentary guidance of the voice of God through the Holy Spirit. Without risk, faith is merely theoretical.
What if I am wrong in my hearing? SO WHAT?? If you risked you have already succeeded! You are growing in obedience, listening and faith! Remember this; there is no mistake made in the attempt to obey God that cannot be corrected by further obedience to God.
What is He saying to you about Life in the Holy Spirit?