January 19, 2020 by

Gifts Given by the Spirit (Part 1)

Romans 8:5-8

Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer, in his massive, seven-volume systematic theology, calls Romans 8the consummating (complete) Scripture.” It is that place where certain key doctrines of the New Testament find their ultimate expression. Romans 8 begins with “no condemnation,” ends with “no separation,” and in between there is no defeat for the believer. No other chapter mentions the Holy Spirit as much as Romans 8. It is the heartbeat of what the Bible has to say about living in the Spirit.

How important is life in the Spirit? Dr. Robert Mounce said, “How to live in and by the Spirit is the single most important lesson a believer can ever learn.” Think about that, and about all the things you need to know as a Christian. It struck me for a moment. It certainly puts the Holy Spirit in a new light.

By way of background, let me mention that there are many different ways of living the Christian life. There are seminars and there are books and there are study guides galore, each offering a different perspective. There are so many different ideas floating around out there. But first let me mention at least three faulty ways of trying to live the Christian life before we get the right ways.

I. Three Faulty Ways to Live the Christian Life

Many Christians have their lives trying to follow these ways. So let look at them.

A. By Rules

The first faulty way is trying to live the Christian life by a set of rules. “Do this, don’t do that.” There are many people whose view of the Christian life is just a list of do’s and don’ts. For some, it is simply the Old Testament law warmed over and brought into the Christian church. The problem of living by rules is that it can lead to legalism just like the Pharisee in the New Testament. Legalism is any attempt to please God on the basis of what you do in the flesh.

But rules are good. After all, “Do not steal” is a rule. That’s a good rule to live by. “Thou shalt not bear false witness” is another rule worth living by. “Thou shalt not commit adultery." That’s a good rule to live by. So rules are not bad. But flesh without help from the Spirit is weak and cannot have victory with rules.

B. By a Formula

Second, the next faulty way is you can live the Christian life by a formula. We’ve all heard the formulas: Three steps to answered prayer, four keys to Christian victory, five ways you can walk in the Spirit. Three ways, four ways, five ways, the bookstores are just filled with formulaic admonitions for living the Christian life. But, formulas can be very helpful. You discover five ways to pray or use a Prayer book. That’s great. You discover three ways to be filled with the Spirit. Good. Formulas can be helpful. The problem with formulaic Christian life is that it can produce mechanical Christianity. (A robotic Christian).


C. By an Experience

Third, some people live the Christian life by seeking for an experience. By that I mean, by seeking for a deeply moving, life-changing, earth-shattering, emotional experience with God. There’s only one problem with that. Experience doesn’t last. If you try to live according to experience, you’re going to either give up the Christian life altogether or you’re going to be on an emotional roller coaster. You feel great as long as you have an experience, but what happens when it runs out? You’re going to be down, discouraged, depressed, and you may feel as if God is angry with you. So you’ll seek for another experience, and the whole cycle starts again. You’re going to be constantly going up and down. But experience matters. There are times and places where God comes to visit his people in tremendous emotional power. Most of us who have been with the Lord for any length of time have had those moments when you’re alone or in a small group, or in a church service, or in a revival meeting, when God has met us with great power. We don’t want to ever say that experience is not important.

So by themselves alone, rules lead to legalism, formulas lead to mechanical Christianity, and experience alone leads to an emotional roller coaster.

Rules and formulas and experience have their place. But taken alone, they lead to a sub-standard Christian life. Why? Because they tend to lead you away from the one thing that is most important. God has given us something better than rules, better than a formula, better than experience. God has given us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the secret of living the Christian life. If you want to know where the Christian life is found, if you want to know how to live in victory, then you must learn how to live in, by and through the Holy Spirit of God. That is the secret.

The New Testament tells us that the Holy Spirit is always here. Our job is to stay in contact with the Spirit. When we stay in contact with the Holy Spirit, he continuously provides the power we need for effective Christian living.

With that as background, we turn to Romans 8:5-17 where we discover three gifts of the Holy Spirit that are given to every believer. These are not things that you should seek if you are a believer like what we call spiritual gifts. These are things that are given to you at the moment of conversion. You are told not to seek them, you’re told to realize that you have them and to live on the basis of the fact that they’ve been given to you.

II. Three Gifts of the Spirit

A. A New Mind 5-8

“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.”

There are two ways and only two ways of living in this world. You can live according to the flesh which leads to death or according to the Spirit which leads to life. There is no third alternative. It’s one or the other. But people likes to create the third and I call it “Playing with God.”

Those two ways of life are constantly moving in opposite directions.

Let me give you three practical applications of that truth

1. First, when you encounter Jesus Christ, he gives you a new way of thinking.

There are basically only two world views. There is the secular or humanistic world view and there is the truly Christian world view. There’s a Christian way of thinking, there’s a Christian way of speaking, there’s a Christian way of acting, there’s a Christian way of approaching the problems of life.

God has given you a new mind so that you might develop a thoroughly Christian way of thinking. We remember what Jesus said. The first and greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength (Mark 12:29-30). When you meet Jesus Christ, he will change the way you think.

2. Second, one part of following Jesus Christ is having your mind continually transformed. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The word in Greek is a form of the word metamorphoses, the change of shape that takes place within a cocoon whereby a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. Let a “mental metamorphoses” take place in your mind. Let the very shape of your thinking be changed by the renewing of your mind.

This is the basis for all Christian education. It’s the basis for what we are doing in our Bible Study. This is why we have a Kid program. It’s why we support Christian colleges, Christian publishing, and Christian research in every field. We believe that our great calling is to go out into the world, into every field of endeavor, with truly renewed minds.

How does that happen? I know of only one way in which your mind can be transformed. It must be filled with the Word of God. Spiritual metamorphoses takes place by the careful, intentional, repeated, deliberate, thorough study of the Bible. God gave us his Word so it would be a spiritual change agent in your mind. As you study the Bible, it will change the way you think. And as your thinking changes, so your life will slowly change.

3. Third, we need Christians who will serve God with their minds.

If you know Jesus Christ, it ought to make a difference in every area of life. The way you speak, the way you talk, the way you write, the way you relate and yes, the way you make decisions in the public arena. If you know Jesus Christ, that will radically affect the way you approach the great moral decisions of life. Nothing will be simply private or personal. There’s no such thing as a purely private Christian faith. If it doesn’t affect all of life, how can your faith be called truly Christian? We will continue with other two gifts of the Spirit next Sunday. Or       


For too long we who have been given new minds have been too willing to check them (get rid of) at the door as we leave church on Sunday. We think like pagans during the week but like Christians on Sunday morning. No wonder the world is little impressed with our Christianity. They’ve never seen the real thing in action. What a difference it would make if we began to “think Christianly” and “act Christianly” in the workplace, at home, or where you are this week.

You were given a new mind so you could make a difference for God. God gave you a new mind so you could be a difference-maker for the kingdom of God.

Posted in: Sermon and teaching