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Author:Rev. W.B. Slomp
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Congregation:Immanuel Canadian Reformed Church
 Edmonton, Alberta
Title:The Guidance of the Holy Spirit
Text:Romans 8:14 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:The work of The Holy Spirit

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Sing:  Psalm 43: 3, 4

Sing: Psalm 119: 3, 12, 17

Sing:  Psalm 25: 2, 4, 6

Sing: Psalm 50: 11

Sing: Psalm 84: 4, 6



Read: Romans 8:1-17

Text: Romans 8:14

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, brothers and sisters:


There once was a man who was convinced that he was led by the Holy Spirit to become a minister. As far as he was concerned everything pointed to it. He was very sincere. He was full of zeal. He had become a recent convert and had thrown away his former way of life. He no longer drank or smoked or used bad language. He no longer went to wild parties. He regularly attended church. He sent his children to a Christian school. He was convinced in every way that he was being led by the Holy Spirit to become a minister. Even though he had a large family, he also had the financial means to pursue the ministry. His wife and children were behind him and so were many others.


So he sold his house, gave up his job, and studied for four years at the university and then another five years at the theological college. He then became a minister but he lasted only four years in the ministry. Then he quit. He also stopped going to church. He even stopped believing. How could that happen? Did the Holy Spirit make a mistake? Did the Holy Spirit mislead him?


Brothers and sisters, the Holy Spirit does not make mistakes. The Holy Spirit is God and he is perfect. Men, however, do make mistakes. Therefore we have to be careful when we speak about being led by the Holy Spirit. Sometimes you'll hear somebody say that he or she is being led to a certain action. They will say, for example, that the Holy Spirit told them to take a different job or to move to another town. Or they will say that the Holy Spirit wants them to go to another church. Or even that the Holy Spirit is leading them to seek a divorce.


So the question is, "How do you know what the will of the Holy Spirit is? How does the Holy Spirit lead you? How does the Holy Spirit guide you to make certain decisions? How does God direct our lives?" That is what we will deal with today. Our sermon is about:

The Guidance of the Holy Spirit.

We will see that God's Holy Spirit:

1. Guides all believers equally;

2. Obligates all of us;

3. Gives us the fullness of life.


1. When Paul wrote the letter to the Romans he included all of the members belonging to that church in that location. He did not have in mind a specific member. He did not write to someone who stood out above the rest because of special revelation that he or she received from God and that others did not receive.


Paul himself could claim that he was unique in that regard. For God spoke to him directly on the road to Damascus and inspired his letters so that Paul's words in those letters are actually God's words. The Holy Spirit used Paul and convinced the churches who received his letters that they were directly inspired by the Holy Spirit.


We do not know how aware Paul himself was of the special revelation that he was receiving at the time that he was writing those letters. Paul knows himself to be just as great a sinner, if not a greater sinner than others. Time and again he writes that in his letters. He was a humble man. It was Paul's passion to put God into the foreground, to give him the glory, and to place himself as much as possible into the background. He did not want any special recognition because he was chosen as an apostle of God.


But when the New Testament was complete, which happened during the first century after Christ, special revelation ceased. It was not necessary anymore. We now have the complete Word of God. We do not need any more additions or revelations.


There are those who think that God continues to speak to certain men. The Roman Catholics, for example, think that God's revelation is still given to the pope and to the councils and so, over the years, their theology changes. The decrees of councils and of the pope take precedence over the Bible. But this results in contradictions. They want us to believe, for example, that Mary was without sin, and that she remained a virgin all of her life. They also want us to believe that we do not have direct access to God except through Mary and other special people, whom they call the saints. The list of their various contradictions to what we find in the Bible can go on and on. According to the Roman Catholics, later revelations supplant the Bible. God continues to give revelation to the Roman Catholic Church, of which the Pope is the head. The pope is now the vicar of Christ. That is, he now stands in the place of Christ and directly receives revelation from God. But in this way they have the Holy Spirit say one thing first, and then another thing later on. As if the Holy Spirit speaks out of two sides of his mouth.


The same thing is true of those who believe that the Holy Spirit speaks directly to them as individual believers. And so they speak in tongues. The speaking in tongues, according to them, is a direct revelation from God. And then the one tries to outdo the other to prove that the Holy Spirit speaks more to him or to her than to others. In this way they draw attention to themselves. This is especially dangerous when one of them elevates oneself above the others and he or she convinces others that they have to listen to him or to her because he or she has a direct line to God. Churches with such leaders become personality cults. They are sects, that is, followers of men.


Brothers and sisters, special revelation has ceased. It ceased when the Bible became complete. God does not come to you and me with special revelation except with the special revelation of his Word.


What then does that leading of the Holy Spirit refer to? Some believe that this refers to his protective influence. That he leads your step in a certain way so that you will not stumble or fall or come to any harm. Allow me to recount a tale to illustrate this point.


In the Netherlands, in 1834 during the time of the Secession, there was a minister who was highly revered. One day he was informed that a certain member of his congregation was seriously ill. Although it was already evening, and although the minister had to go through heavily wooded territory where known criminals were on the prowl, the minister nevertheless went out on foot in order to be at that widow's side before her death. After reading and praying with her he returned home safely. A couple of years later, two men who, through the faithful efforts of that very minister, had recently been converted, asked him whether or not he remembered a few years ago, on a late Friday afternoon, that he went to that dying widow in the house on the other side of the woods. When the minister answered in the affirmative they asked further, "who were those two men, in shining armour, walking on either side of you, guarding you?" The minister replied, "I was alone, my friends; I was all by myself; neither going nor returning no one accompanied me." “That’s strange,” they said, "for we distinctly saw them. It made us afraid. So we hurried away. We are so glad that we were prevented from getting out our sinister plot."


The commentator who related this story said that this was a popular story often told to indicate that this minister must have been one of the special "saints" of God who was led by the Spirit and that he was the object of exceptional divine protection. But, says the commentator, this is not what Paul has in mind here in Romans 8:14. The reference here is not to the gift of the Spirit to a select few. Every child of God is led by the Holy Spirit. That does not mean that God does not protect us. Certainly he does. It may well be that the story about that minister really did happen, however stories can often take on a life of their own. But if it did happen it did not happen so that we can elevate the one person above the other as one of God's special children. We are all God's special children. All the believers are led by the Holy Spirit. We do not have a class of special saints as the Roman Catholic Church does. If you are a child of God, then the Holy Spirit is leading you, all of you. We come to the second point, namely the obligation that the Holy Spirit lays upon us.


2. Paul writes in verses 12 & 13, “we have an obligation – but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die.” But then he switches his focus to the Holy Spirit. Paul says, “if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” In other words, Paul says it is not to the flesh that we have an obligation, but to the Holy Spirit. What is that obligation? It is to live in accordance with the will of God; to be guided by the Holy Spirit.


How does the Holy Spirit guide us? Well, as we saw, the Holy Spirit does not come to us without means. He uses a medium. That medium is God's Word. If you want to be led by the Holy Spirit, then you have to know what God says in his Word and you have to be in tune with it. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:14: "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned."


Anyone can study and quote the Bible. Many people do. The modern media or legislators, for example, will quote certain statements from the Bible, not in order to convince others of the truth of it, but in order to defeat a certain Christian point of view. They deliberately quote the Scriptures out of context in order to prove their own point.


That's also how Satan used Scripture. In order to tempt the Lord Jesus in the wilderness he quoted from the Scriptures that God would give him a special protection. But Satan was not appealing to God's Spirit but to the flesh of the Lord Jesus Christ. He wanted him to forgo the suffering that he was about to endure. So he quoted Scripture out of context in an attempt to lead him astray.


But the Lord Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit. He was not guided by the flesh but guided by the Spirit. It is impossible for him not to be guided by the Holy Spirit, for he and the Holy Spirit are one. It is that unity that Paul also shows here in Romans eight. For he says, in verse nine, "You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." The Spirit of God is the Spirit of Christ.


Christ was without sin because he was not guided by the flesh, but by the Holy Spirit. Now you see, brothers and sisters, that that is what Paul is talking about here when he speaks about being led by the Holy Spirit. And here we also come to the heart of the sermon. To be led by the Spirit means to be driven by him to lead a godly life. In your life you allow the Holy Spirit to be in the driver’s seat. As such you are not just a passenger but you are also an active participant. God wants you along as you make your way in life and as you look forward to your glorious end.


The Holy Spirit leads you, yes, but he does not overpower you. He drives you, but he is not a slave driver. He does not take out the whip. He does not take over your Spirit by force. No, he gently guides you. He guides you like a shepherd guides his sheep; gently prodding, carefully leading his sheep along the right paths. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. And he is the good Shepherd. How do you know that good Shepherd? You know his voice. You know what he is like. You know that he always wants the best for you even when you want to go in one direction and he points you to go in the other direction. You know how to distinguish his voice from the voice of the devil. The devil wants to lead you astray and to have you follow the ways of the flesh, but the Holy Spirit wants to keep you going on the right path.


To be led by the Holy Spirit means that you study the meaning – the intent – of the Holy Spirit as you find it in the Bible. You allow yourself to be guided by God's word. You had better not say that the Holy Spirit is guiding you when you are planning a sinful action. That is what people want to do when they want to cover up their own sins. That is what people do when they want to go their own way. In order to forestall any criticism they will tell you that God is telling them what to do. In other words, I have had a special revelation from God, and that makes me more special than you. I have greater insight than you do. Brothers and sisters, that is not only arrogant, that is playing right into the hand of the devil.


The same thing is true when you say that the Holy Spirit is guiding you towards a certain position in life to a certain job or to a certain action. How do you know it is not your own ambition driving you? How do you know you are not driven by your own wishes? You may wish, for example, to have a certain position in the church, to be an elder or deacon or to be a minister. And that is a good thing. As a matter of fact, it is a wonderful thing. But God's Holy Spirit is much wiser than you or me. There are certain things that the Holy Spirit does not deem suitable or good for you. Let the Holy Spirit guide you. He will do that in his own time and in his own way.


How exactly does he lead you then? As I said, the Holy Spirit uses means. He uses the Word of God. But he also uses God's people who are in tune with the word of God in order to guide you. Listen to what Paul, speaking about the church, says in Ephesians 4:4-7, "There is one body and one Spirit- just as you were called to one hope when you were called- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it."


After speaking about that, he speaks about the office bearers in the church that they are also used by God as a means to guide God's people. They are God's gifts. Paul says in the verses 11-13, "It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."


The devil is very clever and cunning. He will try to make you believe that your will and way is God's will and way. Sometimes we get confused. We want something so bad that we become convinced that it is God’s will that we have it. And sometimes we get so entrenched in our own way of thinking that we think we are going on the right path, even though we are on the wrong path.


That is why God gives you the church and the office bearers in the church. They have been given, as it says in Hebrews 13:17, the authority to "keep watch over you as men who must give account." Therefore it says in that verse, "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority."


The office bearers are given to the church to keep you on the right path. To warn you when you are going wrong. To encourage you to do the right thing. They are there to be a good example to you of what it means to lead a godly life. They have a great responsibility.


Does that mean that they cannot make mistakes? Of course not. They can and do make mistakes. As they lead the flock they have to constantly ask themselves whether or not they are being led by the Spirit as he has revealed himself in God's Word. But their collective opinion as to what the will of God is gives greater weight than the opinion of an individual believer. Collectively we have much greater objectivity. That is why it says in Proverbs that a fool is someone who does not listen to the council of others.


Please remember that when we talk about the office bearers we are not just talking about a collection of individuals, but rather those who have been given leadership in the church. They have been ordained to rule the church. Let us not forget that the church is called the "pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15). The office bearers have promised to allow themselves to be corrected by the truth of the Bible. That is why they also signed the form for the subscription of office bearers. By signing this form, they promised to uphold the truth as we find it in God's Word and as they are summarized in the confessions.


It is important to note that the confessions are mentioned here. The Holy Spirit has guided the churches throughout the centuries to summarize God's word in such a way that the doctrines as found in the Bible are clearly and succinctly stated. So that no one will refute them. Anyone who says that he has a better insight than the church and that he or she knows better what the will of God is than what the church has confessed throughout the ages is arrogant.


It is disturbing that there are those who claim to be completely led by the Holy Spirit and yet then reject the discipline of the church and withdraw. They arrogantly claim that because they have the Spirit they know better than the church. They alone know what the real truth is.


As brothers and sisters in the Lord, we walk humbly amongst one another. We do not elevate anybody to special sainthood. We don't do that to any member of the church, including a specific office bearer, or a specific minister. We are all sinful children who need to be led by the Holy Spirit, who guides us in the truth of God's word. We have to remember that we must submit ourselves to God. God knows a lot more than we do. Only He is wise. Only He knows what direction our life should take. Therefore, as a believer, you have to trust the Lord. You have to trust that if you do the right thing, that then God will also bless you. That he will give you the fullness of life. That brings us to our third and final point.


3. Take careful note of the fact that our text says that those who are led by the Spirit are sons, or children, of God. The present tense is used. It doesn't say that they will become children of God. No, they are children of God. The apostle Paul points that out further in verse 16: "The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children." Paul writes this to the believers at Rome and therefore to all believers. That also applies to you and to me. The Holy Spirit confirms us in our faith.


You don't need special revelation directly from God in order to confirm you in your faith. All you need to do is to believe the Bible and to live in accordance with it. All you have to do is to believe the promises found in the Bible. Although the covenant is not mentioned here in this passage, Paul nevertheless uses covenantal language. He first speaks about the promise of God, namely that he makes us children of God through the Holy Spirit. And then he speaks about the obligation that we have to the Holy Spirit. Once again God calls us to respond to this work within us. God has taken residence in you and therefore now you are called a temple of the Holy Spirit. Once you respond to that work within you, then you are also confirmed in the Holy Spirit. Every time you repent from your sin and you ask the Lord for forgiveness, then the Holy Spirit renews you. For then you know everything is well again between you and the Lord God. He gives you new direction.


You are given direction through your conscience which is shaped by the Spirit of God. For God's Word has taken up residence within you ever since you were a little child or you became a Christian. Now your conscience accuses you when you do something wrong. And then you can either follow the Holy Spirit, or you can follow the flesh or the devil. If you pray about it with true honesty and openness, allowing yourself to be led by God's Word, then you will also know what the right thing is to do. Then you will know it, even though the flesh is telling you to do something else. God gives you a mind to reason things out. He tells you what is right and what is wrong. He tells you in His Word.


Be led by the Holy Spirit, brothers and sisters, boys and girls. When you do that, then and only then, you will receive the fullness of life. Only then will you be able to taste the goodness of life to the fullest. Because the Holy Spirit never steers you wrong. When you follow the Holy Spirit you go through life with a good conscience. Then you are not anxious about all kinds of things but you are at peace with yourself and with others, and above all you are at peace with God.


Paul says that it is only through the Holy Spirit that you can cry "Abba, Father." The term "Abba" is an intimate term. It is like the English word "daddy". A little child who knows and loves his father feels totally safe and secure around him. To a little child, a father can do no wrong. He is the strongest and the best. He will never harm you. He will always keep you safe. He will chase the monsters away. And he knows everything.


It is only through the Holy Spirit that you can have that kind of intimate relationship with your heavenly Father as well. It is only through the Holy Spirit that you can call him “Father” with that kind of love and trust.


Brothers and sisters, and that includes you boys and girls, you are special. God has made you special. And he takes care of you every day. He protects you and he guides you because he loves you. He does that through his Holy Spirit. And he will continue to do that throughout your whole life. Put your trust in him. Trust his Word and he will never mislead you. Amen



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was:

(c) Copyright 2008, Rev. W.B. Slomp

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