Empowered Assurance

May 2, 2021 Speaker: Series: Romans

Topic: Sunday Sermons Passage: Romans 8:12–17

Romans 8:12–17 // So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Brief review from last Sunday

Last week, as we began in Romans 8 we saw that sin’s power is broken through the Holy Spirit working in us.
We have been saved from the lifelong decay of sin and death, called into a Covenant Relationship with the Triune God.

We fight sin with the power of the Spirit

[12] So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. [13] For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. [14] For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

Key theme: Mortification or putting sin to death

V.12 Debtors (some translations: obligations)
Think about what Paul is building on here -he’s building on our understanding of the grace of God for changing in our lives- its interesting that he uses obligation or debtor language though.

This is not an obligation or debt to earn something, let me put it this way: If someone saved your life you would feel indebted to them. Yes, it would be a debt of gratitude.

Anything you do would not be because you have to, but because you want to! - It would come from the heart!

That is the kind of indebtedness or obligation that we have as Christians.
We don’t “owe God!” (we could never repay Him) but we want to please Him!
Not to make us right w/Him, but because He has made us right w/Himself!
So, we are not indebted to the flesh, we are under no obligation to it!

V.13 Put to death the deeds of the body
If you’re not familiar with the theological concept of mortification, I would encourage you to read the works of John Owen as it relates to this subject matter. If this is new for you though; I’ve included an introductory article by ‘The Gospel Coalition’ in my notes online for you to begin to explore this more.

I want us to provide resources like this for you because, as a church, we want you to not only see these things in scripture but study them more deeply for yourselves and grow in understanding of & experiencing the height, depth, width and breadth of God’s Word.

Perhaps a simple definition would help us to start…

“Mortification comes from the Latin mors (death) and facere (to do). In this sense it has to do with putting something to death. Perhaps more literally it is “to make dead.’” - Erik Raymond

As believers, those who follow Christ as the only way for salvation - we have responsibility to participate in putting sin to death in our lives. Paul has also reminded us of our part earlier in Romans when telling us not to ‘present’ ourselves to opportunities for sin.

This is a bit of a longer quote for me (it also will be online with my notes and links/references for you), found in the book we recommended earlier in this series titled: “A Gospel Primer” by Milton Vincent, he says this (giving us a helpful build on biblical truths related to mortification of sin and the tools available to us through God’s Word)

The key to mortifying fleshly lusts is to eliminate the emptiness within me and replace it with fullness; and I accomplish this by feasting on the gospel. Indeed, it is in the gospel that I experience a God who glorifies Himself by filling me with His fullness.

He is the One, Paul says, “who fills all in all.”(Eph 1:22-23) He is the One who “fill[s] all things” with the gifts He gives.( Eph 4:7-10) And He lavishes gospel blessings upon me with the goal that I “be filled up to all the fullness of God.” (Eph 4:13-19) This is the God of the gospel, a God who is satisfied with nothing less than my experience of fullness in Him! The first command God spoke in the Garden was, “eat freely.” (Gen 2:16) And with similar insistence He says to me now, “be filled.” (Eph 5:18)

What happens to my appetites for sin when I am filled with the fullness of God in Christ? Jesus provides this answer: “He who continually comes to Me will never hunger or thirst again.” (John 6:35) Indeed, as I perpetually feast on Christ and all of His blessings found in the gospel, I find that my hunger for sin diminishes and the lies of lust simply lose their appeal. Hence, to the degree that I am full, I am free. Eyes do not rove, nor do fleshly lusts rule, when the heart is fat with the love of Jesus! - Vincent, Milton. A Gospel Primer for Christians

ILLUS from my own life: as I was preparing this week Cristian encouraged me to share a story from my own life in this area… I began to mull this over and Thursday night, as we’re walking around WalMart after the family meeting I asked Stephanie… Here's what she said as it relates to a conversation that regularly happens in our parenting, well… my parenting.

Specifically, where I’m more interested in immediate results at the cost of the heart of our children… I want to be careful here, I don’t want to say anything flippantly that comes across as dismissive or mis-communicates anything in brevity - if I share anything that you have a question about, anytime really, please come and ask me about that… there’s an open door for those conversations so there’s no miscommunication or misunderstanding.

REMEMBER: Paul is instructing us in V.13 to ‘put to death the deeds of the body…’ that can include our thoughts, reactions rather than responding rightly, words, looks, etc.

In moments that come up in parenting; This is where I can be tempted by my thoughts running away with my own perspective on a situation, some of them can even for good (to help train our children) but the fruit that is ultimately produced is the bad fruit of anger, harshness, uncommunicated expectations, etc. -rather- that what I’m called to as a follower of Christ, no matter where I am, no matter what season of life I’m experiencing - fruit like: self-control, patience, kindness, love

Here’s what Stepahnie told me when I so boldly asked her: She has seen me actively putting to death the use of anger in parenting and in our home - there’s a measurable difference...

I was so grateful to hear this, it’s been a 20 year battle for me, she’s been helping me see this, grow in this area, process what’s going on in my mind and heart for 2 decades - it’s truly been helpful!

We’ve learned in our marriage that the best way we can be for one another in battling sin - we’ll, first of all is to be FOR one another, not leaving us to try to deal with things on our own (individualism).

We have also had a desire through the years to have fruitful lives that are filled with the fruit of the spirit - in working together to live this way, for clear communication where there’s not as much room for misunderstanding, it is most helpful to talk around Biblical categories, yes - we have feelings and thoughts but our desire is to bring those feelings and thoughts into alignment with scripture, especially in the midst of mortifying sin.

When I think about this illustration held up against some of the language we just read in the Milton Vincent quote related to eliminating the emptiness in me with the fullness of Christ, a bit of an image popped into my head… a dinner that represents what it is my heart is truly ‘feasting’ on in those moments. I thought about it this way:

  • Appetizer of my own perspective / perception / preference
  • Dinner roll of my own convenience
  • Main course of anger
  • Veggies of lack of self-control
  • Side dish of impatience
  • Dessert of my way or the highway

Let me ask you this - What is your heart feasting on today? What’s the three course meal that leads up to those thoughts, actions, words, emotions, etc. that Christ wants to bring under his Lordship?

Is your heart and mind growing obese with the things of the world, stuffed with things that don’t satisfy our cravings and longings for more? -or- is it ‘fat’ with the love of Jesus? Is it filled to the full and even overflowing with the fruit of the spirit? Is your heart overflowing out of a desire to serve others through the Gifts that God, who is the source and purpose of those gifts, freely gives to us?

This is how we fight sin through the power of the Spirit - a power that is able to help us put to death the things of the flesh, filling us anew with the fullness of God in Christ Jesus.

We have childlike affection toward our Father

[15] For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” [16] The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, [17] and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Key themes: Adoption | Heirs with Christ

V.15 Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

Under Roman law at the time - a Father could disown his biological child. Unfortunately, we too often see people do this relationally, even if they don’t take the actual steps to document it legally...people pushed aside, moved out of the way of our own thoughts, desires, goals, dreams, expectations… the list can go on. As it relates to our faith…

in this world, Adam as our father will not ultimately draw us near
It is ONLY through Christ that we can draw near to our FATHER’s throne of grace for confidence, not only to our King -yes, God is our King- he is also our FATHER! (May 4th is too close to be using lines like this!)

If we think back to the culture in Rome: A Father could disown a child -only- if they were a biological child… A Father could adopt a child and under the authority of Roman law a child who had been adopted could never be disowned.

And the father in order to adopt was responsible to pay all debts and this new member of the family would have all rights and privileges of sonship.
This points us directly to our relationship with God as Father!
Jesus Christ has paid all of our debts, the wages our sins earned that left us in arrears to righteousness…
That debt has been paid and now we’re adopted as sons and daughters of the King

Abba is the Greek & English transliteration of the Aramaic word for father.
Only used 2 other times in scripture:
The Holy Spirit uses it in Gal.4:6 - And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” [pointing to intimacy of relationship, not infancy in faith]
Jesus used it in Gethsemane - Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will. Mark 14:36
Notice Paul doesn’t have us cry out, “I am God’s child!” but instead cry out, “Abba, Father!”
The difference?
He calls us to look away from ourselves & cry to Him who established the relationship!

Perhaps it could help to think of it this way - we’re not called to live with this, “Do you know who I am?” mentality - how exhausting this can be to live up to, trying to live even just up to ourselves, our own expectations, even our own stated views and desires - no, our relationship to God is not ‘Do you know who I am?” but, “Do you know who my (heavenly) Dad is?”

Not our earthly dad’s, I don’t know your experience, my dad wasn’t perfect, he is a good dad, he is a good man - I watched him grow and change over the years, that was a blessing for me as a son to see.

As a dad I’m not perfect -I’m not called to be- yet, I can grieve in repentance so much, praying that God gets me out of the way of my kids thoughts about Him as their perfect heavenly father!

And what are the blessings or privileges that come from being a son or daughter in covenant relationship with a heavenly father?

V.17 Heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ:

Privileges of Being a child of God (v.17)

You are “fellow heirs with Christ”: we are his inheritance -and- we share in the inheritance of his work on the cross! We saw this when we looked earlier in Romans at the parable of the man who sells all his possessions to buy a field with found treasure… we ARE the treasure and we SHARE IN the treasure through Christ Jesus
We are also told that we will “suffer with him” - a blessing? A privilege?!
Paul, in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 say this: 2 Corinthians 4:8–9 [8] We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; [9] persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;

This verse shows us that through suffering - whether mental, physical, emotional, or spiritual. Each of these are different ways that we can suffer, and when suffering comes, often several of these types of suffering are involved.

You will “be glorified with him”
either we have suffered or we will until we are with Jesus in Glory - let’s briefly look at this a bit more in closing today as we begin to understand some of what is happening, in order to make us more and more into the image of Christ, through our suffering:
It’s a battleground for our soul
As a church we want to walk through any sufferings in this life through the gift of community
In making us more like Christ, suffering prepares us for whatever ministry we’ve been called to or uniquely designed by God for.

Close / Setup for next week:
“...provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

Cristian will explore this further next Sunday but for today as I close out this passage… let’s consider this together…

ILLUS: The Gift of Pain… Dr Paul Brand, working off of the research on Leprosy (now called Hansen’s disease) says this: “Thank God for pain. If I had only one gift I could give to my leprosy patients, it would be the gift of pain.”

I had never heard anybody thank God for pain. -isn’t one of the first parts of the hippocratic oath to ‘do no harm?”- see, leprosy, as a now-curable disease of bacteria growing on the skin, deadens pain receptors in the nerves. Many think that limbs are lost only because of the decay that comes from leprosy, it’s actually a result of the lack of pain and regularly harming the same area on a body without any sensation of pain so there is loss of a digit, limb, etc.

This got me thinking about Jesus’ healing of a leper in Mark 1

Mark 1:40–45 [40] And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” [41] Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” [42] And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. [45] But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.

The leper, an outcast in that society, comes to Jesus so that he might be cleansed.
Jesus gives him his cleansing and restores him to community. He has a new life.
After this great miracle where do you find Jesus? He’s alone. He’s out in desolate places. He’s become an outcast.

The leper and Christ have traded places: the outsider is brought in as the Chosen One is cast out.

For those who have ears to hear, take this to heart today, perhaps you’ll hear this for the first time today and the Holy Spirit wants to help you see for the first time, this marvelous savior!

Because the Son was forsaken by his Father, we are adopted as sons and daughters into the household of God, the spirit empowering us to know God as our FATHER. Heirs with the one who laid down his life to save us.

For us to be made clean, Christ became unclean. Uncleanness, that is - taking on our sin through the cross - wasn’t something Jesus was going to shy away from; he conquered it fully. Not stopping there, just conquering it; he trading places with it for our benefit and for his Glory - he now offers this gift to those of us willing to humble ourselves to say; cleanse me… to that, the savior’s reply is: “I will; be clean”

Jesus goes beyond the surface in our lives, he goes beyond the points of pain in our circumstances or sufferings, he ministers the salve of the Gospel to hearts that are hurting from the brokenness and sin we encounter as well as produce.

This is also how we begin to understand how it is that the Gospel uses our suffering to make us more and more like Jesus, the one who has traded places with us, ministering to us through our pain, leading to more and more glory through our lives all the while making us clean.

We can fight sin with the power of the Holy Spirit and have childlike affection toward our Father - this is the Empowered Assurance that Paul helps us understand in Romans 8:12-17


  • Ministry categories:
  • Jesus taking your place: drawing you into saving faith today? The great I AM says I Will; be clean
  • Jesus working in your circumstances or suffering for his glory, for your Christlikeness, he can meet you in your time of need and provide what you need to bring him Glory!
  • Jesus offering himself as the fullness for your emptiness… it’s the only way to satisfy our hearts, bringing glory to him through putting death to our sin
  • God as Father… looking beyond our earthly dads, crying out ABBA! To the one who will never disown you and who has paid the price of all of your debts, causing us to rejoice from a debt of gratitude...