What Part Does the Holy Spirit Play in Salvation? | John 3 and Romans 8

A Spirit-Led Church

Timothy "TA" Ateek continues our series as we seek to have a deep understanding and experience of the Holy Spirit. From John 3 and Romans 8, TA unpacks all that the Holy Spirit has done just to get us to day one of trusting in and knowing Jesus.

Timothy "TA" AteekFeb 18, 2024John 3:3-6; Titus 3:4-6; 1 Corinthians 12:2-3; Romans 8:14-15

In This Series (8)
The Gifts of Tongues, Prophecy, and Healing | 1 Corinthians 14
Timothy "TA" AteekMar 24, 2024
A Spiritual Checkup | 1 Corinthians 12
Timothy "TA" AteekMar 17, 2024
The God Who Unifies | Ephesians 4:1-16
Kylen PerryMar 10, 2024
Is There a Spiritual Power Outage in Our Lives? | Acts 16:6–10
Timothy "TA" AteekMar 3, 2024
How Does the Holy Spirit Minister to Believers? | Galatians 5:16-26
John ElmoreFeb 25, 2024
What Part Does the Holy Spirit Play in Salvation? | John 3 and Romans 8
Timothy "TA" AteekFeb 18, 2024
Who Is the Holy Spirit? | John 14:16-17, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18
Timothy "TA" Ateek, Oren Martin, Antoinette Davis, Emily Hope, Dave BruskasFeb 11, 2024
Why Talk About the Holy Spirit? | John 14:16-26
Timothy "TA" AteekFeb 4, 2024

Key Takeaways

Here is the goal: that we would be overwhelmingly grateful and expectantly prayerful. Overwhelmingly grateful for what the Spirit has done in our lives, and expectantly prayerful for what he will do in the lives of family and friends and neighbors and co-workers who do not yet know the Lord.

There are three theological works of the Spirit:

  1. Regeneration (John 3:3-6) – If you are a Christian, you are a walking miracle. Because you were dead and God made you alive. That’s your testimony. Not, “I was bad and now I am better.” No, I was dead and now I am alive all because of God’s supernatural work in my life. God gets the credit. The Father initiated God’s plan of salvation, Jesus Christ accomplished God’s plan of salvation, and the Spirit has applied it to you.
  2. Conversion – No one is born a Christian. Everyone must individually hear the gospel, turn from sin (i.e., repentance) and receive (i.e., faith) Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The Spirit’s work of conviction leads us to want to turn away from our sin in repentance. As the Spirit convicts, he also enables us to put our faith in Jesus.\
  3. Adoption - Adoption signifies a change in status, and being granted the full rights and privileges of sonship in a family to which one does not belong by nature. The believer, once a child of wrath, now is admitted to the heavenly family, to which he has no rights of his own. But he is now admitted and can call God “Father.”

Discussing and Applying the Sermon

  • If you were asked how you became a Christian, what would you say? Why is it really important to realize that you wouldn’t be a Christian today if it wasn’t for the unseen work of the Spirit? What is an appropriate response to God who graciously brought new life to you from the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit?
  • In what ways are you, like Nicodemus, trying to earn regeneration (new spiritual life) from God?
  • What difference does it make in your life to understand that in Christ you were not just “bad and now better,” but rather “dead and now alive?”
  • Who in your life right now is spiritually dead and in need of a miracle (i.e., regeneration)? Take a moment and pray for them.
  • Read this quote by J. I. Packer in Knowing God and consider these questions: Do you tend to feel like you’re a visitor or a child of God? Why is it important to relate to God as your Father in Christ?

“If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all.”

  • What is the work of the Spirit in confirming that you are a child of God (Romans 8:16-17)? How can you grow in living this reality out more and more?
  • Join Watermark on our 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting from February 1 – 21, 2024. Sign up for daily prayer prompts and find more resources at watermark.org/pray.

Good morning, Watermark. How are we doing today? Welcome. I'm glad you're here. If this is your first time ever with us, I hope this place feels like home very quickly. Just a quick reminder. We are about to finish up our 21 days of prayer and fasting. If you have not jumped in with us, it's not too late. There will be people here tomorrow morning, 6:00 to 7:00 a.m., meeting in the Chapel to pray.

We'll be back on Wednesday from 12:00 to 1:00 to pray in the Chapel, and then Wednesday night we are gathering as a body. Everyone is invited to come for a night of prayer and worship. We started that way on February 1. We're going to finish that way on the 21st. So make plans Wednesday night, 7:00 p.m., to be right here in this room for an amazing celebration together as a body.

We're about to step into the Word of God. Here's what I want you to know. You and I both have responsibilities in this moment. My responsibility is to be sensitive to what the Spirit wants to do in this moment to speak to you. Your responsibility… You're like, "No, no, no. I don't have responsibilities. I have those during the week. This is your responsibility. This is your time." Hey, you have a responsibility too, because the Spirit of God illuminates our hearts and minds to the truth.

Your responsibility is to position yourself in a place where you're ready to hear from God. So, why don't we all pray for a moment. Take a second and pray for yourself and say, "God, I pray that you would wake me up and make me aware of your presence. Would you speak to my heart by the power of your Spirit today?" Then would you pray for me? Just say, "God, would you fill TA with the Spirit and speak through him to us today?"

Lord, this time is yours. We're thankful that you are a God who loves your people and you love to speak to us. I pray that your Spirit would lead and guide us into all truth today. Thank you that we need your Spirit to understand things about your Spirit. So use this time for your glory. In Jesus' name, amen.

I proposed to my wife Kathryn on June 2, 2006. I've probably talked about it before, and I'll probably talk about it again, but I'm proud of the way I proposed. That's why I'll probably talk about it a lot. On that night, I tried to pull out all of the stops. There was a limo involved. There were eight dozen roses involved. There was a dress I purchased for Kat to wear on that night. Ladies, you're like, "Well, that's super risky."

Then there was dinner on the thirty-ninth floor of a downtown Dallas skyscraper just watching the sunset. There was a slideshow of our lives on an outdoor projector, and then there were floating candles in a lake because I proposed on a rowboat. Yeah, that's all I wanted to share. Let's pray and get out of here. Just joking.

I'm super proud of it, but here's what you need to know: that night was only possible due to the work of many individuals whom Kat never saw. It required very important activity from people, and Kat had no awareness of it. The eight dozen roses were picked out by my mom. The dress I bought… The reason I was able to hit the target was because Kat is a twin, and her twin sister came shopping with me. It was like, "Would this dress fit Kathryn? Yes, it would. Okay. That's really, really helpful."

The dinner reservations were made by my parents. The slideshow projector was set up by some friends. The floating candles were put in the lake by my cousin. It all took place because of the unseen work of some really important people. What was great was at the end of that night, I was able to get with Kathryn and say, "Hey, look. Let me share with you all that was done by people you never even saw."

The reason I even share that with you is because today, as we continue our series on the Holy Spirit, we are talking about the significant unseen work of the Spirit of God in our lives just to bring us to the point of putting our trust in Jesus. So, that's what we're talking about today. We're talking about all the Spirit of God did just to get us to day one of saying yes to Jesus.

I want you to think about it this way. If you and I were to sit down for coffee and I were to ask, "Hey, how did you become a Christian?" I don't know what would come to your mind. You might think of the investment of a friend in your life. You might think about a camp you went to or a conference or a sermon you heard or you might point to re:gen. I don't know. You might point to some ministry.

I think about the Christian camp my parents sent me to at a young age. I think about my mom clarifying the gospel for me and helping me pray to receive Christ. But here's the reality: none of that would be possible without the unseen work of the Spirit in our lives. No one here today would be a Christian without the Spirit of God doing a miracle in your life just to get you to day one of saying yes to Jesus.

So, let's be clear from the start. Salvation is a miracle. Every person in here who knows Jesus is a walking, talking miracle. As we sit here in this series that we're calling A Spirit-Led Church… Part of us being a Spirit-led church is being a church that can identify and appreciate the work of the Spirit.

Let me tell you right from the start what my ultimate goal is today. Here it is. Don't miss it. The win… When I say "win," I'm just saying you can know what it'll look like to walk out of here losing. Here's the win. The win is that we would be people who leave here today overwhelmingly grateful and expectantly prayerful.

What do I mean by that? I mean we want to be people who are overwhelmingly grateful for the work of the Spirit in our lives just to get us to the day of salvation, and then we want to be expectantly prayerful of all that the Spirit of God is going to do in the lives of people who don't yet know him, for our friends, family members, coworkers, and neighbors whom we long to see put their trust in Jesus Christ.

Here's where we're going today. I want to unpack three theological works of the Holy Spirit. These are going to make you sound really smart, so when you go to lunch with friends who weren't here, you can be like, "Let me throw out some big words for you. Did you know what this means, or this?" and you can really impress people.

The three things we're talking about today are regeneration, conversion, and adoption. Those are three unseen works of the Spirit that are going to lead us to be overwhelmingly grateful and expectantly prayerful. The best thing we can do is start with regeneration. If you do have a Bible, I want to invite you to join me in John, chapter 3. That's where we're going to start. It won't be where we stay. We're actually going to bounce around today as we look at these three different works of the Spirit.

1. Regeneration. If you're not familiar with the work of the Spirit known as regeneration… When we talk about regeneration, we're talking about being born again. We find this language and this idea of a new spiritual birth in Jesus' famous interaction with a well-known religious leader named Nicodemus. Here's what Jesus says to Nicodemus in John, chapter 3, starting in verse 3:

"Jesus answered him, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.' Nicodemus said to him, 'How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?' Jesus answered, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.'"

Let's just break down this conversation Jesus has. He starts in verse 3 and says, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." What you need to know is the word in Greek that has been translated again can also be translated from above. It can mean both things. What Jesus is saying here is that you have to be born from above.

Jesus is saying, "Let's all be clear. Anyone who is truly a Christian is going to experience two births in life. One is a physical birth, and the second is a spiritual birth." You can't see the kingdom of God or spend eternity with God without being born from above. Nicodemus responds, and here's what he says: "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" That's a valid question.

Now, here's what you need to know. Nicodemus is being a little sarcastic. He's not a super-confused guy right now where he's like, "How would that…? Is that possible to kind of…? I don't…" That's not what's happening. Nicodemus isn't like, "How is that going to work? Thinking through anatomy, I don't think I can do that." That's not what's happening.

What's being revealed is his frame of mind. It's his understanding of how salvation takes place. Nicodemus believes salvation is going to come through his effort. Look back at his wording, because it shows his understanding. He says, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?"

Do you see where the emphasis and the activity falls? It falls on the human. It falls on the man. It falls on Nicodemus having to do something to achieve salvation. That's exactly what Jesus is trying to get him to understand. That's why he responds to Nicodemus in verse 5 and says, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."

Remember, he's talking to a very religious individual, someone who believed the kingdom of God was for him. Jesus is saying, "Dude, you've got it wrong, because unless you're born of water and the Spirit…" Those were familiar imageries to Nicodemus. In the Old Testament they are allusions, or references, to the new covenant. Water was symbolic of cleansing, and spirit was reference to new life.

What Jesus is saying to Nicodemus is, "Unless you're cleansed by God and unless you're given new life by God, you will not see the kingdom of God." Jesus is driving home this point to Nicodemus. "Look. You have to experience a different kind of birth than you've ever experienced in your life. There has to be a spiritual birth," which we now know as the Spirit's work of regeneration.

What is regeneration? What are we talking about when we use the term regeneration? Let me give you the definitions of some people who are way smarter than I am. Wayne Grudem puts it this way: "Regeneration is a secret act of God in which he imparts new life to us." Do you see that? It's something God does for us. He imparts new life to us.

My favorite definition for regeneration comes from Bruce Demarest. He puts it this way: "Regeneration is that work of the Spirit at conversion that renews the heart and life (the inner self), thus restoring…" Look at what's restored. "…the person's intellectual, volitional, moral, emotional, and relational capacities…" In order to be able to do…what? "…to know, love, and serve God."

This is where we have to get clarity. Here's what we need to see. It is impossible to know, love, or serve God without the supernatural, life-giving work of the Holy Spirit. You need God's intervention in your life. The apostle Paul agreed with what Jesus was saying. This is where we actually get the word regeneration from. We find it in Titus, chapter 3.

Listen to what Paul says in verse 3 of Titus 3. "For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another." What Paul is doing right now is describing who we were, who everyone was, prior to knowing Jesus. He would describe this in Ephesians 2 as being dead in our trespasses and sins.

Paul is like, "Look. Let me remind you of who you were before Jesus. This is at least who you were in God's eyes. You were foolish." It's like, "Paul, that's a little extreme, but okay. I get the point." He's like, "And disobedient. You were led astray." It's like, "Paul, I understand." "You were slaves to various passions and pleasures…" "Paul." "…passing your days in malice and envy. You were hated by others, and you hated one another."

This is what you need to see. Paul is saying, "Look. There is nothing in you that was praiseworthy in God's eyes. In fact, you were incapable of doing anything pleasing to God." The descriptions Paul just gave… He's trying to paint a picture. Don't find life in yourself. Don't think that you in your own effort, your own strength, can do something that's going to make God look at you and be like, "Oh, there it is. That's what I was looking for. Come on in here. You belong."

He's trying to paint a picture that you were in a helpless, hopeless place, which makes the beginning of verse 4 in Titus 3 so effective. "But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us…" There it is. Don't miss it. That's what I need you to hear. "He saved us." We don't save ourselves; he saves us. It's his miraculous work in our lives.

"…he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior…" Here's what that means. If you're a follower of Jesus Christ, if you are a Christian, you are, in fact, a walking miracle, because you were dead and God has made you alive. That's our story.

Let's just be clear. Our story is not, "You know what? I was bad, and Jesus has made me better." No. Our story is we were dead, and now we are alive. So, here's the great news. If you're here this morning and you don't have a relationship with Jesus, yet you put your trust in Jesus today, that's your story when you leave.

So, if you go to lunch with friends who weren't here, and they're like, "How was that church thing?" you can be like, "You know what? When I went there I was dead, and when I left I was alive. It has been a good morning. What have you been doing today?" That's your story. That's the kindness and goodness of God in our lives.

This is what I need to make sure you hear. This is how the Father and Son and Spirit work together. It's the Father who initiated the plan of salvation; it was the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who accomplished God's plan of salvation; and it's the Holy Spirit who applies God's plan of salvation to our lives. So, you aren't a Christian simply because you heard the gospel, evaluated it, came to the conclusion that it was true, and then chose God.

Those things are necessary. Like, faith… You have to make a choice. John 1:12 says, "For as many as received him, he gave them the right to become children of God." You need to hear the gospel, you need to evaluate it, you need to come to the conclusion that it's true, and then you need to put your trust in Jesus Christ, yet that is impossible apart from the miraculous work of the Spirit. It's the Spirit who has come and gives you new life.

It would be like this. It would be like you coming up after the service and saying, "Hey, man. Where were you born?" How weird would it be if I was like, "You know what? I chose to be born in Dallas." Wouldn't you be like, "Wait, what?" No. All credit goes to Carla Ateek. Carla Ateek was the one… She decided where I'd be born, and ultimately, God decided when I would be born. I tell you that just to say we're walking miracles.

We don't normally do this, but I want to give you an opportunity to pray right now. It's going to throw some people off, because you're programmed that when I say, "Let's pray," you're like, "Great. Okay. It's time to go. Let's get to Costco." We're not done. All right? I just told you from the beginning we want to be overwhelmingly grateful. I just told you your life is a miracle, so let's pause and thank God.

I would encourage you right now to pray. Say, "God, thank you for the miracle of your salvation in my life. Thank you that I was dead and now I am alive." While you're praying, I want you to think about who in your life right now is spiritually dead and in need of a miracle. I told you I want us to be expectantly prayerful. So I want you to pray for the Spirit's work of regeneration in the lives of your unbelieving friends. Just pray for them by name right now. Ask for God's miraculous work in their hearts in this moment.

Lord, thank you for your miraculous works in our hearts. Thank you for the gift of salvation. Lord, I pray that today, if there's anyone in this room who does not know you, you would wake them up to life right now. In Jesus' name, amen.

Before we move on to the second work of the Spirit, here's what I want to make sure you know. We're talking about God doing a miracle in your life. If you are a walking miracle, if there is new life in you, then that life is to be lived out. You know a baby is alive because it naturally cries or gets hungry or drinks milk and moves around. If God has done a miracle in your life, if he has given you new life, then there should be some signs of life in you. Do you want to know why? Because you are united with the resurrected Christ. You are united with him in his life, so his life should be manifested through your life.

I just say that to say if you consider yourself a Christian because you prayed a prayer one day or because you were baptized as an infant, but there are really no signs of life for an extended period of time…there's little to no desire to know Jesus, to love Jesus, to connect with Jesus; there's little to no desire to understand how his life can be lived out through you or how you can honor him with your life…then it's at least worth asking the question…Has a miracle truly happened in your life?

You can at least come to the conclusion that your heart has grown cold to God's miraculous work in your life, and you need to seek immediate attention. Deal with God today on it. Don't file what I just said away and say, "You know what? I'll figure it out in a couple of months." Cancel your plans today and meet with God until you are brought back to an awareness of God's miraculous work in your life and what he wants to do. Let me be clear. Struggle is a part of the normal Christian life. It is. There's still sin and doubt and dry seasons, but there is a life seen in a life of repentance and faith and fruit.

Before we move on, I just want to say this. Here's the good news: you will never have to beg God to make you alive. That is something he gladly does. I remember reading an article about a cult that actually originated in Texas. I remember reading about this woman who was affiliated with this cult saying she so desperately wanted God to save her, but he hadn't yet.

The good news is that will never be true. If you want new life, if you want to be saved, there is a good chance God has already saved you, but if there's any question, all you have to do is cry out to him now. Confess him as Lord now. The Scriptures are clear. All who call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Period. No question. So, today can be the day of salvation for you. Okay. That's regeneration. That's by far the longest one.

2. Conversion. When we talk about conversion, we're talking about our response to the good news about Jesus. This is how Wayne Grudem, a much smarter person than I, defines conversion: "Conversion is our willing response to the gospel call, in which we sincerely repent of sins and place our trust in Christ for salvation."

Let's just be clear. No one is born a Christian, and no one is a robot. Nobody is a robot who's just programmed to say, "Jesus." Every single person has to make a decision to put their trust in Christ. That's conversion. That is your clear and willful response to the gospel message, where you come to a place where you have understood the gospel, you have acknowledged it is true, and you have called out to God in faith. You have turned from your sin in repentance, and you have embraced Christ as Savior and Lord through faith.

So, if that's what conversion is, if that is our willful response, then what does the Holy Spirit have to do with conversion? Well, here's what we need to realize. Turning from our sin in repentance is only possible through the work of conviction by the Holy Spirit. Us confessing Jesus Christ as Lord is really only made possible through the enabling power of the Spirit to help us realize Christ for who he truly is and to respond rightly to him.

What we need to do now is talk about the Spirit's work of conviction, how he convicts and how he enables. For us to talk about how the Spirit convicts, let me invite you to turn with me over to John, chapter 16. Here's what Jesus says in verse 7: "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." That's a reference to the Holy Spirit. Verse 8:

"And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged."

Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit will convict. What does it mean for the Spirit to convict? It means the Spirit will allow us to see our sin for what it truly is. The Spirit of God helps us see our sin for what it truly is…as sin, as rebellion against God, as displeasing to God. That's what the Spirit does. He convicts. Jesus tells us he convicts of three things. First, sin; second, righteousness; and third, judgment. The Spirit of God does a work in our lives that we can see we even have sin we need to turn from. I'll explain it this way.

Over fall break back in October, Kat and I took our boys to SeaWorld. My kids wanted to go on this water ride, and I was like, "Lord, please, no. I don't want to ride the water ride." It was October. The weather had already started changing. It was kind of cold, and they wanted to do the water ride first thing of the day. We didn't have a change of clothes. We didn't come for the water ride. We came for every other ride, not that ride.

So, we get on the water ride, and my kids are super excited about the water ride. Well, then when we get off the ride, we are soaked from head to toe. Our socks are soaking wet. The soles of our shoes, the whole inside… They are waterlogged. Now my kids are like, "I don't want this." I'm like, "Well, you should have thought about that, man. This was your fault."

What's interesting is the thing they were so excited about became the thing that was robbing them of life. It probably shortened our day at SeaWorld, honestly, because they were so uncomfortable. You know what it feels like for your clothes to be sticking to you. It's cold, so when the breeze hits, you're shivering. Your socks are wet. Can you feel it right now? Your shoes are waterlogged. They're making wet imprints as you walk. It's that kind of day.

That's what the Spirit does when he convicts. Sin is so enjoyable until it isn't, when the Spirit of God allows you to see your sin in a way that it's uncomfortable, and everything in you wants a change. But here's the thing: you can't change yourself, which is what makes passages like Colossians 3 so beautiful, where it talks about putting off and putting on.

This is Greek language about clothing. Because of what Christ has done and through the power of the Spirit, we can actually take off the clothes of sin and can be clothed with the righteousness of Christ. But what the Spirit first does is just says, "Look. You're wet, and now you're going to feel it. I'm going to bring you to a place where you want change."

The Spirit allows us to repent. He convicts us of our sin. He allows us to see the wrong judgments we've come to about Jesus. That's why it's so beautiful when I've had the opportunity to see Muslims put their trust in Christ. They come to a place where they realize the judgments, the conclusions they came to about Jesus were wrong, and they confess Christ as Lord and Savior.

The thing I really want to dial into right now is in verse 10 where it says the Spirit convicts concerning righteousness. Jesus says, "…because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer…" When Jesus says the Spirit will convict concerning righteousness, he's really targeting the Pharisees. I mean, think about Jesus' chief opponents. It was the religious people of the day.

Why was there an issue with the religious people and Jesus? It's because the religious people came to the conclusion that they were righteous and Jesus was sinful. That's why Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:20 says, "For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

Isn't that amazing? He's saying, "Look. The religious people who you guys see as the people who are absolutely in touch with God… Unless your righteousness exceeds their righteousness, there's no chance of you seeing heaven." Jesus was like a black light in a hotel room. Just think Michael Scott in The Office. You know what I'm talking about? He walks in…

Jesus comes, and something that looks all clean and put together… Jesus exposes it, because his righteousness and his perfection expose the unrighteousness and imperfection of humanity. Now Jesus is saying, "Look. I'm going away, and the Spirit is going to come, and he's going to do what I was doing." The Spirit is going to reveal to you how your unrighteousness does not match up with Christ's righteousness. Your imperfection falls short of Christ's perfection.

Now, here is why I really want to dial into this. Please don't miss it. Here is the thing that concerns me as a pastor. There have been multiple times where I've clearly presented the good news of Christianity. I've unpacked from the stage the reason Jesus came is to live the perfect life we could not live. Not one of us has met God's standard, which is perfection. We have all lived in rebellion against God.

Then Jesus went to the cross, and he died in our place. He was punished so you and I wouldn't have to be. He absorbed the wrath of God we deserved for our rebellion against God, and then Jesus Christ rose and conquered the grave as a declaration that what he had done for us was sufficient so that anyone who puts their trust in Jesus Christ can be completely forgiven of their rebellion against God and can experience the righteousness of Christ being imputed to them.

I've shared that clearly, yet people will come down front, and as I engage with them, it's very clear they have not heard it, that they still believe what makes them a Christian is the things they do or don't do. It's that they are trying to live a respectable life. It's that they're prioritizing going to church. They were baptized as an infant. They look around at the people around them who are doing a lot worse things, and they say, "At least I'm not doing that."

So, life and Christianity is about living a morally above-average life or just being a spiritual person. "You know what? I might not believe in Jesus, but I am a spiritual person." Do you know what that shows? It shows that those people are desperately in need of the convicting work of the Spirit in their life, because they don't see their sin as God sees it.

I picked up the sport of tennis at the age of 40. I've since put it down. I remember one of the first times I went to the tennis court when I picked up the game of tennis. It was awful. I mean, I barely found the boundaries on the other side of the court. I was just soaring balls all over the place. I remember walking around to pick up the tennis balls I had launched everywhere, and I kid you not. This is true. I had this sinking, depressing feeling come over me of "I will never be the best at this." I just came to that conclusion at 40.

I was watching Novak Djokovic on TV, and I was like, "I want to do that. Even at 40, I want to become that. I want to be great. I want to be one of those guys who's playing at the court, and other people on other courts just stop and start staring, like, 'Who is that?' 'It's Timothy Ateek, the GOAT in Richardson.'" That's what I longed for. I came to this realization that I could never become that.

When I watched professionals play… When I got up close to the court and saw the pace at which the game was moving, the ability for them to cover the entire court…it was crazy…it felt like they were playing a different game. What the Spirit of God does is he brings us to a place where we see Christ's perfection and his righteousness, and we see our imperfection, and we come to a place where we realize it's a different game. Jesus is on a level we have no ability to play on.

God's standard is what it is, and it is not ours to reduce. It is ours to beg him to satisfy his standard for us. That's what Christ came to do. What the Spirit of God does is he helps us see our sin for what it is. So, I want to pray again right now. I want to pray, specifically, for the people in the room who are the people I just described. You've heard the gospel clearly this morning, yet something in you still believes you're a Christian because of your good activity. So pray with me.

Lord, if there is anyone in this room right now who has never truly seen their sin as you see it, I want to pray for the miraculous work of your Spirit, your Spirit's work of conviction, that right now blinders would fall off the eyes of people's hearts, that people would see their sin and know their need, their desperate need for a Savior.

Maybe you're in here, and you're just realizing you've come to the wrong conclusions about God. Maybe you're coming from a Muslim background or another faith system that would just say Jesus was a good person or a good teacher, but he's not God; he's not Savior.

Lord, I pray for that person as well, that they would come to the realization that Jesus Christ is, in fact, Lord and Savior of the world. In Jesus' name, amen.

See, the Spirit's work of conviction leads us to want to turn away from our sin in repentance. What's amazing is as the Spirit convicts, he also enables us to put our faith in Jesus. We're talking about conversion, our willful response to the gospel, but it takes the Spirit's work of conviction and also takes the Spirit enabling us to put our faith in Jesus.

Where do I get that from in Scripture? I get it from 1 Corinthians 12:2-3. Listen to what it says. "You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says 'Jesus is accursed!' and no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except in the Holy Spirit."

Paul is saying think back to when you weren't a Christian. What you need to know is you were led astray. You were under an influence. You were pulled away. You were enslaved to something because of the work of the Evil One in your life. You were worshiping things as god that were not, in fact, god.

Yet, if you've been brought to a place where you have now confessed Jesus Christ as Lord, it has happened because of the enabling work of the Spirit in your life. So, is faith a choice? Yes, of course it is. Absolutely. You have to come to a place where you choose to put your trust in Christ, yet it is a choice that is enabled by the work of the Holy Spirit. There's mystery in there, but the Spirit is at work, allowing us to cry out to Jesus as Lord.

3. Adoption. We find this in Romans 8:14-15. Paul says, "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!'" When Paul talks about being led by the Spirit, that leading there is a reference to being controlled or governed by the Spirit.

What Paul is saying is if you have been regenerated by the Spirit, if you have been convicted by the Spirit to the point of repentance, if you have been enabled by the Spirit to the point of faith, then here's the good news: if you are led by the Spirit, then you are sons of God. You belong in the family of God.

This idea of adoption, the spirit of adoption… It is because of the Holy Spirit that we have experienced adoption into God's family. Adoption signifies a change in status, being granted the full rights and privileges of sonship in a family to which not one of us belonged by nature. The Spirit of God has done something so significant that we now belong in the family of God.

This is what is true of us. Don't miss what Paul says in Ephesians 1:3. I want you to hear this as if you've never heard it before. Listen to what it says. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places…" Isn't that incredible? That's who we are as God's children.

God has done something so significant through Christ's death, burial, and resurrection, through the working of the Spirit, enabling us, applying God's work on the cross in our lives, so that we have every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. The Spirit has come and personalized what Christ has done. Because of the Spirit, the text says, we're able to cry out, "Abba, Father." That word Abba is a term of intimacy. It's like a child to a dad.

Paul is saying the Spirit has done something so significant that you are in an intimate, familial relationship with God. The Spirit is the one who gives us a sense of belonging to God's family and getting to have an intimate connection with our heavenly Father. I want you to listen to J.I. Packer's words. I read this back in December, but I want to read it again.

He says, "If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God's child and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all."

I'll explain it this way. There have been different times in the past where somebody has been gracious to allow my family to use their lake house or their mountain home or something like that. It has been amazing. It has been such a blessing. It has been so kind. But this is just a full confession: I am never able to fully enjoy it. The reason is I don't want to break anything that would cause that friend to be like, "I knew I shouldn't have trusted the Ateeks with this." So I'm a super-fun dad. I'm like, "Guys, don't touch that. Get off of that. Don't go in there. Stop that." It's all because I'm a visitor.

God through the Father has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places through the work of adoption by the Spirit, yet I wonder how many of us act more like visitors in God's family than children, and we never truly enjoy all of the benefits and blessings. The Spirit is the one who brings us into God's family, saying, "Move in. Unpack. Stay. Enjoy. Relax. Refresh. You belong." We get to call God "Father," and he calls us his children.

So, I started out today and said, "Hey, here's the goal today. The goal today is for us to leave here overwhelmingly grateful and expectantly prayerful." Overwhelmingly grateful. How weird would it be for Kat and me to know all the unseen work people went to in our proposal and for us to never say, "Thank you."

Do you know what the cool thing is? We still haven't gotten over it. I still see some of those people, and it's like, "Hey, remember when you floated those candles in the lake? Yeah, that was really cool," 17 years later. It's because we haven't gotten over it. May the same be true with what the Spirit of God has done in our lives.

Here's my challenge to you. Don't miss this. Make it a priority to thank God for your salvation every single day. Don't let a day go by where you do not thank the Father for initiating his plan of salvation, thank the Son for accomplishing salvation, and thank the Spirit for applying salvation to your life. Now you know specifically what to thank the Spirit for: for regenerating you, convicting you, enabling you, and adopting you. Every day this week express gratitude.

Then we want to be expectantly prayerful. We did this before Christmas. I want to invite you to do it before Easter. If you call this place home, then I want to ask you to jump in. This is not a suggestion; this is me calling our people to be a praying people. Pick one unbelieving friend, family member, coworker, or neighbor.

Pray for one person by name every day from now until Easter. It's 42 days. Pray specifically for the Spirit to regenerate them, convict them, enable them, and adopt them into God's family. Let's just see at our Easter services if there are a bunch more walking miracles in our midst because of what the Spirit of God does in their lives.

Then, finally, I'll end by saying this. Maybe you're here today, and you don't have a relationship with Jesus Christ, but a miracle is happening in your life right now where you are seeing Jesus clearly for the first time. You're seeing your sin clearly for the first time, and God is bringing you to a place, by the working of his Spirit, where you want to say yes to Jesus.

If that's you, I want to invite you to pray with me now. Everyone can pray with me now. You can say, "Lord Jesus, would you come into my life today? Thank you that you died on the cross for me. Thank you that you rose from the dead for me. Would you come into my life? Would you forgive me of my sins? I turn from my sins and turn toward you. I want life with you today and forevermore."

For everyone in the room, I just say, Lord Jesus, would you do a work in our lives? Thank you, Father, for your love for us to send your Son. Thank you, Jesus, for all you accomplished on the cross. Thank you for asking the Father to send the Spirit, and thank you, Spirit, that you have come, that you have regenerated, you have convicted, you have enabled, you have adopted so many of us. God, I pray we would be a people who leave here overwhelmingly grateful and expectantly prayerful for all you will do. We need you and we love you. In Jesus' name, amen.

About 'A Spirit-Led Church'

We study the work and person of the Holy Spirit so that we can more fully understand and experience the Spirit in our lives.