Mike Hess, national representative of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches, opened the 2021 GARBC Conference with a humorous comment before thanking those who were making the conference possible, including the conference committee and staff. He especially thanked Bethel Baptist Church of Schaumburg, Illinois, saying that only six months earlier “we had no idea where this conference would be, and God provided a wonderful venue.” Mike also thanked Pastor Ken Fields and Bethel’s “accommodating” church staff.

Mike had earlier recognized the GARBC’s Home Office staff in attendance. Turning his attention to the audience, Mike expressed his gratitude to them for the opportunity of “sitting under the Word together.”

In his sermon inaugurating the conference on “Spirit Unleashed,” Mike gave the working definition for the week: “The Holy Spirit is God’s indwelling power that enables every true believer to pursue Christlikeness.” He alluded to the other speakers’ messages, saying they would do a tremendous job of breaking down what Jesus said as He promised His disciples to send a Helper. While Christians often feel like failures, with the indwelling Spirit, believers can become like Christ.

Preaching from Romans 8:1–11, Mike stated the big idea: “The indwelling power of the Holy Spirit is greater than the power of the flesh. Mike then showed how the Third Person of the Trinity works in believers to make them more like God’s Son. As Mike pointed out, that is the reason God Himself would “take up residence in us—to make us holy like God’s Son.”

First, the Holy Spirit awakens sinners to Who Jesus is. “To us here tonight—because the Spirit of God has opened our eyes—Jesus Christ is indeed the Son of God; He is the resurrection and the life; He is the great “I Am”; He is the door, the Good Shepherd. He is the One Who is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, Who was and is and is to come; and He is our coming King. I don’t get there with human knowledge. I get there because the Spirit of God opens my eyes. The Holy Spirit awakens us to holiness.”

Second, the Holy Spirit makes believers aware that sin is a temporary pleasure and that living by the flesh to please oneself results in conflict, defeat, and regret. In contrast, the way to life and peace is to submit. God is always trustworthy and worthy of trust. Submission to Him is the pathway to joy.

Third, the Holy Spirit assures. Believers have the assurance that the Holy Spirit, Who raised Christ from the dead, will raise their fallen bodies. “The power of the Holy Spirit, Who takes up residence in us, promises that one day there will be no more walkers; no more medications, aches, pains, diseases, viruses, pandemics, or masks; no more abandoned children, broken marriages; no more debates about vaccines; no more need for prisons; no possibility of sin; no more urges to sin—it’s all going to be gone, because God will triumph, and God will raise your mortal body to a body raised in the likeness to Jesus Christ.”

“How do people finish well?” Mike asked as he concluded. “It goes back to this, as the passage teaches us: the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit is greater than the power of the flesh.”