The first seven chapters of the Book of Romans focused on the power of sin in our lives, and they have set the stage for chapter 8 by discussing Paul’s ideas about sin. Our reading today from Romans 8:1-11 is an entrance into friendly territory. It talks about the Holy Spirit, which was not mentioned in the previous seven chapters. In chapter 8 alone there are 21 specific references to the Holy Spirit because this chapter is practical in showing us how important the Holy Spirit is in our daily lives.

Paul contrasts life in the flesh with life in the Spirit, and Romans 8:1-11 focuses on setting our minds on the things of the Spirit. Paul works with the idea that God’s Spirit raised Jesus’ dead body and that same Spirit lives in each and every one of us. The Holy Spirit gives life to our bodies and personalities. We are like God because we are made out of the same stuff and substance as God. God’s Spirit sets off our spirits inside of us.

The power of evil is not dumb. It always attacks us when we are the most vulnerable and the weakest. Paul identifies our four weakest areas as sex, anger, drunkenness and orgies and pride. In other words, we are at our weakest when we are in our sin-filled nature. Romans 8:1-11 crucifies and kills our sinful nature and lets the Spirit gush out with great power.

Life in the flesh means a life of sin, selfishness and worldliness. In contrast, life in the Spirit is a life of holiness, giving and Christ-centeredness. Life in the flesh leads to a body that is dead in sin, but a life in the Spirit leads to a life in Christ. When the Spirit lives in us, we are brought to life and we are redeemed from the grave just like Jesus was brought back to life and redeemed from the grave after his crucifixion.

When Paul talks about the sins of the flesh, he talks about all the sinful behaviour that exists in our world, and that is in contrast to the peace, joy and love that exists in the Spirit. We have been created as embodied persons, claimed by the promise of baptism and focused on the Spirit who redeems us to all that is good and true. Concern for worldly pleasures is bad, concern for spiritual life is better. This is often difficult for us to do, especially if we have to work on Sundays or when we are tempted by the sinful world. If we have the Holy Spirit, God will give us the strength to resist temptation.

The Old Testament law was weak because humans could not keep it, so God sent Jesus. Jesus met the demands of the law that were rightly made against the people. The Holy Spirit living in us allows us to obey God’s laws. It helps us reject our old earthly ways. It is also the hope of every believer. It regenerates our human spirit when we accept Christ as our Saviour.

By sending Jesus, God fulfilled the law for us and condemned sin. We are freed by the Holy Spirit. The law of the Spirit is in contrast to the law of sin and death. The Spirit gives us a new focus and a new freedom. We do not need to fear death or God’s wrath. Death is not the end. It is the beginning of unending, complete redemption.

God is a powerful judge who punishes us when we need it just like a parent punishes a child when the child needs it. God punishes us because he loves us and he wants to keep us on the straight and narrow path. God convicts us of sin, but he sets the conviction aside when he says, “Go, and sin no more.” God will not judge us unless we have never been saved. Our good deeds are not enough to save us because even our greatest deeds are filthy rags in his sight because of his perfect standards. If we are in Christ, our punishment has been transferred to Jesus, so we are not condemned. Judgement Day for us took place at Calvary, so our judgment days is behind us. Non-believers still have to face their own Judgment Day. As pardoned sinners, we live our lives by following the Spirit. Only then can we be a true image of God.

Christ and the Spirit are fully God and work together. Since Christian bodies are not yet redeemed, they still die even though they are freed from the condemnation of sin. The presence of the Spirit within believers testifies to the new life they enjoy because of the righteousness of Christ that is now theirs.

The Holy Spirit is the cure for sin and death. The law of sin and death is more deadly than an electric shock. Life in the Spirit changes us. Sin has killed our bodies and we can’t help ourselves, but Christ helps us. To live in Christ requires a radical transformation that renews our minds. That does not mean that we will not have any more struggles. In fact, Paul mentions his own struggles with sin in Romans 7:15-25. Walking in the Spirit is a relationship issue. Specifically, it is an issue of our relationship with God.

A few years ago,  the Huffington Post ran an article about the brain-training secrets of the athletes. Gold medal champions know how to train their minds like they train their bodies. Using mental exercises, they’ve learned to tune out distractions, reduce stress and focus on staying on top of their game. Using mental imagery, they visualize their performance in exacting detail, for studies have found that mental practice is almost as effective as physical training. Olympians meditate to calm themselves down. When they get into a “flow mindset,” they say they’re “in the zone.”

Christians should be experts at cultivating the mind and soul. The Bible tells us to train our minds as we train our bodies—to reject anxiety, to focus on trusting the Lord, and to visualize the green pastures, still waters and abundant life God has promised. The Bible tells us to meditate on His Word and get “into the zone” of the spiritual mind. Peace comes from trusting our Saviour—to be spiritually minded is life and peace—and that’s why he keeps those in perfect peace whose minds are stayed on him.

When we set our minds on the things of God, we do not allow sin to gain a foothold in our lives. If we do not forgive ourselves we remain enslaved to sin because we still feel guilty. We still condemn ourselves, but Jesus will never condemn those who believe in him. If we do not believe in Christ, we can’t please God by being good.

God does not save people who do good deeds unless they believe in Jesus. We can‘t escape sin by our own efforts. We can only escape sin through faith in Christ as mentioned in Romans 7:26.

Good deeds by themselves do not fulfill God’s law because they are produced for selfish reasons by a heart that is opposed to God. Jesus even said in Matthew 9:13,”I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”  

To put it another way, a couple recently wrote a letter to Billy Graham. In that letter they stated that another couple in their apartment complex said they know they’re going to go to heaven when they die. The writers asked how the couple could say that. The writer added that the couple seem like good people, that it’s arrogant for anyone to claim they’re good enough to get into heaven. Here is Billy Graham’s reply:

“Many people, I’m afraid, hope that God will let them into heaven, since they’ve been honest and good and kind toward others. After all, they think, isn’t this what God expects of us?

But you may be surprised to learn that the Bible tells us otherwise. The Bible says God’s standard is nothing less than perfection — and who can claim to be perfect? In other words, if you had committed only one sin — just one — it would be enough to keep you out of heaven. God is absolutely pure and holy, and we’ll never be able to stand in His presence on our own. The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

This is why we need Christ, for only He can forgive us and cleanse us — and He will, as we turn in faith to Him. And this, I suspect, is what your neighbors have discovered. They know they aren’t good enough to go to heaven on their own, and they have turned to Christ for the forgiveness and mercy they need.

And this can be true of you. God loves you, and He offers you the gift of eternal life right now — a gift paid for by His Son, Jesus Christ. Why not reach out and accept that gift today, by inviting Christ to come into your life? The Bible’s promise is true: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).”

Jesus said in effect that the things we offer to do and the promises we want to make in exchange for our forgiveness are just offerings to help us get over our guilt. He would rather give us forgiveness as a gift. The Holy Spirit is a gift for all believers. It does not have to be earned. When we are saved we can repeat the words of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty I’m free at last!”

The process of change from life in the flesh to a life in the Spirit is a gradual one. This can be very frustrating to us because we live in a society that promises instant results and instant gratification. We want to make real changes in our lives, but many of us are looking for a magic pill to solve all of our problems. We have to open ourselves to the wonderful and unpredictable Spirit that is flowing so freely and so full of life all around us. True change is a long, slow process. It is a daily practice that will eventually result in change and growth.

Bibliography

  1. Cecil Murphy, “My Powerful Judge.” Retrieved from www.cecilmurphy.com
  2. Dick Inness, “The Law of Life.” Retrieved from www.actsweb.org
  3. Dr. Tony Evans, ”Extreme Makeover.” Retrieved from Christianity.com@crosswalkmail.com
  4. Exegesis for Romans 8:1-11. Retrieved from www.lectionary.org
  5. Dr. Neil Anderson, “Relationship, Not Regime.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  6. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, NKJV (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing, 2013)
  7. Dr. Ed Young, “Watch Your Mindset.” Retrieved from Christianity.com@crosswalkmail.com
  8. Briscoe, D.S. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 29: Romans (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982)
  9. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible, NASB (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 2006)
  10. ESV Study Bible. Part of Wordsearch 10 Bible software package.
  11. Dr. David Jeremiah, “Get in the Zone.” Retrieved from www.davidjeremiah.org
  12. Jon Walker, “Jesus Offers Mercy, Not Condemnation.” Retrieved from www.purposedriven.com
  13. Stephen Davey, “Hiding Our Sin.” Retrieved from Christianity.com@crosswalkmail.com
  14. Pastor Edward Markquart, “Christ’s Spirit and My Spirit.” Retrieved from www.sermonsfromseattle.com
  15. Pastor Edward Markquart, “Christ’s Spirit and Put to Death Our Human Nature.” Retrieved from www.sermonsfromseattle.com
  16. Billy Graham, “How Can Someone Know They’re Going to Heaven?” Retrieved from www.arcamax.com

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