Living in the Spirit

Scriptures: Psalm 119:105-112; Romans 8:1-11

As we begin this exposition of chapter 8 in Romans, I want to note in the very first phrase, there is a word that is always a sort of a flag-word, a word that says you need to look deeper. That is the word “therefore.”

I learned, from my dad and mom, they said, “Whenever there’s a therefore, you need to look for the before.” My wife likes to say, “When there’s a therefore, you need to find what it’s there for.”

This is in reference to chapter 7, which I preached on a couple of weeks ago, when I talked about contradictions, and it had that wonderful tongue-twister phrase, where Paul says, “I do what I don’t want to do and I don’t do what I do want to do.”

It’s talking about the battle that is waged on a daily basis between the spirit and the flesh. This does not say our bodies, because the word that’s use in the Greek isn’t talking about our bodies per se. It’s talking about our flesh in the sense of a sinful nature. It uses a different Greek word that is associated with that which occurred, for instance, when Paul talks about the first Adam and how he failed.

So we have this battle going on. Sometimes, as we noted in our Prayer of Confession, we blow it. Sometimes we fail to follow the Spirit. We lose a particular battle even though we know that the war is complete and victory is ours in the end.

Paul wants to lift up and encourage these people, these Christians here in this church in Rome. So after telling them that, basically, “You all screw up, so do I,” he says, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

There’s no condemnation for the sin that occurs, if we are living in Christ Jesus, if we’re attempting to follow God, if we’re attempting to be His disciple, if we trust in Christ’s salvation. We’re not going to be perfect, but we’re not going to be condemned.

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.” And the word he uses there for the law is talking about – and again, we referred to this back in Romans 6 and 7 – the Mosaic law primarily.

The purpose of the law there, particularly the Ten Commandments, was to show us what it means to live righteously. And we can’t do it. Not perfectly. And it’s one of those things that we struggle with, because we need to understand God’s standard versus ours.

I just read an article this week in (that’s an email thing that I get), and it talked about the fact that for a lot of people, the difficulty that they have is in understanding the gravity of sin. Even as old and mature as a lot of us are in Christ, because we’re constantly comparing ourselves to other people.

We get to see and hear lots of really nasty things in the news. And you can say to yourself, “Well, I’m not like that. At least I don’t do anything that bad. I don’t steal, at least I don’t think I do. I don’t murder anyone. I don’t commit adultery. I don’t covet my neighbor’s stuff. I may get something better, but I don’t cover their stuff.”

So many things where we justify and rationalize for ourselves, and compare ourselves with others. But God’s standard is perfection. There’s that saying that’s almost cliché, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. “The ground is level at the foot of the cross.” Because God’s standard is perfection, it doesn’t matter what our level of sin is. The fact is we’ve sinned.

But if we trust in Jesus Christ and his finished work on the cross, then we have no condemnation. We have a life because we are new creatures in Him. We can live a new life, and it becomes a matter of choice, a matter of what path are you going to take, a matter of what are you going to do.

This short passage, particularly Romans 8:6-11, describes two states of mind: literally, “the mind of the flesh (which is) death” and “the mind of the Spirit (which is) life and peace” (Romans 8:6).

And I do want to note very quickly that this life of peace does not mean a life without conflict. Again, we talked about this a couple of weeks ago when I spoke of contradictions. Jesus himself said, “I don’t come to bring peace” in that way”

What it’s talking about when it says peace is it’s talking about serenity, assurance of your eternity with God, an assurance of your place as God’s child, your inheritance to come. We want to seek a lack of conflict, yes, but we’re not assured of that, certainly, in the Christian life.

“But the mind of the Spirit is life and peace.” These two are quite distinct mindsets, which lead to two differing choices of lifestyle. Paul exhorts in many different places. Romans 12, for instance, is another place.

Our mindset is determined, not really by what we do, but by who we are, and whose we are: whether we are in Christ Jesus or not. There is a song by Casting Crowns called “Who Am I” and part of the chorus says

Not because of who I am
But because of what you’ve done
Not because of what I’ve done
But because of who you are

Then it talks about how I am a child of God. Our mindset is determined by whose we are, and who we are in Christ Jesus.

These two states of mind also determine our present circumstances in many ways, and our destiny: whether death or life and peace. Death arose from rebellion against God, by Adam himself, and has left man in a state of flesh-serving carnality ever since.

Adam had but one law to keep. Does anybody remember what that rule was? Don’t eat of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Just one rule, and he blew it, and his failure ushered in “the law of sin and death.”

This is spiritual death, such that we are each born “dead in trespasses and sins.” The carnal mind is dead to God, and totally unable to keep the law of God. Those whose mind is set in the flesh, and who therefore serve their own selfish interests, cannot please God.

That’s a harsh thing to hear, but it is the truth. Because all of us, at our root, if we’re not in Christ, are doing things for selfish gain, even when we’re having altruistic reasons.

But I would note that the apostle Paul is writing to Christians, and he wants to reassure them. So after all this talk about fleshly carnality, he says, “but you…” [then gestures to congregation] you folks. First, negatively, you are not enslaved to the flesh. Second, positively, you are in the Spirit.” You have a choice to make.

Paul casts no doubt on the status of the addressees. You are in the Spirit “if indeed” or rather “since” the Spirit of God dwells in you. It is His work. It is a matter of fact, just like a clause in Jesus’ prayer in John 17: “Thou, Father, in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.” He doesn’t ask for it. He says it is so.

It’s one of those situations where we, each morning, can choose to work for God, or against God. I’ll get into that a little bit more later. But I want to make another note here, on the side, because this is the kind of thing that fascinates me.

This is an unashamedly Trinitarian verse. The Trinity is one of those concepts that’s not explicitly stated in the Scriptures, but there are a lot of Scriptures that point to it. The language moves seamlessly in this passage from “the Spirit” to “the Spirit of God” to “the Spirit of Christ,” in one verse. The inference is, anyone who does not have this Spirit of Christ does not belong to Christ.

The present state of the believer is one of hope. The principle of our life is no longer based in the old ways of corrupted flesh in rebellion against God. We have a new principle: the life of the Spirit within us, arising from the fact that we have been made righteous in Christ Jesus.

This is a choice that we make each and every day. And it should be one, if we’re going to live in the Spirit, it should be something we do when we first get up in the morning. I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I even think for the first fifteen minutes or so that I’m awake. And my wife could probably debate about how clearly I think before I’d have my first dose of caffeine.

But we should be, as we get up in the morning, not just thanking God for the fact that we can get up, but dedicating ourselves to God, to living in the Spirit, dedicating ourselves to seeking His will for that day, dedicating ourselves to giving Him glory in what we do, asking God, “Where can you use me today? How can you use me today? What opportunities do you have for me today? How can I show the world who you are? How can I show the world your love?”

We live in the Spirit when we do that. And if we don’t do that in the morning, let me say that, at least in my experience, and I’m sure in the experience of many of you, it is very easy for it to get put off. Because things come up. First you have to do this, then you have to do this, then you have to do this, then you have to do this.

It’s kind of like prayer. How many of us have made resolutions, almost like New Year’s resolutions, I’m going to prayer every morning, for a half hour every morning? But then you have this emergency, or that emergency, and this email, and that phone call, and then your kids call, and your grandkids, and then this, that, and then all of a sudden it’s already two in the afternoon. And where was the prayer? Probably more along the lines of “God, help me get through this!” rather than what we intended.

We need to deliberately choose to live in the Spirit. It’s a struggle. And it always will be. But it’s one that we know the end results for, if we trust in God.

Peter says that it was God who raised Jesus from the dead, and Paul also concurs with that. As the good shepherd, Jesus also claimed to have the authority not only to lay down his life, but also to take it up again. Paul implies the involvement of “the Spirit of holiness” in Jesus’ resurrection, and in our own renewal as creatures in Him.

If it is indeed the Spirit who raised up Jesus from the dead who dwells in you, believer – and it is – then we have the assurance that our mortal bodies shall also be raised “by His Spirit who dwells in you.” And with that assurance of no condemnation, with that assurance of a resurrection, with that assurance of a power and a presence, then we can live a victorious life.

I would pray that you folks would feel that presence and power of the Holy Spirit, that you folks would live in the Spirit each and every day. That you would make that conscious effort to choose to follow God, to give yourself to Him, that together we might show the world what it means to be a follower of Christ, and give praise and glory to the God who has done such wondrous things for us all.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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