We have walked with Paul through his Roman letter as he has taken us on a spiritual journey. It began with a declaration of the purpose of his letter – “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith” (Rom. 1:16-17).
He introduces righteousness as the theme – and then proceeds to walk us through three steps in our relationship with righteousness:
• 1:18-3:20 – Righteousness needed
• 3:21-5:21 – Righteousness provided
• 6-7 – Righteousness experienced
Yet, as we discovered last week, even when we die to sin and our relationship with sin is severed in that death we experience in baptism, Satan does not give up the fight. Paul shared with us his personal struggle with sin – “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing” (7:18-19). And so with Paul we cry out, “O wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” And the answer – “Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
If we have seen righteousness needed, provided and experienced – in ch. 8, we see “righteousness empowered.” In ch. 8, Paul introduces us to a new force in this spiritual battle – the Holy Spirit of God. Apart from Christ, depending on our own resources, we are helpless. We can will to be good, we may have the very best intentions – but we will never have more than a fleeting, temporary victory. Satan is too strong, he has too many resources in his battle for our soul.
At the cross, Jesus won that victory over sin and death. He redeemed us from slavery and set us free from prison.
In baptism, we were united with him in his death, burial and resurrection. His blood washed over us in cleansing forgiveness – we were raised from the water a new creature.
Something else happened at our baptism. It is at that moment that God sent his Holy Spirit to dwell within us. As we came up out of that water, we did not come up alone.
Paul describes this indwelling:
• 1 Cor. 3:16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?
• 1 Cor. 6:19-20 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?
• Eph. 1:13-14 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
• Rom. 5:4 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
God’s Spirit dwelling within us!
His presence has a very powerful purpose – 2 Cor. 3:17-18 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
In Romans 8, Paul addresses the work of God’s Spirit in our lives more fully, more completely than anywhere else in the Bible. It is one of those mountain peak chapters in the Bible – 1 Cor. 13 is the ch. on love / Heb. 11 – faith / Rom. 8 is the Holy Spirit chapter – let’s read the first 14 vss –
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. //
The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. //
Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Romans 8:1-14)
19 times in the chapter Paul names the Holy Spirit – the nature, the purpose, the power of the Spirit.
As he has done in previous chapters, he sets up a series of contrasts:
• vs. 2 – Law of the Spirit of life / law of sin and death
• vs. 6 – Mind of sinful man is death / mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.
• vs. 13 – If you live according to sinful nature, you will die; if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body you will live.
It’s not just that people’s lives apart from God are ruled by different values – that we make some different choices as followers of Christ. It’s not just that we don’t participate in worldly activities, or spend Sunday mornings in a different place than worldly people.
The contrast that Paul draws between the person with the Spirit and the person without the Spirit is the difference between life and death.
Paul paints a very dramatic picture: Christ entered a world under the power of sin – vs 3a “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature…” – the law was powerless to keep sin in check. Sin brought guilt, guilt demanded justice, justice brought condemnation, condemnation brought death.
Did you hear how relentlessly the sinful nature pursues us – how ruthlessly it controls us?
Listen again to the helpless of man under the control of sin apart from the Spirit of God:
• vs 6 the mind of sinful man is death
• vs 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.
• vs 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.
• vs 13 if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die
Christ entered this sin-filled, Satan-dominated world, not as a helpless participant, but as the very one who would break sin’s hold – vs 3-4a For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us.
His work is not finished. Christ continues to work in the lives of his followers. He broke the hold of sin, that through the work of his Holy Spirit, God continually renews and enlivens and empowers his people to resist sin as they grow more and more into the likeness of his son – vs. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
The HS lives and works in you today. That is the promise of God. Though Satan remains a powerful force, and sin remains a present reality, we are no longer helpless and powerless against them – vs. 9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.
• In the power of the HS, God gives us the strength to say no to the temptations of Satan.
• And more important – when we do sin – he gives us healing and renewal through the HS.
Life in the Spirit means that --
• Though Satan roams about like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour – we’re not on his menu.
• Though the world might be dominated by Satan – enslaved by sin, terrified of death – we walk around free and unafraid.
• Though Satan holds the threat of hell over every human being, Paul confidently proclaims, Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1-2).
• Satan no longer has a claim on you – sin no longer has a hold on you.
Wouldn’t that be a great feeling?
• To have your slate wiped clean – not just once, but every day – erased to start fresh.
• Everything you had ever done which brought pain and shame and guilt and fear – gone. And to know that everything you will ever do – gone – with the same loving grace and forgiveness.
• To have confidence in your salvation?
• To boldly say “no” when sin calls?
Dr. S.D. Gordon, a Boston preacher, one day placed a beat-up rusted bird cage beside his pulpit, and proceeded to tell how he happened to have it. He had encountered a grubby, dirty little boy, about 10, coming out of the alley swinging this old bird cage. Several tiny birds were shivering on the floor of the cage. Dr. Gordon asked the boy where he got the birds, and he said he trapped them.. When Dr. Gordon asked the boy what he was going to do with them, he replied, "I'm going to play with them, have fun with them." Dr. Gordon said, "Sooner or later you're going to get tired of that; then what are you going to do with them?" The boy responded, "I have cats at home. They like birds. I'll feed 'em to my cats." The compassionate Dr. Gordon asked, "Son, how much do you want for these birds?" Surprised, the boy said, "Mister, you don't want these birds. They're just plain old field birds. They can't sing. They're ugly." "Just tell me how much you want," said Gordon. The boy thought... squinted... hesitated...calculated and finally said, "two dollars?" To his surprise, Dr. Gordon reached into his pocket and handed him two crisp dollar bills. The preacher took the cage, in a flash the boy had disappeared down the alley. In a sheltered crevice between the buildings Dr. Gordon opened the door of the cage and, tapping on the rusty exterior, encouraged the birds to find their way to the door and fly away. Having accounted for the empty cage beside the pulpit, the preacher went on to tell what seemed like an unconnected story - about how one day long ago Jesus and the devil were involved in negotiations. Satan boasted about how he had baited the trap in the garden of Eden and caught a world full of people. Jesus asked, "What are you going to do with all those people?" "I'm going to play with them, tease them, make them marry and divorce and fight and kill one another. I'm going to teach then to throw bombs at each other. I'm going to have fun with them." Jesus said, "You can't have fun with them forever. When you get tired of playing with them, then what will you do with them?" Satan said, "Damn them. They're no good anyway. I'll damn them. Kill them." Christ asked, "How much do you want for them?" Satan said, "You can't be serious. If I sell them to you they'll hate you. They'll hit you and hammer nails into you. They're no good!" "How much?" demanded Jesus. "All your tears and your blood; that's the price," Satan growled. And Jesus paid the price and opened the door. (from Paul Harvey)
Sun, April 1, 2012
by John Roberts