Life & Peace
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
Romans, chapter 7, verse 14 reveals that we are carnal, and that we are sold under sin, and our carnal flesh has no power to overcome the sinful desires of our flesh. Thus we, as we are in the flesh, are continually doomed to be consumed by our sin nature, by that in us which desires those things that are contrary to God. It desires those things that are of this world. Romans, chapter 7 highlights the reality of this so very clearly that each of us can identify with what Paul speaks to there in that passage. Let me go back again to a few verses: Romans, chapter 7, verse 15, there the apostle Paul says this – “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; and what I hate, that I do.” Anyone relate to that?
He goes on, verse 18 – “For I know that is in me (that is, in my flesh) dwells no good thing; for the will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.”
Then verse 19 – “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil that I will not to do, that I practice.” None of us can relate with that. [laughter]
We identify with this. This is the experience of many who call themselves followers of Jesus, many who would identify with the title Christian. But it shouldn’t be the life-long experience of the person who has the Spirit of God. And as we’re going to see here in this passage of Scripture today, in Romans, chapter 8, verses 5 through 13, if anyone is a Christian then they have the Spirit of God dwelling in them. Jesus, in John, chapter 10, verse 10 said that He came to give life and that more abundantly. But we all recognize the thief in that same passage in Romans, chapter 10, is the one that has come to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. And the thief comes and he robs us of our joy; he robs us of our victory. And so the Christian who has no joy and is devastated by sin is the person who walks in that Romans 7 experience – the good things that I want to do, I don’t do; and the bad things that I don’t want to do, that’s what I practice. And we can all identify with the cry of the apostle Paul there in that passage: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this death?”
And so you’ll find that there are some Christians who speak of victory as if it’s something to be had after they die, physically. “You know, right now life is kinda rough, but someday we’re going to be resurrected to life, and we’ll be removed from the presence of sin for eternity, and ‘in His presence is fullness of joy, and at His right hand pleasures forevermore.’ And then we will experience this reality that we no longer struggle with the flesh, because the flesh will be put aside.” So there are many people in the church who look forward to eternity as if eternity is finally the release from this devastation of defeat. And the Scriptures do speak to that; the Scriptures do speak of great victory in the presence of God, where we’re no longer riddled with the reality of sin in our flesh. But the Bible also describes a victory that is now, that is to be experienced in our life now, that is available to us here today, as a follower of Jesus.
Paul’s teaching in Romans is very, very clear. We are promised eternal life; we are assured of the fact that we will be with Him for eternity. And then we will be separated from sin’s power. But we’re also assured of victory right now in Christ; that we can live and walk in a place of being “more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” And so the question is: How do we experience that victory right now? If it is promised us, then where is that victory? Now, let me begin by making the point that there are many people within the church that are walking in this victory. Sometimes the way in which I’m framing this, it may sound that every single person is walking in defeat. The reality is not that every single person within the body of Christ is walking in defeat. Many people know this life and that more abundantly, and walk in this victory, and that should be our experience. But there are some within the context of a gathering this big who know exactly what I’m talking about and can relate even right at this moment with Paul’s cry in Romans, chapter 7 – “The good things that I want to do, I don’t do, and the bad things that I don’t want to do, that’s what I practice.” So I don’t want to make it seem like there are no people actually living in victory, because there actually are. And there is great joy in victory in Christ. That’s what He desires that we would have. And that’s what He desires would be represented to the world outside, that does not know Him.
You see, we’re going to see when we get into Romans, chapter 9, and we speak about the nation of Israel, those whom God chose to be the vessel through which He would bring forth the Messiah; Jesus would come through the nation of Israel, those descendants of Abraham. He says there that those who are Christians are to stir up the children of Abraham by jealousy. That people should look at the life of the Christians and say, “I want what they have. I want the victory that they experience. I want the joy that they’re walking in. I want the peace that they have that I do not know.” You see, we should live in such a way that the world looks at us, and when I use the word world, I’m speaking of people who are not followers of Jesus; that those who are not followers of Jesus look at us and say, “I want that. They clearly have something that I don’t have.” So we should be stirring people up by jealousy. The question is: Is my life, is your life, are our lives lived in such a way in Jesus that people do truly look at us and say, “Man, they truly have something that I don’t have?”
The unfortunate reality is a lot of people who bear the title Christian, sometimes look more sour than those in the world. And it’s an unfortunate fact. But we are to walk in this great victory. It is not unattainable; it’s not an unattainable reality. Romans 7 presents Paul’s cry of defeat in the weakness of the flesh, but Romans, chapter 8 is Paul’s declaration of triumph. It’s there right after the cry of defeat. The declaration of triumph is what we are to have in Christ. “We are more than conquerors through Him,” Romans, chapter 8, verse 37 says. But in this life, and in the life that is to come, we are to be walking in this victory. And this victory over death and sin is always a victory found in Him. We need to take careful note of the fact that this victory is not something that is attainable apart from Him. When we read in Romans 8, verse 37 that we are more than conquerors, it’s through Him who loved us. It’s not “more than conquerors” by our own strength. We were unable to bring about victory over sin in our own power. We were unable to save ourselves. This was what the law was given for. In Exodus, chapter 20, when God revealed Himself to His people, the nation of Israel, there at Mt. Sinai, and Moses was up on the mountain receiving from God the law of God, he was bringing that to the children of Israel not that they would live it in every single point, and then be made righteous by the law. But that they, through the law, would recognize that they have no hope in the law. The law’s purpose is the knowledge of sin – Romans, chapter 3, verse 20. Romans, chapter 7, Paul said, “I would not have known sin if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’” And then law reveals the reality of sin within us. It reveals that we have no ability in our own power to bring about our salvation. That is the purpose of the law, to bring us to the conclusion that we are wholly and completely and desperately lost. How many of you came to that conclusion in your life – desperately lost? And that’s when Jesus finds us, and that’s why we sing, “Amazing grace. I once was lost, but now I’m” – what? “…found.” You see, you’ve got to come to the place of knowing that you’re lost to be found; to recognize your need for the Savior who comes to find us. And so the law brings us to the conclusion that we are desperately lost. The law of God brings us to a place where we are utterly helpless, and then, at just the right time, Romans, chapter 5 says, at just the right time we’re confronted with the glorious reality of Christ’s grace, in the gospel. At just the right time, He comes in.
Justification for righteousness comes only by Jesus Christ. But then, even upon being justified by grace through faith, we find that we continue to be unable, in our own might, to maintain righteousness, to bring about continued victory in our daily walk in Jesus. That if, after being saved by grace through faith, rescued from sin and death, now we are set on a path of righteousness; if we think that we’re going to maintain our walk in that path of righteousness by our own strength, we’re continually frustrated. We find that we always fail. You see the gospel of Jesus Christ is not only needful to bring about the recognition of our need for salvation, and then to bring salvation; the gospel is necessary for every single step that we take in Christ, every single day of our life. We need the gospel continually. We need to be reminded of our need all the time, and we need to be reminded of His all-sufficiency to overcome our unrighteousness in Him. This is why I think it’s so important for us to continually be presenting the gospel to people who do not know Christ; because in presenting the gospel to those who do not know Christ, we’re reminded of our need daily as well. We can never come to a place of a “holier than thou” experience, where we honestly think that we’ve really figured this out. Like, “take the training wheels off, we’re okay.” And just when the training wheels come off, how many of you experienced the fall?
And so Paul would say to the Corinthians: “Take heed when you think you stand, let you fall.” Remember where you came from. Remember that no temptation has overcome you that is not common to humanity. And we all find ourselves in the midst of the same things that other people who are not followers of Jesus are tempted by. But they may not even recognize the need to not walk in those things, whereas we do; because we’ve been given insight by the Spirit of God of His grace. And so we need His power and His might for our justification. We continue to need His power and His might in our lives for our continued sanctification in righteousness.
Sanctification is just a theological word that means cleansing, transforming: to make us more like Jesus. If we’re all honest, if we take an honest look at what the Bible reveals about the character of Christ, we recognize that none of us measure to that. And that’s why we’re not measuring ourselves by ourselves, which Paul tells the Corinthians is not wise. Why? Because you can always find someone worse off than you. It’s not very hard to do. I mean even if you have to go to the local penitentiary, you can always find someone who’s worse off than you; that maybe is not doing this life thing so well, and you might just be a little bit better off than them. But the reality is that we are all fallen. We all come short continually of His glory. His glory is the standard. The law could not bring our justification for it is weak, as we saw last week it is weak through our flesh. The law is perfect, Psalm 19 says. It is holy, just and good, Romans, chapter 7 says. So the law is perfect and holy and just and good; there’s nothing wrong with God’s law. But we are none of those things, and so we make the law weak, because we cannot do what the law requires of us.
So what did God do? Well God did it; He fulfilled the righteous requirement of the law by sending His Son, Jesus, to be the payment for our sin. That’s what Jesus is there on the cross. That’s why He says, “Tetelestai,” “It is finished.” It’s paid in full. The debt for sin is paid; it’s taken care of by Him. And so not only is the debt for sin paid, but He destroys sin’s power in His flesh. He took all of our sin upon Himself, 2 Corinthians 5:21 says He became sin for us, and then He destroys sin’s power in His body there on the cross. So that He, by His Spirit in us, can overcome the power of sin resident in us. That’s what He does. He accomplishes victory for us so that we have the ability to walk in that victory. He fulfills the righteous requirement of God’s law so that it might be fulfilled in us. Look there again at Romans, chapter 8, verse 4, where we left off last week; verse 3, the last few words say, “He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement,” what the law justly requires, “might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” So we can experience this victory.
Paul gives us the key to this victory here in Romans, chapter 8 verse 4, and then he’s going to expand upon it as we go into these next verses, which we’re looking at today. The key to the victory is walking not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. The power to overcome sin is in Christ. Therefore, the continued power for us to overcome sin is going to be found in Christ. That is where the power is. For us to walk in victory over the sin that is resident in us; we saw in Romans, chapter 7 – the tale of two natures. We have two natures after becoming a Christian. He has given life to our spirit, which was dead. We, Ephesians, chapter 2 says, “were dead in trespasses and sins.” But Christ has made us alive. So He gives life to our spirit that was dead. Now, we have the Spirit, but we have our old flesh – the tale of two natures. The flesh desires those things that are against God; the Spirit desires to do those things that are in line with His nature. And so we see that these two are contrary. Paul speaks of it in 1 Corinthians, he speaks of it in Galatians, he speaks of it again here in Romans. This was a very clear teaching in the early church, that we have the flesh, we have the Spirit, and these things are contrary so that you do not do the things that you desire. As a Christian you have new desires, but that flesh is powerful. A lot of times we will say, as the Scriptures say, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” But the reality is the spirit is willing, but the flesh is very strong to overcome the spirit. So we want to live in this victory, we want to walk in this victory, but when we endeavor to fulfill righteousness, the righteous requirement of God’s law by our own might, we always fail. That’s what Romans 7 was all about – the sincere desire within the heart of the Christian is to fulfill righteousness; it is to do what God desires. He gives us a new desire. As we saw in Philippians, chapter 2, verse 13 last week: God works in you to will, that word can be translated desire; in the New International Version it says, “He works in you to desire and to do His good pleasure,” the things that are pleasing to Him.” When you become a Christian one of the first indications that you’ve been changed, at the heart level, is that you have a desire that was not there before – a desire to honor God, a desire to glorify Him, that is to exalt Him for who He is. That’s what it means to glorify Him. And so that new desire comes in the new heart that is given to us at conversion.
And yet, when we try to make that happen: “I’m just gonna, I’m just gonna work harder.” Anybody ever worked harder and failed at this? “I’m just gonna work harder and press through…” And we become frustrated; we experience this misery of trying to do it in our own strength; and we cry with Paul, Romans 7:24, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this death?” And there is only one plausible answer to that question – Jesus is the only One who can deliver us from the body of this death. The body of this death is our mortal body, in which resides sin’s power. Look at Romans, chapter 6; turn back a couple chapters, Romans 6, verse 12. The context of Romans, chapter 6 is the baptism that we experienced when we became Christians; we’re baptized into Christ by His Spirit; the first few verses of Romans 6 speak to this. So the context of Romans 6, it’s speaking to people who are followers of Jesus – Christians. He says this in verse 12 – “Therefore,” because you’re a new creation in Christ; “Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey its lusts.” Don’t allow it to have rule in your body, to govern you, to direct you towards the things that it desires. Now this accords with the desires of the new heart; we want to live in a way that is glorifying to God. We are saved by grace, the Bible says, we are born again, and at that new birth experience we experience a new heart – a new heart given to us. This was prophesied 500 years before Paul speaks to this, it was prophesied by the prophet Ezekiel in Ezekiel 36. Ezekiel 36, verse 26, let me read it to you, it says – God speaking through the prophet Ezekiel: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” I’m going to give you a new heart that’s malleable, that I can work with, that I can work through. So this is the desire of the Christian at conversion. We want to honor God. How can we fulfill this? Well, let me read you the very next verse in Ezekiel, Ezekiel 36, verse 27 – “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes.” So I give you a new heart, I give you a new spirit, and I put My Spirit in you to direct you in a way that you will walk in honoring fashion to Me. “…and you will keep My judgments and do them.” Now I purposefully take us back 500 years before Paul writes what he writes here in Romans, chapter 8, to remind us that this work of God’s Spirit in us is not something new in the Bible. This isn’t like God came to the conclusion, after many years of people failing at His law, that “Hey, this ain’t workin’ We gotta come up with a Plan B.” It’s not like God was there in heaven and on Mt. Sinai with Moses in Exodus, chapter 20, really hoping that this will work – “You know, I’m gonna give you the law, and you guys’ll be able to do this.” And then He’s just totally in awe within 40 days when Moses goes down the mountain and they’re already transgressing the law, and God’s going, “Oh, goodness, that didn’t work.” God didn’t, like, make a mistake the first time, and go, “Wow, we gotta try and figure this out.” And then it took Him a couple thousand years going, “Well, what if we tried this?” …No, that won’t work. …What if we tried this? …No, that won’t work.”
Jesus says, “I’ll go down. I’ll take care of it. We’ll fix it.”
“Okay, let’s do that.”
That’s not the case. God’s plan of redemption is the plan that we see here in the book of Romans, from Genesis to Revelation. It was only revealed when Jesus came on the scene. Paul says to Timothy, “Christ Jesus brings to light,” that is, He reveals, “life and immortality through the gospel.” Something that was promised under the old covenant; something that was prophesied in the Old Testament is then revealed in Jesus. This life of the Spirit is only revealed from Christ. Old Testament saints were looking forward to resurrection power, they were looking forward to the day when their dead spirit would come alive again in Christ. They’re looking for it, wanting it, desiring it, and then Jesus brings to light life and immortality through the gospel. He says there to Martha, in John, chapter 11, “I am the resurrection and the life.” So He brings to us resurrection life and power, so that we can walk in the Spirit, by God’s Spirit, by His strength, not by our own strength.
Now that’s not to say, as I talked about last week, that we do not have a responsibility in the equation. Because we saw in Philippians, chapter 2, verse 12, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you to will and to do His good pleasure.” So we see God’s work and our work there in concert together; we have something to do in this equation. But we do need to recognize that the source and strength against the power of our flesh is not in our flesh. We don’t have the source and the strength. It’s as if, and this is not a good illustration, in the sense that it breaks down, every illustration at some point breaks down; but just not too long ago… Let me publicly say something in thanks to my parents, they showed up at my house about a month ago, and they knocked on my door, and they said, “Hey, would you come outside?”
I come outside, and my dad said, “We have a gift for you.”
I walk outside, there’s my dad’s BMW Z3 sitting in the driveway. He gives me the keys and the pink slip. “There you go; it’s yours.”
That’s pretty cool – BMW Z3, convertible, kinda fast. But that car, although it has an engine that is built to go fast, and my wife doesn’t like the way that I drive it, she says I’ve completely changed since I got the little race car… But, anyways, although that engine is built in such a way that it can go very fast, if you do not put fuel in it, it is inactive, it can’t do anything. It’s just a big 2,000-pound paperweight. So it’s completely dead and inactive unless you put fuel into it. But when you put fuel into the engine, that engine can go as it burns and consumes that fuel; it then has the power, the ability. So, if you will, we have the components, we have the engine, God has created us in a way to be vessels of honor. He created us to be instruments of worship, to glorify Him with this body, and it is inactive because of sin, it’s dead. Then the Holy Spirit comes and resides in us, like the fuel if you will, through which now we can utilize this body to do what is honoring to Him. We have the power, by the Spirit; He gives us the enabling power.
So we do recognize that the source for this strength, the fuel if you will, is not resident within us, although we have the components, to walk in a way that glorifies Him. So the power is not in our flesh but by the Spirit. Why? Look at Romans 8:5, “For those who live according to the flesh, they set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” Now as I was reading this, and thinking a lot about Romans 8, verse 5 over the last several weeks, I kept thinking to myself, “I really wish it was written a little bit differently,” upon first reading it. I kept thinking it would be great if it was written, “Those who set their minds on the flesh live according to the flesh.” It would seem like it begins first in the mind and then you will live according to the flesh. But it doesn’t read that way, it says, “for those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh.” So what exactly is being said here? Well as I thought about it, it then became clear – Okay, what is being said here is that if you say, “I have this desire in my heart to live in a way that is glorifying to God, and then I’m going to endeavor to do that by my own strength, in my flesh, so now I’m going to live that out according to my flesh,” here’s the problem: you will then live with your mind set on the things of the flesh, because you’re trying to do it in your flesh. So you’re trying to live it out according to your flesh, the power of your flesh, therefore your mind will be consumed with the things of the flesh. And when your mind is set on the things of the flesh, you will fail. Why?
Well, look at the beginning of verse 6: “For to be carnally minded is…” what? “…death.” So, if you’re trying to live out the righteousness of Christ by your flesh, your mindset will be on your flesh to try and make it happen. And if your mindset is on your flesh, then you’re going to find yourself constantly consumed with death. Why? Well, because the mindset of the flesh is carnally minded, it’s earthly minded. And if you set your mind on the things of this earth, well you’ve got a problem, because John the apostle says this in 1 John 2:16: “For all that is in the world is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” To be carnally minded is to be consumed with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. So if you’re trying to live out Christ’s righteousness by your own strength, you’re always going to be consumed with the lusts, that is the desires for the flesh, the things that feed the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. You will be consumed with death. To be minded towards those things is going to bring about death; a death of that vitality as a Spirit-filled, blood-bought, saved Christian.
Therefore, he says, “those who live according to Spirit, they set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” And if your mindset is on the things of the Spirit, then you will experience the victory of the Spirit, is what Paul is saying. Why? Because “to be carnally minded is death,” verse 6, “but to be spiritually minded that’s life and peace.” The mind oriented towards the things of the Spirit is life and peace. So if you live after the Spirit, if you live according to the power of the Spirit, you will experience the mind of the Spirit, and to be spiritually minded will bring about life and peace.
The person who lives after the flesh will set their minds on the things of the flesh, and they will experience a carnal mind, a fleshly mind that brings death. Now death, often times we think of death in the context of a spiritual and eternal death, a punishment. But that’s not the context here. Why? Well, in the very end of Romans, chapter 8, he’s going to say, “Nothing will separate us from the love of Christ.” So the death spoken of here is not an eternal punishment, it’s not a spiritual death, where we end up in hell. The death that is spoken of here is a very practical loss of spiritual vitality in the life of the Christian. Although you have the Spirit of God in you, as a Christian, if you’re functioning after the flesh, trying to fulfill righteousness in your own strength, you will lose the vitality of the Spirit in your life. When a Christian is fleshly minded, they suffer the loss of spiritual affection in their life, and that death results in some very practical realities. As one pastor once said, “That death, it manifests itself in our lives in the form of fear, and guilt, and hostility, and emptiness.” It shows up in the life of the Christian in fear, and guilt, and hostility, and emptiness. Let me read to you from Ray Stedman, a great Bible teacher of a different era:
“Fear can appear as worry, anxiety, dread, or timidity. Guilt can show up in your life as shame, self-hatred, self-righteousness, or perfectionism. Hostility will manifest itself as hate, and resentment, and bitterness, and revenge, or cruelty. Emptiness can show up as loneliness, depression, discouragement, despair, meaninglessness. These are all the symptoms of this death.”
As a Christian, having the indwelling Holy Spirit from God, if you’re functioning after the flesh, and your mind is then oriented towards the flesh, this is what you’ll experience. This is what you’ll begin to see in your life. These are the realities of this death – fear, and guilt, hostility and emptiness. Ray Stedman continues:
“These symptoms of death not only have this immediate effect upon our feelings and emotions, but they actually can go on to settle in our body and affect our physical functioning.”
This was written back in the mid 1970s – 40 years ago. He says this:
“As many of us, perhaps, have already found from our various experiences of death, we can develop nervous twitches, tics, rashes, eczema, ulcers, stuttering, heart attacks, cancer, and many other diseases.”
It is being found more and more by medical science that many of the physiological problems that people have, have come from psychological realities. So when you are filled with guilt, and hostility, fear, and emptiness, these things begin to manifest themselves in very physical reactions. There are numerous studies showing that heart disease, high blood pressure, skin problems, diabetes, cancer, and other conditions are stress, anger, fear, and anxiety conditions. So with this in mind, perhaps one of the best things that you can do to bring about total health and physical well-being is to walk in the Spirit. You walk in the Spirit and you will experience life and peace. Now that’s not to say that you will not someday physically die. This body, because of the corruption of sin, will one day die. “Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and death spread to all humanity, for all sinned.” Yes, medical science is amazing. It’s been said by many studies that those born after the year 2000 in the United States of America, their life expectancy will be 100 years old, because of medical science. But even if you live to 120, you will physically die one day. Why? Because of the effects of sin. But the reality is, as we walk in the Spirit and we experience the peace of God, we experience the fruit of the Spirit, the evidence of God’s Spirit working in us then many of these physical conditions are dealt with. That’s not to say that you will never have cancer, or that you will never experience some of these things, because there are some people in our church right now battling with heart disease and cancer and those sort of things. But the reality it, as we walk in the Spirit, there is a health component. Now, I realize, and let me make this very clear, I abominate the “health and wealth” teaching, I abominate that; but there is a component of health, total health, in walking in the Spirit. Because it’s the removal of these things – fear, and anxiety, and stress, and guilt, and emptiness. And as we experience the removal of those things, we also experience the joy that is in Christ, and the life that is spoken of here in this passage.
So, we know the carnal mind and it’s result in the life of the Christian, but on the other side of that is the spiritual minded Christian experiences life and peace. The spiritually minded Christian walks in the victory of the Holy Spirit is what Paul says here in this passage, not fulfilling the desires of your flesh. You see, do you realize that not only does your flesh desire things that, you know, the normal sort of things that we look at – your flesh desires food, your flesh desires sex, your flesh desires power, your flesh desires all… But do you realize that your flesh also desires anxiety? Do you realize that your flesh desires despair? It does. It longs for everything that is against God. It looks for those things. So whereas there are some men in our church that their desire is towards things of the flesh, like pornography, there are many women in our church who their desire is toward anxiousness, fear, worry. And so they desire those sort of things, and that’s manifested in their life. Those things, just as bad as the lustful desire for pornography in many men in our nation, those things, like the desire for worry and anxiety, need to be treated like the desire for sinful pornography. It needs to be killed in the life of the Christian; put to death by the work of the Spirit. It’s equally as bad. It may not have the same stigma, although in our nation many millions of people are suffering from anxiety – the work of the flesh.
The experience of the fulfillment of the Spirit, here are some of the things characterized with the fulfillment of that, the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Again I return to our good friend Ray Stedman:
“The life of the Spirit includes four basic things that are opposite of the qualities of death: If death is fear, then life is trust, hope, and confidence. If death is guilt, then life is a feeling of acceptance, security, and assurance. If death is hostility, then life is love, friendliness, kindness, and reaching out to others. If death is emptiness, then life is a sense of well-being, fulfillment, excitement, vitality, and the fullness of life.”
That sounds good. That’s the life of the Spirit that God desires would be manifested in His church, because these things are evangelistic. When the world looks at the Christian and says, “You have fulfillment and excitement and vitality and assurance and hope, and I have none of those things.” And they say, “How come you have that?”
You don’t say, “Well, I took this class at Palomar College that talked about how to have a fulfilling life.”
You say, “It’s the work of the Spirit of God. It’s the manifestation of His grace.”
It comes not from us. These things are not home-grown. They don’t come from us. It comes from the work of God’s Spirit in us. And so the Christian walking in power, with the presence of the Spirit, experiences this abundant life, and they experience this great peace – peace with God, and the peace of God. A quiet inner calm and genuine sense of well-being.Why is this?
Look at verse 7 of Romans, chapter 8: “Because the carnal mind,” and remember, the carnal mind comes from walking in the flesh. Those who walk according to the flesh, their mindset is on the flesh. “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.” Why does the carnal mind bring death, whereas the spiritual mind brings life and peace? Because the carnal mind, the fleshly-oriented mind is set in opposition to God. It’s against Him. The mind of the flesh stands stubbornly against the work of God, is not submitted to what is God’s will and desire. In fact the law exacerbates the sinful desires of our flesh, we saw in Romans, chapter 7, verse 5. It stirs up transgression against God. The fleshly mind just cannot be subject to the law of God. It is impossible to reform our flesh, to make it better, therefore we must reckon it dead. Choose to lay aside the flesh in favor of the Spirit.
Verse 8: “So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” We cannot reform the flesh to make it more pleasing to God. God enables us, by His power to put to death the flesh, that we would rejoice God, glorify Him.
Verse 9: “But you,” Christian, “you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.” Listen, Christian, you’re not in the Spirit because you woke up this morning and read the Bible, or because you woke up this morning and came to church. That’s not why you’re in the Spirit; you’re in the Spirit, and the Spirit is in you, because of Jesus. It’s not dependent on how well you work this Christian thing out. It’s not dependent on whether or not you put something in the tithe plate as it went by this morning. You are in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. How does the Spirit of God dwell in you? By the work of grace through salvation. “Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ,” Paul says in verse 9, “then he is not His.” You’re not a Christian if you do not have the Spirit of God in you. So, by the very fact that you are a Christian, you have the Spirit. If God’s Spirit dwells in you, then you have, whether you agree with it or not, the Scripture says you have the ability to walk in the Spirit. Because the Bible says, Peter says, “God has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through Him who loved us.” So we have everything that we need to live this life in a godly way in Jesus. Whether we’re doing it or not, it’s there. It’s as if we have this abundant bank account that can never be overdrawn. It’s there, available to us – the Spirit’s power.
And so if God’s Spirit dwells in us then we have the ability to walk in the Spirit; you have the ability to choose to no longer walk in the flesh. You have the opportunity to please God by your actions as governed by the Holy Spirit. How do I know this? This is what the New Testament teaches. The New Testament teaches that the gift of the abiding presence of God’s Holy Spirit is an automatic benefit to every believer in Christ. Let me just give you a few verses in passing:
1 Corinthians 12:13, Paul says, “For by one Spirit were we all baptized into one body,” if you’re in the body of Christ, you have the Spirit, “whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free – and we have all been made to drink into one Spirit.”
1 Corinthians 3:16, “Do you not know that you are the temple of the Holy Spirit, God’s Spirit dwells in you?” He says it again in 1 Corinthians, chapter 6, verse 19, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?”
When did this take place? Jesus promised in John, chapter 14 that the Spirit is with you and shall be in you. And then in John, chapter 20, verse 22, after Jesus raised from the dead, He appeared to His disciples, He breathed on them, and said, “Receive ye the Holy Spirit.” And they received the indwelling Holy Spirit of God, and every Christian after that has the Spirit of God.
Look at verse 10, Romans, chapter 8: “And if Christ is in you;” if you’re a Christian, Christ is in you, what happens? “The body,” this mortal body, “is dead because of sin.” You’ve put to death the flesh; you’ve been crucified with Him, by grace. “But the Spirit is life of righteousness.”
Verse 11: “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead, if He dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” So the Spirit of God dwells in us, and what does He do? He enables this mortal body, that is geared towards the flesh, He enables, by His Spirit, this mortal body to walk in a way that produces righteousness, to walk in a way that is pleasing to God.
“Therefore,” verse 12, “brethren…” Notice that he’s speaking to the church; the context is the church. “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors,” another way of saying it is, “we have an obligation,” “not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die;” and all those things associated with a loss of spiritual vitality will come into your life. “But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Paul says in Romans, chapter 12, verses 1 and 2, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God,” that is by His power, “by the mercies of God, that you would present your bodies’” so His work – your work. “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your” obligation, “your reasonable” act of worship. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove” or reflect or demonstrate “what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” You see, we are lacking nothing as it relates to the power of the Spirit to walk in this victory. We have the power of the Spirit. What we’re called to do is to yield to His working; yield this body as a living sacrifice; lay it down and say, “God, You fill me, You work in and through me to accomplish that which is pleasing to you. I will walk out what You tell me to do, but I’m going to do it by Your strength and not by mine.” And this takes a continual dying to our flesh. Paul said this, Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in this flesh,” in this body, “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
Some people would read that and go, “Boy, that’s kinda bipolar. I’m alive, but I’m not alive. I’ve been crucified, but I’m still alive, but I’m not living by my own strength, I’m living by the power of God’s Spirit resident within me.” And this death to our flesh is a continual sacrifice. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15, verse 31, “For I die daily.” The apostle Paul, who we so many times look up to, says, “I have to put to death my flesh every single day.” Because the reality is, and we all know it so very well, the flesh, it wakes up first. It wakes up cranky and crabby, and it wakes up wanting to be fed and taken care of, and it wakes up wanting it’s own way, and everybody else get out of the way. Anybody relate to that? I know I do. Pastor Mark’s raising two hands in the back. The flesh wakes up first, and we need to reckon, in Christ, reckon that flesh to be crucified. “I’m no longer living by that. I’m living by the grace and power in the Son of God, who died and gave Himself for me, that the life of the Spirit would be manifested to the glory and praise of God.” Amen?
Let’s stand together.
Father, we thank You for the grace and power that we have in You as new creations in Christ. We thank You that we can, because You’ve given us all things that pertain to life and godliness, we can live in a way that glorifies You. Lord, help us today to reckon the old man dead, that we would live in honor and glory to You.