Words of Paul - Life Through the Spirit
Greetings everyone, I pray this message finds you well.
The last time that I spoke to you we were looking at the words of Paul, trying to understand being dead to sin and alive in Christ. The week before this, we looked to Paul’s words for inspiration and guidance in seeking peace with God. Today we are going to look to Paul for help in understanding how God’s Holy Spirit works in us.
Now, I will be perfectly honest with you, many people find the book of Romans to be a bore. Others are offended by the words of Paul, because they feel the conviction of Paul’s words, as he describes the inner workings of the Spirit in the believer. Instead of confessing their personal sin revealed by the Spirit of God, they take offense and lash out at God and his Spirit. Finally, there are those who are emotionally or spiritually lazy, not wanting to, or just not interested enough in God to do the work that the Spirit is leading them into.
Let me say this: Romans is an important book in the Bible. Paul’s words provide a guide to spiritual growth that is essential to the eternal life of every believer. If you don’t embrace Romans, it will be difficult for you to have the Spirit of God in you, guiding and helping you. Without the help of God’s Spirit, none of us are strong enough, on our own, to overcome the sinful nature. There is a reason that history records the fact that Augustine, Martin Luther, and John Wesley all encountered the Holy Spirit when either reading or hearing the text of Romans. This is how powerful conviction rests in these words of Paul.
The Spirit of God has been with us since the beginning, yes that beginning. Genesis 1:1-2,
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”
So, even at the beginning of creation, here is the Spirit of God. Active in creation at the start of all things, God’s Spirit is still active today, creating and stirring the conviction and confession needed for our salvation. Helping us to overcome sin in our lives, as well as, the sin of the world. Let’s go to Paul, one of my life verses, Romans 8:1-4,
“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 (not mankind), 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.”
This passage describes the sausage-making of belief and why I believe it is so important for us to truly understand what Paul is saying here. What kind of eternity you and I have will be determined by whether we have a relationship with Jesus Christ, and having the Holy Spirit in you is your proof that you indeed have that relationship with Christ. This is called assurance.
Paul is saying that if you are saved in Christ, there is no condemnation for you. The blood of Jesus covers you. Jesus did not come to condemn us, he came to save us. God’s Spirit sets you free from the law of sin and (eternal) death. This is because now you are set free by the law of the Spirit of (eternal) life.
If you are spiritually dead, you are not covered by the blood of Christ, and you are eternally dead. However, if the Holy Spirit of God lives in you, you are spiritually alive and eternal life is your destiny. “Huh?”, you say. Back to Paul, Romans 8:5,
“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.”
We have to stop being a people that when we wake up in the morning, our first thought is to sin, or “what sins will we be involved in today”? Our minds cannot be set to the desires of the sinful nature. If we do not know of Christ, or if we have rejected Christ, or if we are offended by Christ, or if we refuse to submit to Christ, we are living in the sinful nature that Paul is describing. If we are living in the sinful nature we are under the law of sin and eternal death, destined for the Great White Throne judgment. We need Jesus and his Spirit, which is why God sent them both. Romans 8:6-8, Paul is speaking plain truth,
“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.”
There is no halfway here. You are either for or against God, for or against Jesus, for or against God’s Holy Spirit. If you make no choice for Jesus, you are automatically against, because you are still in the sinful nature. Do I really need to recommend a choice for you here? Eternal life and peace versus eternal death?
So there is no halfway because that is the first thing a person too weak to leave the sinful nature will cling to. They’ll start bargaining with God. I gave this sin up, let me have that sin. People do this when they first feel the conviction from God’s Spirit. Prioritizing their sins, then trading their lesser important sins for their more important sins. This doesn’t work, because you are still in the sinful nature. You cannot please God while you are in the sinful nature. Romans 8:9,
“You (the believer), 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 (here it comes), they do not belong to Christ.”
God gave us his Spirit as his guarantee of life in eternity and glory. It is a little bit of glory, a little bit of heaven, that resides in us, on this earth. 2 Corinthians 22,
“(He) set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”
If we do not have the Spirit of God living in us we do not belong to Christ, because we are still controlled by the sinful nature. But once you submit to Christ, allowing God’s Spirit access to all of your sins, this all changes. We do not need to come to Christ perfectly and sinless. We need to just COME TO CHRIST! God’s Holy Spirit will guide us in the work of Christian development. Romans 8:10-11,
“But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin (this is OK, this is our flesh, it’s this way for all humans), yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness (righteousness proven by the sinless blood of Jesus Christ). 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 decision then for all of mankind is this, can we turn our backs upon our sinful nature or not? Can we plead the blood of Christ, confess our sinfulness, ask for forgiveness, and give our hearts to Christ? Or, do we choose to remain a slave to our specific brand of sin, remaining in the sinful nature, remaining at war with God?
The question is who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Romans 8:35-39,
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written (Psalm 44:22): For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. (Paul responds to this verse) No, (we are not sheep to be slaughtered) in all these things (of the Holy Spirit) we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
God’s Spirit allows us to conquer death. Yet there is one person who can prevent us from this blessing.
It’s us. Except us stubbornly clinging to our sinful nature. Choose Jesus, choose eternal life with God. Invite the Holy Spirit into your presence daily, invite the Holy Spirit to teach you all things.
Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.
and Harmony UMC