Living the Spirit Controlled Life
July 30, 2022 | Brian Bill
One night this week I was sitting on our couch and took my glasses off. I set them next to me and got up to get some ice cream. When I came back, I flopped on the couch and heard a crunching sound. I got up quickly and realized I had smashed my glasses. In exasperation, I cried out, “Oh, no!” Immediately, I felt a combination of foolishness and futility. Seeing my slide into the depths of despair, Beth sweetly reminded me it would be OK. I wasn’t so sure.
I was worried I wouldn’t be able to see so I pulled out an old pair of glasses. Things were a bit blurry, and I developed a headache, but it was better than going without.
Have you ever done anything that left you feeling low? Are you still upset in the present about what you’ve done in the past? Do you get tired of all your transgressions? Do you wish you could stop doing those things you know are wrong and start doing those things you know are right? Do you wonder if you’ll ever be able to find victory or hope again? Do you worry God is somehow disappointed and is punishing you?
The Apostle Paul struggled with these kinds of questions when he found himself doing more than smashing his glasses. Listen to what he wrote in Romans 7:18-19: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” In verse 24, he described his despair: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
We’re beginning a series today called, “God is For You” from Romans 8. This chapter will serve like new prescription glasses to help you see God and yourself clearly. This could be the most life-changing section of Scripture you will ever encounter. Here’s an action step right at the beginning: Read the eighth chapter of Romans every day during the month of August because Romans 8 is truly great!
Commentators describe this chapter as the “mountain peak” of Scripture. Douglas Moo refers to it as “The inner sanctuary within the cathedral of Christian faith.” Here are some reasons why so many people have benefited from this part of the Bible.
1. Assurance is emphasized.
In what has been called “a rhapsody on assurance,” this chapter begins with “There is therefore now no condemnation…” and ends with nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” It opens with no condemnation and closes with no separation, and in between you find no defeat. The believer’s standing is safe, secure, and settled.
2. The Holy Spirit is prominent.
The third member of the Trinity is mentioned 19 times in this chapter, almost once every two verses. Up to this point in Romans, the Holy Spirit appears by name only four times. Having said that, Romans 8 is not so much focused on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, as it is on what the Spirit does for the believer. He is not a possession to hold on to, but a Person to love and obey. God never intended for us to live the Christian life on our own, but through the power of the Spirit.
3. Our practice as a Christian must come out of our position in Christ.
It’s all about what we receive, not what we achieve by our own efforts.
The Christian life is not focused on what we need to do, but on what has already been done for us. We must always come back to our position in Christ before we can effectively put the Christian life into practice. It’s all about what we receive, not what we achieve by our own efforts.
Breaking it Down
Let’s stand and read Romans 8:1-11 together:
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 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 set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”
Here’s the main idea: Your position in Christ deals with the penalty of sin and your practice with the Spirit deals with the power of sin.
We’ll use this statement as our outline since the first half comes from verse 1 and the second half summarizes verses 2-11.
Your position in Christ deals with the penalty of sin.
Listen to Romans 8:1 again: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” The word “therefore” serves to tie the proceeding seven chapters with chapter 8 by serving as a link to everything Paul has established. It can be translated this way: “So, then, consequently.”
For the born-again believer, there is assurance there will be no judgment in the future and we should experience this assurance right “now” in the present. Therefore, today there is no condemnation. If you are saved, then right now, at this very moment you are secure. 1 John 3:2: “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.”
Let’s go back to Romans 8:1. In the sentence structure in Greek, the first word is an emphatic “no!” It almost explodes off the page. In addition, Paul chose a strong negation to show there is absolutely nothing by way of condemnation for the Christian. Here’s a literal translation: “Not even one, therefore now no condemnation whatsoever…” God now commends and doesn’t condemn the Christian – not even once, not even one bit, not now, not ever!
The word “condemn” comes from two Greek words; one which means “down” and the other meaning “to judge.” Literally it means to “judge down” and was used of the Roman emperor as he sat on a throne when prisoners were brought before him. As he heard their cases, he would either “judge down” or “judge up.” I wonder if that’s where we get the “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” expression?
Brothers and sisters, if you have put your faith and trust in Jesus as your sacrificial substitute, the Almighty Judge gives you a “thumbs up.” God won’t “judge down” because He sent Christ to “come down.” God has a gavel of grace for the believer.
This word was used for more than the sentencing of a criminal; it also included the payment of a penalty after the sentencing. If you are in Christ, you have been pardoned and will never have to pay the penalty for your sins. God’s judgment will not come down now or ever for the believer. Those in Christ will not be condemned because Jesus was condemned in their stead; there is no impending punishment because Christ bore the penalty for our sins.
Here’s an important truth to remember, when God says, “no condemnation” it’s not based upon our performance but on our position. God declares it to be so because of the finished work of Christ on our behalf. He doesn’t revoke it when we rebel, nor does He suddenly seethe with anger towards us when we sin.
One of my favorite hymns is “And Can it Be?” by Charles Wesley. The last verse could have come right from Romans 8…
No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
This promise of no condemnation is available for all but applied only to those who are “in Christ Jesus.” This is one of Paul’s favorite phrases, as he used “in Christ” 164 different times. Ranklin Wilbourne nails it when he says: “God doesn’t love you to the degree that you are like Christ. He loves you to the degree that you are in Christ and that is always 100%.”
To be a Christian is to be in Christ. If you’re saved, you’re always in two locations. If you’re here in person, you’re in church and you’re in Christ. If you’re gathering remotely, you’re at home and you’re in Christ.
You can be in church and be lost.
You can be in a good family and be lost.
You can be a good neighbor and be lost.
But if you are in Christ, you are commended, and will never be condemned.
Some of us think this is too good to be true. In a sin-soaked world filled with sickness, disappointment, broken glasses, pain, and agony, how is this possible? I wonder if some of you have secretly changed this verse to read: “There is therefore now a little, or a lot of condemnation for me.”
If you have repented and received Christ, God is giving you a thumbs-up because of what Jesus has done for you. There is literally nothing you could do right now that would make God love you any more than He already does, and there is nothing you could do that would make Him love you any less.
I appreciate what Charles Spurgeon had to say when preaching on this passage:
“Oh, for faith to lay hold on this! Oh, for an overpowering faith that shall get the victory over doubts and fears and make us enjoy the liberty with which Christ makes men free! You that believe in Christ, go to your beds this night and say, ‘If I die in my bed, I cannot be condemned!’ Should you wake the next morning, go into the world and say, ‘I am not condemned!’ When the devil howls at you, tell him, ‘You may accuse, but I am not condemned!’”
If you are in Christ, revel in the fact God commends you. If you are outside of Christ, you are condemned already, and judgment is still in front of you. Come to Him now. Run to Him for safety.
Your position in Christ deals with the penalty of sin and your practice with the Spirit deals with the power of sin.
Your practice with the Spirit deals with the power of sin.
Beginning in verse 2, we see how to live all this out. I see three ways to put our position into practice.
1. Focus on what the Holy Spirit has done.
Romans 8:2-4 tells us what’s been done for us.
- Freedom. Look at verse 2: “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” The word “for” tells us the reason why believers have no condemnation – we are set free from the domination of sin and delivered from death through Christ Jesus. As Jesus victoriously declared in John 8:32, true followers of Christ are now free: “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” I am not condemned for my sin, and I’m not constrained to sin. I’m also not charged with my sin.
- Forgiveness. God knew the Law was unable to save us and so out of love, He sent His own Son as a sin offering. We see this in verse 3: “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh.” We can never be condemned for our sins because the price has already been paid for them. God condemned the sin, not the sinner because He sent the Savior to die in our place. What the Law could not do, the Lamb did for us.
- Fulfillment. Amazingly, because Jesus is our sin offering, all of God’s righteous requirements have been fully fulfilled in us. We see this in verse 4: “In order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” We no longer are to be dominated by sin but are delivered by the Holy Spirit who lives within us. Zechariah 4:6: “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts.”
The key to victory is to focus on who we are in Christ.
The Holy Spirit enables us to live out who we are in Christ by focusing on what God the Father has done for us. The key to victory is to focus on who we are in Christ.
Let me ask a question: Do you know who you are?
- You are not what you do.
- You are not what you are doing.
- You are not what you’ve done.
- You are not what’s been done to you.
What you do doesn’t determine who you are, who you are determines what you do. Therefore, you are who Christ says you are.
If you’re “in Christ” through the new birth, you now have a new identity. According to Neil Anderson in his book called, “Identity in Christ,” you can confidently say…
I Am Accepted
- I am God’s child (John 1:12).
- I am a friend of Jesus Christ (John 15:15).
- I have been justified (Romans 5:1).
- I am united with the Lord (1 Corinthians 6:17).
- I have been bought with a price and belong to God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
- I am a member of Christ’s body (1 Corinthians 12:27).
- I have been chosen by God and adopted as His child (Ephesians 1:3-8).
- I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins (Colossians 1:13-14).
- I am complete in Christ (Colossians 2:9-10).
- I have direct access to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:14-16).
I Am Secure
- I am free from condemnation (Romans 8:1-2).
- I am assured God works for my good in all circumstances (Romans 8:28).
- I cannot be separated from the love of God (Romans 8:31-39).
- I have been established, anointed, and sealed by God (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).
- I am hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:1-4).
- I am confident God will complete the good work He started (Philippians 1:6).
- I am a citizen of Heaven (Philippians 3:20).
- I have not been given a spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).
- I am born of God and the evil one cannot touch me (1 John 5:18).
I Am Significant
- I am a branch of Jesus Christ, the true vine, and a channel of His life (John 15:5).
- I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit (John 15:16).
- I am God’s temple (1 Corinthians 3:16).
- I am a minister of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
- I am seated with Jesus Christ in the heavenly realm (Ephesians 2:6).
- I am God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10).
- I may approach God with freedom and confidence (Ephesians 3:12).
- I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).
BTW, we’ve made copies of these statements about our identity. Another action step would be to spend time reflecting on each one as you look up the Scripture passages.
2. Think about your thoughts.
We need to get hold of our thoughts before they get hold of us. The word “mind” is used five times in verses 5-8 and refers to our attitudes: “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 set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
Have you heard the phrase, “Garbage in, garbage out?” When we open the gate for garbage to come into our minds, rancid refuse will come out. If we allow godly thoughts in, godly behavior follows. Proverbs 4:23 in the KJV says, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” That means we are what we think. I talked to someone recently who told me he must listen to Moody Radio because if he doesn’t, his mind will fill up with destructive thoughts.
Right now, you have a series of thoughts flowing through your mind (some of you are wondering when the sermon will end). In fact, your thoughts are flowing faster than the Packers pouring through the porous offensive line of the Bears. Too many of us just allow thoughts to come in without thinking about what we allow ourselves to think about. We must set our minds on the Spirit. We can do that in two ways.
- Recognize you’re in a fierce battle. One commentator quipped, “Each of us, in effect, is a walking civil war.” Galatians 5:17: “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” Satan does not fight fair, so we better be prepared.
- Capture each thought and analyze it. Satan has declared war on you and the battlefield is your mind. That’s why Paul tells us to be vigilant in 2 Corinthians 10:5: “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” Don’t let any thought in without capturing and considering it first. If it’s a good one, let it enter; if not, demolish it with the truth of God’s Word.
3. Submit to the Spirit’s control.
Romans 8:9-11: “You, however, [he’s making an emphatic distinction here between unbelievers and believers] are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. [This literally means, “To be at home within you.”] Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who dwells in you.”
I’m so thankful to be part of church which believes Jesus is the only way and trust the Spirit to give life! This past week, our Belize team took our VBS program internationally as they shared Jesus with hundreds of kids. Here are the lyrics to one of the songs they taught (our neighbor kids are still singing it)!
So many roads won’t take you there
So many paths to who knows where
There’s only one way my friend
Tell the Lord you’re gonna trust in Him!
One way to life everlasting
One way ‘cause this world is passing
One way through Jesus
And your new life begins
Turn and walk away from your sin
Tell the Lord you’re gonna trust in Him!
As you may recall, in March, a group of 10 Edgewood men built a building where our team of 25 ministered this past week. What an amazing picture of the generations working together to bring Jesus to our neighbors and the nations!
Galatians 5:16 tells us how to put our position into practice: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” The issue is not getting more of the Holy Spirit but allowing Him to have more of us. We’ll learn more about how the Holy Spirit leads us next weekend.
Your position in Christ deals with the penalty of sin and your practice with the Spirit deals with the power of sin.
When I took my glasses in to be fixed this week, I was still feeling low. When the technician came over and asked how she could help, I told her I had a big problem and needed lots of help. She jokingly said she wasn’t a trained counselor. I hung my head and explained how I had foolishly sat on my glasses. She looked at me and then at my glasses, smiled, and said, “No problem. I can fix them…”
She went in the back and returned within five minutes with them completely fixed. I quickly took off my old ones and put the repaired ones back on. I can see clearly again. Do you need to put on a different pair of glasses so you can see and savor your position in Christ?