Life in the Spirit part 1


Part 1

What is your favorite chapter in the Bible? Mine is Romans 8. Having completed our series on “Who is God,” I am delighted to preach on this chapter, for it is an excellent place to discover what effect this knowledge about God should have in our lives. So we will spend a few weeks here, in conjunction with an intermission for the Christmas cantata.

Sometimes we think, “Oh, I just can’t wait to experience Heaven!” Did you know we don’t have to die to experience Heaven? We can experience a lot of the Spirit of Heaven in our life right now! Like that old Gospel song says, “Heaven came down and Glory filled my soul!” But if we don’t understand what the spirit-filled life (that is, God the Holy Spirit in us) is all about, we will miss the blessings of life in the Spirit and live in spiritual defeat, following the desires and thoughts of our flesh. (which most people do—think it is normal)

Romans 7:18 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.

This verse describes where many Christians are in their faith. They want to do right, but they keep failing. So they give up trying and say, “Well, that is just the way I am. At least I am saved.” Defeated, they continue to suffer the consequences of their sin.

While chapter 7 truthfully describes our sin dilemma, it is not our final fate. Fortunately, the Truth continues in Romans 8 about living in the fullness of the Holy Spirit instead of our sinful flesh. The Holy Spirit wants to change the way we are. I wish we could address the whole chapter at one time, but there is so much spiritual “meat” in this chapter, we couldn’t devour it all if I did that. So we will only look at the first four verses today.

Romans 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Wow! No condemnation! Isn’t that good news for our sin problem described in Romans 7? Yes, we are guilty of sin, but as born again Christians, we can say, “I am not condemned for my sin.” Why can we say that? Because we are “in Christ.” “In Christ” is a powerful phrase. Do you know what it means? We need to know what it means so that we can share the Gospel with others.

Being “in Christ” is like Noah being in the ark. God told Noah to build an ark and said, “I’m going to send judgment on the earth, and the only way to escape my judgment is to get in the ark.” Noah believed God and built an ark according to God’s specifications. Noah also warned others of the impending judgment. They ignored his warning and mocked him. Then the LORD said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation.” (Genesis 7:1)

After Noah and his family and the animals went into the ark, God shut the door. They were safe in the ark and they were not touched by the judgment of God.

When we become Christians, we are “in Christ,” just as Noah was “in the ark”. “In Christ”, we are saved from the judgment of God due to our sin. God considers us righteous before Him because Jesus took our condemnation to the cross. Those who have faith in Christ’s atonement on the cross and obey Him, are in the position of being “in Christ”. They are saved from the judgment of God and given Christ’s righteousness.

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

The only way we can ever be righteous in the eyes of God is to be “in Christ,” to have His righteousness.

As Paul writes in Philippians 3:8-9, Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith

To get “in Christ”, we confess our faith in God the Son, Jesus Christ, repent of our sins, and are baptized. As a result, we are born again of the God the Holy Spirit. After that, God the Father no longer looks at us as unrighteous sinners. Instead, He looks at us as His children who are being transformed and are maturing into the image of His Son by the grace and power of God the Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, when we are “in Christ”, God, the Holy Spirit, gives us grace to do good works. But, we don’t do them to be saved. We do good works because we are saved, we love God, and that’s what God empowers us to do.

Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

God has a purpose for our lives and the Holy Spirit is working on us for His purpose. He is giving us a complete make-over. That is why we are God’s workmanship, created “in Christ Jesus” to do good works, which God puts in our spirit to do. As a result, we want to do good works instead of sinning, because we are “in Christ” and have God’s grace to love God and to love other people.

So you see, when we are “in Christ,” we are no longer condemned because of our sin. We are safe from the punishment and judgment of God that is coming upon all those who reject Christ. And when we are “in Christ”, we have grace from the Holy Spirit to live a righteous life and do good things! Someone said in a little poem, “I cannot work, my soul to save, that work my Lord has done. But I will work like any slave, for the love of God’s dear Son.”

Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

Before we gave our lives to Christ, we were enslaved to the law of “sin and death”. For those who might not know what the law of sin and death is–it’s real simple: God says, “If you sin, you shall die.” That’s the law of sin and death. Because we sin, we are condemned to die eternally in Hell.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

However, we just read in verse 2, “the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death”. What is this “law of the Spirit of life”?

Jesus compared the Spirit to the wind in John 3:8 “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Wind is air movement. We are surrounded by air. But for us to live, the air must be in us and it must be constantly refreshed in us by breathing. Like the air we breathe, the Holy Spirit is around us, but for us to have eternal life, the Holy Spirit must be in us and constantly refreshed in us through continual prayer and obedience.

Furthermore, if you put a sailboat into the water, there may be a wind but it’s not until you raise the sails that the wind moves the boat. If we are “in Christ,” the Holy Spirit is in us. But like the sail, it’s not until we yield to the Holy Spirit that the power of the Holy Spirit fills our life and moves us along.

Life in the Spirit is like being in an ark, which has no rudder or anchor. The Holy Spirit is our wind, our rudder, and our anchor. The Holy Spirit controls us. We do not control Him.

Now, these two laws, “sin and death” vs. the Holy Spirit, are struggling in our soul against each other. In our struggle with these two laws, we are to surrender more and more to the “law of the Spirit of life”.

Let me illustrate our life in the Spirit this way. All of you who are parents or grandparents in this room know the joy of watching a child or grandchild take their first steps.

This is generally how it happens: until children get to be about a year old, they are operating under the old law of crawling around on the floor. They are content with that limited mobility for awhile, but later they are tired of crawling and want to get off the ground. They decide they want to operate under a new law of walking. (Likewise, we have to get tired of crawling in the dirt of sin and death before we decide we want to Jesus to be our Lord and walk by His Spirit. But like little child, we need our Father’s help.)

So usually, Mom or Dad will get down on their knees and one parent will hold the child and they’ll say, “Come to Daddy, or come to Mama!”

Have you ever noticed that when children take their first steps, they are so excited? They have this big grin on their faces. They look like a little Frankenstein walking because they walk so stiff-legged! (A new Christian is like that! He is full of the joy of the Holy Spirit and walks around with a big smile on his face, but his walk is a little wobbly and we want to catch him when should he fall.)

A child’s parents are so proud of his first steps! (So is God the Father over the efforts of a newly born again child of His.)

I don’t know of any child who could immediately walk perfectly. Most children take a couple of steps and then fall. Now when that child falls, do you as a parent or grandparent go over to the child and say, “You’re a failure! I knew you would fall! You’ll never walk!”

No, you don’t do that! You pick them up and praise them for walking and encourage them to try again. (So it is with God our Father. He does not condemn us. He picks us up, encourages us, and lets us try again.)

In the beginning, the child is going to fall more than they walk, but as they continue to try and mature, they walk more than they fall. (So it is for us, after we are born again and learning to walk by the Spirit and not by our flesh. We will fall less often.)

The points I’m trying to make are: 1) In Christ, we’re not condemned for our sin, 2) we are free from the law of sin and death, and next, we are given His perfection.

Romans 8:3 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,

The law required something we couldn’t give, and that was perfection! Our flesh is too weak to keep the law perfectly. Therefore, God the Father sent God the Son to do what the law couldn’t do for us. He came to condemn sin in flesh like ours and give us His perfection. In every way we have been tempted, Jesus experienced the exact same temptation. But He never gave in to it. He was sinless. He fulfilled the law perfectly.

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Jesus is the only one who ever met the requirement of the law. Therefore, Jesus is the only perfect sacrifice for the sin of the world.

Hebrews 5:8-9 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,

That’s why it says in Isaiah 53:5, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”

That means Christ took our sin, our condemnation, our punishment, and healed us with a new life born of the Spirit. Jesus fulfilled the “law of sin and death” and He established a new covenant with us, the “law of the Spirit of life”, which is the Holy Spirit in us.

Most of you are familiar with the beautiful hymn; “It is Well with My Soul.” Do you know the story behind the hymn?

Horatio G. Spafford wrote it as he was sailing over the Atlantic Ocean to be reunited with his wife after his daughters had died at sea in a shipwreck. To know this makes the words more meaningful. But to me, the best verse in that whole hymn is the third verse that says, “My sin. Oh, the bliss of this glorious thought. My sin–not in part but the whole–is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, Oh my soul!” Any born again believer can say, “I am not charged with my sin. It is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more! My soul is healed—it is well. I have been given the perfection I could not earn!”

Therefore, in Christ, we not condemned; we are free from the law of sin and death; we are made perfect; but there’s more, as we read verse four, “we are not controlled by sin.”

Romans 8:4 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.

God, the Holy Spirit, will lead us to live differently from the world and differently from the way we used to live. The difference is we no longer have to sin just because “that is the way we are”! The Holy Spirit gives us grace and power to obey God instead of our fleshly desires. That is called walking according to the Spirit.

Titus 2:11-12 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to men. It (the Holy Spirit) teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age,

If we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit empowers us to say “no” to the urges of the sinful nature and the temptations of the devil. That is how He enables us to live godly lives in this present age. To walk by the Spirit instead of our flesh, we have to keep on saying “no, I’m not going to give in to this temptation”; “no, I’m not going to think that way”; “no, I’m not going be angry about that”; “no, I’m not going to say that”. We have to keep saying “no, no, no” many times a day to the desires of the flesh and demonic temptations that are in conflict to the desires of the Holy Spirit.

At the same time, we must choose to say, “Yes!” to the impulses and leading of the Holy Spirit, who lives within us. We have to say “yes, Lord” every moment of the day to walk according to the Holy Spirit and be controlled by Him and not controlled by our sin. And He gives us grace to do it.

There is much more in this chapter, and we will continue in two weeks. In the meantime, I challenge you to read Romans 8 every morning for about a month and let it renew your mind. Obey it and you will be amazed at what will happen when you walk according to the Holy Spirit instead of your sinful desires and temptations.

Choosing to yield to the Holy Spirit every moment of the day will change your marriage, it will change your job, it will change your family, it will change your attitude about life; it will change everything.

But you can’t make this choice if the Holy Spirit is not in you. If you have grieved the Holy Spirit, repent of your sin and ask our Father to renew His Spirit within you.

If you have never made Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior, then you are not “in Christ”. You are not safe from God’s judgment. You are still condemned for your sin and the Holy Spirit is not in you.

However, the Holy Spirit is convicting you right now to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, who atoned for your sin on the cross. The Spirit is telling you to confess your faith, to repent of your sin, and to put your old life to death and be born again of the Holy Spirit through water baptism. I know that sounds scary, because you can’t imagine what your life will be like if you give control to the Holy Spirit. But I urge you to trust God and follow Jesus. As a result, you will be in Christ and Christ will be in you. You will no longer be condemned under the old law of sin and death. You will enjoy the peace, joy, and grace of the Holy Spirit under the law of the Spirit of life.

Psalm 143:10 Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.