Out of God’s grace, He has chosen us and loves us. What is the only right response? To serve Him alone, and that means we remember Him always.

Serve and Remember

Posted: February 27, 2020 in Deuteronomy

Deuteronomy 7-8, “Serve and Remember”

Memories can be tricky things. I’m the first to admit that I don’t have a great memory, and it is not at all uncommon for me to show something to my bride, only to have her tell me that she showed the same thing to me a week earlier. Names are often difficult, and without having my calendar written down (or online), I would be lost. The act of writing (often literally, with pen and paper!) is helpful. When I write something down, it moves the issue to the forefront of my mind, and it becomes far easier to remember. 

Forgetfulness isn’t just an inconvenience…it can be downright dangerous, depending on the issue. It’s one thing to forget what you ate for breakfast this morning; it’s quite another to forget the God who saved you. Unless we are intentional about bringing God to the forefront of our minds, we can find ourselves in a very dangerous place. Not only a place of arrogance, but of utter disobedience.

This is the issue Moses explains to the children of Israel as he continues in Deuteronomy. The people were to serve God faithfully, and they way they would do so is when they remembered God constantly. If they forgot the grace they had already received, they would forget their reason to obey, and thus, they would miss out on the blessings available to them.

By this point, Moses has transitioned into the legal statute section of Israel’s covenant treaty with the Lord God. He began by reviewing the 10 Commandments, as well as the summary Great Commandment to love the Lord their God with everything they had and were. God was truly worthy of their obedience, and the Hebrews were repeatedly charged to keep the statutes of the Lord.

That charge continues in the next several chapters. This has been a recurring theme in the book. Since Chapter 4, the idea of listening to and observing/keeping the command of God appears around 15 times leading up to Chapter 7, and it shows up at least another 4 times in Chapters 7-8 (with the underlying idea permeating every other verse in the chapters). Listen – heed – observe – obey – remember. All of these terms relate to the same basic principle: whatever God says, His people are to do.

The problem is that we can’t…not in our own strength. If there is one thing made clear in our study of Romans 7-8, it is that God’s grace is needed for us to live according to God’s glory, and that grace comes through the work of God’s Spirit among us (all because of Jesus). In a sense, the same principle is seen in Deuteronomy 7-8. God’s people were commanded to obey, but God was under no illusions about their weaknesses & sinful hearts that were prone to disobedience. If they did not constantly cast themselves on God’s grace, they would have no hope at all. They couldn’t even be where they were at the present time without the grace of God – surely they would need Him even more in the future land!

What was implied for Israel is plain with us. Like the Hebrews, we have no reason to be chosen by God as His own – and like the Hebrews, we are just as prone to forgetfulness. The only reason for us to have any present relationship with God, or any future promise from God, is through the grace of Jesus.

His grace is the foundation. What do we do in response? We serve Him alone, and remember Him always. We keep God first, and only then do we know His blessings.

Deuteronomy 7 – Serve God alone.

  • Serving the God who chose them (7:1-11).
  • No compromise with other gods (1-5)

1 “When the LORD your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you, 2 and when the LORD your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them.

  1. Before anything is said about the various nations to be expelled, note this: God is the one to do the work. He is the one who gives the land to Israel and casts out the nations before them. Yes, they had their own responsibility to go into the land and act, but what they did was not of themselves. They were merely the instruments used by God, and He was their reason for future victory. If they forgot this, they would forget everything else. First God acts in His grace, then (and only then) can the people act in obedience and live in His blessing.
    1. If God doesn’t act first, we have no hope. Thankfully, He has already acted through Jesus! What we do in our salvation is nothing, other than a response to the work of God. He is the one to bring us into His love – He is the one to cast down the power of sin over us – He is the one to give us grace. We simply respond and act in kind to what we have been given.
  2. As for Israel’s response to the various nations inhabiting the land, they were to act without mercy. These nations were to be devoted to the ban (חָרַם), to be “utterly destroy[ed].” This speaks of nothing less than total extermination. Nothing of their culture was to be left behind, nor any survivors. Why such a hard sentence? Because they had filled up on the full measure of their sin (Gen 15:16). “Studies of their religion, literature, and archeological remains reveal that they were the most morally depraved culture on the earth at that time,” (Deere, BKC). God had given them over 400 years to repent, and they never did it. Their time for second chances was over. What took place during the conquest of Canaan was not genocide; it was the just judgment of Almighty God towards a truly sinful people.
    1. This sounds harsh to many Christians today, and it is difficult for us to imagine the God who loves us so much making this kind of determination of execution. But we need to remember that God has His reasons for doing so, and were it not for the grace of Jesus, the sentence that was placed upon the Canaanites would be placed on all of us! What they received was just; the fact that we do not receive it is grace.

3 Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. 4 For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the anger of the LORD will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly.

  1. There was to be no compromise, no cohabitation, no intermarriage. Why? Because compromise leads to idolatry, and idolatry leads to judgment. This is borne out through history. Even the then-current generation of Hebrews could remember when the nation fell in sexual immorality and idolatry with the Moabite women through the counsel of Balaam. Not even so-called “heroes” such as Solomon were immune. Though he was the wisest man alive, Solomon cast aside his wisdom when marrying Gentile wives and expanding his harem, and eventually found himself bowing to false foreign gods (1 Kings 11). 

5 But thus you shall deal with them: you shall destroy their altars, and break down their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images, and burn their carved images with fire.

  1. Instead of compromise, Israel was to engage in total warfare. Every idolatrous thing was to be pulled down and burned. Although some of those images would have been covered in gold – although some of them might have been considered cultural treasures, they were all to be destroyed. Nothing of the previous pagan culture was to remain in the land.
  2. We can afford no compromise with sin! We cannot allow it any place in our lives, thinking we can hold onto it in certain areas, while remaining “pure” in others. The moment we’ve allowed it into our lives at all, we’re no longer pure. How much poison do we want in our drinking water, before we consider it unsafe? Such ought to be our attitude with sin. We don’t leave the stuff from the past in our lives – we give it no quarter. Like Paul writes in Romans 8, we are to put to death the deeds of the body by the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:13). Destroy it completely!
  • Hebrews are holy and chosen (6-8)

6 “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.

  1. The Hebrews were “chosen”! They were devoted/set apart unto the Lord. They had a calling unto the Lord. He looked on them, and determined to set His affections on them. He chose To be chosen…what an honor! How was it that God saw His people? As a “special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.” Consider again that this was Israel. This was the nation that worshipped an idol while the glory of God was still visible on the top of Mt. Sinai. This was the nation that despised a daily miraculous provision of manna even as God actively provided it. This was the nation that just completed a 40-year death march through the wilderness because of their rebellion at Kadesh Barnea. (All these various failures will be specifically reviewed in the coming chapters.) This wasn’t a successful nation who loved God; it was a stiff-necked rebellious nation that often despised God. And God still chose them – He still loved them as His special treasure. How great is the love and grace of God!
  2. It gets better: God has chosen us! In Christ, we have been chosen by God, made to be His own special people and His treasure. Us! We, who reviled Him – who lusted after perversions – who destroyed our bodies through alcohol or substances (or even junk food!) – who hated our neighbors – who showed cruelty to the poor – who spat in the face of our God, even as Jesus died on the cross. Us, being the vile sinners we are…God still chose us. What grace! What unfathomable love and mercy! How grateful we ought to be!

7 The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; 8 but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

  1. Israel did not earn God’s favor. They certainly hadn’t been obedient in the past, nor had they done any special act of spiritual heroism. They weren’t militarily impressive, nor did they have a world-renown pedigree. There was nothing in themselves that God should have chosen them; He just chose them. They hadn’t impressed God in the slightest; He acted solely out of His will.
    1. One way to know that God did not choose Israel because of their potential “greatness” is the fact that God chose them before they ever existed! God chose Israel through Abraham, back when Abraham was an elderly man, still childless with his elderly wife. Before Abraham even entered the land of Canaan (and potentially while he was still in Ur of the Chaldees), God promised to make Abraham a great nation. Beyond this, shades of God’s promise for Israel is seen in Noah’s son Shem (from whom Abraham descended), in that Shem was prophesied to be blessed (Gen 9:26-27). God chose Israel before Israel was even on the radar!
    2. When did God choose us? Before the foundation of the world! (Eph 1:4) To be sure, this gets into some tricky waters (which we’ll attempt to navigate towards the end of Romans 8), but regardless what position a Christian holds on the role of an individual’s free will, there is zero question that the Bible speaks clearly of God’s own freewill choice of us. God has chosen us for His salvation, based on His love, through the work of Jesus. We did not earn His salvation; He chose to give it.
    3. Rather than arguing about the method of God’s choice, far better to bask in the wonder that we have been chosen! Any person who knows Jesus as Lord and Savior is a person who has been chosen by God…and that itself is a wonder!
  2. Not only did God choose Israel, but God loved Israel. His choice was to bestow the grandeur of His love upon them. The word choice is interesting, because it is the same word seen in the Great Commandment. Just like Israel is commanded to love YHWH as their God with all they have, YHWH God loves Israel as His people. Although different words for “love” (or “lovingkindness”) are sometimes used for God’s love for His people, this time it is identical to Israel’s own commanded love for God. The difference? Israel didn’t always do it; God did. God always loved His people, and nothing could stop Him from doing so!
    1. This gets to the core of why we love God. We didn’t come up with the idea of loving God on our own. On the contrary, God loves us. The only reason we love God is because He first loved us (1 Jn 4:19).
  3. In addition to God’s choice and God’s love is God’s faithfulness. God was (and is) faithful to His promises. He gave an oath to Abraham to bring out Abraham’s descendants after 400 years, and God did it. God brought them out with power and might, accomplishing their redemption. Everything God promised to do, He did.
    1. This hasn’t changed through the present day. Everything God promises to do, He does. He promised to save us through Jesus, He saves us. He promises to forgive us our sins, He forgives. He promises to give us the Holy Spirit, He gives. Every promise we have in God is sure, because God is the one who makes them. His word is trustworthy!
  • God is faithful and fierce (9-11)

9 “Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments; 10 and He repays those who hate Him to their face, to destroy them. He will not be slack with him who hates Him; He will repay him to his face.

  1. God is THE God. Unlike the pagan gods, whose idols were to be destroyed, YHWH God is the only God. He is the only one truly worthy of the word, “God,” because all others are fakes and imaginary. Why should Israel worship that which cannot receive worship? Why should they pick up the false gods of the nations who were to be expelled? Their gods could not save them from judgment, because the only God who is God was the one judging them. Their gods were useless, imaginary, and based in demonism; YHWH God is
  2. God is faithful beyond our faithlessness. Just like God kept His promises to Abraham though centuries passed, so does God keep His promises to us. To generation after generation, the word of God remains. God never Earth itself will pass away and be remade, but God will remain, and His word/promise is faithful.
  3. God gives equitable judgment. God does not shy away from judgment. Don’t get the wrong idea – it isn’t that God is eager to dal out discipline, seeing people suffer in eternal death. No – God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, and would much rather them turn from their wicked ways and live (Eze 33:11). Even so, when the time for judgment comes, God will judge. He does not get squeamish – He does not get cold feet. He will repay people straight to their face, and they will know that His judgment is righteous.
  4. Put it together: YHWH God, the God, the faithful God, the righteous God, is our This is the God we worship! This is the God who has chosen us, loved us, and shown His faithfulness toward us. This is a God worthy of our love, our praise…and our obedience.

11 Therefore you shall keep the commandment, the statutes, and the judgments which I command you today, to observe them.

  1. The only right response to such grace and mercy from the awesome almighty God? Just as Moses has proclaimed so often throughout Deuteronomy, he proclaims again: God’s people are to serve Him and obey Him faithfully. They are not just to hear His word, but they are to heed it, observing all the things God gave them to do.
  2. Because we are under grace, Christians often look at obedience as optional. It is not! Granted, our salvation is not dependent on obedience, but one could just as easily argue that salvation is not present without What kind of saving faith is it, if a person doesn’t respond to the God who saved him? Does faith in the living God truly exist when a person acts as if God is dead? James perhaps put it best: James 2:18–20, “(18) But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (19) You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! (20) But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?”  A faith that saves is a faith that works. A faith that is alive is a faith that obeys. Obedience doesn’t bring the faith, but it does accompany it.
  • Serving God in the land (7:12-26)
  • Promised blessings (12-16)

12 “Then it shall come to pass, because you listen to these judgments, and keep and do them, that the LORD your God will keep with you the covenant and the mercy which He swore to your fathers. 13 And He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your land, your grain and your new wine and your oil, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flock, in the land of which He swore to your fathers to give you.

  1. If the people obeyed, they would experience God’s blessing. As with the call to obedience, the idea of accompanying blessing is also thematic throughout Deuteronomy. This was part and parcel of the covenant God made with Israel. (We have a different covenant, so although the principle remains true, the promise is slightly different.)
  2. As for Israel, they were promised immense blessing! Population – produce – livestock…you name it, and it was graced by God. Israel was supposed to stand apart from the nations of the world. They would look to Israel, and know beyond a shadow of doubt that what they had was by the grace of God. Israel’s blessing was evangelistic, drawing the attention of the nations to the true God.

14 You shall be blessed above all peoples; there shall not be a male or female barren among you or among your livestock. 15 And the LORD will take away from you all sickness, and will afflict you with none of the terrible diseases of Egypt which you have known, but will lay them on all those who hate you.

  1. Freedom from infertility. (Ironic, considering the patriarchs!) Freedom from all physical ailments, including all that God had recently visited on Egypt. Other nations were under the curse; Israel was to be shining light of exception, again as a witness unto God.
    1. The fact that this (for the most part) did NOT happen, only serves to highlight the missed opportunity. Israel had every reason in the world to walk faithfully with God! Yet they valued the degraded stuff of their flesh, missing out on what could have been.
    2. Don’t miss out on what could have been! Beware that your faith doesn’t devolve into “coulda, shoulda, woulda.” Jesus has so much for us right now in the abundant life of the Spirit…we just need to walk with Him in the Spirit’s power!

16 Also you shall destroy all the peoples whom the LORD your God delivers over to you; your eye shall have no pity on them; nor shall you serve their gods, for that will be a snare to you.

  1. God promised to give them the power to consume their enemies. Although the Israelites had not spent the past 400 years perfecting warfare (being that they were Egyptian slaves), they still had every reason to be confident in the future conquest. They were promised the power of God and they walked in the commission of God, so they didn’t have any excuses! They shouldn’t fail to obey God!
  • Fear God; not the enemy (17-24)

17 “If you should say in your heart, ‘These nations are greater than I; how can I dispossess them?’—18 you shall not be afraid of them, but you shall remember well what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt: 19 the great trials which your eyes saw, the signs and the wonders, the mighty hand and the outstretched arm, by which the LORD your God brought you out. So shall the LORD your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid.

  1. Don’t fear the battle; remember how God had fought for them in Egypt. If they were to look at their experience in Egypt without God, then they would have had every reason to fear. Who was Moses, compared with Pharaoh? Egypt was the mightiest nation on earth at the time. Egypt was the one with the soldiers, the chariots, and the spears – the Hebrews were just a bunch of slaves with straw. Yet Israel went out of Egypt with such power, that the Egyptians literally paid them to go, and this nation of slaves plundered their captors. How was it possible? Only by the hand and power of God. And that was what they were to remember. What God did in Egyptian exodus, He would do in the Canaanite conquest. When in doubt during future military battles, they needed to remember that God was always their strength and reason for victory.

20 Moreover the LORD your God will send the hornet among them until those who are left, who hide themselves from you, are destroyed. 21 You shall not be terrified of them; for the LORD your God, the great and awesome God, is among you.

  1. Any of the foreign nations who escaped battle with Israel would not be able to escape God. He would “send the hornet” to chase them out of their hiding places, and each and every one of them would be found and destroyed. (Whether “hornet” is meant literally or not is irrelevant. The point is that God would do whatever it took to bring judgment on the people of the land, and they would not be able to escape Him.)
  2. What did this mean for Israel (and for us)? Don’t fear the enemy; fear God! The enemy might appear to be powerful, but only when we compare the enemy with ourselves. Most of us look pretty insignificant next to a tank. But that tank is nothing compared to a stealth bomber…it’s all a matter of perspective. Guess what? God is bigger than the biggest stealth bomber or battleship! Almighty God is the one who fights on our behalf, and He overwhelms our biggest enemies. Don’t fear the enemy; fear the One who fights for us!

22 And the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you little by little; you will be unable to destroy them at once, lest the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. 23 But the LORD your God will deliver them over to you, and will inflict defeat upon them until they are destroyed. 24 And He will deliver their kings into your hand, and you will destroy their name from under heaven; no one shall be able to stand against you until you have destroyed them.

  1. Wisdom! God would not give the people more than they could handle with His help. If the land was suddenly emptied, the Hebrews would be ill equipped to care for the land. Thus, God would drive out the nations little by little, allowing the Israelites to “grow” into what God was giving them. (This isn’t uncommon of the Lord at all!)
  2. Even so, they needed to be faithful to follow through with what God did give them. God promised to give Israel power to destroy the foreign armies and kings; Israel needed to follow through and use that power. They needed to walk in the grace and power of the Holy Spirit being obedient to their calling from God.
  • No compromise with pagan gods (25-26)

25 You shall burn the carved images of their gods with fire; you shall not covet the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it for yourselves, lest you be snared by it; for it is an abomination to the LORD your God. 26 Nor shall you bring an abomination into your house, lest you be doomed to destruction like it. You shall utterly detest it and utterly abhor it, for it is an accursed thing.

  1. Again, a reminder to thoroughly destroy all remnants of the idolatrous religions. Not even the gold overlaying the statues was to be taken…it was all an “abomination” and meant for destruction.
  2. If they didn’t destroy what was under the ban, then the people would place themselves under the ban!

All of that dealt with obedience, with their obedience based on the grace and covenantal love of God for them. But that obedience would never take place if the people heard the word of God and promptly forgot about God. They needed to keep God at the forefront of their minds thereby walking in the Great Commandment of loving the Lord with all their heart, soul, and strength. It hinged on simple remembrance…

Deuteronomy 8 – Remember God always.

  • Remember God’s past leadings (1-5)

1 “Every commandment which I command you today you must be careful to observe, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land of which the LORD swore to your fathers.

  1. This is the natural transition from Chapter 7. The people were commanded to serve the Lord, and they needed to be intentional in their service. They were to be “careful” in obedience. Again, how so? Through remembering the Lord. 

2 And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.

  1. The wilderness was a time of testing and humility. Objection: Wasn’t the wilderness a time of judgment and discipline? Yes, but that wasn’t all that took place during that time. God had a purpose for the wilderness beyond punishment. That time of punishment would also be a time of refinement – a time to test/prove Israel, making them stronger and better than they were before. Like metalworkers make their steel implements stronger through the fire, so was Israel molded and shaped by God during the “fire” of the wilderness. (So He does with us!)
  2. Didn’t God already know what was in their hearts? Being omniscient, God knows everything at all times. But while God is omniscient, we aren’t. God wanted Israel to know what was in their hearts, and He wanted them to know that He knew. Thus, the testing. 

3 So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD. 4 Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. 5 You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the LORD your God chastens you.

  1. We need to be taught humility. Likewise, we need to be taught to depend on God. These things do not come naturally to us. Our natural state is pride and independence. Independence can be good in certain contexts (as when we take responsibility for ourselves), but it is foolish rebellion when it comes to our interaction with God. An astronaut conducting a space walk might look independent, in that nothing tethers him/her to the ship, but without the vessel and life support, that astronaut is hopelessly lost! We might look at the stuff of our lives and think we depend only on ourselves, but the reality is far different. Without God and His provision, we are hopelessly lost. This is what we tend to forget, and what we need to be taught through God’s lessons of humility.
  2. How dependent was Israel on God? So much so that they didn’t live on bread (as good as the manna was from heaven); they lived upon God’s word! We might recognize these words from the One who was most humble and most dependent upon His heavenly Father. Our Lord Jesus quoted this exact verse back to Satan during the wilderness temptation. …
    1. Consider that for a moment: the one Person who could best claim His own power and independence apart from God, didn’t. Jesus did not rise up in pride against God; He made Himself even more dependent on His heavenly Father.
    2. If Jesus needed God in that way, how much more do we?
  3. That’s what God did with Israel! Their hearts weren’t humble, so God humbled them. Their hearts were hard and rebellious, and God taught them dependence. Just look at how Moses described it: “your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years.” For their clothing (including their shoes) to last 40 years was blessing enough – for their feet not even to swell is something else! Remember that they were wandering through the wilderness by foot for four full decades. To not experience swelling, blisters, or sores in their feet was nothing short of miraculous.
    1. It seems like a small thing, but it served as a person visible testimony of God every time they looked down.
    2. How conscious are we of our dependence on Jesus? What reminders has He given us all around us?
  4. Why did God do this with Israel? The same reason He does it with us: to teach us that God loves us as His own children. Yes, the time in the wilderness was chastening and judgment, but it wasn’t judgment as God judges the Gentiles; it was judgment as a Father with His children. When our toddlers hit and bite us, we discipline them sternly, but we treat them far better than we would a stranger who assaulted us. One is done out of love; the other out of criminal justice. God chastens us out of love. In fact, His discipline is proof that He loves us as His sons!
  • Remember God’s present promises (6-10)

6 “Therefore you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him.

  1. Moses gives a great description of what it means to keep God’s commandments: to walk and to fear. To walk in God’s ways, and to fear Him as God. Why fear God in this way? Because God had something great in store for them!

7 For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; 9 a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper. 10 When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you.

  1. The promised land was a good land! This is the most in-depth description yet. Far more than a land of milk & honey, it had brooks and springs and olive oil and fruit of all kinds. It was a land full of natural resources, where Israel would have everything they needed. Because it is so good, it was important for them to remember that God is better. God is the good God who gave them that good land. They needed to remember God as their Provider. The land gave them what they needed, but God gave them the land.
  • Beware future forgetfulness (11-17)

11 “Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today,

  1. Forgetfulness leads to disobedience. In fact, we might argue that forgetfulness IS disobedience & vice-versa. Notice the “by”: Israel would forget the Lord BY not keeping His commandments. Disobedience and forgetfulness go hand-in-hand.

12 lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; 13 and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; 14 when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; 15 who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock; 16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end—17 then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’

  1. God promised immense blessings to Israel, but blessings present their own kind of danger. When we are blessed, we can easily forget the source of our blessing.
  2. Even the hardships God brings into our lives can be considered blessings, in that they are important lessons from God to us. That was what God taught Israel through their time in the wilderness. Consider some of the hardships Moses mentioned. One of the scorpions common to the land of Israel is known colloquially as the “deathstalker.” It delivers a powerful neurotoxin mis through its sting, and is potentially lethal to children, infirm, and elderly. Similarly, there are at least seven varieties of venomous snakes in Israel (“fiery serpents”), ranging from the Israeli viper to the black adder. All that to say, the wilderness through which the Hebrews walked was not Their 40-year journey was not an extended walk-in-the-park. There were dangers all around them from which they needed protection…and God provided it!
  3. What happens when we do not remember God as the source of our blessing? We believe that we are the source of our own blessing. e., we engage in a personal sort of idolatry, because we make ourselves our god and provider. We take credit for God’s work, and thus, make ourselves god.
  • Remember God’s present power (18-20)

18 “And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. 19 Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the LORD your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. 20 As the nations which the LORD destroys before you, so you shall perish, because you would not be obedient to the voice of the LORD your God.

  1. God is our provider, and God has a reason for His provision: His covenant. This gets back to the idea of God’s faithfulness and His grace. Because He chose to love Israel – because He chose to honor His promise to Abraham, God provided for Abraham’s descendants in the land.
  2. Part of that covenant? Just like there would be blessing for obedience, there would be judgment for disobedience. Israel could endanger themselves of perishing. (And they did!)

The point? Israel was to take pains to remember their God! They needed to remember what God had done for them in the past, what God was doing for them in the present, and what God still had the power to do in the present and in the future. Ultimately, they needed to remember whom it was they served, and keep Him at the forefront of their mind.

Conclusion:

So do we! We don’t take care to remember Jesus as our Lord from a sense of fearing that we might still perish in death and judgment. But we do remember Him in a sense of knowing that we belong to Him and that we have no hope without Him.

As we remember Him, we serve Him. We fear Him, walk with Him, and obey Him. Why? Because He’s worthy! He loves us, chose us, and is faithful to His promises. He is a God who has showered us with grace through Jesus.

What else can we do, other than keep Him in the forefront of our minds as we serve Him with joy and praise? Oh that the grace of Jesus would never be far from our minds, that we would walk with Him in blessed service!

Now that we’ve been made part of God’s family, what is our family duty? To go to war against our flesh and put it to death by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Family Obligations

Posted: February 24, 2020 in Romans

Romans 8:12-17, “Family Obligations”

Over the past few years, I’ve learned a lot of what it means to have family obligations. When it’s family, you do what you have to do. Being a part of a family brings with it certain obligations, so you do what you need to do to meet them when necessary.

We might say something similar about our Christianity. To become a Christian isn’t so much about joining a “religion,” as it is being made a part of a family – in our case, the family of God. It’s an amazing thing, when you consider it. For us as primarily a group of Gentiles, we have zero reason to be made a part of God’s family. After all, we weren’t just estranged from God (unlike the Jews); we were His enemies. But that’s where the work of Jesus comes in. When Jesus died on for us on the cross & rose from the grave, He not only provided for the forgiveness of our sins, but He went so far as to bring us into the family of God. And that’s amazing!

With this new family comes new obligations. Although by no means have we been forced into a new legalism where we try to accomplish certain deeds to keep our salvation, there are still some things we do simply because we’re part of the family. Because we’re now part of God’s family, we belong to Him, so it follows that we don’t act like we belong to the world. In fact, it goes further than that: because Jesus gives us life, we’re to put our flesh to death. We’re to go to war against it. It’s part of our family obligation.

This battle has been in view for a while for Paul in this section of Romans, in all of its ups and downs. After admitting the struggle between his desire to do right and the sinful fleshly nature that still dwelt within him, Paul wrote of the glorious truth of the gospel that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Although our sin is no less sinful, and we hate the occasional sinful things we do, there is no punishment left for the believer in Christ, because Jesus has already taken all our punishment upon Himself.

Not only did Jesus take all of the penalty, but He also took on all of the law, fulfilling its requirements in the way we could never do (i.e. both keeping the heart and the letter of the law perfectly, without absence or error). Prior to our faith in Jesus, it was impossible for us to walk in a way pleasing to God (due to the fact that we were led solely by our flesh), but it became possible through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. God the Holy Spirit indwells us as believers in Christ, and He gives us the same power to live this life today as God gave Jesus to rise to resurrected life on the third day!

Now what? To this point, Paul has written of the war between the flesh and the Spirit, so we can see the different sides and identify the various battle lines. He has also written of the power made available to us from the Holy Spirit to fight this war, so it only makes sense that the subject now turns to actually fighting the battle. Power doesn’t do us any good if we never use it. So use it! We have new power and a new identity having been brought into the family of God, so now we need to make the choice to act according to our new family obligations.

How do we do it? We kill the flesh, and we live in the Spirit. It’s all a part being brought into the family of God…it’s all a part of privilege of being joined with Jesus!

Romans 8:12–17

  • We are debtors (12-13). Kill the flesh!

12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.

  1. Because verse 12 begins with a “therefore,” we need to be careful not to miss the tie-in to what has come already. Verses 12-17 are really the concluding thoughts to the argument that was begun back in Chapter 7 (and arguably, earlier!). As Paul freely admitted, the sinful nature still dwells within every born-again Christian (thereby doing away with any thought of a supposed state of “sinless perfection”), and this sinful nature still trips us up on a regular basis. We see the things that we ought to do (such as pray, worship, read and learn Scripture, share the gospel with our neighbors, forgive the folks who have offended us, etc.), but then our flesh kicks in and we don’t do it. We get lazy in our spiritual practices, become timid in our conversations, or buck up in pride at the idea of letting go of grudges. At the same time, we not only not do what’s right, but we actively do what is wrong. We find ourselves slipping back into old habits that we had before we knew Jesus as Lord, and occasionally acting as if we never met Jesus at all. We allow our eyes to linger on lusts, allow our tempers to blow up, and refuse to love our neighbors (much less our God!). The problem in all of that is us allowing the flesh to continue its rule and dominion in our lives, despite the fact that we’ve given ourselves to Jesus for His rule and dominion over us. But again, this is the war. This is the battle that wages within every Christian, and the two sides of flesh and Spirit can never be reconciled to one another in peace. One or the other is going to rule in our lives, and a choice has to be made. Thankfully, because of Jesus, we now have a choice…something we never had in the past. Now we can live for Christ, because we have the indwelling and power of the Holy Spirit.
  2. So, because we can, we should. And that’s exactly what Paul goes on to write in verse 12 about us being “” The word speaks of obligation, which tends to scare off people, but we need to remember the order in which this comes. Paul is not here laying down a legalism of how we get saved, as if we are obligated against the flesh and that is how we earn our salvation in Christ. Not at all! He’s already made it clear that Jesus is our Deliverer & Rescuer, the One in which we have all hope, and the One from whom we have a promise of no condemnation. It is Jesus who gives us the Holy Spirit, Who indwells our lives the moment we turn to Jesus Christ as our Lord, God, and King. The Holy Spirit gives us our new birth, and empowers us for our new life. So now, for the first time, we have this ability to live for Christ, and it is now that our obligation begins. In the past, we were obliged & under bondage to our flesh – not because it was the right thing for us to do, but because we were in fact enslaved to it. In Christ, all of that changes. In Christ, we now have power…which means we now have a choice. Thus, we have an obligation to use that choice rightly: “not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh,” but rather for the glory of God.
  3. This gets back to the question asked earlier in Chapter 6 of whether the Christian is allowed to sin (or should sin) so that grace can increase. If we know we have been justified by faith, and we know that we have no condemnation in Christ, why not give ourselves permission to sin either occasionally or with abandon? Earlier, Paul answered that such a thought is illogical and anti-gospel, a fundamental denial of our identification with Christ. Here, we see another reason: we are debtors unto God. Again, many people think of debt/obligation as a bad thing, but not this time. It depends on what is owed, and to whom it is owed. If we owe money to credit cards for a bunch of meals that we ate out when we could have eaten at home, that is a debt from which we should gain quick freedom, as every dollar we owe to Visa is a dollar we cannot spend for God’s purposes (either in our family, our church, etc.). If we have sins against our brothers/neighbors, then we are in debt to them, owing them repentance and reconciliation (and possible restitution), just as Jesus acknowledges in His model prayer for us (“forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors”). If we owe our livelihood and allegiance, then we must give our lives when called upon, much like a solider might do for his/her country and/or king. In this case, Paul writes specifically of which we are not indebted, and strongly implies through the opposite of to whom we are
    1. We are not debtors to the flesh. At one point, we were! Again, at one point, we owed our actions and lives to sinful flesh, being enslaved by it. It isn’t an excuse; it is just the reality. Before we were the children of God, we were children of the devil, doing the things of sin, and obligated to engage in the things of the flesh. We were trapped, enslaved, deep in debt to that which lay claim to our lives, and payment was bound to made in full on the day of our death. The flesh is a harsh master, leading us deeper in sin all the time. Like a drug dealer that gives out the first hit free, so did our flesh help us initially take pleasure in sin, for us only to soon learn we couldn’t live without it. We had to go back for more & more, digging our obligations and debts to an unimaginable level.
    2. We are debtors to the Spirit. Of course, this is not directly stated by Paul, but it is most certainly his inference and meaning. The Spirit and the flesh have been contrasted as opposites throughout the chapter, and that same contrast continues through the next several verses. In 8:2, Paul wrote specifically how “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” We have freedom from the flesh through the Spirit, and what that freedom does is transfer our debts/obligations from one master to another. Even if we put it in terms of our redemption, the concept remains the same. When Jesus redeemed us, He paid the price for our sins – He purchased us away from the slavery of sin and death. There was a transaction, and we are eternally indebted to Him for it. It’s the same concept here. As Paul writes, “we are debtors – not to the flesh,” but in implication, to God. We are debtor to the One “who raised Christ from the dead” and who “will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you,” (8:11).
  4. With all that in mind, what does it mean to be debtor to God? It means we owe Him. We owe Him everything. Not only do we owe Him our physical lives (as does every other human), but we owe Him our forgiveness and our eternal lives. Every promise we have for the future is a promise that was given to us by His grace in Jesus. So yes, we owe Him everything. And although it sounds like a dirty word to some people, it means we also owe Him our obedience. Think of it: if Jesus is our “Lord,” it means He is our King. We owe Him our allegiance, and with our allegiance comes our obedience. When He gives us commands, we choose to do them. Not that obedience is always easy, nor does it ever come naturally…it simply is an obligation we now have unto God, and it is a privilege to have it!
    1. “Obedience” shouldn’t be a dirty word to a Christian. It’s often treated like such, as if every command given in the New Testament is a new legalism forced upon a believer. Not so! Obedience for the believer is a joy and a privilege – it’s something we get to do, even under our obligation to the Spirit. How so? Because before we met Jesus, it was something we couldn’t do, even in the rare times we wanted to. We couldn’t love God with our whole heart – we couldn’t love our neighbors as ourselves – and (if we’re being honest with ourselves) we didn’t want to! What we cared about prior to coming to faith in Jesus was how much we could please ourselves (i.e. our flesh) on any given day. Even when we did nice things for others, we did it for them because of the way it made us feel…there was always self-benefit. But now? Now we have been freed by Jesus to live by the Spirit, and now we can obey God. Why would we not take advantage of this new opportunity? Seize the day, and obey with joy!

13 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.

  1. When Paul writes that we should “put to death the deeds of the body,” it’s no doubt a violent picture – it is one of war. But then again, that’s exactly what we’re talking about. When it comes to the struggle between our fleshly nature and our obedience to the Spirit, it is nothing less than spiritual warfare, and the only true path to victory is the death of our internal enemy. There’s an interesting parallel to this idea among the Hebrew experience seen in the conquest of the Promised Land led by Joshua. If the salvation experience is pictured through Passover, the Red Sea, and the Exodus; and the spiritual failures to our flesh is seen through the Israelites’ failure and disobedience in the wilderness; then Spirit-led warfare and victory is likely seen in Joshua’s conquest of the Promised Land. When Joshua led in the people, what was the command of God to them? To be strong and courageous – to defeat all those whom God had determined for judgment – to totally destroy the idols and high places – and to make no compromises with anyone in the land. The Hebrews were (ideally) commanded to go into the land, commit to total warfare, and put the previous inhabitants (i.e., potential temptations to idolatry) to death. Even when the five kings of the Amorites fled the battle and tried hiding in a cave, they were brought out and summarily executed (Josh 10:26). Why? So that nothing would remain in the land that would potentially drag them back into sin. And although Joshua was faithful in his calling and leadership, the people who followed after him were not, making compromises with the people, and the cycle of defeat during the years of the Judges followed.
    1. The point? Declare war on the flesh! There is a time for peace and a time for war, but our peace is reserved for God, while our flesh should only have war. Put those previous deeds of the body to death. Stop the compromises – stop leaving back doors and bridges open to the things you did in the past. If you sinned in certain places, stop frequenting them. If you sinned with certain people, break off the relationships. If you sinned with certain objects, throw them away. Take a no-compromise position, and do what it takes to put those things to death. It is not for no reason that Jesus used extreme language in the Sermon on the Mount like “cutting off the hand,” or “plucking out the eye,” when it comes to the deeds and sins of the body. The idea isn’t self-mutilation; rather, it is to declare total war on sin, and do whatever it takes to kill it off.
  2. This parallels what Paul wrote earlier in the letter: Romans 6:11, “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Just like Jesus died to sin, we should die to sin because we’ve been identified with Jesus (via baptism). Okay, good advice, but how do we do it? How is it possible for us to “reckon” (reason, consider) ourselves dead to sin – how can we kill it off / put it to death? Paul tells us here. It is only “by the Spirit.” You can’t do it by yourself – I can’t do it by myself – no one can. No born-again Christian, no matter how “spiritual” that person might seem to be can do this. By ourselves, all we have is our flesh, and our flesh certainly will not help us put itself to death! What we need is a power beyond ourselves, beyond what our flesh has to offer. That power is available through the Spirit (and Paul has already written of how much power the Spirit has to offer, being that He is enough to raise Jesus from the dead!). The Spirit is essential to putting the flesh to death. If we don’t kill our flesh through the power of the Spirit, we won’t do it at all!
    1. BTW – How can we be so sure we need the Holy Spirit for this? Is it truly impossible for Christians to do it on our own? Yes! First of all, we don’t even think about putting the flesh to death until we’re born of the Spirit, so the Spirit is necessary even to get started. Secondly, if we had no strength against our flesh when we were truly without Christ, why would we think we’d have any more strength during the moments we act as if we’re without Christ? Yes, we need the Holy Spirit, and we need to be intentional about relying upon Him!
    2. The point: There is nothing in our Christian life for which we are not totally reliant on the grace of God. Whether it is our initial forgiveness from past sin (justification), our forgiveness from present sin (sanctification), power to deny present sin (also sanctification), or final freedom from sin’s presence (glorification), 100% of our fight against sin & our flesh is done by the grace of God. It isn’t us; it’s always God. The moment we start to think we gain power over sin is the moment we lose our battle against it.
    3. All of that said, don’t think that you have nothing to do in this. Yes, we are 100% dependent on Jesus’ grace through the gift of God the Holy Spirit and His empowerment to say “no” to sin and put it to death. But, we still have to make the choice to do it. You can’t do it without the Spirit, but the Spirit won’t force you to do anything either. If you don’t even desire to say no to sin, then you’d better pray that God gives you the desire! He will equip you for the task, but you’ve got to be willing to do it.
  3. Question: When looking again at verse 13, it almost seems as if Paul is teaching a salvation by works – or at least, that a believer might keep his/her salvation by works. Will a believer truly live or die based on how he/she responds to the flesh? Again, we need to be careful not to divorce Romans 8 from the preceding context of Romans 1-7. Already, Paul has made it abundantly clear that we do nothing to save ourselves, and that no one does good (no not one!). He’s explained how we are made right (justified) in God’s sight through faith alone in His promises concerning Jesus, and that Jesus has set us free from sin and death. And again, even here in Romans 8, it is clear that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. So how does Romans 8:13 jibe with Romans 8:1? Different theologians have different thoughts. Some believe this is a reference not to eternal death, but a warning against missing out on abundant spiritual life. Others point out that the use of the present tense indicates a habitual way of living, meaning that those who consistently live according to the flesh are unbelievers, whereas those who live by the Spirit are believers (per 8:5). Beyond that, it could be argued that a Christian who lives a carnal lifestyle will eventually face the consequences of that lifestyle: death (per Ananias & Sapphira, Acts 5). In none of these viewpoints is it imagined that Paul preaches that a Christian keeps his/her salvation through works. We do good works because we are Christian, being empowered by the Spirit to do them, but we do not continually earn/maintain our salvation through them.
    1. Practically speaking, what Paul says to the Christian is simple: Be mindful of what you do! Yes, we could act in foolish sin, but that only leads to one place. Haven’t we experienced enough stuff of death already? Let us be done with it! Let us do the things which bring life – let us do the things that bring glory to God! Put the deeds of the body to death, kill it off…and may the life of the resurrected Lord Jesus shine forth through you!
  • We are sons (14-17). Live in the Spirit!

14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

  1. If those who are live by the flesh die, and those who live by the Spirit live, then it follows that those who live by the Spirit are led by the Spirit. No one can live by the Spirit without the Spirit first being within him/her (per verse 9), and one of the evidences of the Spirit within us is the change that takes place within our lives. Thus, it follows that if we are led by the Spirit of God, we have evidence that we are God’s children. If we’ve been spiritually reborn, then we know that birth took place by God the Holy Spirit, and He has made us His children.
    1. It might sound circular at first, but it isn’t. The Spirit is the One who starts the work within us, and it is His work that gives evidence to us. And what we know from His evidence is that our identity has changed to that of the children of God.
  2. Note: we are not just God’s children (as wonderful as that is of itself!); we are His sons. There is indeed a generic word for children (which Paul uses in verses 16-17), but here, the specific reference is to sons (υἱός). This speaks not only to our identity within God’s family, but our birthright with in it. We need to remember to read the language of the Bible from the viewpoint of the culture in which it was written, rather than the language of 21st century westerners. For a 1st century family in the Roman empire (whether Jew or Gentile), sons would receive the birthright inheritance; daughters would not. Right or wrong from a 21st century perspective, that was simply the fact of the culture. But notice the point Paul makes with this: when we are led by the Holy Spirit of God (having God the Holy Spirit dwelling within us), we have confirmation that we are God’s sons. We are His servants, but we are more than servants. We are His children, but we have more privileges than 1st century daughters…we have the privilege of sons. Whether you are male or female, you have the same privileges as any other born-again Christian. Paul makes a similar point to the Galatians, when he writes that there is neither Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, but we are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28). No one is more privileged than the other – no one is more valuable than the other – we are all bestowed with an equal amount of grace…which is to say, an infinite outpouring of the grace of God!

15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”

  1. It is possible through the Spirit! God the Holy Spirit gives us adoption into God’s family. When parents go through the lengthy legal process of adoption today, there comes a moment (after all the evaluations, tests, interviews, etc.) where parents and the potential child stand in front of a judge and the judge pronounces the adoption complete. That is their “gotcha” day: the day when the child who was formerly a stranger to the family is pronounced part of that family. That’s when the child generally takes the last name of his/her new parents, and in the eyes of every legal authority, the parents and child become a cohesive family unit. For us, our “gotcha” day was the day we turned to Jesus in faith – the day we believed upon Jesus and asked Him to save us. When we did that, we stood before the Judge of all the Universe, and Almighty God placed His Spirit within us, and the family unit became complete. Prior to that moment, we had no claim to anything within God’s family; once the Spirit came within us, we had the claim of being God’s children (His sons)!
  2. Contrast that with what we had before: the “spirit of bondage.” This phrase could literally be translated “the spirit of slavery.” When we were absent the Holy Spirit, all we had was the fallen sinful spirit within us, and we were enslaved to its carnal lusts. What it wanted, we had no choice but to satisfy. Think of it: when an unbeliever has a longing for something, the person isn’t satisfied until he/she gets it. Be it gluttonous foods, sex, domination, drugs, entertainment, or anything else. Think back to before we knew Jesus: when we didn’t get what we want, what happened? We wouldn’t be satisfied until we “scratched the itch,” (whatever it happened to be). And many times, the initial thing wasn’t enough, so we went back for more & more, never able to fill what seemed to be an endless hole of dissatisfaction. And to what did it lead? “” Fear of the future – fear of disappointment – fear of death…simply fear. It is an empty existence, in which there is little certainty.
    1. That might describe some of you today. Perhaps you understand that you are enslaved to pressures of all sorts. Maybe there is a longing within you that you can never satisfy – maybe there is pressure from friends or family that you cannot fulfill – maybe there are fleshly lusts that never go away. It is a fearful thing to be enslaved in such a way! But know the good news: God grants freedom in Christ Jesus!
  3. In contrast to the fearful spirit of bondage, God gives something better! He gives us “the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’” God gives us the Holy Spirit, Who not only frees us from the slavery of sin, but gives the true satisfaction of knowing God in a living, real, family relationship. We know Him not only as our God, but as our “Abba, Father.” — The word “Abba” is interesting. It is an Aramaic (אַבָּא) term of endearment rarely used in reference to God. Many in the past have noted that it is the first word used by Aramaic- or Hebrew-speaking infants to use for “Daddy,” not unlike our “Dada.” But that isn’t really the equivalent of the word. It originally started that way, but as one theological dictionary notes: “The childish character of the word (“daddy”) thus receded, and abba acquired the warm, familiar ring which we may feel in such an expression as “dear father.” (NIDNTT) What makes this so interesting is that this is a term that a pious Jew would never There is too much distance between the Creator and the created, and whereas the Jew might see God as an exalted heavenly Father, God would never be referred to as “Dearest Father” or “Daddy.” But one extremely pious Jew used the term in exactly that way: Jesus! When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, that was how He addressed God in prayer: Mark 14:36, “And He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”” (Jesus appealed to God’s will based on His relationship to God as a Son…) This shows Jesus’ unique relationship to God, as God is His beloved Father and Jesus is the Father’s beloved only-begotten Son. There was none who had a relationship with God like Jesus’ relationship with God. It was something that could only be experienced by One who was the true Son of God.
    1. As good as that is, it gets better! This is a relationship into which we are brought, through Jesus. Theologians have speculated that since Jesus spoke Aramaic in His everyday language (rather than Greek), it is likely that the Lord’s Prayer began by saying “Our Abba, who is in heaven…” But even more than speculation is what Scripture specifically affirms the Holy Spirit empowers us to say. To us, God in Heaven is ourAbba, Father.” IOW, we are adopted by God through the Spirit to be the Sons of God, but we aren’t sons only in a formal, far-off relationship. We aren’t sons in such a way that we don’t have any close access to our Father. This is sometimes the case in families with large fortunes, or royal ties. They are so caught up in formalism and expectations of carrying on the family traditions, that no one ever relaxes around each other. How often do you suppose Prince Edward or Prince Harry of the United Kingdom ever called Queen Elizabeth, “Nana”? Most likely, it was always “Your Majesty,” and if any other term was uttered, it was never for the public ear. But that isn’t the case with us and God. He is our Abba, our Dear Father, our beloved God – One with whom we have unencumbered access, freedom, and true intimacy. There is nothing that holds us back from God, other than our sin, and in Christ even that is removed!
    2. If that doesn’t describe your relationship with God, you need to ask yourself why not. Keep in mind that when Paul writes of the Holy Spirit allowing Christians to cry out “Abba, Father,” Paul doesn’t say that the Spirit only gives this to certain, special Christians. This is the promise and the relationship available to every If you know Jesus in Spirit and truth, then you should know God as your Abba Father. If you don’t, there’s something wrong…and that’s something that can (and should!) be made right, today.

16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

  1. The Spirit gives assurance of our identity. When the Bible says that the Spirit “bears witness,” the word that is used is basically a single compound of “with” and “martyr/witness.” One dictionary defines it as “to provide supporting evidence by testifying,” (BDAG). It speaks of the witness of the Spirit, and the assurance He provides to the believer. The idea here is more internal, rather than external. Although we can point to the fruit of the Spirit as evidence in the life of a Christian that is externally seen, Paul seems to speak here of something different. This is a witness not to others, but to ourselves. This is witness to our own spirits that we do indeed belong to God as His own children, despite our insecurities and our doubts. This is when God the Holy Spirit Himself (notice the emphasis on His personal involvement!) assures us “that we are children of God.” He has put it in our heart to relate to God as our Heavenly Father, our Abba, as only a true child of God can do.
    1. How does He do it? This is where we get a bit subjective, and trust the Living God to work among His children as He sees fit. In some way, the Spirit speaks to our heart – there is confirmation when we read the Scriptures – there is an internal knowledge that our words about Jesus are not just words, but utterances of true faith. I cannot tell you exactly what form that takes in your life, but I can tell you this: a Christian knows when God is truly his/her Abba Father, and a false convert knows when He is not. The hesitancy for many people is simply in asking the question…they don’t want to know the truth, in fear that their illusion might be shattered. But better the illusion be gone, than for salvation to be missed! Get it right now, as you seek God through Jesus, being confirmed through the Spirit!
  2. What this is talking about is our assurance of salvation – the security we have in Jesus. This issue can be a touchy one for Christians, in that it’s often surrounded by much debate and controversy. But notice how the subject even arises for Paul. This is the conclusion of his discussion of the very real struggle with sin in the lives of born-again Christians. It wasn’t that many verses in the past that Paul gave voice to his own frustrations: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Surely every born-again Christian has felt that same desperation and grief at his/her own sin. Just when we think we’ve done well, bam! Our flesh comes along, smacks us in the face, and we’ve stumbled all over again. It’s only natural for us to wonder if we’ve lost it all, or if we ever knew Jesus in the first place. If there was only some confirmation outside of our own minds and twisted thinking that could be given us…and there is! This is the assurance given us by God the Holy Spirit Himself. What a gift of grace! What blessing there is that God Himself tells us that we are one of His! – And this is where the issue of assurance and security really matters. This isn’t for the person actively engaged in willful sin, who doesn’t give Jesus a second thought (much less a first one!). Nor is it for the theoretical unseen future where we ask, “What happens if…” as though we want to give ourselves permission for a future sin we haven’t yet committed, but should be unthinkable to us anyway. It isn’t even so that we might personally feel better about someone else whom we really want to believe is saved although the person barely acts as if he/she knows Jesus, despite a past so-called “sinner’s prayer.” The issue of assurance is for none of those things. This is an inner witness for us, in the moment & present time that we need it most. In the times that we fail so miserably, where we cry out in our own Romans 7 wail – in the times that we’re left wondering, “Did Jesus really save me? Have I sinned myself out of heaven? Am I just a big fake?” These are the times that God the Holy Spirit witnesses to us. This is when we need outside, yet internal confirmation, and that is exactly what the Holy Spirit provides.
    1. Know this: When the Holy Spirit witnesses to us, He will either bring comfort or conviction. He will either testify to us that we do indeed know Almighty God as our loving heavenly Father, or He will testify clearly that we do not know God at all. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is not only to help born-again believers, but to convict not-yet believers of their sin, the righteousness of God, and the judgment to come (Jn 16:8). The false convert who honestly asks God the Spirit for assurance of salvation will receive an honest answer: that Christ is in fact not in them, and that they desperately need to be saved! (2 Cor 13:5) 

17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

  1. The Spirit makes us co-heirs with Christ. Again, this is part of being moved up from being only a servant in God’s house, to being a son within His family. Consider it from a 1st century viewpoint. An enemy of the master would be kept outside the house, having no access to the master’s grace. A servant of the master would partake of the master’s kindness and riches, being inside the home, but the benefits were necessarily limited. But a son? The son of the master had full access to everything that was his father’s, and was the heir of all the father possessed. And if there were multiple sons, then the inheritance would be split among them, with the firstborn receiving the largest portion. This is the case with us and God! First, we were enemies, outside His house and outside His grace. Through repentance and faith, we were made servants of God, brought into His home to experience the riches of His kindness…but it didn’t stop there. Because of the work of the Holy Spirit, we went straight from being servants to being sons, and we became joint-heirs with Jesus. Although Jesus is the only begotten son of God, we have all been made joint-heirs with Him through adoption (and through our new birth, also via the Spirit). So what is His, is ours. His to a greater extent (being the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation – Col 1:15), but ours as well. His future is our future, His kingdom our kingdom, His eternity our eternity. We have been made heirs alongside our Savior!
  2. Of course, that includes the good with the bad. We are co-heirs with Jesus in everything. Co-heirs in suffering, as well as co-heirs in glory. Just like Jesus suffered, we will be sure to suffer. Some Christians are always surprised to learn that we are to expect suffering, as if we should be exempt from something that our Lord endured. We are not greater than our Master, and if our Lord Jesus suffered, surely we will too! But just like Jesus, our suffering does not end in more suffering; it ends in glory! One day we will be in His presence, “glorified together” with Him in heaven. And what a day it will be!
    1. This sets up the next subject for Paul, as he starts to look at the idea of glorification: the final phase of salvation in which we are free from the presence of all sin. Both we and creation itself will be glorified/purged free from the curse that has endured since the fall in the Garden of Eden, and all things will be restored to the way God always intended it to be.
    2. For now, the idea fills out the picture of our future inheritance as the sons of God, joint-heirs with Jesus. The things to which Jesus looks forward in eternity, are the same things to which we look forward. There is much that awaits us in the future, and it is all due to the grace of God!

Conclusion:

What an amazing thing, to be made part of the family of God! There is no reason for it, save Jesus’ grace, and He showers it upon us in abundance! As He does, He gives us His Holy Spirit, Who gives us confirmation of adoption as God’s sons, and enables us to relate to God as our Abba, Father. So we walk by His leading, and we follow through on our new family obligations. And what does it include? Declaring war on our former slave-master of our flesh, and killing it off. We give our flesh no quarter, no compromise. We see it for what it is, not only declaring ourselves dead to it, but taking the steps necessary to ensure we are dead to it. After what Jesus and the Spirit have done for us, it is the very least we can do.

For some here, you’ve been toying with the things of the flesh. It’s not that you aren’t a Christian and you don’t know that those things are wrong…it’s just that you haven’t wanted to truly give them up and kill them off. There’s that grudge you aren’t quite willing to forgive… The flirting you haven’t wanted to admit is leading to a bad place… The gossip you haven’t wanted to admit is wrong… The outbursts you’ve written off as normal… The apathy you think is no big deal… Whatever your sin(s) is, you’ve let it remain. It’s time to see it for what it is, and declare war! It isn’t to be done to earn salvation; it’s done from a position of salvation, out of thanks and obligation to the One who has saved us. Jesus died for each an every one of those sins, so those sins ought to die to us. Kill off those things today!

For others, perhaps you’ve been struggling with the idea of assurance. Because of your failures of the past, you’ve wondered if you’re truly saved. You’ve wanted to be led of the Spirit, but because of inconsistency, you didn’t know where it left you. Praise God that we have the testimony of the Holy Spirit! Ask the Lord how He sees you: whether as an enemy on the outside, or as one of His own sons, fully part of His family. The Holy Spirit gives true comfort and assurance to Christians, confirming the fact that we do believe fully in Jesus, having trusted Him alone for our salvation through His work at the cross and resurrection. 

In ourselves, we are powerless in the war against sin, but God gives us power and victory through the Holy Spirit.

War and Victory

Posted: February 16, 2020 in Romans

Romans 8:5-11, “War and Victory”

War rarely ends in compromise. It happens occasionally, but the most decisive laying-down-of-arms happens with complete defeat and unconditional surrender. It isn’t any different in the war against our flesh. The flesh and Spirit are completely opposed to one another, and although it may seem as if the flesh gains some victory for a time, in the end for a Christian, it is the Spirit that gives total victory.

That the power to conquer sin comes from God the Holy Spirit is crucial for us to remember as Christians. Otherwise, we think we’ve got the power to do this on our own. We think we’ve got some reserve of internal strength upon which we can call when we face sin and temptation, only to discover how powerless we actually are when we inevitably fail. We don’t have the power to fight sin; God the Spirit does…and He is the one to empower us and give us the victory.

All of this is seen in Romans 8 as Paul continues writing of the Christian’s ongoing struggle against sin. When we were unbelievers, the struggle didn’t exist because sin had complete dominion in our lives. But once we came to faith in Jesus, surrendering our lives to Him as our Lord & Savior, that’s when we had a choice and the battle began. Speaking from his own personal experience, Paul shared the testimony of his own war against his flesh: doing the things he hated, while not doing the things he now wanted to do. Paul’s only hope was to be delivered/rescued, and he could thank God that he had a Rescuer in Christ!

It is because of Jesus that, although we still struggle and sometimes fail in our fight against sin, that there is therefore now no condemnation for us as true Christians. Jesus took all of our penalty upon Himself, and there is none left for the believer. Jesus did what we could not: both fulfilling the punishment that our sin earned, and fulfilling the righteous requirements of the law on our behalf.

In writing of Jesus’ work of fulfillment, Paul gave one very specific qualification: all of this applies to those “who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit,” (8:5). That begs the question of what this looks like. How can we know if we are walking in the flesh or in the Spirit? What happens if/when we fail – have we somehow lost the Spirit? Paul answers these questions and more as he writes both of the ongoing war between our flesh and the Spirit, as well as of the power and victory the Spirit provides.

We may be powerless to defeat our sinful flesh, but the Spirit of God is not. Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit by His grace, and He is the one who gives us victory and life!

Romans 8:5–11

  • The war (5-8). We are powerless.

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, the things of the Spirit.

  1. If you’re going to fight a war, the first thing you need to do is identify the various sides. If you don’t know which soldiers fight for which army, it makes fighting tough! Paul identifies the sides, or more accurately, he teaches his readers how to identify which army (so to speak) people have sided with. There are “those who live according to the flesh,” and “those who live according to the Spirit.” To be fully precise, the words “who live” are not actually in the text. A literal rendering of the phrase might be “for those who are according to flesh are thinking/intent on the things of the flesh, but those according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” (NASB is good here.) The translators of the NKJV, ESV, and others rightly try to get the idea across of a consistent form of thinking, that carnal people “live” one way and Spirit-led people “live” a different way. Even so, it might do a bit of disservice to the text. It seems that Paul is describing the difference not between carnal and spiritually-mature Christians, but between unbelievers and believers. While it’s true that Christian believers sometimes make carnal sinful choices and temporarily think about the things of the flesh, that isn’t their (our!) permanent dwelling place. The things of the flesh are not the Christian’s ongoing lifestyle, even if they are occasional poor choices. A literal rendering of the verse brings out this idea better. Those who are of the flesh think on the things of the flesh while those who are of the Spirit think on the things of the Spirit. Although sometimes the actions of the individual person might sway between the two sides, one side or the other is the true reflection of who the person actually is. The carnal person might sit among Christians in church, but he/she is a false convert if God the Holy Spirit is not in him. Likewise, the Spirit-indwelled Christian sometimes engages the things of the flesh, but that isn’t not who they actually are. Who they are is someone different: someone who has been born-again, forgiven, and has a living relationship with the living God through Jesus Christ.
  2. With that in mind: who are you? Are you of the flesh, or of the Spirit? The answer to this question is fundamental to our eternal salvation. Those who have been born of God the Spirit have the things of God the Spirit in their lives; those who have not, do not. Those who have not been born-again by the Spirit have not been made new creations – they do not have the seal of salvation – they do not have the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. And since they have none of that, why would anyone expect them to live according to the things of the Spirit or set their minds on the things of the Spirit? If godliness is not your desire – if giving honor to the Lord isn’t on your radar – if the work of Jesus on your behalf is barely even an afterthought for you…you need to ask yourself some serious questions. Who are you? What is your fundamental makeup? If everything your life is fleshly (carnal, sinful, self-centered rather than God-centered), then it is a pretty good indication that you are fleshly and not of the Spirit. The apostle John put it this way: 1 John 2:15–17, “(15) Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (16) For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. (17) And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” Do you love the world, or do you love God? This doesn’t speak of the occasional sin, but of the ongoing attitude. Which do you most desire? One leads to death; the other leads to life (as Paul himself writes in verse 6).
    1. Objection: “Hold on, preacher…this sounds pretty drastic!” It is, but it might just serve as a life-saving wake-up call. In a war, things are life & death, and you need to know what side you’re on. Paul takes the time to identify the sides for a reason: we want to be on the right side! Overall, there’s nothing in the letter at this point that Paul is subtly accusing anyone of anything. He just states the fact: those who are of the flesh consistently and habitually set their minds on fleshly things; those who are of the Spirit do likewise with spiritual things. For those who are true born-again Christians, that shouldn’t cause any problems. On the contrary, it ought to provide a lot of assurance! If your overarching desire is to see God glorified in your life and to love Him with all your heart, soul, and strength through Jesus, then it’s good to know that we are of the Spirit when we inevitably fail. Yet for those who are false converts, you need to know that you are a false convert if you’re ever to change. And the only way to do that is to look at yourself honestly. If you can’t be honest with yourself about the issue of eternal life, you can’t be honest with yourself about anything! There is no question more important to get right!

6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

  1. If verse 5 defines the difference between the carnal man and the Christian, verse 6 looks at the end-result of each state. Interestingly, in the Greek form of this sentence, there are no verbs. One of the ways ancient Greek is different from English is that words are sometimes assumed based on the grammatical form and context. In this case, the verse literally reads: “For the mindset/mentality of the flesh, death; but the mindset/mentality of the Spirit, life and peace.” Paul states it drastically, because the difference is drastic: it is literally a choice between life and death!
  2. What Paul seems to be describing is the end-result of an overall worldview – the inevitable consequence of a certain line of thinking. Everyone has a worldview: a lens through which we interpret/interact with life. In this case, we either look at things spiritually/biblically, or we look at things carnally/sinfully. Whatever worldview we have leads to certain consequences. It’s like following a map. If you want to get to a certain destination, you have to take a certain route. You’ll never get to Disney World in Florida if you head west towards New Mexico. You can travel in the nicest car, listening to the best tunes along the way – you can even stop to help people in their journeys…but you’ll never get to your intended destination. People do the same thing in life. They say they want to go to heaven, but they head in the direction of hell. It doesn’t matter how much they enjoy the journey or even how nice to people they are along the way; if they don’t go to God the way God invites us to go, then we won’t go to Him at all. (And Jesus is the only way!)
  3. That’s the difference between the carnal mind and the spiritual mind. The end-result/destination of fleshly thinking is death; the end-result of spiritual-mindedness is life and peace. How can it be otherwise? It only makes sense that fleshly stuff leads to death. When Adam and Eve encountered the Satanic serpent in the garden, it was carnal thinking that led to their spiritual destruction. Satan told Eve that (1) God was wrong, and (2) that she’d have everything she wanted through a single act of disobedience. He told her that if she was selfish just this one time, she’d be like God, inferring that she didn’t need God to be made perfect. That’s the very essence of carnal-mindedness! We think that if we sin, we’ll get everything we want – that it doesn’t matter what God has already said on the matter…He just wants to keep us from our own self-satisfaction anyway. We want what we want when we want it, and God just gets in the way. So we cast Him aside seeking to satisfy ourselves. And what happens? Just as God warned Adam and Eve, “You shall surely die,” they quickly learned that (as Paul wrote earlier) the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23). Their spiritual natures instantly died in that moment, and that nature of death was passed on to each and every one of us as their descendants. And instead of learning from their example, we learn the exact same lesson the hard way. We sin our own sins against God, and we experience the consequence of death in our lives: we live in our nature of death, we experience death of opportunities with God, we have death of relationships, we have death of everything as we surround ourselves with the stuff of rot and decay.
  4. But praise God that isn’t what comes to the Christian! Praise God that we have a Rescuer that delivers us from this body of death: the Lord Jesus Christ! Because of what Jesus has done for us, to us, and within us, now we have a new nature and a new mind. Now we have a new worldview (and a new map/destination): one that leads to “life and peace.” Consider the difference…these ends could not be more extremely opposed! People who are of the flesh reap death; those who are of the Spirit receive life and peace. Death, contrary to popular opinion, is not It appears to be peaceful because the body is no longer doing anything – there is no obvious suffering, no breathing, no anything, because there is no life. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that death for the unbelieving carnal person is peaceful. It isn’t. The Bible tells us that it is appointed for people to die, then face the judgment, and the judgment described by the Lord Jesus for unbelievers is not peaceful. It’s a place of outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth – it’s a place where the worm never dies and the fire is never quenched. I don’t say this with glee or sadistic pride…I have loved ones who currently face this same judgment. I say this because it is the truth. Those who die in their sins without Christ cannot “Rest in Peace,” like so many people want to think. It is only the Christian believer who has true peace in death. Only the Christian dies physically, enters immediately into eternal life and experiences forever peace with God. And what joy it is for those who are there! Christians experience a peace unknown in this life, forever free from suffering – not only physical, but mental, emotional, and spiritual. Christians experience eternal peace away from the war against sin as we are ushered into the very presence of God, glorified together with our Lord Jesus. John saw it in his revelation of Jesus: Revelation 21:3–4, “(3) And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. (4) And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”” Beloved, that is the promise that awaits us as it awaits every born-again believer in Jesus, and it is good! That is the eternal life for which we long, and the peace of which we are assured. And that is what we have in Jesus…something which is proven out through our spiritual-mindedness.

To this, some ask “why”…why is the difference so stark and so drastic? Why is it that carnal people inherit only death, and spiritual people alone inherit life & peace? As a reminder, it isn’t that Christians are perfect and never act according to our carnal natures. Even Paul understood that he was sometimes carnal (7:14). Paul’s fight against his old carnal nature was exactly why he needed the rescue of his deliverer, the Lord Jesus! But that’s a different situation than what Paul is writing about here. In Romans 8:1-4, Paul wrote of Christians, as there is “no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” In verses 5-8, Paul is primarily describing those who are not in Christ. He never once tries to excuse away his own occasional carnality and sin. In fact, he freely admits that it is truly sinful, deserving of condemnation…we just don’t receive that condemnation because of the grace of Jesus. But in verses 5-8, he writes of the death that awaits the truly carnal person and his/her ongoing war against God Himself. And that’s why the difference is so drastic. The Spirit-born, spiritually-minded person desires to be submitted unto God, even while stumbling and struggling with sin. The carnal/fleshly-minded person has no such desire, freely engaging sin, even while occasionally stumbling into something nice towards others. The carnal person is fully and actively opposed to God, and it is shown through his/her mind.

7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.

  1. In verses 7-8, Paul lists two impossibilities. The first is this: the impossibility of the flesh submitting to God. Fleshly mindedness is hostile to God, and will always be hostile toward God. The sinful carnal mind does not “subject” itself to the “law of God,” because by definition, it is rebellious against it. If someone’s mind was submitted to the law of God, then that person would see the sinfulness of his/her sin, repent of it, and cast himself upon the mercies of Jesus asking for forgiveness. But that isn’t what a carnal mind does. By definition, a carnal mind works against the will of God, so it will always be in rebellion against God.

8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

  1. Second, there is the impossibility of the flesh ever pleasing God. Fleshly works and mindsets will never submit themselves to God, so they will never/can never accommodate the will of God, winning His favor or grace. There is but one way into the favor of Almighty God, and that is through humble faith in His Son Jesus. As the Scripture says, God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (Jas 4:6). Again, by definition, the flesh is proud because it inherently asserts itself over the will of God. Thus, the flesh will always rebel and “cannot please God.
  2. What this means for the person who isn’t surrendered to Jesus in faith is that he/she will never find a way around Christ. That person will never be able to justify him/herself to God and will never enter into eternal life, should things remain the same. As long as a person remains in his/her carnal flesh, that person remains in constant rebellion.
    1. Thankfully, that can change, but only through humble repentance and faith in Christ Jesus.

So that’s the war. The battle lines are drawn between flesh and Spirit, and the sides are clear. Those who constantly have their minds fixed on fleshly sinful things show that they are of flesh and sin. This inherently leads to death, because there is an impossibility of the unrepentant fleshly mind submitting itself to God and pleasing God. The contrast, of course, is that of the Spirit. Those who are born of the Spirit have the mind of the Spirit, which leads to life and peace.

OK – that’s a lot of information, but it may not be clear to how this applies to the Christian. After all, at this point in the book of Romans, Paul has been writing of the battle between the flesh and the Spirit in the lives of believers, and then all of a sudden, he takes this turn into writing about unbelievers and the impossibility of their current unchanged unrepentant mindset being reconciled with God. How does that help us in our own struggles? How does that help us deal with sin? Simple: it defines the war. It draws clear lines in the sand so that we know what mindset belongs to God, and what does not.

It’s been often said: “A problem well-defined is half-solved.” If we’re going to fight against the occasional carnal sin in our lives, then we need to able to define these things from God’s point-of-view. We don’t look at a sudden outburst of rage in our day, and just write it off as “no big deal.” No – that came from a mindset of the flesh, and that is inherently opposed to God. We don’t excuse a lingering look of lust as “just something men do” (or women!), because that is the act of someone who sees God as an enemy; not as Lord. By getting the definitions right, we get the situation right, and that helps us get to the right solution.

Think of it in terms of medicine. If you deal with ongoing headaches, and continue to treat it with aspirin, you deal with a symptom, but you might be missing the root cause and bigger issue. You think, “It’s no big deal…it happens to everyone.” But then your doctor notices something, orders a PET scan, and finds out that you’ve got brain tumors. All of sudden, your little aspirin pill looks woefully insufficient! What changed? You finally got a real definition, which showed you the real situation, and that leads you to a far better solution/treatment.

  • The victory (9-11). God gives us power through the Spirit.

9 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.

  1. The first thing Paul makes clear in verse 9 is that he returns to writing of/to born-again Christians. Remember in verses 1-4, he wrote of Christians – in verses 5-8 he turned mainly to carnal non-believers – now he writes of Christians again. Christians (the “you” of the Romans, and “we” for us who read it today) are definitively “not in the flesh, but in the Spirit.” How could Paul be so sure? After all, we’ve all engaged in carnal sin. None of us are immune from it…not even Paul! All of us deal with this carnal nature that remains with us, and Paul freely acknowledged that “sin…dwells in me,” (7:20). If that’s the case, how can anyone be certain that he/she is of the Spirit, rather than of the flesh (vs. 5)? How can anyone know? Fortunately, it can be crystal clear: “if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.” If you have the Holy Spirit, you are of the Holy Spirit. If God Himself indwells your life (your heart, the temple of your body…however you want to say it), then God Himself is your proof of salvation. God the Holy Spirit is Himself the personal evidence that you have been born-again, and now belong to God as one of His own.
  2. Don’t gloss over this! Every single born-again Christian has the Holy Spirit. Although there are many Christians who get confused on this point, and some churches that unfortunately teach that some Christians have the Spirit while others do not, the Bible could not be clearer on this point. Look again at what Paul wrote: “Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” If someone does not have the Holy Spirit, that person is not a Christian, period. A Spirit-less Christian is not a Christian at all. A person only becomes a Christian when he/she is born-again by the Holy Spirit (i.e. regenerated ~ Jn 3:5), and the Holy Spirit is our seal and guarantee of salvation (2 Cor 1:22). To say that a person can be a Christian and not have the Holy Spirit is to speak contrary to clear Biblical doctrine.
    1. Where the confusion arises is in the various ministries of the Holy Spirit. God the Holy Spirit gives us our new birth and indwells our lives as our seal of salvation, and in addition to those things, He also empowers us to live as witnesses for Christ. It is possible for a Christian to experience the first two ministries without consistently experiencing the third, but it is not possible for a Christian to experience the first, but not the second. The Holy Spirit immediately comes into the life of a believer at his/her salvation (as seen in the lives of the disciples after Jesus’ resurrection when He breathed on them, telling them to receive the Holy Spirit, with still several weeks to go prior to Pentecost – Jn 20:22)…but what the believer does with God the Spirit after that point varies. Some Christians live in constant dependence on Him, often asking to be filled with the Spirit and used by Him for God’s glory (per Eph 5:18); other Christians don’t give the Spirit a second thought, attempting to live in their own strength. The work of empowerment by the Spirit is an additional work of the Spirit beyond our initial salvation, and it isn’t just a second work, but a third, fourth, fifth, and hopefully daily work in the life of a believer, to be received by faith.
    2. Paul writes more about the power the Spirit offers in verse 11. For now, the point is that every Christian has the Spirit…it is only that different Christians interact with the Spirit differently.
  3. Before moving on, don’t miss the declaration of Paul regarding Jesus’ deity. In the first part of the verse, the Holy Spirit is called “the Spirit of God;” in the latter part, He is “the Spirit of Christ.” If you have a mind towards mathematics, think of it this way: The Spirit of God = the Spirit of Christ. Christ = God. Jesus is God, demonstrated by the fact that the God the Holy Spirit that belongs to God the Father also belongs to God the Son. Paul uses the Persons of God and Christ interchangeably, not because he confuses Them, but because Jesus Christ is fully and equally God. The Son is not less powerful than His Father, nor is He less important than His Father…the Son is truly God.
    1. Although the concept of the Trinity gets into deep waters, they are important waters to get right. After all, we’re speaking of the nature of God Himself. We want to make sure that the God we worship is the true God, and we do that by worshipping God as He has revealed Himself to be in the Scriptures. Granted, some of those things are difficult to understand, but they ought to be if they are speaking of the Infinite God in finite terms. Here’s the key: faith. Believe the Bible for what it says, even if you can’t fully wrap your mind around it. The Bible says there is one God, and the Bible says that the Father, Son, and Spirit is God…that’s okay. The Bible says it, we believe it, and we’ll have an eternity with Jesus to understand it!
    2. Faith isn’t just the key to understanding deep truths like the Trinity and the Deity of Christ…it’s also the key to our salvation, period. When we have the Spirit of Christ, we are made Christ’s people, being those who are of the Spirit…but the only way any of that happens is if we have faith in Jesus to start with. Have you believed? Have you consciously put your faith and trust in Jesus as Lord? It all starts there, and when you do that, Christ does amazing things!

10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

  1. Gift #1: life. We have life through the Spirit. Remember that before we place our faith in Jesus, we are spiritually dead. Again, this was what was passed down to us through the generations through Adam. Paul wrote about this back in Romans 5, saying that “through one man sin entered the world, and death though sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned,” (Rom 5:12). When Adam sinned, he spiritually died and immediately required the grace of God. That fallen nature was passed to every human being that followed, and we are thus born with a dead spirit and fallen nature. How is this reversed? Through the work of the Spirit. This takes us back to regeneration, the moment that we are born again through faith in Christ. At that moment, our spirits become alive for the first time, as we experience the new birth of the Spirit and are made new creations in Christ.
  2. How does all of that relate here in Romans 8? Look back at verse 6: “for to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” What was the destiny of the carnal person? What is the destiny of those who are of the Spirit? Life. Now that we have been imputed with Christ’s righteousness through faith, and now that the Spirit of Christ is in us (seen that Christ Himself is in us through His Spirit), now have the guaranteed gift of life! 

11 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.

  1. Gift #2: power. We have power through the Spirit to live this Although we have to wait until heaven to be free from the presence of sin, we don’t have to wait to be free from the power and grip of sin. We have freedom from that right now, through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives us life, and what kind of life is that? It is the life of the Spirit of God “who raised Jesus from the dead.” God gives resurrection power to born-again believers through the Holy Spirit to kill sin. By ourselves, we can’t do it. By ourselves, as Christians attempting to live under our own power, we’re in the same position described by Paul at the end of Romans 7. We do the things we hate, and we can’t do the things we want – we’re wretched sinners chained to a body of death, crying out for a rescuer. Praise God that Jesus rescues, and how does He do it? Through the Holy Spirit! Remember what Jesus said to His disciples right before He ascended to heaven: Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” What did Jesus promise the disciples through the Spirit? Power. What was it they most needed? Power. They had the knowledge they needed: they already believed that Jesus was God the Son crucified for their sins and risen from the grave, and all their hope was already in Him. They even had the regeneration they needed, because by this point, Jesus had already breathed upon them and they had received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. So what stopped them from going out and telling everyone about Jesus as they got started with the Great Commission? They lacked power. That ministry of the Spirit had not yet begun, and wouldn’t happen until He came upon them with tongues of fire in the upper room on the day of Pentecost. What is it we need to be witnesses for Jesus? Power. What is it we need simply to live for Jesus? Power. Who gives it? God the Holy Spirit.
  2. When armies to go war, they go armed. When fighters enter the ring or the octagon, they go fueled and fired up. Why then, when Christians go into battle we would go in our natural weakness? Why do we think we can do this on our own? As if we can say “no” to temptation simply by an act of our internal will and pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. “This time I’m going to stand tough, and I’m not going to let sin get to me!” It’s been often said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, while expecting a different result. And if that definition holds true, there are a lot of Christians out there who are downright crazy. We go to battle in our own power, and fail. Then we try it again and fail. And again…and again…and then we cry out in our desperation, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” The response from Jesus: “I’d thought you’d never ask!” Beloved, if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, then that same Holy Spirit will give you power to defeat sin. He will give life to your mortal body as He gives power to your powerless body, and you can experience victory over the sin in your life!
  3. Interestingly, the word Paul uses for “mortal” is different from the one he uses for “flesh.” That tells us something important: A fleshly nature need not rule our mortal bodies. Just because we live in physical flesh does not mean that we have to be ruled by carnal, sinful flesh. We don’t have to give in to the stuff that surrounds us. We don’t have to heed the siren call of temptation, and resign ourselves to falling victim in the war against personal sin. Not by a long shot! The Spirit gives life to our mortal bodies, and we have God-given power to live this life right now!

This is where the rubber meets the road. I’ve yet to meet a Christian who wants to fall to temptation. We all do it, but none of us likes doing it. We’ve all fallen, and we are all too familiar with the taste of defeat in our war against sin. We’ve all felt powerless, but because of Jesus, we are not. God the Holy Spirit is in us, and He gives us life and power…He gives us victory!

This isn’t theoretical – this isn’t something that applies to some Christians, but not every Christian. This is something that applies to all of us. Look again at verse 9-11 and notice the “if’s” in each verse. “If indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you…if Christ is in you…if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you…” Those “ifs” are conditional in the sense that Paul is writing on the condition of Christianity. The promise of the indwelling Holy Spirit applies only to born-again believers. But with that in mind, the promise of the indwelling Spirit of God is a guaranteed promise. The “if” in the Greek is what is called a first-class condition, meaning that the condition (and it’s accompanying statement) is assumed as true. We could almost as easily say, “Since the Spirit of God dwells in you, you are Christ’s… Because Christ is in you, you have the Spirit of life…” There is no doubt that the Holy Spirit of God dwells in those who belong to Jesus, for we would not belong to Jesus if He did not graciously give us His Spirit.

What that tells us is that there is no Christian with no access to spiritual power. There is no Christian that need fall to temptation. We often do, but that’s when we rely on us – that’s when we go into battle unarmed. Arm yourself! Go in the power of the Spirit, for He gives the victory!

Conclusion:

In our war against sin, we are powerless in ourselves; but we have mighty power and victory through the Holy Spirit! The lines have been drawn, and they are clear and uncompromising. What we need to do is remember what side we’re on, and live like it. It seems like a lot of Christians forget which uniform we wear. We don’t live like our lives depend on Jesus’ grace, and we walk into battle unarmed, and eventually find ourselves acting as if we’re on the other side. How many times have we seen professed Christians acting just like the unsaved world? How many times have we been those same Christians? Too many times to count! Beloved, let’s be real with ourselves: when we engage in repeated sin, we’re acting like those who are at enmity against God. We’re acting as if we’re still at war against our Heavenly Father…we’re fighting on the wrong side of the battle line. Stop! See your actions for what they are, and repent, coming back to the mercies of Christ!

But for those times that we’ve unintentionally fallen – the times that we’ve stumbled into sin not knowing how we can have victory over it…we have a sure promise in Jesus: the Holy Spirit! We need never walk into battle unarmed – the power of the One who raised Jesus from the dead is within us. Could anything stop Jesus from walking out of that tomb? Could any rock prevent Jesus from rising, or did death itself have any hold on Christ? No! The resurrection power held by Jesus burst the bonds of the grave and destroyed the sting of death! And that same power is available to us, through the Spirit who indwells us right this very moment.

Beloved, when was the last time you asked the Spirit to renew you by His power? When was the last time you asked God the Father to fill you with the Spirit? If it’s been more than a few minutes, it’s likely been too long! We don’t just need the Spirit occasionally; we need Him and His power constantly. He never leaves us, but like all sheep, our attention easily wanders – our dependency upon Him wanes. Go to God today in the name of Jesus, asking for a renewed filling of the Holy Spirit, and there is no doubt that He will give Him. Luke 11:13, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

What is the greatest commandment, the summary of all the Lord? Love God with everything – remember Him at all times…and for it, rely on Jesus always!