Balanced Christianity: Walking by the Spirit - Romans 8 - Hope 103.2

Balanced Christianity: Walking by the Spirit – Romans 8

We have been looking in Romans 5, 6, 7, 8 at how God has opened a way for us to have fellowship with Him and to one day see Him face-to-face. And this way, which Christ made possible, through His death, is an entirely brilliant provision. God, in His genius, has lifted the obstacle and […]

By Simon ManchesterSunday 26 Mar 2017Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 16 minutes

We have been looking in Romans 5, 6, 7, 8 at how God has opened a way for us to have fellowship with Him and to one day see Him face-to-face. And this way, which Christ made possible, through His death, is an entirely brilliant provision. God, in His genius, has lifted the obstacle and made it possible, for people like us, to have a friendship with the God of the universe which will go on into eternity.

We then saw, in Romans 6 & 7, that there are two insecure detours. Chapter 6 – a detour into sin, Chapter 7 – a detour into legalism. Neither is satisfying. Both bring great insecurity.

What we come to today in Romans 8, is how God guarantees that the journey we are undertaking is going to come to its destination. And I do want you to come to grasp Romans 8 because there is a prevailing view that Romans 7 is all about failure and then Romans 8 is all about victory and that the secret of moving from failure to victory is the Holy Spirit. There are two problems with this. One is that in Romans 7 and Romans 8, there are victories in both chapters and there are failures and disappointments in both chapters. So it’s tough to paint 7 as black and 8 as white. And the second thing is that Christians are always looking for a secret to superior Christianity, whereas what the New Testament repeatedly teaches is that to be a Christian is to be on a costly road, but a very secure way.

I want you to be alert for the sort of people who want to give the impression that they have moved into a superior Christianity, because the message, from cover to cover of the New Testament, is that the road of following Christ is a road of discipleship, but it will arrive in glory.

As we come to Romans 8, we are not going to see, as we hear about the Holy Spirit, a great deal. We are not going to hear that the Holy Spirit is a product that you can swallow that will make you suddenly successful. What we are going to discover is that the very Christians who fall into sin (Chapter 6) and the knots of legalism (Chapter 7) are still utterly secure, because there is no condemnation (Verse 1) and there will be no separation (Verse 39). These verses are the bookends of a chapter which say that if you have put your faith in Christ, you will arrive, even if you occasionally fall to the left or the right, God will make sure that you are brought through.

The price of our security is the first eight verses and the proof of our security – Verses 9-17. So I want to ask you to work with me, especially as we look at Verses 1-8. If we had time this morning, I would talk to you about some of the phrases in Verses 1-8 which are astonishing, but because it is a slab of Scripture today, we don’t have time to go into the depth that I would like.

Look at Romans 8 Verse 1, and you will see the reason that a Christian can be utterly secure, there is no condemnation. Surely two of the most beautiful words in the Bible – no condemnation. The devil accuses, the world accuses, the flesh accuses, and God says, ‘No condemnation.’ And Verse 1 of Romans 8 is the flip-side of Chapter 5 Verse 1; we are told that there is justification for the person who has faith in Jesus Christ. So the positive is Chapter 5 Verse 1 (justification – no-one can accuse you), and the negative is Chapter 8 Verse 1 (no condemnation because Christ was condemned in your place). Notice how Verse 2 gives the reason for this justification and this no condemnation. And it is put very simply – that we have been set free from the law of sin and death.

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What does this mean? Well, the law, which tells us that we have fallen and failed, and condemns us and which points us to death, separation, has lost its power to condemn the Christian, because Christ died. Because Christ died and took the condemnation, the law has no more condemnation, to swing at us. The sting of the bee has been removed.

How is it that we were set free? See Verse 2 – through Christ Jesus. And then he goes on to say this very unusual phrase – the law of the Spirit of life set me free. What does he mean by this? He means, through Christ Jesus, the Gospel of the Spirit of life. In other words, there is a new law, there is a new message, there is a new Word, and it is a Gospel. It’s not a condemning word; it is a justifying word. Through Christ Jesus, the Gospel of the Spirit of life set me free. Or, we might put it like this: God, by His Spirit, has caused the believer to take Christ the Saviour seriously. And if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, it is because God’s Spirit prepared you to receive the message of His work.

Verse 3 goes on to say that this law could not save the law of the commandments, what the law of the commandments, we might say, was powerless to do, because of our sinful nature. God did (Verse 3) by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. He goes on to say (Verse 4): the believer, who has put his trust in Christ and received a new life, begins to live out the law, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature, but according to the Spirit.

Very complicated, but this is what it simply means: you look at the law, and it condemns you. It also points you to Christ, who forgives you and gives you a new life, which begins to produce the law. So the law is not the grounds of salvation; it is the grounds of condemnation. But once you have been saved, the law becomes the fruit of salvation. So the law doesn’t get you into the Kingdom, except to point you to a Saviour.

When you have put your trust in Jesus Christ, and you have a new life in your heart, God, in His brilliance, begins to cause that law to be lived out, more and more (not that we could ever call ourselves perfect, not that we would ever claim at the end of a day to have been faithful, but God is causing the law, His standard, to be lived out by His people more and more).

There are many riches in Verses 1-4 which I would love to unpack if these were all the Verses that we had. For example, I would love to point you to Verse 3, that Jesus came in the likeness of sinful man. What an extraordinary phrase that is. If you were wanting a deep and meaningful Bible study, you could take that little phrase and spend a whole night on it, because you would have to ask yourself the question: hold on, did Jesus just come in the likeness of sinful man or did He come as a sinful man. But then again, we can’t say He came as a sinful man because that would mean we had a Saviour who was sinful. So you see, with this brilliant phrase, the Apostle steers between this heresy that He only seemed to be a man and the heresy that He was a sinful man, and we get this magnificent phrase – in the likeness of sinful man. I will just say, it is worth the study – and get yourself a meaty commentary and do some work.

The thrust of all these verses is this – that the law cannot save and the law cannot secure – but God has sent His Son to save, and God has sent His Spirit to give us security. And both of them come together by believing.

Is there anybody here this today who is tempted to think that you can put a wedge between the Son and the Spirit?

Is there anyone who is tempted to think that you can have the Son one decade and the Spirit the next, that you can belong to Jesus and then suddenly discover the Spirit?

Because every now and again, you do get that kind of heresy, either in your thinking or somebody else’s testimony. And I just want to remind you again, as we have said very often from this pulpit, that you cannot cut up the Trinity. As soon as you have put your faith in Christ, you have God as your Father, Jesus as your Saviour and the Holy Spirit as your in-dweller.

I’ll give you an example of this, made very clear. You might like to remember it, even if you don’t look it up, from Titus Chapter 3, Verse 4-6. It says this:

“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior.”

Do you notice that? When we put our faith in Christ, He gave us rebirth and renewal. We were reborn, and we were renewed. Now I would never say that God is not capable, as the Christian goes on down the road, of being refreshed and renewed again. But please notice, that once you have put your faith in Christ, you have received the rebirth and the renewal, which counts. And that is what Paul is saying here, in Romans Chapter 8. The security of no condemnation is because of the work of the Son, and as soon as it is believed, it brings the witness of the Spirit, and they have both been received by every believer.

This is a miracle. That’s why Verses 5-8 are present. Some people have read or preached Verses 5-8, and you may have said to yourself, ‘Oh dear, there must be two types of Christians – those who live according to the sinful nature (Verse 5) and then there must be those who live by the Spirit. There is nothing designed to depress a congregation like imagining that Chapter 8 Verses 5-8 are describing two types of Christians – ordinary, hopeless Christian and super-successful Christian. There would be nothing easier than for me to give you the impression that I am in the latter category. But you know me! And you will know that you will not fall for this. And the fact of the matter is that these verses have been designed to put at peace every real believer because these verses are describing two types of people, not two kinds of Christians. These verses are describing the pagan and the Christian. The pagan (I know people don’t like the word, but it makes the point) in Verse 5 is a person who lives according to their sinful nature. They may be a very lovely person; they may be the most delightful neighbour, they may be the most delightful relative. But the fact of the matter is that they have no real interest in Christ, they have no Spirit within. They think naturally. They may think nicely, but they think naturally (Verse 5). Look at Verse 6 – they have no hope. They are moving toward what the Bible calls ‘Death’, with a capital ‘D’. They refuse God. There is something about them which is hostile to God. They get very feisty when you start to speak the Gospel to them. They will not submit and look at Verse 7b – nor can they. And then Verse 8 – they are unable to please Him.

But the Christian (Verse 5) – this is a person with a real trust in Christ, and the Spirit within has begun to think about what the Spirit wants. And that is every believer. And (Verse 6), you have begun to taste life and peace. So these Verses 5-8 are here to reassure the Christian and hopefully to warn the non-Christian. There is a shift which takes place from death to life, from non-Christian to Christian, and it is miraculous. When a person is not a Christian, they cannot respond to God, and they don’t want to respond to God, but God does a miraculous work and brings a person to life, and they begin to think God’s way, and they begin to taste life and peace.

I want to use an illustration, and that is to say, that we are tempted to think often that the non-Christian is just flying to Heaven economy class. But the Bible’s sober warning is that the non-Christian is flying blind, and is flying a hijacked plane and is flying to crash and it is the Good News which opens their eyes, enables them to hand the controls back over to the owner and to travel to life.

That is the price of our security. It’s a very great price. It is the cost of Christ’s life, and it is wonderfully effected by making us live again.

I want to ask you to think about the proof of our security (Verses 9-17). In case you have fallen asleep, I was told a story this week where a religious award was given to a taxi driver. And the clergy of the town were extremely upset, they rang and complained. One said, ‘I have been in this town for 30 years and had no religious award, and you go and give it to this taxi driver.’ And the local mayor wrote back and said, ‘Well, the fact of the matter is, the Christians are meant to watch and pray. But I have heard your sermons, and they make me fall asleep. And I have watched your congregation, and they sleep and snore. But I have travelled with this taxi-driver and believe me when you travel with this taxi-driver, you watch and pray. So he gets the award.’

In case you are sleeping and snoring, I want you to watch and pray for a moment, and especially to look at Verse 9 and to see the proof of the security of the Christian life. Paul suddenly turns to the believer, and he says, ‘You are controlled not by the sinful nature, but by the Spirit.’

In other words, there is now a controlling Person in your life, in your heart, and He is the Holy Spirit, and He prevents you from settling down and going happily down the road called sin, pleasure and ‘me’.

Praise God that He has given us a Person who keeps bringing our direction back to the path of following Christ. And, says Paul, if the Spirit of God lives in you.

Does the Spirit of God live inside of you? If your Christianity is like a hat which sits on your head for certain occasions if you know what it is to come and sort of ‘be religious’ for an hour or two, you ought to be afraid, because Christianity is not a hat.

Christianity is a new heart. Christianity is when you can no longer stop thinking, again and again, about Christ and His death for you and Christ and the glory ahead. You are repeatedly brought back to the path between the two. And you should be very thankful if you have Somebody in your heart like that because that is the mark of being reborn.

If you find that God’s Spirit is within you (notice in Verse 9 that he calls ‘the Spirit’, ‘the Spirit of God’ and ‘the Spirit of Christ’…isn’t that lovely, just a little passing reference to the Trinity in that verse)… this Holy Spirit will make you rethink your priorities, reconsider your money, reconsider your speech, your commitments, your relationships, your plans. The body (Verse 10) may be running down – and yes, our bodies are running down – but our Spirit is alive. And because our Spirit is alive (Verse 11), one day we will have a living body for Heaven.

There are no spooks in God’s plan. Jesus came into the world with a body, a bleeding, sweating, weeping body. And then He rose, and He had a body, a physical, touchable, grabbable, huggable body.

The Christian, like you and me, has a body and it is a body for this world. But there is a body for the next world, and that is what God is going to give us. All who have the Spirit within who have been made spiritually alive will one day be bodily alive as well.

Now the proof of such long-term security is that the Spirit is within, giving you a whole new life. And you have an obligation (Verse 12) if the Spirit lives in you, to do two things:

One (Verse 13) is to put to death the misdeeds of the body, and the other one (Verse 15) is to call to God – Father, Father.

In other words, the work of the Spirit is to steer you away from the downward path and to prompt you to the upward path. It’s a wonderful work of the Holy Spirit, and He doesn’t do it without you.

He enables you and prompts you to execute words and deeds which are wrong. And you find, every now and again, that there are people within the Church who think that words and deeds don’t matter. But words and deeds do matter, and we have to execute the words and the deeds that are wrong – put them to death. And we have, at the same time to start, by His help, calling on Him for the grace and the help that we need to live His way.

So God’s Spirit in the believer leads us to kill off and to pursue at the same time. One of the great proofs of rebirth or renewal is Verse 15 that you call God your Father. I know it’s possible to come into Church, as we have done today, and to take up the blue card and to read the Word, ‘Our Father in Heaven’ and just say it. I know you can say, ‘Our Father in Heaven’. Anybody can do that – believer or unbeliever. But the fact that you honestly call God your Father and you think of Him as your Father, and you pray to Him as your Father, and you say,

‘Father … sorry’
‘Father … please’
‘Father … thank you’ is a wonderful mark of the Holy Spirit.

Because it is very difficult to take your spiritual temperature. It’s hard to do it by looking at the graces isn’t it – you know: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness – you look at those, and you can despair.
Or, to look at the gifts of the spirit – and you can look at the gifts and think, ‘Well, I don’t have that. And I don’t have that. And I’m not very good at that.’ So you despair.

But if you call God your Father (Romans 8), if you call Jesus ‘Lord’ (1 Corinthians 12), the two great chapters of the Holy Spirit, that is a double encouragement that the Spirit is working in you. It’s one of those lovely proofs that you can go back to your room at the end of this service, get down on your knees and say, ‘Dear Father’ – and mean it – because God has put a new life in you which is an eternal life. And He will make sure that now there is no condemnation. And He will make sure that then, there is no separation. There will be suffering (Verse 17).

Do you notice right in the middle of this Chapter, this wonderful Chapter 8, he says, ‘We suffer’. And he goes on, in the second half of Chapter 8 that we don’t have time to look at today to talk about the suffering of groaning creation and all the problems of living in the world. And then finally, the problem of death. He talks about very real suffering in Chapter 8. We suffer but one day (Verse 17) His glory.

Some time ago I went and gave a little talk at the York Street service at St Philip’s York Street. And there was a man there who I know quite well, a widower called Jeff. And I said to him,

‘Geoff, let me ask you a question.Where do you think Julie is now, your wife who has passed away. Where do you think she is now? Do you think of her as being waiting somewhere or do you think of her as having arrived somewhere?’ And obviously, you know, he has had to put his mind to this. And he said, ‘I think of it like this: I think of it in the Biblical categories of – good, better, best. It is good to be in Christ. It is better (says Paul in Philippians) to be with Christ. But the best will be when everyone is with Christ at the great resurrection.’

I think those are three very fine words to think of the process of God’s plan. It is good to be in Christ. Don’t envy the unbeliever, as we are tempted to do. It is better to be with Christ. And one day, it will be best to be in the great resurrection.

What I have tried to say so far in Romans 8 is that it’s not setting out a victorious Christian life, but it is setting out a secure Christian life. The security is based on the work of Christ and the witness of the Spirit. The work of Christ has paid the price of your security. The witness of the Spirit gives a proof of your security. There is a struggle in the present, but there will be glory in the end. If you are justified by faith in Christ, there is no condemnation, and there will be no separation, even if (Romans 6) you fall into sin and even if (Romans 7) you fall into knots. The fact of the matter is that what God has begun, God will complete.

Let’s thank Him. Let’s pray. Our gracious God, we thank You for these wonderful chapters, these rich chapters and the light that they shed on our path. And we pray that You would help us to walk in the light of them. We thank You, as best we can today, for all that You have done and we look forward to properly thanking You in glory. Please keep us, help us to comfort and strengthen and challenge and support one another. And we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.