Traveling Again

If you have been following my blog, you know that I have not posted this week.  We were traveling the end of last week and I will be leaving for Armenia on Monday.  I always intend to continue posting during these trips but most of the time it just is not possible.  So for the next 2 weeks, check back every so often , but I think it is safe to say we will be back around the 15th of June.

God bless and pray for our trip to Armenia.  We will be ministering in 2 national conventions with some 500 pastors in each.  Some will be coming from the nation of Dubai.  We are believing for a mighty move of God in these meetings.

Pastor Bill Kiefer

The Law of the Spirit of Life 2

Romans 8:1-4(NKJV) 1There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

This week we have studied the thought put forth by Paul that there is a better way to live our Christianity than endlessly fighting against the flesh. We have watched Paul in Romans chapter 7 as he struggles to do what he knows to be right. He ends the chapter by declaring how wretched he is because of the conflict between his flesh and spirit. However, we know that he believes there is something better. Hebrews 4:11 and Ephesians 5:16-18 tell us so. There is a rest called walking in the spirit that will bring the conflict to an end.

Romans 8 is the solution to Romans 7. As we began looking at this chapter, there are two things we must receive by faith if we are to walk in the spirit. First we must believe that condemnation is never from God. Second, we must believe that the law of the Spirit of life in Christ has set us free from the law of sin and death in our flesh. The conflict is already over. Jesus won the battle two thousand years ago. Although, according to Hebrews 4:11, there is a labor to be done in order for us to enter this rest of walking in the spirit, we must first believe in the truth that we are already free from sin and its ability to hold us in bondage.

The next two verses expand on what this means and why it is significant. Paul tells us that the law could not free us from sin because it had a weakness. That weakness was the flesh. Now, which of the two laws is he referring to here? Neither. The law he is speaking of here is the Mosaic law. The two laws mentioned in Romans 8:2 are not part of a legal code. These laws are spiritual laws.

Spiritual laws work like natural laws. Natural laws, such as those governing physics, are statements of truth describing the way something works in the natural realm. They are not laws that society punishes you for breaking. They are laws because they are always true. Maybe the most common is the law of gravity.

I will not attempt to state the law in technical terms but we all know the simplified version. What goes up must come down. That is a law. The police will not stop you for violating it. You will not go to jail if you violate it. It just is. It always works. If you violate it by jumping off a building you will probably die, but not because someone killed you. This kind of law has its own consequences.

Spiritual laws are the same type of thing, only they govern the way things work in the spirit. They are not laws that God punishes you for breaking. They are laws that carry their own blessing or curse. If you apply them correctly you will be blessed. If you apply them incorrectly or if you let the wrong law work in you, you will be cursed. It is just that simple.

Many Christians are not successful because they cannot make this distinction. We know that the Mosaic law was and is a legal code. There are punishments that go with it. However, in Galatians 3 Paul tells us the Law of Moses was a school master to preserve us until we could come into something better. The walk of the spirit by faith is that better thing. Under the law of Moses they were just children. In Christ we can grow to become adults.

Our parents had to apply a crime and punishment system to teach us and protect us. Society places us under a crime and punishment legal code in order to protect itself. We are told most of our lives that if we please the right people we will be rewarded and if we do not we will be punished. We naturally apply this to our relationship to God. However this is not the whole truth.

Certainly we need to live in such a way as to please God. Nevertheless, when we look at these verses we must understand that we are no longer living under a crime and punishment law where God is concerned. We are living under cause and effect. As children, we are protected from cause and effect by the rules put forth by our parents. Adulthood means we must understand cause and effect. If something bad happens to us it is not just because we displeased someone. If something good happens it is not because we made the right person happy. There are causes that bring about effects.

The law of Moses gave mankind very elementary parameters to stay within, that enabled a very limited control of causes and effects. Man could manage to stay in relationship with God, but he had to do very specific things in very specific ways. If he broke the Mosaic law, there were punishments. This kept him from experiencing the far worse effects that come with breaking the spiritual law. However there was a weakness to this system. As we have seen in Romans 8:3, that weakness was the flesh.

God’s will for us is to become adults in the spirit. The law could not produce adult believers. Under the law of Moses the spiritual law of sin and death kept us, in a sense, children. We had to be told what to do. We had to control our actions by using our flesh to do what the law said to do and not do what it said not to do. The problem is that the law of sin and death lives in the flesh. Its natural environment is the flesh.

That is why Paul makes such a strong statement. The law could not cause us to walk as upright adults. The law could not free us from sin. The flesh made it impossible for the law to accomplish that. We can only keep a holy law with sinful flesh so long. In the end the spiritual law of sin will win out. Another way to say this is that the “cause and effect statement of truth” will eventually override the “crime and punishment” code of conduct.

The good news for us is that there is another cause and effect law brought into play for the human race by the Gospel. It is a law in the same sense as the law of sin and death. It is called the law of the spirit of life in Christ. This law is not centered in the flesh but in the spirit. This law has the ability to override the cause and effect of sin and death and produce a different set of effects by enabling us to apply different causes. What the Mosaic law could not do, God did by giving us access to this powerful new spiritual law.

Come back tomorrow and we will try to bring all this together. For today meditate on the truth that you have a power at your disposal that can totally free you from the cause and effects of sin and death in your life.

The Law of the Spirit of Life

Romans 8:1-4(NKJV) 1There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

By the end of Romans chapter 7 Paul has given us a clear picture of the individual believer’s struggle to live a life that is pleasing to God. He describes how most of us battle with the tendencies that cause us to stumble even though we truly desire to do what is right. His language sounds so much like me when I have failed. “Why do I do these things when I know better.”

In Galatians 5 we learned that the solution is to “walk in the spirit.” In Hebrews 4 we have learned that this is called “rest” and that the rest is coming to a place where all parts of my being are doing what they are supposed to do. Both Galatians 5 and Romans 7 speak of a conflict between the spirit and the flesh. Galatians tells me that this conflict is between two competing desires. One a desire of the flesh and the other of the spirit. Romans 7 says the conflict is between two laws, one operating in my spirit and the other in my flesh.

The question is, how do we make sure the right “team” wins the conflict. If the strong desires of my flesh win, the law of the flesh is released and the works of the flesh result. If the strong desires of my spirit win, the law of the spirit is released and the fruit of the spirit result. I want the spirit to win.

We must remember that Paul was not writing a book. He was writing a letter. He did not come to the end of a thought and put in a new chapter number. In his letter the thoughts flowed together. Romans 8 does not start another topic. It completes the topic begun in Romans 7 How do I deal with these two laws warring in my members? How do I make sure that the spirit wins?

Romans 8 begins with something we have covered in this space already. There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ. We have talked about the difference between condemnation and conviction and the fact that a Christian never has to give in to condemnation. We do yield to God’s conviction but never condemnation. This is important because condemnation releases the law of the flesh not the law of the spirit. Conviction does just the opposite.

I want to expand on this thought a little today, because there is another side to this. Most Christians are subject to condemnation from the devil all the time. They do not have to be. It is not the will of God that they should suffer under this pressure, but they do. Why? Because they do not fulfill the second clause of verse 1.

If we want to be free from condemnation we need to walk “according to the spirit.” This is another view of walking in the spirit. Walking according to the spirit is to live by the direction and under the control of the my spirit which is dominated by the Holy Spirit.

If I live that way, there will be no avenue left for the devil to condemn me. So on the one hand we must not yield to condemnation when we do something wrong because it will not help and it will hurt. However the only way to fully rid myself of condemnation is to live with the spirit in control. This may seem a little like a no win situation but it is not.

Paul understands that everything in the Kingdom of God works by faith. We must reject condemnation by faith. That means when we feel condemned, once we recognize it as condemnation and not conviction, we reject the effects by faith. We do not react to them, we resist them even if we still feel them. If we do that we will eventually come to the place where the feelings come in line with the truth we are believing.

However, in this area that faith must be built on more than just the statement that Christians do not have to suffer condemnation. It must be built on why we do not have to be condemned. That is where verse 2 comes in.

Romans 8:2(NKJV) 2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

Throughout Romans 7 Paul is speaking of two laws. Here in Romans 8 he tells us what these two laws are. They are the law of sin and death and the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. Later we will define and explain these laws, but for now it is important to believe what verse 2 says about them. One has freed me from the other. That is Paul’s message to us.

Romans 7 ends with his cry that he is wretched because of this conflict. Romans 8 reveals to us what Paul finally understood. The conflict is over! It has already been won. The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus won. What we must do is believe that truth. If we can do that, we will be well on the way to walking in the spirit.

How do we come to believe that this statement is true for us individually? Romans 10:17 tells us “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” We must “hear” this word. That does not mean just hear it with our physical ears. It means I must hear it and accept it is the truth no matter how I feel. It means I must hear it with my heart in meditation until it becomes a part of me. It means I must hear it with my will and obey the truth of it. Look at the words of Jesus in John 15.

John 15:7(NKJV) 7If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.

The word abide means to live in. It also means to be conformed to the one with whom you live. If you live in Romans 8:2 you will finally be conformed to the truth of it. The law that operates in my flesh, that is causing me to fail is weaker than the law that resides in my spirit. I am already free. I just need to walk in that freedom.

Obviously there is more to this. The rest of Romans 8 is really all about how to walk in the first 4 verses, however, we must first choose to believe the truth of Romans 8:2, then we can walk in it.

I want you to think on that verse today. You have been freed from the law of sin and death. Accept that. Think about what it would mean if there was a power at work that could keep you from failing. The truth is it is available and we are going to learn how to unlock it and apply to our daily living.

What is the Nature of our Rest

Hebrews 4:9-11(NKJV) 9There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. 11Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.

Over the last two weeks we have focused on the idea of this rest as the harmony of spirit, soul and body flowing together so that each part is doing what it is supposed to do. I believe this corresponds to the idea Paul puts forward in Galatians 5:16-18. Paul tells us here if we walk in the spirit, or with that part of our being in control, we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.

In Romans 7 we see Paul giving us his personal testimony of his struggles with the flesh. He says there are two laws at work in his life. One that drives him away from God and one that drives him to the Lord. When the “law of the flesh” wins out he does not do what he wants to do but instead does the thing he hates.

As we looked deeply into this powerful chapter last week it became clear that the solution Paul is pointing us to is the same one he is talking about in Galatians. Walk with the inner man, the part that automatically keeps the commandments of the law, in dominance. Romans 8 is the solution to Romans 7. The first line tells us there is no condemnation to those who walk in “after the spirit” and not “after the flesh.” Romans 7 and 8 expands upon the truth of Galatians 5.

However I believe Hebrews 4 gives us another insight into this rest. Vs 9 reinforces what we studied yesterday. There is a rest for you. There is a lifestyle that does not involve the conflict both Romans 7 and Galatians 5 describe. Galatians 5 tells us the flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh. This is not “lust” in a sexual sense. It is lust in the sense of strong, controlling desires. Galatians 5 tells us there are competing desires that cause us to be in conflict with ourselves.

Romans 7 says there are two laws at war. Once again there is conflict. In the end of Romans 7 Paul declares that this conflict causes him to be “wretched.” That is a strong statement, but I know that I have had those days. As a pastor for more than 30 years I have dealt with many people, some who have become so weary with this conflict that they simply stop fighting and end up backslidden. This is not what the Lord had in mind for his church.

That is why I think the word “rest” is so important to understanding what is available to us. Imagine a Christian life that did not involve constant fighting with the your flesh. Imagine not have to go through the endless cycle of sin and repentance. Constantly failing in the same way. Constantly subject to the condemnation of the devil while all the time wanting to live a life pleasing to god. It is possible.

Verse 10 gives us a this phrase. “He who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.” This is pointing to the 7th day of creation. The bible says that God rested on that day after creating the physical universe in the 6 days before. However, it does not say we cease from work altogether. It says we cease from our work as God ceased from his. Why did God stop working? Because the job was done.

If we want to fully enter the rest we are looking for, we must realize that our “work” to produce holiness is over with. God did that works in Christ. Most of us continue to word to prove our holiness, our goodness and our value. That work is useless. All of that was done in Christ. You could never work hard enough to do those things because they problem is with man as a whole not just you. Jesus did that work for all humanity. You need to rest in that truth.

In Ephesians 1:6-7 the bible tells us we have already been made acceptable to God by the redemption in Jesus Christ. Why do we continue in our own work of being acceptable when it is already done? Verse 11 says we should rather work to enter the rest he has provided for us. Labor to understand that provision. Build faith to receive that provision. Look at the Word of God and determine what I can do to cooperate with that provision. This is God’s assigned task to us. If we do that, than the fight will be over. We will walk in God’s provision and we will not have the same struggle with sin.

Of course there is a walking out of this process. I am not saying it is automatic. We will spend a good deal of time learning what “works” we do need to do in order to fully realize this rest. However, once again it is import to understand that it is God who sets the agenda. It is God who defines the job we need to do. When we do that, we invariably get it wrong.

There is one more aspect of this that I want to leave you with. Paul’s letters are very clear that we need to “die to the flesh.” One of the things that will make this process easier is putting his will in every area at the top of our list of priorities. What do I mean by this?

We are a busy society. We have many pressing demands on our time and focus. We have “todo” lists, schedules, jobs and families that must find a place in our priorities. We have much “work” that we need to do. There is no way around that. However, what place do His works have in comparison to our works? If you want to enter the rest that ends the war between flesh and spirit, His works must make it to the top of our priority list. When we stop, for whatever time necessary to concentrate on God’s work we are ceasing from our own works according to Hebrews 4:10.

I had a friend once who was a businessman and there were tremendous demands on his time. He had business responsibilities. His family was going through some challenges that required his attention. Finally he was highly involved with our ministry. He came to me very frustrated. I felt God gave me a word for him. I told him to get to his office 30 minutes early and pray. “Set aside all your works for the first 30 minutes and God will show you how to handle it all.” His testimony was that this really made a significant difference.

This is good advice for any of us, but too often we just add “prayer” to the list of our works. That was not the idea behind what I was telling him to do. This was not another work or responsibility. This was laying down his work and getting involved in God’s work.

Put the Kingdom of God first. Put your relationship with God first of all. Then find out what He wants you to do with your life. Some days there will not be anything specific, and some days God will put a demand on us. As we yield to his work, we are going to find the conflict between flesh and spirit lessens and lessens until we find a life that is in harmony and peace.

There Remains a Promise of Rest for Me

Hebrews 4:1-3a(NKJV) 1Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. 2For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. 3For we who have believed do enter that rest,

This year we have been studying two basic ideas at length. For most of the year we have been looking at the journey of Israel from Egypt to Canaan under Moses and Joshua. Recently we have switched to a topic that I teach on periodically called “walking in the spirit.” This is one of those things that, when I look at the truth of it, I wonder why we teach anything else. If we could do this, everything else would be almost automatic.

I wanted to take a few minutes today to tie them together. I have done that before, but something came out Sunday that was a little different to me and I want to highlight it for you. In these verses Hebrews is telling us that, although Israel did finally enter and occupy Canaan, there was still something else that God had in mind for man. This “something” is called rest and Canaan is used as a type of that rest. Hebrews indicates that there is a type of rest that, to the point in time when the book was written, no one had fully entered.

He goes on to say that the first generation could not even enter the Old Testament type of that rest because they would not mix the promise that it existed with faith. God had promised them that there was a wonderful land He had for Israel. They got to the border, saw how good it was, but could not believe that God would actually give it to them. The obstacles seemed too great. They believed the land existed, but what they did not mix with faith was that God was going to give it to them.

I have spent much space talking about what this rest really is. It is not some kind of spiritual retirement where we no longer have anything to do and we just play. The word specifically means the rest that occurs when everything is working the way it should.

My youngest son had a car once that needed some work. We had helped him get this car and he had paid us back diligently. He was in the first year of college and was proud of the fact that he had taken this responsibility and fulfilled it. Now it needed some repairs because everything was not working the way it should. It was running rough, it needed some wheel bearing work and it needed tires. It still got him from A to B, but it was not pleasant to drive.

After the work was done my son drove it home and was all excited about how well it ran and how smooth it was. I decided to take it out and test it for myself. Indeed I was marveling at the improvement. I was so taken with how well it rode that I lost just a little concentration and did not notice a young lady go through an intersection without looking. My son’s like new car was now totaled. What do you say when the dad wrecks the son’s car? There’s no one to yell at!

The point, of course, is that when things are in order and all the parts are doing what they should it becomes a “rest” to do the chore you have been given. We could drive the car before the repairs, but it was harder and more uncomfortable. Once the car was once again in good working order you still had to shift the gears, apply the brakes and turn the steering wheel, but it was a joy not a struggle. There was peace not a question as to if the car would start or if the bearing would cause the wheel to fall off.

I want to encourage us this week to mix this verse with faith. There remains a rest for us. There is a lifestyle that is available to the church that will bring us to a place of rest in the work that God has called us to do. It is a rest that will release power and victory into our lives. It is a rest that can cause the church to finally fulfill the purpose God has always had for it.

There will always be work for the Christian. If there is a “retirement” it is not on this earth. God will have purpose for us until we leave this world. However the work we must do does not have to be drudgery. It can be the work of rest that comes from a harmony of all parts working together.

What are the parts that must be in harmony if we are to be at “rest” in God. We spent time last week looking at this, but it bears repeating. It is the harmony of my spirit, that part which was born again, my soul, that part which processes information, and my body, that part which interacts with the physical world, each fulfilling its role effectively. If I can do that, I can be an effective and successful Christian and I will not have to struggle through life.

This does not mean that life will never have challenges or problems. Life always will have those things. However, if we are living in the rest of harmony, we will be well able to handle all of these things with joy and peace.

Just take a few moments today, read this verse and mix some faith with it. There is a lifestyle God has promised me that is more productive and more full of joy than anything I have yet seen. I can enter this land of rest. I can do it because I have been born again. That is the only real qualification.

I can come to a place where my spirit and my body are not fighting one another. I can come to the place where my mind is progressively renewed by the word and where it responds to the voice of the Lord without argument. I can enter a place where walking according to Godly principles will not be a struggle but a natural process of life.

There is a promise available to us. I do not think many have entered into that place. I believe God is calling us to enter it. I believe I can do it. I believe you can as well.

No Condemnation!

Romans 8:1(NKJV) 1There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

As we come to the end of this week, let us summarize Romans chapter 7. Paul begins by telling us that we are no longer “married” to the law because we have died with Christ. That does not mean we are single, as it were. We have been married to another, the Spirit through our covenant relationship to Jesus. The point is simply that we no longer live according to God’s principles by keeping the letter of the law. We live according to Godly principles from the inside out by developing the spirit of man, that part of us which was born again in Christ.

The law provides the standards that we are to live by. It defines what is and is not sin for us. It tells us what things offend God and open the door of death into our life. In the natural we most often think of law in terms of punishment. However, in this context the law is much more for definition than punishment.

Finally, Paul defines the struggle most Christians face when they attempt to live this out. They know that the Law of God is good and the right way to live. They want to keep the law but they fail. In Paul’s words they “do what they don’t want to do and don’t do what they do want to do.” His conclusion is that, since he acknowledges the law with his mind, it is not Paul that sins but the flesh that sins. He is not saying this to excuse accountability. He is saying it to highlight the solution. He must strengthen the inner man, the part that loves the law of God and will keep it.

Paul ends Romans 7 with a cry that most of us have felt at one time or another. After we have given in to sin and conviction comes upon us, we cry with Paul, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” In Romans 8, Paul tells us the things we must do to “walk in the spirit” so that we will keep the law inwardly by the spirit not outwardly by the letter.

The very first verse of Romans 8 lays a foundation we must understand if we are going to be successful in learning to walk with our inner man in control. There is no condemnation for those who walk in the spirit. Condemnation is a counterfeit of what God uses to bring us to him and to show us what we need to change. God brings conviction. These two forces, although they seem similar, are very different in the way they operate. One brings life while the other brings death.

The devil brings condemnation on an individual to drive them away from the Lord and to bring them to a state of hopelessness. Conviction brings an understanding that we are wrong, but it also contains the promise and power of God to bring change in our lives. Condemnation leaves us with the weakness of the flesh while conviction calls us closer to God and strengthens us inwardly. Condemnation will always lead the individual deeper into sin, while conviction will lead him toward the freedom that is available in Christ.

Let me use the legal system in our country to illustrate the difference. There are many steps to the process of bringing criminals to justice. Once the trial has been finished and the verdict rendered the person is said to be convicted of the crime. This simply means that it has been determined that he or she is guilty. The person has done something wrong. What has not yet happened is the setting of the consequences for being wrong.

At this point there are many things that can happen. Depending on the nature of the crime there may be probation, or even a suspended sentence. They may have to serve 5 years or 10 years in prison. They may suffer life in prison or, in many states, be put to death. Conviction does not eliminate hope, but condemnation does.

Once the person is convicted by a jury of his peers, he is sentenced by the judge. In most cases the judge has a great deal of leeway in the sentencing process. It is he or she who will decide the fate of the convicted person. However, once the sentenced is passed, the person in now condemned to that sentence. With no appeals available, all hope is now gone. That person’s fate is sealed. He will serve the sentence.

The Lord does convict us of sin, of wrong living and of things that do not please him. He does point out where we are guilty. If he did not, we would never change. We would never come to the point of repentance. Repentance to the believer is not a bad thing. Though it may involve sorrow it is a joyous thing because in the end it produces life. Conviction, the verdict of guilty does come upon us; however we are not ever condemned by God.

You see our Father is the judge in the case. Our older Brother is the “advocate” or lawyer for the defense. (1 John 2:1) Not only that, he has already paid the price for the crime. The sentence from the judge is always “Sentence paid by the blood of Jesus.” We are never without hope. We are never condemned. We are convicted and thereby called closer to God. With the conviction there is always the hope that the power of God is there to help us overcome.

Condemnation always points to what you cannot do. It always emphasizes how bad you are and how you can never overcome this problem. When you here phrases in your mind like, “I always” or “I can never”, you can be sure condemnation and not conviction is at work. The conclusion of condemnation is always, “There is something wrong with me. I am just too weak. I am not good enough to overcome this problem.” Condemnation focuses on you personally. Look out for it. It is not of God and it will not lead you to freedom. I will lead you to more bondage.

Conviction can sometimes feel the same, especially if a person grew up in a condemning environment. If you were constantly condemned by parents, siblings or someone else you will tend to respond to conviction as if it were condemnation. However the actual effect of conviction properly understood and responded to is very different.

Conviction focuses on what is wrong not on how bad you are. Conviction says, “This is not God’s way and you are God’s child. You can do better.” Conviction from God would never say, “There is something wrong with you.” It will always point to the availability of the power of God in our lives that can elevate us to a higher plane. It will always lead us to the spirit and away from the flesh. The whole focus of condemnation is the weakness of the flesh.

Do not give in to condemnation. However do yield to the loving, convicting hand of God. It will always lead you to a higher and stronger place.

The Dilemma Most of us Face

Romans 7:14-17(NLT) 14So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. 15I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. 16But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. 17So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

This week we have been listening to Paul’s testimony in Romans 7. We have learned that we are not married to the letter of the law. We are now married to Christ and by the spirit we are to keep the law from the inside out not the outside in. We have also learned that the law has not been done away with.

We understand that it is by the law that we know God’s standards. Paul says that by the law we learn what sin is and we come to understand how bad it really is. The law also serves as our mirror. (James 1:22-25) It is what we compare ourselves to in order to make the changes necessary to comply with the will of God.

Now we come to the real heart of Romans 7. All that Paul has said up to this point is absolutely true. We are to keep the law by the spirit, the inner man not the outer man. The way to do that is to strengthen the inner man not just discipline the outer man. Both are necessary but the former is the foundation. We must acknowledge the law and accept its standards as our own. This is good theology; however, Paul finds that the practice of it is not so easy.

The verses above describe most Christians I have known. We know what is right but we still do what is wrong. We have areas where we struggle and sin still gets the better of us. How can we really be Christians if that is the case? Paul goes on to say that if I know what I am doing is wrong than it is not me but sin in me that is sinning. That is another statement that could be misunderstood if we are not careful.

“I am not sinning it’s sin in me so I’m not guilty.” That is not true. You are guilty or God would not tell us in 1 John 1 to confess our sins. If we were not guilty there would be nothing to confess. This is not telling us we have an excuse, Paul is pointing once again to the source of sin and the solution. It is not the inner man, the real me, that is sinning. It is the outer man, the flesh that is sinning. What should we do?

We need to get the flesh under control, but how do we do that? Do we just work really hard at disciplining the flesh? Do we punish ourselves emotionally for every sin? That is simply trying to use the law to keep the law. We should discipline our flesh, but that will always be a temporary solution. How do we come to the full solution? We strengthen the part of our being that wants to keep the law.

We can see that Paul is saying the same things here that he is saying in Gal 5:16-18. He is just putting it into a very personal context.

Galatians 5:16-18(NKJV) 16I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

The rest of Romans 7 is very clear. I think Paul is describing every one of us.

Romans 7:21-25(NKJV) 21I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

He points out two laws. One is the letter of the law in the flesh. The other is the spirit of the law that operates in our spirits. They are at war. Galatians 5 says the same thing, “The flesh lusts (wars) against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another.” He goes on to proclaim that he is “wretched” and asks, “Who will deliver me from this body of flesh?” Then this final statement that he himself serves the law of God and it is the flesh that serves the law of sin.

Do you really think Paul is going to leave us here? Is he saying that this is just the way it is? We will always have this struggle and there is no way out of it. I do not believe that at all. Remember that there are no chapter marks in Paul’s original letter. If you are reading and stop with Romans 7 you are left with these conclusions, but Paul did not stop writing. Romans 8 is the solution to Romans 7.

Romans 8 is one of the most power packed chapters in the whole bible. Romans 8 tells us how to overcome the law of sin in our flesh. It tells us how to be free by the Law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus. Romans 8 tells us what to do with our mind, our body and our spirit. We will spend a good deal of time there, but tomorrow we will lay the first stone in the foundation that will free us from the condition of Romans 7.

What is the Purpose of the Law in the Life of a Believer

Romans 7:7(NKJV) 7What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.”

It is important to slowly read Romans 7 or we will get bogged down in the language. Yesterday we found that the first lesson in this chapter is that we are no longer married to the Law. We have become dead to the law through Christ. That does not mean we are free to ignore the law. It is telling us that there is a better way to keep the law than just by trying to remember the letter. Paul is telling us that we should keep the law from the inside out not the outside in. Again this does not give us some license to sin. It gives us freedom to keep from sinning.

Today I want to answer the second question covered in Romans 7. If we are not called to keep the letter of the law, why is it still quoted in the New Testament? Would we not all feel much better if the Ten Commandments were simply not mentioned? No we would not.

Paul makes it very clear why the law is still valid. “I would not have known sin except through the law.” Who or what sets the standard for behavior? I believe it must be God. If we truly love him we will keep his commandments. If we can learn to develop the inner man that was created in his image and likeness we will keep his commandments. However, how can we keep what we do not know?

I believe that the bible teaches that marriage was designed to be between one man and one woman. It is the standard set in the Garden of Eden. It is the standard held to in the New Testament. In the Old Testament there was a time where this was not the case, but I believe that was due to man’s sin. The ideal is one man and one woman.

Mark 10:6-8(NKJV) 6But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ £ 7‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8and the two shall become one flesh’;£ so then they are no longer two, but one flesh.

I have traveled to many African countries where men, particularly in the tribal areas, still have many wives. They get wonderfully saved. They love God; however they do not know this commandment. How shall they know that it is God’s will for them to have only one wife if there is no one to teach them this standard?

I understand that this is a bit of an extreme example, but I think we get the idea. The law is there to show us that sin is sinful. The law is there to show us what God expects in terms of our behavior. It is then that we will be free to allow the spirit of the law within us to walk in those standards.

It is also by the law that conviction comes. We will look at the difference between conviction and condemnation later, but for now let me say that even Christians will fall at times. God shows us his righteous standard and we are then able to see that we are not fully there yet. Look at this verse in James.

James 1:22-25(NKJV) 22But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.

This makes it very clear. If we are not both hearers and doers of the Word we deceive ourselves. Not only that, but for the one that allows the Word of God to change him, the law is not a law of bondage but a “perfect law of Liberty.”

So what is the conclusion? We are not called to look at every point of the letter of the law and try to keep it. We are called to understand the spirit of the law and walk in it by the spirit within. The law shows us the right way. The law becomes the mirror that tells us we need a shave or we need to comb our hair. This is not bondage, but liberty.

Do not be afraid to look into this perfect law of liberty. It will not bring condemnation. It may bring conviction. It may tell you where change is necessary. Then remember that the spirit that brought forth this wonderful standard of righteousness lives in you. You can live this standard because this standard is what you are inside since the new birth.

Dead to the Law

Romans 7:4-6(NKJV) 4Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. 5For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. 6But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.

Romans chapter 7 can be a very confusing section of scripture if it is not taken in the context of the whole book. Romans 5 is the great chapter on righteousness. It tells us that the gift of righteousness in the one man, Jesus is greater than the curse of sin that came through the one man, Adam. Romans 6 clearly tells us that we should not allow ourselves to be slaves to sin by letting our bodies serve sin. We should be buried in baptism. We must consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God.

Then we come to Romans 7. Here Paul almost seems to say that he cannot walk according to Romans 6 himself. To me Romans 7 is simply one of the most honest and real chapters of the New Testament. As I read this chapter I see the struggle most Christians go through. I have been a local pastor for 32 years. I have heard Romans 7 again and again from the mouths of honest saints who allowed sin to get the upper hand in their lives.

The defining statement in this chapter would have to be, “I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. (Romans 7:19 NLT) I have felt this way, you have felt this way and most every person I have cared for has, at one time or another, felt this way. Is Paul really so weak? Is he telling us that all of Romans is a nice study in theology, but it really is not a practical way to live? Not at all.

Let’s take a closer look at Romans 7. Paul begins by telling us that the law is only in force as long as a person is alive. He uses the example of a wife. If she marries another man while her husband is alive, she commits adultery. However if her husband is dead, she is no longer bound to him by the law. Their marriage may have been long or short, good or bad. None of that matters. What matters is that the laws jurisdiction ends with death.

He then extends this illustration to say that we are the married person. He makes a statement that, if we do not rightly divide it, could be used to justify all kinds of behavior. He says we have “become dead to the law through the body of Christ.” The heart of the law is the 10 commandments. Does this verse mean they no longer apply? Are we now free to break the commandments? Of course not. Neither are we free to cultivate a lifestyle that is contrary to the principles of the whole word of God.

Some seem to think that verses like this “free” us from obeying the law of God. This is not true. You cannot really read the New Testament and come to that conclusion. You cannot listen to the preaching of Jesus and come to that conclusion. Jesus never made the standard lower. Read the sermon on the mount. Jesus made the way more narrow not less narrow.

What does it mean to be “dead to the law.” The answer is in the next phrase. “That you may be married to another.” We are not free to disobey the commandments of God, we are free to keep them because of relationship instead of law.

Marriage is a legal contract. However it is different than all other legal contracts in our culture because the legal side is subordinated to the relational side. We marry because we love. We do not marry because we are legally compelled to marry. As a matter of fact the legal side of marriage does not ever come into play until the marriage is being dissolved or one of the partners has died. Marriage is about the relationship between a man and woman, not about a law saying they are married.

Paul is pointing out something very important here if we are going to successfully keep the law. We must learn to keep it out of relationship not out of law. I do not refrain from having relationships with other woman because I am legally married. I refrain because I love my wife. Even if I do not happen to feel that love at a given moment, I will resist that temptation because I have made covenant with her. That is, in a sense, a legal reason to stay faithful. However, the legal side only exists because of the relationship.

The truth is that no law will keep me faithful if I do not truly love my wife. Conversely I need no law to keep me faithful if I do love my wife. I am not talking here about romantic feelings. I am talking about the deep sense of connection and commitment to a person that involves emotion, but goes far beyond the emotional level. I love my wife therefore I will stay faithful to her. I need no law, no one to watch over my shoulder and remind me of the legal covenant of marriage.

This is what Paul is trying to show us. The law is good and must be obeyed. However obeying it just because it is the law is not enough. We will always fail if that is the only motivation. I strongly believe in doing what is right because it is right, however I also believe that God intends this kind of thinking to be built on the foundation of our relationship with him.

Look at verse 6 in the New Living Translation.

Romans 7:6(NLT) 6But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.

Paul is not showing how to get out of keeping the standards laid out in the 10 commandments. He is not giving us license to live outside of the law. He is telling us that Jeremiah 31:31 is true. God did give us a new covenant. He did write his laws on our hearts. He is not telling us how to get out of the law, he is telling us a new way to keep it.

We are not called to obey the letter of the law. That would be easy. There are always “loopholes” that we can find around the letter of the law. He says we should, by our relationship with the lawgiver himself, keep the spirit of the law. There are no loopholes to be found in the spirit of the law. We walk to a higher standard than those who keep the letter because we keep the law out of love.

This is the first great lesson of Romans 7, however there are others. Tomorrow we will continue.

Who are the Sons of God

Hebrews 4:11(NKJV) 11Let us therefore be diligent (KJV; labor) to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.

It is very important that we live as real believers. I have felt for many years that we are entering a very significant time in history. The world is changing and not always for the best. There is pressure in almost every realm of life. Our culture is constantly being weakened by a lax attitude toward sin. Our world is increasingly unstable due to the influence of factions that want to remake culture in their own image. Everything from major war to financial collapse is possible.

I do not know how anyone can look at the natural world and not wonder at the amount of devastation we have seen over the last 5 to 10 years. There have been so much destruction from natural disasters and extreme weather, that in my 57 years I have never seen anything like it. Some point to the influence of man on the climate and say that is the cause. However there is no real evidence of this. I fail to see how man can influence earthquakes and tsunami waves. I believe there is another cause. Look at Jesus’ words in Matthew 24.

Matthew 24:7(NKJV) 7For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.

Does this sound at all familiar? I believe we are seeing the inevitable effect of sin on our world. God has sustained it, but Jesus looked into the future and saw a time when the world would not be able to stand much more sin and spiritual death. Hear is another verse that is interesting.

Romans 8:22(NKJV) 22For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.

The wonderful world that God created for his children is groaning under the weight of sin and death. It was never meant to carry the corruption of the fall of man. It was meant to be a place where man and God interacted in peace and beauty. However it was cursed by sin and now that curse has nearly run its course.

This verse says that the whole creation is in the final stages of labor. Something is being brought to birth. There is a great change coming. I do not pretend to know whether it is the final change that will lead to the return of Jesus or if it is one of many times in history where God intervened in order to preserve the earth for that day. Either way it is time for a manifestation of God’s glory in the earth.

How will that manifestation come? Look again at Romans.

Romans 8:19-21(NKJV) 19For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

It is as if the creation is on the edge of its seat waiting for a group of people to rise up and be the sons and daughters of God. This scripture has lead to some pretty interesting and often damaging doctrines over the years of the church. Some have taken it to mean that a super race of Christians would arise with the power of God at their disposal. Some have taken this to mean that there would be a generation who would not die physically. Most of this kind of thinking has led to great error, division and hurt for many.

I do believe that there is a church that will rise up to walk in the power of the first generation church and more. We have yet to see the shadow of a believer heal the sick as Peter’s did. There is much that the bible describes that I want to see and have not seen up to now. However I think there is something much more fundamental to consider when we speak of a manifestation of the sons of God.

All of this goes back to what we began studying last week. I believe the first manifestation of the sons of God the world needs is a people who can walk in the principles and moral lifestyle that the bible teaches. I believe the world is waiting for a people who will not accept a relativistic approach to right and wrong. I believe the world is looking for a manifestation of a people who can walk in the real love of God as well as walking according to the absolute standards put forth in the word of God. If we can achieve that manifestation of true sons and daughters of God, I believe the rest will follow suit. However God is not going to pour out his power through corrupted vessels.

The question is how will we become pure vessels of God in an impure world. Last week we closed our discussion with Hebrews 4:11. I believe there is a directive in this verse that tells us how to be “sons and daughters of God.” We must give all diligence and make the point of our work entry into the rest. This rest is the spirit, soul and body of man working together in the harmony God intended. The spirit of man is the part that was designed to be in control. Only then will we be able to display true son-ship to the world.

Galatians 5:16 tells us that if we walk in the spirit we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. If we walk in the flesh we will have the works of the flesh. If we walk in the spirit, with the inner man created in the image and likeness of God in control, we will have the fruit of the spirit. That is just the way it is. Read those two lists in Galatians 5. I believe you will see that our world is dominated by the list that describes the works of the flesh.

Imagine a people who are truly dominated by the second list, the fruit of the spirit. Imagine millions of these people influencing every nation. Imagine them proclaiming the Jesus of their lifestyle to their friends and neighbors. Imagine their words backed up by true Christ like living. Somehow I do not think that the power of God would be a problem.

Our world needs this kind of manifestation. It needs you and I to be real Christians. It is through people like this that God can create a channel for his power and presence that will change the world. I encourage you today. Be diligent, work hard, to come to the place where your spirit is in control of your everyday living. I believe you will see the influence of that lifestyle change you and as a result change the world around you.