What does it Mean to Walk in the Spirit

Hebrews 4:8-11 (NKJV) 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. 11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.

We are looking at the way we overcome the flesh in the New Testament relationship based on Jesus’ sacrifice. In the Old Testament, God gave the law to help Israel control the flesh. This was a manifestation of Grace, unmerited favor, to Israel.

They did not deserve relationship with God, but his mercy caused him to make a covenant with his chosen People. This relationship had to be limited because sin was not yet paid for. That could not happen until Jesus came and died. However, God needed a people through whom he could send the Messiah. He made covenant with Israel to create that people. He gave them the Law and its sacrifices to keep them until Jesus could come (Galatians 3:24.)

There was a problem that was part of the law from the beginning. Romans 3:4 tells us that the law could never accomplish what God wanted because it was weak through the flesh. The law was a mechanism that used the flesh to control the flesh. The law involved rules and regulations that the flesh had to keep. It also involved sacrifices and consequences for when the people failed to keep the rules and regulations. All of this worked on the level of the flesh. It is impossible to control the flesh with the flesh. Paul says to control the flesh we must walk in the spirit.

What does it really mean to “walk in the spirit?” There are those who seem to believe that to walk in the spirit means to live in a state just short of a trance. They think we are only “in the spirit when” our senses are so focused on the invisible that we barely function in the visible world. Any disturbance breaks the “anointing” and we are no longer in the spirit.

Jesus walked in the spirit. I do not think anyone would argue that. However, Jesus was not spooky or otherworldly in the way he related to people. He talked to people. He laughed and wept with them. I know that his lifestyle could not have been “spooky spiritual” because children were drawn to him. I do not know about you, but my children would not have flocked to someone who acted like they were not really here.

Children did flock to Jesus and he welcomed them. Somehow, I cannot see him relating to them with his eyes half closed uttering, “Ooh, Ahh, Hallelujah” in a stage whisper. No, I think he talked to them, laughed with them and even played with them. Yet all the while he was walking in the spirit.

What does it mean to walk in the spirit and not the flesh? I believe that today’s scripture gives us a good explanation. In chapter 3 the writer is speaking of something that was available to the people of Israel. He quotes Psalm 95:7-11. In this Psalm, the Lord is speaking of the generation of Israelites who did not go into the promised land. They complained against God. They complained against Moses. They could not trust God enough to cross the river Jordon and enter the destiny God had for them.

In this Psalm, that destiny is called their “rest.” It was the will of God that they come to a place of peace from the struggles of the wilderness. In later generations, we find that they would have to fight to possess the Land of Promise.” However, once they conquered the enemies in Canaan, the will of God was that they live in peace until the coming of the Messiah.

The second generation of Israelites had enough faith to enter the land. They conquered most of the inhabitants and lived in relative peace. Nevertheless, they left some of the inhabitants of Canaan alive. God warned them that this would lead to compromise. After the death of Joshua, the Israelites failed to keep God’s ways and fell into captivity again and again. That was never what God intended for them, but their flesh was too strong for them to continue in God’s perfect rest.

God knew that would be the case. In chapter 4 he tells us that there is still a rest that the people of Israel never walked in. He says we should not harden our heart as they did. How did they harden their heart? They refused to believe that what God said was true. God promised them Canaan. God promised to drive out the enemy before them. They simply could not accept that this was possible in light of what they saw.

In later generations, they had seen God do what he said he would do, but they chose to yield to the flesh. They mingled with those who did not know God. They worshipped other gods and committed sins and engaged in practices that went against the will of God. This eventually led to them falling into captivity and being taken away from the “rest” God had promised them.

The writer of Hebrews tells us that the rest God wanted for Israel is still available to those who love God. Israel never fully walked in what God wanted for his people, but he promised that someone would. That people who can and will walk in the fullness of God’s rest is the church.

Verses 10 and 11 give us some insights as to what this rest is. Verse10 tells us that someone who has entered this rest “ceases from his own works as God did from his.” He is talking about the seventh day of creation. God rested on the seventh day because all that had to be done was done. Creation was complete.

I believe the rest God wants for us is to realize that the work of salvation is already complete. There is nothing more we can do to earn salvation. Jesus did it all. Salvation is already ours. We do not need to work to earn God’s acceptance. It is already ours. 2 Corinthians 5 tells us that if we are in Christ we are new creations. We do not work to become new creations. Praise God!

This is a powerful truth, but in the next verse he seems to contradict what he said in verse 10. In verse 11 in the King James Version he says that we must “labor to enter the rest.” NKJV uses the term to be diligent. Diligent means to be hard working or conscientious in one’s work.

The meaning is the same. If we are going to enter the rest God has always desired for his people, there is a work to do. This is not a work to earn what is already ours. It is a work to cause what we are in Christ to dominate our outward life.

The word rest here is important. According to Vines Expository Dictionary, it does not mean the rest of inactivity. Instead it is “the harmonious working of all the faculties and affections, of will, heart, imagination, conscience, because each has found in God the ideal sphere for its satisfaction and development”

The rest God wants for us is that every part of our being do what it is supposed to do naturally. The body doing what God intended it to do. The soul consisting of the intellect, emotions and will doing what God intended it to do. Finally, the inner man, the spirit of man doing what God intended that part to do.

The spirit was to be the controlling part of man. Man was created in the image of God. John 4:4 tells us that God is a spirit. We are created to be spirit beings with a soul living in a body. To walk in the spirit is simply to walk with the spirit in control. If we can do that, we will walk according to God’s will and his ways. We will flow with his purpose. Sin will not be nearly the struggle it is when the flesh is in control.

How can we come to this rest? To quote Paul in Romans 7, “Thank God, we can do it by Jesus Christ our Lord.” Nevertheless, there is a labor or work involved. What is this work and what is its nature. That is what we must come to understand.

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If I walk in the Spirit…..

Romans 8:2-4 (NKJV) 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3  For 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, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

The book of Romans is full of the important themes of Christianity. It speaks of the pervasive sin nature of man. It speaks of redemption, sanctification and righteousness. All these things make up the story of grace. To understand grace, we must understand the themes of Romans.

Romans 7 describes the everyday challenge for every believer living in the world. How can I live what I know is true when I am surrounded by temptation and corruption? The law comes from God so to blame the law cannot be the solution. The flesh of the individual is the real problem.

What exactly is the flesh in the life of a Christian? The flesh is the combination of soul and body under the influence of spiritual death and temptation. A true Christian has been born again on the inside (John 3:1-9.) That is why Christianity is not just a religion. It is an inward change that makes a person something they were not before it happened.

2 Corinthians 5:17-18 (NKJV) 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation,

One interpretation of the word “creation” in this verse is something that never existed before. The salvation experience does not “renovate” the person. It creates a new person. The moment after we receive Jesus as the Lord and Savior of our lives, we are completely changed. This is one of the most powerful and least understood truths of the bible.

The problem we face is that this transformation does not occur to the outward man. It happens in that part which was created in the image and likeness of God. It is real, and it is what makes us fit to spend eternity in heaven. That is the work of Grace in salvation. Nothing else is required. Once we are born again, heaven is our eternal home. If we are not born again we cannot spend eternity in heaven. It is just that simple.

John 3:3 (NKJV) 3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (Underline is mine)

The new birth really happened to everyone who genuinely received Jesus. What about the outside? What about your thinking? What about how you have been trained to act? What about the appetites you have grown to need? None of these things are rooted in the part of us that was born again.

Before salvation we were “by nature children of wrath.”

Ephesians 2:1-3 (NKJV) 1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

The wording of this verse is clear concerning what a person is before salvation. You may not want to accept that this verse could be talking about you. When I told my mother I got “saved”, she said, “From what?” I was the good kid. I did not need saving. However, no matter how “good our behavior was we were what Paul says we were. We may not have looked like it to others, but we were all those things on the inside.

After salvation the inside changes. I am not Ephesians 2 any longer. I am 2 Corinthians 5:17. Nevertheless, for all my life before salvation I was Ephesians 2. To one degree or another I “conducted myself in the lusts of my flesh.” I was trained by a world system that was founded on people who were Ephesians 2 by nature. I was born again very young. My parents were not. They spent more than 50 years as Ephesians 2 people living in an Ephesians 2 world.

They were not programed to think or act according to the salvation that came to them according to 2 Corinthians 5. They were graphic examples of the people Paul is talking about in Romans 7. They were born again but they never fully overcame the flesh.

So here is the dilemma. I am born again. I am going to heaven, but I struggle to live as I should. Why? I struggle because I live in a body that was raised and have lived according to the conditions of Ephesians 2. I continue to live in a society that was created and remains influenced by Ephesians 2. When my soul, my intellect, emotions and will come under the influence of that world, I tend to revert to what I have always known.

When my will yields to the temptation to follow my old life and the Ephesians 2 world I live in, I have a problem. I am born again. My inner man delights after the truth and purity in the Law of God. However, my outward man wants to yield to the old law that used to govern me. That is the law of Ephesians 2.

That old law is not always overtly evil. It is always familiar. It conforms to the world around me. It is easier to go that way than to resist. In many ways it feels right. It always was right before. However, now we know the law of God. We are born again. Something real has happened inside. We are no longer children of the devil. We have the law of God written on our hearts. Ephesians 2 is no longer our nature.

The flesh wants to follow what is familiar, easy and even pleasant. The inner man wants to follow the nature and the ways of God. The flesh is tempted, and the temptation seems reasonable and even right. The spirit, which is born again, knows the temptation is wrong. The spirit knows to live by the flesh brings death. Which one will win in my life today? That is Romans 7.

What is the solution. Paul tells us in the first verse of Romans 8:1.

Romans 8:1 (NKJV) 1 There 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.

The key is not only that there is no condemnation if we are in Christ. The key is that we walk in the spirit and not according to the flesh. That is not a statement of law or even discipline alone. It is a way to live that will unlock the real power of grace to the believer after salvation.

Galatians 5:16-17 make this very clear.

Galatians 5:16-17 (NKJV) 16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For 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.

If I can walk in the spirit I will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. The battle is won. I no longer fight my flesh, I live in control of it. My inner man, the part that was born again, is in control. I do naturally what I should do. The solution is not to control the flesh either by law or by my will power. The solution is to walk in the spirit. What does that mean, and how do we do it? More to come.

The Path to Freedom

Romans 7:24-25 (NKJV) 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I 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.

Romans 8:1 (NKJV) 1 There 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 study the Grace of God in the book of Romans we come to the end of chapter 7 and the beginning of one of the most important chapters in the Bible. Grace is God’s unmerited favor. Its fullest manifestation came in the ministry of Jesus and the salvation he brought to man. Thank God that we are saved by grace not by keeping the law. We are not saved by works. There were no works that we could do that would have negated the sin nature that came upon man in the fall.

We were saved by grace through faith. No one is excluded, and no one has any right to boast. Jesus paid the whole price for the sin of mankind. There is nothing more we need to do to be saved and inherit heaven as our eternal home but believe.

Romans 7, however reveals that we still need to deal with the flesh. The law, more specifically the commandments, have not gone away. We still must not steal, murder or lie. Under normal circumstances, these things will not cause us to lose our salvation, but they do open the door to the work of the enemy in our lives. They also damage our testimony. Finally, and most important, they cause us to displease our Father.

Galatians 5:24 (NKJV) 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires..

Paul makes it clear that if we are Christ’s we have crucified the flesh. On the one hand that is a spiritual reality. In Galatians 2:20 Paul says “I am crucified with Christ.” That is reality in the spirit. Paul also wants us to know how to make that a lifestyle reality. He says that crucifixion must manifest in dealing with the flesh. If we have crucified the flesh we have dealt with its passions and desires.

The King James uses the stronger word for desires, lusts. A lust is any desire that controls. If I am Christ’s I can have desires for many things. I cannot let them control me. Somehow, I must deal with these controlling and often ungodly desires and appetites. If I do not I will never fulfill what I can be in Christ. My testimony and my destiny will be compromised. I may “miss hell and make heaven” but there is so much more to this life than just getting by and not being too bad until we get to heaven.

Romans 7 is Paul letting us know 3 things.

1. The problem is not the Law of God. The Law is good and has its purpose even in the life of the New Testament believer.

2. The Law cannot save us. It reveals what is wrong, but it is a “tutor” to lead us to something far better (Galatians 3:24-25.)

3. Even those who are saved and have some degree of maturity struggle with the flesh. We do what we should not do, and we do not do what we know we should. Keeping the letter of the Law is not the solution.

Paul’s final words in Romans 7 paint both a sad and hopeful picture. He is wretched when he lets his flesh dominate him. However, he knows that God has provided a way out. What is that way out. How can we successfully deal with the lusts and appetites of the flesh? Some would say we do not need to. Whatever we do is fine because Jesus paid for it anyway. That is a low and weak form of Christianity. Grace does not provide that for us. Grace gives us what we need to deal with the lower elements of our nature. The question is how?

We transition from one of the saddest and most confusing chapters in the bible to one of the most powerful. Romans chapter 8 has long been one of my most favorite sections of scripture. I believe Paul gives us the solution to the wretchedness of his Romans 7 condition in Romans 8.

We quoted the last two verses in Romans 7 at the beginning of this post. Look at the end of Romans 8.

Romans 8:37-39 (NKJV) 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul goes from being “wretched” or “miserable” to “more than a conqueror. He goes from not understanding his own behavior to being “persuaded” that nothing can separate him from the love of God. He goes from struggling with the flesh to victory over all kinds of difficulties. What happened to Paul in this chapter? What truth has he found that he wants to reveal to us?

He begins to show us in the first verse. We are very fond of quoting the first part of the verse. “There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ.” I believe in that statement. I believe it is very important as it stands. I must realize that my Father never condemns me. If I do not start there, the rest of what Paul tells us in Romans 8 will descend back into law. What is condemnation?

Condemnation in a legal sense is the state of a criminal when he has been tried and sentenced. He is a condemned man. He has no hope. He is going to suffer the punishment for his crime. There is no mercy in condemnation. He is judged a “criminal” and therefore something is wrong with him. He must be separated from society. In extreme cases he may be put to death because he is no longer fit for the world.

In spiritual terms, condemnation is the feeling that something is wrong with us. We may do something wrong, but condemnation always focuses on how we are wrong. It presses us to accept that we are somehow less than others. It tells us there is no hope. We have sinned because we are flawed and unworthy of God’s forgiveness. The result of condemnation is that we usually give up. We get worse because we are bad, flawed or faulty.

There is NO condemnation at all in Christ. Neither Jesus nor the Father will ever point to you as flawed or evil. Neither will ever say you are hopeless. Both the Father and Jesus love you with an everlasting love. They will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5.)

There is another related word that does apply to you and me. That word is conviction. A convicted criminal is one who has been judged guilty but not sentenced. We must realize that God will convict us of what is wrong in our lives. The difference is that he convicts of what is wrong but does not condemn us as unable to overcome it. He does not make what is wrong in our lives our identity. He shows us how to overcome the weakness of the flesh. Romans 7 is Paul convicted but not condemned.

So, there is no condemnation in Christ. None. Not any! However, that is not even the end of the sentence. He tells us how to get rid of the conviction that comes from both the devil and our own soul. There is no condemnation “to those who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”

What changed Paul from wretched to more than a conqueror. What caused him to overcome all kinds of opposition in life. How did he stop doing what he did not want to do and start doing what his inner man knew was right? He learned to walk in the spirit not in the flesh. That is the solution. That is what grace provided in Christ.

The Problem

Romans 7:15-18 (NKJV) 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. 16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.

We have been looking at one of the most important books in the New Testament. It was written by the man who understood grace better than anyone but Jesus himself. That book is the book of Romans. In our last few posts we have been examining Romans 7. I believe this is Paul’s description of his struggle with the flesh. Every believer who will be honest with himself can relate to Paul’s words in today’s verse. I like how it comes out in the New Living Translation.

Romans 7:15 (NLT2) 15 I 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.

I know that describes me at times. “I don’t understand myself!” I know what is right. I want to be the best Christian I can be. I have an obligation as a teacher and a leader in the body of Christ to set an example for those around me and under me. Yet there are times when I find myself doing what I know I should not. I will rationalize my weakness. In those moments when my flesh gets control over me, I still do what I do not want to do and fail to do what I know will both please God and keep me free from giving in to the temptation before me.

There are those who have come to the conclusion that the law is the problem. We have seen in this chapter that Paul is very clear that the law is not the problem. The Law of God, especially the ten commandments, is good. It shows me my need for a savior. It defines for me what is right and what is wrong. Some believe that the solution to Paul’s dilemma is to remove the Law from any part in the New Testament Christian’s life.

However, the function of grace is not to do away with the law. The function of Grace is to help us live according to it. Paul also makes clear the truth that we cannot live according to God’s standards by keeping the letter of the law. This does not mean the do’s and do nots of the 10 commandments have become irrelevant. Thou shalt not kill still applies to us along with all the rest. Nevertheless, the change is that in salvation they are written on our hearts. Our nature changes. It is no longer against our nature to keep the law, it is our nature to keep it. This is what Paul means by the “spirit which brings life.”

In Romans seven Paul wants every believer to understand that while salvation causes an instant change in our spirit (2 Corinthians 5:17-18) it does not automatically change the outward. We have grown up in the world. We have had experiences both good and bad that have trained us to think and act in ways that are not always in tune with God’s will or his ways.

Sometimes we simply do not know what will please God. In those instances, I think there is a great lenience in the way God Deals with us. This is true with natural parents and children. However, natural parents expect their children to grow up and become good, Godly citizens. Our heavenly Father is no different. If we remain babies simply because we do not want to grow up, that is not pleasing to God or healthy for us. The prisons are full of people who either were not trained by their parents or who refused that training.

Most of us are mature enough in the Lord to have at least some idea of what God expects. That was certainly the case with Paul in Romans 7. No one would call him immature, but he is the one who says, “I don’t understand myself.” The truth is we all have times when the flesh wins and our behavior suffers. When that happens, it is not just that we displease our Father who saved us. That is bad enough, but we also open the door to many things from the enemy. We may derive pleasure from sin for a season (Hebrews 11:25 KJV) but afterward comes guilt and the open door for satanic condemnation. God will not condemn, though he will convict, but Satan is perfectly willing to bring condemnation. 1 John 3:21 tells us that when our hearts does not condemn us we have peace with God. Our own hearts can condemn us and that is not a place we want to be.

As we continue in todays scripture, Paul makes an important statement. He says, “I know that in me (that is in my flesh) nothing good dwells.” I think in this statement, Paul is giving us the beginning of the way out of our dilemma. We must accept the fact that outside of Christ there is nothing good in our flesh. This is not condemnation. This is understanding.

That does not mean that everything about me is evil. It does not mean that everything I do that does not include praying and reading the bible is bad. It does not mean that the things I do for pleasure or enjoyment are all wrong. It means that any time the flesh controls me, it will lead me away from God and towards sin. I have to accept that when my flesh controls me it is always wrong. Always!

Of course, as Christians we know that. (At least you do now.) Even so we do what we know is wrong. We do what we do not want to do. Paul makes the true statement that if I do what I do not want to do it is not me that is doing it, it is sin that dwells within me. That is where some get the impression that Paul is saying we do not need to worry about our behavior. That is sin in me, not me. Grace takes care of that. Grace forgives it. Grace makes away for us to restore our side of the relationship, but grace does not make sin less toxic or less sinful.

Paul ends Romans 7 with a statement of which we all need to take notice.

Romans 7:24 (NKJV) 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

Romans 7:24 (NLT2) 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?

A Christian dominated by the flesh is not free. In the NKJV and KJV he is described as “wretched.” In the NLT he is called miserable. The dictionary defines wretched as a person in a very unhappy or unfortunate state. That is Paul in Romans 7.

He is free from the letter of the Law by virtue of salvation. That means he does not have to keep all the rules and sacrifices laid out in the Mosaic Law as found in places like Leviticus. The old man is dead because of our identification with Christ in salvation. That is a fact.

The law is good, but the sin that dwells in my flesh takes advantage of the law, pushing me to do what I should not do. The law also shows me what is sinful. God wants us to know right from wrong. However, he is the one who wants to define which is which.

Paul finds that although the law is good he breaks it anyway. He does things that he wants to do in the short term but make him miserable in the long term. Sin uses the weakness of the flesh and he yields to that weakness causing him to “do what he does not want to do and not do what he does want to do.”

The result is a wretched or miserable person. Paul cries out, “Who will deliver me from this condition?” He gives us the answer in the next verse.

Romans 7:25 (NKJV) 25 I thank Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

Jesus will help us. He will not leave us in this condition with no way out. He has delivered us, but he is continuing to deliver us. In Romans 8 we read some of the most powerful and important revelations in the New Testament. Join me next time.

The Law is Good. Sin Working in my Flesh is the Problem

Romans 7:7-14 (NKJV) 7 What 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.” 8 But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. 9 I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. 12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. 13 Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.

We are looking at the book of Romans in light of salvation by grace. Let me remind all of us that Paul’s letters are not primarily evangelistic in nature. In other words, his main audience is not the unsaved person. There are many things in Paul’s writing that can be used to reach the lost, but Paul’s letters are to the church. The lessons in Romans are written for the church not the world. We need to interpret his writing with that in mind.

In Romans 7 we begin to see the practical outworking of grace in the life of the believer. Some would say that Romans 7 must be about a person who is not saved. I think if we are honest with ourselves we would have to say that all of us have been the person in this chapter.

In verses 7-12 Paul lets us know that the Law was not evil. We must be clear on that. God cannot give anything to man that is evil. Everything he has ever done towards man has been motivated by the pure love and goodness of God. That includes the law. Look at what Jesus said about it.

Matthew 5:18 (NKJV) 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.

Jots and tittle are a little like periods and commas today. Jesus said not one punctuation mark of the law will ever pass away. All of it came from God and all of it is good.

Paul tells us that it was sin in man that is evil. Sin took advantage of the revelation of God’s goodness in the law and temptation came through the flesh. Temptation produced actions with bad fruit. I cannot improve on Paul’s example of how this works.

If there was no law I would not have known that covetingwas wrong. Once I understood that God’s law defined coveting as wrong, I began to want what was not mine. I envied what others had. I may have done so before, but once the law revealed it was wrong, something deeper went to work.

We might say, “Wouldn’t it have been better if God hadn’t told us these things were wrong?” It would not. We found in the first 3 chapters of Romans that we are all under the curse of sin. Romans 1 says that people are without excuse because they can see God all around them.

I have always seen verse 9 in a particular light. This is somewhat my opinion so you need to give it some though and study, but Paul says I was alive once without the law. When was he alive without the? I remember as a child knowing the presence of God in my life. My parents used to ask me to pray for things because they knew I got answers. I was under the age when children begin to understand the difference between right and wrong. I believe I was “alive” in the spirit at that point in my life.

I remember when that changed. I was in Junior high. I began to open myself to certain things. I began to be tempted in ways I was not before. I felt something change inside of me and for the first time I thought, “I don’t think I am going to heaven.” Before that day I never questioned that I was going to heaven. I was raised catholic so I was not taught the Bible like my children were, but I knew that Jesus died for my sins and I knew I was going to heaven.

What happened to me that day? Paul says it this way. “I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me.”

I believe that is what happened to me. In my case I was very aware something had changed. Most people probably are not. Nevertheless, everyone comes to the age when they understand right and wrong. They may not have the written Word of God in their life, but they know.

There is something else about this process. Paul says that the law has a purpose beyond being a tool sin uses to “kill us.” The Law makes sin “more sinful.” It reveals to us what God sees as wrong. It defines evil for us.

It almost seems that Romans seven is saying that if God never gave the law we would be better off. We would live in blissful ignorance. However, history and society tell us differently. Murder, thievery, lying, adultery all occur in every society whether they have the law of God or not. They are destructive and evil but those of us who do have the Law of God understand exactly what is evil about that kind of behavior. It is against the nature of God.

In the Old Testament the law was an avenue for limited relationship. Galatians in the New Testament calls it a schoolmaster that leads us to something better. Most children complain about school, but it is part of the process of becoming a responsible productive adult. Some in the church want to say that the law has no place in Christianity. That is wrong. It is not pleasant to see when or how we are wrong, but if we do not see it we will not correct it and death will find its way into our lives.

Unfortunately, even born-again people find that they are subject to temptation. If I am saved, I am a new creature. I am dead to sin. I am alive to God. I do not believe I have two natures. I am by nature a child of God. That said, I cannot honestly say I am never tempted. If I am totally honest, I know I still sin.

One of the mothers in our church was allowing her daughter to communicate with a man she met on the internet. This is very dangerous. You do not know these people. I said to her that she needed to protect her daughter. She said, “I let her call him when I am there because I know she will do it anyway and I would rather she not do it behind my back.” That is very foolish.

My children were not angels. We set standards in our home and I was aware that they did not always do what I thought they should. I did not give in and let them “sin in front of me.” I maintained the standards. I punished bad behavior. I know they did things they should not have behind my back. When they did, they knew it was something I believed was wrong and therefore bad for them. If I let them do wrong in my presence it would be confusing.

In the same way the law is there for us today. We may sin, but we know what God says is right and what he says is wrong. That provides us with the ability to always find our way back.

Dead People are not Subject to the Law

Romans 7:4-6 (NKJV) 4 Therefore, 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. 5 For 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. 6 But 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.

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We have been looking at the book of Romans in light of the power of God’s grace manifested in our salvation through Jesus Christ. We have learned many things. First that everyone born is in the same situation. We are all under the power of sin. Second, we learned from Abraham that it is faith in God that frees us from the power of the law. .

In Romans 5 we learned that what Jesus did by obedience was more powerful than what Adam did by disobedience. Through Adam’s disobedience and sin, death came upon all people. They had no choice. Through Jesus’ obedience that death was paid for. Anyone could choose to accept what Jesus did as payment for their sin nature and be born again. Grace is what gives us salvation. Grace is more powerful than sin. We must choose grace by an act of our will.

In Romans 6 Paul wants it very clear that this does not mean those under grace are free to sin. Just the opposite is true. They are free not to sin. We are slaves to what we allow to reign over us. If we choose to yield our members to sin, we remain slaves to sin. It does not matter if we are saved or not. If we choose to accept and yield to the Lordship of Jesus and yield our bodies to righteousness, we will have a new kind of life that will revolutionize how we relate to both God and the word.

This brings us to chapter seven. This chapter can be very confusing. It helps to fit it into the emerging story of Romans. We are not under law. We are under grace. Grace does not excuse us from sin, it gives us the power to overcome sin. The question is how it does that.

We have seen that we have been given a new kind of life. We have seen that walking in that life means not giving our members, or body and soul, over to sin by serving it. What is the process that enables me to do that consistently? Romans 7 and 8 unlock the answers to these questions.

In the first part of this chapter Paul makes it clear that we are not under Law. However, it is important we understand how we are not under the law. Paul uses the example of marriage. A woman is married as long as she and her husband are alive. If she leaves him and goes to another when he is alive, except for certain clear conditions the bible calls that adultery. If the husband dies she is free to marry anyone she wants.

To be free from the law, something must die. In todays section of scripture Paul tells us that we died to the law. Praise God! When I received Jesus as Lord and savior there was a very real death and rebirth that occurred. Paul makes it clear in Galatians 2:20-21.

Galatians 2:20-21 (NKJV) 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”

Paul tells us that he was crucified with Christ. Crucifixion always kills the victim. By being identified with Jesus’ death Paul died. Nevertheless, by identification with Jesus’ resurrection, Paul was raised from the dead as well.

What he says next is an important key. “It is no longer I who lives but Christ within me. Paul recognizes that accepting death in Christ means that the life he lives from then on cannot be lived according to the desires of the flesh. It must be lived as Christ lives through him.

Verse 21 says clearly that Paul is not going to lean on the law to be right with God. That comes by the salvation given to us through grace. If the law could make us right, Jesus’ death has no point. Taken out of context this could mean that I no longer have any need to obey the law. I simply walk in grace. Again, I ask, how?

Something must die. I am already dead according to heaven by identification with Jesus’ death. I a have been raised according to heaven by identifying with Jesus’ resurrection. That is my legal standing. However, if I obey what the flesh wants, I am not living “by the faith of the son of God who gave himself for me.” My legal position in heaven and my earthly experience become two different things.

That is the story of Romans 7. We are dead to the law. We are married to Jesus. That is how Paul starts this chapter. I think it would be valid to say that this can describe the life of a good person who is not saved. However, Paul sets the parameters in the first two paragraphs. We are already married to grace. We are already dead to the law. He is talking to people who are saved.

This letter is written to the church at Rome. I certainly believe the Roman church was not exclusively Jewish. It is likely that it was dominated by Jewish believers. That is implied by verse 1 of the chapter.

Romans 7:1 (NKJV) 1 Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives?

These were people who knew the law. They had been raised under it or had been taught by those who had. It was only natural for them to assume that Christianity was no different than Judaism. If you were a believer, you lived according to God’s will and God’s ways. Israel had always been told they were different from the rest of the world. Keeping the law is what defined them. Therefore, Christians must also live according to what the law taught. They were right! It was why and then how Christians lived according to God’s ways that changed.

Paul does not say the law is no longer valid. He says that were delivered from the law by dying to it. We are no longer bound by the letter of the Law that brings death. We are to serve God according to the Spirit which brings life.

We no longer simply keep laws. Now we live according to our Spirit that inward man that was born again in Christ. This does not mean we do away with living according to God’s will and ways. We live according to the spirit of God’s will and ways written inside us (Jerimiah 31:31-34.) We keep the Law because it is written on our hearts as part of our relationship with God through Jesus.

We live according to what the law means not just what the words say. We live by knowing the author of the law not by simply keeping the written commandments or letter. That said, we still must live according to God’s ways or we become slaves to sin and death manifests in our living here on earth. The rest of Romans 7 describes exactly where most of us find ourselves today. We will look at that in our next post.

How to Walk in Newness of Life 3

Romans 6:19-23 (NKJV) 19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Today we come to the end of Romans chapter 6. As we look at the results of the grace of God in Romans, we have found a progression.

1. All mankind is in a state of unrighteousness because of the fall.

2. There is no law we can keep nor price we can pay to overcome this condition.

3. Faith in the sacrifice of Jesus is the only way we can be made right with God. Salvation is the product of God’s grace.

4. What God did in Christ overturned what Satan did in Adam. Since all are under the affects of Adam’s fall, all can partake of redemption in Christ. Faith is the way we partake of what Jesus did.

5. In Romans 6 Paul brings a balance. The salvation we receive by grace through faith does not negate the toxic nature of sin. We still must live according to the principles and ways of God. If we do not we become slaves to sin which will release the power of death in our earthly life.

Today let us finish looking at Romans 6. Paul was accused of preaching a message that gave people license to sin. This was not true. Paul did believe deeply in the grace of God. He did not believe that because we have God’s grace we were free to sin without affect.

What grace did for us is bring us salvation. Salvation changed us inwardly. This inward change gives us a power called “new life” which enables us to live above sin. When we allow this life to flow through our whole being it will drive out all the power of death. This includes giving us an inside out ability to resist temptation and sin.

The law was God’s way of giving access to grace to those who were not changed inwardly. In Romans 8 Paul tells us what the problem is with the law.

Romans 8:3 (NKJV) 3 For 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,

The law could never be a vehicle for the salvation God wanted to bring to humanity by his grace. It was weak because it was based in the flesh. God gave the law as a means for a fleshly people to control the flesh. That is always going to fail.

Salvation is strong because it changes man in the spirit. It overrides the flesh. It taps into a power that is as far above the law as Heaven is above earth. That power is available to us in a real way if we walk in it by faith. If we do not access this power, the flesh will reassert itself and we will once again be under the dominion of death.

I want to make it clear that I am not talking about losing salvation. That is another question. I am talking about how much my salvation affects my daily living. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words defines salvation as “all the blessings bestowed upon men in Christ by the Holy Spirit.”

Salvation includes everything promised in the Old Covenant and all that God promises in the New Covenant. How much we see those promises at work in us is determined by how much we allow the life of God within to influence our life without.

That is the message of Romans 6. He concludes this important chapter by saying, “I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh.” I think Paul is amazed at how people seem to misunderstand what is to him a very clear truth. I have been in ministry 40 years and I have been a Christian for 50. I have seen both personally and in the lives of the believers I have dealt with that we have a real problem not allowing the flesh to dominate us.

To me Paul is saying, “This is not rocket science. You used to yield yourself to the flesh and it brought bad things. God provided good things for you but to walk in them you have to yield yourself to righteousness!” That is not complicated.

Paul addresses this problem by pointing out something we should all remember. When we were not saved we all allowed sin to rule our lives. Sin produced a lifestyle that led us away from God. Paul says that the result is death. In today’s section of Romans 6, he reminds them that slavery to sin was not a good way of life.

Verse 20 is an interesting statement. When you were slaves of sin you were free in regard to righteousness. You did not have to be concerned with God’s ways or his nature. You were not right with God, but you did not care. You could do whatever you wanted. The problem with that was the fruit it produced. That fruit was an earthly life to be ashamed of and eternal death in separation from God.

Paul finishes chapter 6 by telling his readers what they now have. They have everlasting life. Hell in not in their future. Their physical lives can produce fruit that is holy to God. That is ours positionally because of salvation through grace. When we allow the new life of God to flow through us it is also true in our daily living. All we need to do is live as slaves of God. A slave has no choice about what he will or will not do. A slave is totally at the command of his master. Like it or not we are totally at the command of our Lord if we are Christians. We are slaves to God.

Finally Paul makes one more summing statement. The wages or payment for sin is death. Eternal death for those who never receive the sacrifice of Jesus in salvation. Sin is an open door for death in our physical lives if we yield our members to it. If we choose daily to yield our members to righteousness, rejecting sin by the power of the inward life we received at salvation, we can have heaven on earth.

The bible is a book of choices. Even in the Old Testament God tells us the kind of life we live is based on the choices we make.

Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (NKJV) 19 I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; 20 that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”

Paul sets the same choice before us in Romans 6. We can obey him and his voice and have life and blessing or we can choose to obey the sin and the flesh, and the result will be death and cursing. Grace made the choice available. The choice is ours.