Most people want a life that is meaningful and fulfilling. This is especially true of Christians. Yet many people are frustrated in their Christian experience. Their spiritual life seems like a bunch of false starts and hard stops. Unfortunately, it often feels like a constant struggle – more burden than blessing.
Here’s what I’ve observed over the years: The more we try to live the Christian life by our own power and effort, the more we fail at it. This only leads to self-condemnation, hopelessness, and exhaustion.
A healthy Christian life cannot be lived apart from the control and influence of the Holy Spirit.
Our passage for this month is Romans 8. It’s about how to move beyond a performance-based relationship with God to one that is guided by the Holy Spirit.
The apostle Paul will describe two basic ways of looking at life.
5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. 12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. – Romans 8:5-13
What are these two ways of looking at life?
One is an attitude that leaves God out of the picture. This is what Paul refers to as the flesh – or sinful nature. The second is to be under the control of the Holy Spirit.
Let’s look again at how Paul draws the contrast between the two …
5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. – Romans 8:5-6
Notice the three key phrases:
- Live according to …
- Minds set on …
- Governed by …
These are phrases that speak to the issue of who will be in charge … you or God? When your thinking comes into conflict with what God says in his word, who wins? When your desires or ambitions come into conflict with what God says in his word, who wins?
In another passage, Paul will describe the outcome of living without God:
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. – Galatians 5:19-21
How would you like to be married to someone like that? What parent would want their kid to turn out that way?
Don’t miss Paul’s point: this is what happens when you live according to the flesh, have your mind set on things of the flesh, and are governed by the flesh.
Thankfully … there is a better way!
10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. – Romans 8:10
Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean that you will instantly start acting like Jesus. In fact, becoming a Christian is only the starting point.
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism and a great theologian, used the image of a house to describe the work of transformation in our lives.
The porch is where repentance happens.
The door represents the entrance into new life and happens by justification.
The house is where the Spirit begins the process of transforming us into the image of Jesus through the process of sanctification.
Our spiritual life is similar to this. The moment you enter into a new standing with God by faith is significant. Without this event, you can never enjoy life in the Spirit. Then the work of ongoing transformation begins — learning what it means to live by the power of the Spirit.
May we grow to be like Jesus as we open our lives to God’s presence and power at work in us.
Experience and Background
- 25+ years of senior leadership experience
- masters in management and leadership
- presenter at the WFX National Conference
- former president, Church Planters of the Rockies
- helped start 2 for-profit tech companies
To get a better feel for my style and personality, you can watch past sermons on our YouTube channel.
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