2020 - Romans
Life in the Spirit
Last week, we began exploring Romans chapter 8. In the first four verses we discovered four beautiful contrasts…
--We live in the freedom of forgiveness… with no condemnation, now or in the next life.
--We live in the diplomatic immunity of the Spirit, rather than the law of death by sin.
--We live in acquittal, rather than being condemned by sin. Jesus did a Perry Mason on sin, for us!
--We live in the success of grace which continually zaps our sins, rather than the failure of legalism.
We live in the contrasts of Spirit!
That was last week. This morning, we continue in Romans 8. In Romans 8:5-17 we are going to explore another contrast. The contrast we are going to examine, today, is between two fundamentally different ways of life. Paul draws a contrast between the way of the flesh and the way of the Spirit. The two ways begin in different places and end in very different places. The two ways are driven by different motivations. The two ways are choices that we, as believers in God, can make. I think, here in chapter 8, Paul is talking to us. This is a warning to Christians about how we choose to live.
First, we will look at the way of the flesh. Then, we will look at the way of the Spirit. Then, we will explore the end results; the consequences of each; the destination of both ways.
For the purpose of clarity… I’m going to disreassemble verses 5-13 into the two separate ways. I’m also going to take the liberty to change the word flesh to the word self. I think it is the same concept. Self, selfishness, self-focus, considering yourself as the center of everything, I believe, is the point Paul is making.
Remember, Paul is working toward the Rubber meets the Road part of Romans where…
--Paul pushes the Christians in Rome to be…Living sacrifices – giving it all up for the glory of God.
--Paul is driving the believers in Rome to… Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
--Paul is reminding them that… Love does no wrong to a neighbor.
--Paul wishes them to… live and let die.
--Paul wants them to pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
--Paul prays for them to live in such harmony with one another that it brings glory to God!
Paul wants these precious Christians in Rome to live in the Spirit focused way, not in the way flesh… not in the way of self-indulgence. That is the point I am making this morning.
Let’s begin with the description of the way of the flesh…
The Way of the Flesh
Romans 8:5-13 For those who live according to their self, set their minds on the things about themselves… To set the mind on the self is death… For the mind that is set on its self is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are into themselves cannot please God… Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him… don’t be debtors, to yourself, to live according to your own desires. For if you live focused on self you will die.
“You took quite a few liberties with that text, didn’t you Tim?” I did. If you need to, you can read it in the original Greek. I’ll loan you a copy. But I think, that is where Paul is driving. There are two ways to live. We can choose to live focused on our own desires or we can learn the way of the Spirit.
I also suspect what Paul means by “indeed, it cannot submit to God” means… it is very hard to realize we are living in the way of self. The demands of the self, overshadow everything else making it hard to see our own selfishness. Our bias towards what we already think is the right way to live… makes it almost impossible to evaluate your own self-focus. This is where we should help each other… that, too, is hard.
Paul, begs you to take a step back. Be as honest as you can… do your actions betray that you are living focused on self?
Perhaps, looking at the other way, can help…
Once again, I am going to take the liberty to disresemmble the verses of the Spirit and change the word Spirit to the word Other. Notice the word Other is capitalized. I want to shake us out of any preconditions of interpretation of these verses.
The Way of the Spirit
Romans 8:5-13 Those who live according to the Other set their minds on the things of the Other… to set the mind on the Other is life and peace. You, however, are not into yourself, but into the Other, if in fact the Other of God dwells in you. If Christ is in you... the Other is life because you are making things right! If the Other of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Other who dwells in you… If by the Other you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
“That was weird Tim. Why?” I want to emphasize we are being indwelt by a Being that is not ourselves. The Other One of God (the Holy Spirit if you must) lives inside us. The Other One of God gives us a different focus! The Other One of God leads us to focus on others. The Other One of God causes us to quit asking… “What about me? What’s in it for me? Why would I?” The Other One of God gives us life; gives us purpose; gives us the desire to seek the glory of the Christ! The Other One of God works sin out of our lives by focusing our concentration outside of ourselves to meet the needs of the Other and the others.
This is a different way of life! It listens. It responses. It’s open. It’s courageous. It has purpose!
Here is what it means to me. I’m just saying, for me. The Other One of God may work differently in your life. For me... I believe the Spirit puts suggestions, or thoughts, or, maybe, nudges, warnings, opportunities, or theological thoughts into my mind. I’m really no talking an audible “still small voices in the night”, so much, as thoughts out of the blue.
--I might think of a person out of the blue… I respond by checking on them.
--I might think of a passage of Scripture out of the blue… I need to apply that scripture to what it is I’m struggling with.
--I might think of something I have forgotten… so I stop and do it.
--I might think of a solution to a problem that has been vexing me.
The way of the Spirit is a way that listens for the voice of the Other, to led us, to respond to pokes, to remind us to guide us with purpose!
You can see these are two very different ways to live. One is focused on ME. The second is focused on the Other One of God!
Now Paul tells us where both ways end up. Still broken apart.
The Conclusion of the Way of the Flesh
Romans 8:6-15 To set the mind on self is death…because it is hostile to God… it cannot please God…it does not belong to Him… if you live according to the self you will die… you received the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear.
It is tempting at this point in my sermon to tell you two things. One, if you live in the way of the flesh, you will have a miserable life. Two, God will punish you in the next life. Whether those two things are true or not, I don’t think that is actually the point Paul is making. I think the point is more a contrast between where your life ends up… while you are alive in this life… functionally.
The conclusion of the way of the flesh is death. Let’s dig into what that means…
--It does not mean physical death. We are all going to physically die… Followers of self or followers of the Other are going to die. These verses are not talking about physical death.
--It does not mean the way-of-the-self person is miserable. I know people who are self-focused and it works for them. They seem happy to serve themselves. We all know the happy atheist. So, the way of the flesh leds to death, must mean something different.
--It could mean dead to God. Ok, what does that mean? I think there is more.
--It could mean the opposite of eternal life; punishment in the next life. But these conclusions are in the present… is death… not will be death. Does not belong, now to Him. You currently receive a spirit of slavery. Death doesn’t seem to point to the next life.
--I think the meaning of death here has the flavor of pointlessness. It is the opposite of glory. It is ichabod; no glory. It seems to me, I could be wrong, death is falling short of the glory of God. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Death is to fall short of the glory of God. It is to have a dead meaning to your life!
The way of the self ends up in pointlessness; a meaningless life. It is hostile to God… it does not serve God. It is not pleasing to God. It does not belong to the mission of God. Self-focus is death to the glory you should be living.
Consequently, that person often lives in slavery to fear. Focus on self, leads to fear. Self-focus leads to “What ifs”.
--What if… I am not safe?
--What if I get old?
--What if I am alone? What if… nobody likes me?
--I don’t have enough money,
--What if… is a slavery to fear as a result of a self-focused pointless life!
This is sad. It is one of great ironies of life. The more you focus on taking care of yourself the more you slip away. The way of the flesh is death!
The Conclusion of the Way of the Spirit
Romans 8:14-17 For all who are led by the Other of God are sons of God, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Other himself bears witness with us that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs- heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Let me share a story from quite a few years back. I was fading in and out of real world, desperately trying to hold on to the failing remnants of a pleasant dream. One part of my mind knew it was time to get up. But I was trying to catch that last ten minutes of precious sleep before I had to start the day. Ten minutes of sleep in the morning is much more valuable than ten minutes at night. I guess you knew that.
Suddenly, there was a scream that cut through all the layers of drowsiness. For a moment there was suspended above me a body, as if it were hung there by wires from the ceiling. Then, the body crashed into me. Tanya had told my twelve-year-old son to come wake me up. I might add that the boy soon flew again, back out of the bed and onto the floor.
Only a child would feel the confidence, the closeness, the love to come jump on their dad while he is still asleep. That is the relationship we have with the Father. Sure, we must show our respect. Sure, we must honor his name, but we are sons, we are children of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We can call him "Abba, Father!"
Children live in confidence; in closeness; in love without fear.
Verse 17 is amazing… Listen to it from David Bentley Hart Translation…
DBH Romans 14:17 And, if children, heirs as well; on the one hand, God’s heirs and, on the other, co-heirs of the Anointed, since we co-suffer in order that we may be co-glorified.
Instead of a self/fearful/pointless death-life, we know our family heritage as co-sufferers in the glorification of God through being led by the Other One of God! “Say it again!” We step into our inheritance, in this life, to be representatives of God to the world. Through suffering, through sacrifice, through being led by the Spirit we share in the glorification of Christ as he redeems the world!
Next week, we will continue this amazing concept of being sons of God with the purpose of joining our brother Jesus in the freeing of creation! (It is one my favorite subjects) For now, we have a choice to make in how we are going to live our lives…
Self-listening-life which leads to fear and pointlessness.
Other-listening-life which leads to participation with Christ in glory!
“Wow… not much of choice when you put it that way.”
November 1, 2020
Los Alamos Church of Christ
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