All posts by Matthew J. Cochran

Matt Cochran's passion is seeing people's lives transformed by a relationship with Jesus Christ. Having served in the Marine Corps in locations all over the world, Matt easily connects with people. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Christian Studies and a Master's Degree in Discipleship Ministries. Above all else, Matt loves being a dad to Colin, Hank and Amelie.

Hearing the Word

Romans 10:17  So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

 

It all starts with hearing.  No matter where you’re at in your faith journey, you likely began by hearing the Word of God.  Maybe it was a friend sharing a Bible verse.  Maybe it was a biblical truth that you weren’t even aware came from the Bible.  You could have even just overheard something that spoke to you.

 

God’s Word does something powerful in our lives when we hear it being spoken.  Sermons, podcasts, even songs are so effective at moving us when we experience the Word of God.  Faith begins here as the Holy Spirit stirs our souls up and we move toward responding to His calling.

 

God’s Word is so powerful that He says it will never return empty; it will always accomplish His purpose.  That’s something when you think about how misused and misquoted Scripture is.  Even when we mess it up, God uses His Word to bring about His purpose.  It should help us feel a little less intimidated to share the gospel because whether or not we get it right, God works out what He wants worked out.

Romans: Our Daddy

Romans 8:15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

What is the greatest news you’ve ever been given?  Think really hard about it and give an honest answer to that question.  Now think about why it is that this was such great news.  Now, turn your attention for one moment to news that’s even better than the best news you can think of.

Because God loved the world He had created, He sent Jesus Christ (God in the flesh) to live a perfect, sinless life and to die a sinner’s death in our place.  We deserved to be treated with the cruelty He receive.  We earned the penalty that He paid.  He took on our sin and gave us instead His own righteousness, granting us access to God.  What news is this!

Not only are we forgiven by a just God, which is wonderful, but we are now His own children, adopted into His family.  Not only is He our Father, but the language used in this text is so intensely beautiful as the writer describes God as our “Abba,” which means “daddy.” God isn’t a harsh, demanding father who is waiting for us to mess up so He can punish us.  We’re not under Him as slaves, but as His children.  He’s our Daddy who loves us and cares about us.  We can approach Him without fearing His response.  What a perfect way to understand our relationship to our Creator and Redeemer.

Romans: Spirit-led sons of God

Romans 8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

 There are two types of people in this world.  There are those who are led by the Holy Spirit and there are those who are lost.  There are no other options.  When left to our own wisdom to guide ourselves, we get nowhere.  Only by the Holy Spirit can we talk in the way God has for us.

To some, this may seem a ridiculous notion, pointing to the achievements of secular mankind who has not consulted God or been Spirit-led in their discoveries throughout the ages.  It is an interesting observation, however, those who think that mankind has the potential to know all there is to know, thus disproving the existence of God, are disregarding the fact that God created all there is to discover.  The achievements of man are of no eternal consequence.

But those led by the Spirit are children of God, adopted into His family.  We have been the recipients of the greatest gift of all time: God himself.  There is nothing of greater eternal significance.  It doesn’t matter what we accomplish in this temporary life in regards to greatness because true greatness is only found in one place.  It is God’s to give.

Romans: Make War

Romans 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

 It is once again reiterated in this verse of Romans 8 that living in the flesh means death and living in the Spirit means life.  You have to ask yourself then; how can I make sure I’m living in the Spirit?

The Apostle Paul uses an interesting phrase here by saying “put to death the deeds of the body” and you will live.  How can we put the deeds of our own bodies to death?  How can we cease to live according to the flesh, which is such so easy to find ourselves doing?  We can’t just say we’re living for God, we have to walk in His ways.  It’s not a one time choice, it’s a daily matter of picking up our cross and following Him.

Contrary to popular view, the Christian life is not promised to be easy or painless.  In fact, it can be more painful than living in sin.  Each and every day of a Christian’s life, he or she must choose to make war against the nature of the human.  To live according to the Spirit is a choice that results in help and guidance from the Lord, but it also must mean we consciously make war against the sinful flesh we live in.  We want to do this, but we should do that.  We shouldn’t do this, but we’re inclined to do just that.  It’s a fight, but it’s not one we wage alone.

God is on our side.  Nothing else can come up against us and win.  Make war on the flesh.  Choose to live according to the Spirit.

Romans: We are not debtors to the flesh

Romans 8:12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.

It may seem, as we read Romans 8, that Paul drones on a bit about the same thing.  You’re not dead in your sin anymore once you’re in Christ.  If the Holy Spirit dwells in you, you’re not dead any more, but alive in Christ. Flesh is death, Christ is life.

Yet, even as the chapter goes on, Paul digs in even more on the issue – it must be important.  The new life that begins with salvation means the end of the old life.  We often agree with that intellectually, but don’t embrace it in reality.  Paul probably faced the same thing with his original audience and he emphasized once again that in your new life you’re not a slave to sin.  It doesn’t own you anymore.

Christian, get it.  You don’t have to give in to all the things that call your name.  You don’t belong to them, you belong to the King of Kings.  Yes, of course we’ll all still sin because we’re flawed and broken.  But that doesn’t mean we have an excuse to live like we did before we became a new creation.  You don’t owe anything to your old life.  Leave it in the past and put on Christ.

 

Romans: Life to your mortal bodies

Romans 8:11 If the Spirit of him 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 Spirit who dwells in you.

Let’s recap: Every single one of us has sinned.  We’re all guilty before a perfect God and have no chance at perfection. But there’s a hero to this story.  There’s a Redeemer who sets us free from the condemnation that’s owed to us.  We have been forgiven if we’ve put our trust in Christ Jesus.

The work of Jesus Christ on the cross accomplished what you and I could never achieved for ourselves.  Under the Law, we could never reach the expectations of a holy God who requires perfection.  The Law is restrictive, Christ is freeing. We’ve been freed from sin and empowered to obey, but we’ll still never make it to the perfection the Law requires.  We’re still human.  God knew we would never live up to the Law.  It’s why He sent His Son to fulfill the Law that we might be freed from it’s bondage.  Now it serves as a reminder that we need Him every single day.

We all have that choice to make.  Just because we have been saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ doesn’t mean we live effective lives.  We have to choose each day to listen to God’s voice as He directs us. The only way to truly be effective for God’s purposes is to set aside the many pleasures this world has to offer for the sake of doing what we’re called to do. Love.  You want to please God? Love.  You want to do what’s right? Love.  Freedom from the Law is freedom to walk in love, and in doing so to fulfill the Law.

Submission to God means seeking first what He wants. The truth that isn’t always communicated in the church environment is that following Jesus is hard.  It’s not all about how you can get what you want and live like there’s not a care in the world.  There are struggles and battles to be faced.  The good news is, He knows better than we do what’s good for us anyway.

God’s children live differently than the rest of the world.  We’re not concerned with the things that burden the lost.  We’re able to walk in a godly confidence because we know that the Lord is all-powerful and He is good.  When you surrender your life over to Jesus Christ.  God takes what was once dead and makes it alive (Ephesians 2:5). If you are His, He’s brought you to life because now it’s no longer you who live, but Christ in you (Galatians 2:20).

In case it hasn’t been clear: It’s only God who gives life to our mortal bodies.  We’re incapable of living on our own.  Without Him we’re the walking dead, going through the motions but not really living.  With Him there’s no end to the possibilities.

Romans: Christ in you is life

Romans 8:10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

 There is a stark difference between those who have Christ living in them and those who do not.  There is only life in those who are in the Spirit.  While it may seem that people are alive because they’re walking around and doing things people do, inside those who don’t have Christ are dead.  They’re the walking dead.

Something spectacular happens when you surrender your life over to Jesus Christ.  God takes what was once dead and makes it alive (Ephesians 2:5). If you are His, He’s brought you to life because now it’s no longer you who live, but Christ in you (Galatians 2:20).  Your body is just a vessel to hold the Spirit that lives in you and through you (2 Corinthians 4:7).  It’s not your power or mine that do great things; it’s the power of God working.

You see, we can’t live holy and sinless lives that would enable us to have such power.  That’s why it’s evident that it’s the righteousness of Christ that makes it possible.  It’s Him that lived a perfect life, and He is the one who purchased our ransom.  He is able to do far more than we could ever even think or begin to imagine (Ephesians 3:20) and He does it through us, the living.

Romans: You are not in the flesh

Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

If you’re God’s, you’re God’s.  If you’re not, you’re not.  There is no in-between.  There is no such thing as a part-time Christian.  You are either in the flesh or in the spirit.

We’re all born once into the flesh.  Our mothers carry us for 9 months and give birth to us, little tiny human infants.  But to be of the Spirit requires a rebirth (John 3:6).  When you claim the promises of God by being saved through faith in Jesus, you are born into the Spirit.  Then, and only then, do you become part of God’s family.

It’s common to hear someone spoken of as a “child of God” and this is true in some regard.  God did create every person who walks the earth, but they are not all His children.  Only those who have been adopted are His.  And those who are His are His forever.  Are you His?  Is the inheritance He’s promised yours to claim?  Do you know Him as your Father?

God’s children live differently than the rest of the world.  We’re not concerned with the things that burden the lost.  We’re able to walk in a godly confidence because we know that the Lord is all-powerful and He is good.  We’ve got what the world is looking for in all the wrong places.  But there’s always more room in God’s family for another.

Romans: Those in the flesh cannot please God

Romans 8:8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

 Where is your allegiance?  What team are you on?  You might say that you’re on God’s side, but would He say the same?  Are you living as someone who is fully committed to one master?  Or are you, like so many others, fooling yourself by saying you’re following Christ while in reality following every whim of your fleshly desires?

The truth that isn’t always communicated in the church environment is that following Jesus is hard.  It’s not all about how you can get what you want and live like there’s not a care in the world.  There are struggles and battles to be faced.  When those times come it’s often the test of where your real allegiances lie.  When you have the choice to be comfortable in your flesh or be uncomfortable for the Lord, which do you choose?  It’s so easy to pick the easy path, thinking that later on we’ll settle some sort of deal with God.  But the reality is that it’s impossible to please Him if we’re living only for ourselves.

Even Jesus was tempted in this regard.  The Word says He was tempted just as we are so He can sympathize with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15), but He never gave in.  We’re much weaker than Him, so it’s easier for us to cave.  It’s much harder to choose the ways of God than it is the cushy ways of man.  But in the end it’s always worth it.

If you’re having a hard time in this area, don’t feel like you have to do it all on your own.  It’s not about what you do for God, it’s about giving your life over to Him in submission.  Stop trying to please Him by doing things and give Him what He really wants – you.  Jesus paid the price so that you can have a relationship with the Father.  You just have to trust Him instead of yourself.

Romans: Submission to God

Romans 8:7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.

 When we live for our own desires, we won’t let anything get in the way of what we want when we want it.  That includes God.  It’s impossible to choose worldly pleasure as a way of life and also submit to God.

The truth is, if life is lived for self, then God is an enemy because He calls us to lose ourselves for His sake.  We can’t hold on to everything we desire and still seek to please Him.  Let’s visit that thought again with a new emphasis.  We CAN’T hold onto the selfish desires of our heart and still follow God.  It’s not possible!

Yet, so many people try to do this.  So many Christians who have truly been saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ still try to live according to their own wants and perceived needs.  The very thought of putting aside those desires to seek out what God wants is offensive.  Do you see how this makes one hostile toward God?  When you think God is trying to take your stuff away, you fight Him.  That’s not the way of the Christ follower.

Submission to God means seeking first what He wants.  The good news is, He knows better than we do what’s good for us anyway.  The things we hold onto are nothing compared to what He has for us if we obey and let Him lead.  If you’re holding on, give this a try:  let go and ask what God wants for you.