Category Archives: Discipleship

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.

Romans: Flesh is Death

Romans 8:6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

To be caught up in worldly things is to be ineffective as a follower of Jesus Christ.  We can’t serve two masters, though many have tried.  The simple truth is that our allegiances can’t be split between the flesh and the Spirit.  To live life as a Christian, we have to walk with the Spirit.

If anyone knew about worldly pleasures, it was Paul’s audience in Rome.  A church of relatively new believers (Christianity hadn’t been around long!), they were essentially in the capitol of the world.  Rome had so many things to offer to distract the Christians from their calling as disciples.  They had to choose whether they wanted to live like the Romans (When in Rome…) or life the lives God had in mind for them.

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.  We have to choose to read His Word so we know more about His nature and His will.  We have to take the time to pray so that we can hear from Him and speak to Him.  We have to have intentional relationships with others and we have to put aside some of our own desires for the sake of reaching people.  All of these choices require us to deny the other things calling out to us.

Romans: Live According to the Spirit

Romans 8:5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

Is your mind set on things of the Spirit?  It’s pretty easy in today’s culture so saturated with entertainment and technology to fail to think about the right things.  Without even realizing it, we sometimes ignore God’s voice.

We live in a time when there is literally no excuse to ever be bored.  If you don’t like what you’re watching on TV, you likely have 500 other channels to choose from.  If that isn’t working for you, there are thousands of websites, many that claim to be “social” to keep you  occupied.  Magazines, smart phone apps and games, online gaming, the list is endless.  If we’re not careful we can be consumed by the things of the world.

But as Christians we’re not called to be consumed by this world.  We’re called to be set apart from it.  In the world but not of it, if you will.  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.  That doesn’t mean we never have fun or never set aside time for pure entertainment.  It just means we have a different worldview from which we operate.  We set our mind on the things of God and when we do that, the other stuff out there pales in comparison.

Romans: Fulfillment of the Law

Romans 8:4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

As Christians, it’s no longer our duty to live up to the Law.  The commands given to those under the old covenant are no longer our marching orders.  What then; do we throw away all of the commands as if they don’t matter?  No, we fulfill the Law by obeying our new command.

Jesus did not tell those under the new covenant to try and keep up the old.  Instead He gave a new command: to love.  (Romans 13:8-10)

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.  For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

It’s really as simple as that.  You want to obey God? Love.  You want to please Him? 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.

Let the Shame of it Go.

It’s hard when the faithful Disciple, in living their life, finds their mind slipping and their heart sinking deeper within them. They want to see the light that surrounds them, but in that moment they can’t help but see the darkness that fogs their eyes as they feel a coldness inside of them brought by this emptiness. It’s an emptiness that should be filled with faith and hope, the faith and the hope that have always guided you, that you’ve always known was enough, but that seems removed from your life right now.

There’s a myth that surrounds Christianity, and the Christian that is sometimes touted out who says that they cannot be depressed. After all, “This is the day that the Lord has made,” aren’t we meant to “rejoice and be glad in it”? (Psalm 118:24) Aren’t we supposed to “Shout for joy to the Lord” while we “burst into jubilant song with music”? (Psalm 98:4) There are times when we can be made to feel as if, in the depth of despair, amidst the darkness that can surround us, it is even worse because there is something even more shameful in the way that we feel, as if we are not showing the proper gratitude to God for all the good gifts and wondrous blessings He has shown for our lives.

If this is the case, are we truly faithful? Are we truly the Disciples we were meant to be finding that depression creates within us a despair and a pain that doesn’t allow us to see the deeper wonders of God’s miracles that should create a joyful heart within us?

It has always been our perceptions of God’s love and the way that we perceive His word that creates more questions, that create more hardship than the actual fact that lies within the meaning and the purpose that He has intended for us. Whatever myths we attach to it, the truth is something vastly different in the confidence we should have in the faith He has blessed us with as that gift of His grace.

Considering the one we are meant to set our sights on, “the author and the finisher of our faith”, (Hebrews 12:2) there are few who understand the temptations that surround depression quite like our blessed Savior. Facing all that we face, seeing the world through the eyes of our hardships, there were times when even Christ Himself was threatened to be swallowed whole by it. Even as He placed his trust in God, His faith in the love and the design, the grandness of the plan of His Heavenly Father, whom He knew loved Him so dearly, it was not hard to see that pain and that sense of despair on His face, to hear it in His voice as He prayed, knowing His course, as He fell to the ground, and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)

Though His faith never wavered in the face of it, nor did He ever question the nature of God’s plan, in those moments, when He felt the finality of it all, of the design He knew He was sent to fulfill, like any of us, He Himself felt a darkness that surrounded Him that did not let Him make that “joyful noise” or “burst into that jubilant song.”

But then there is a reason why Jesus tells us to “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) He wants us to know that, even as we feel tired and weighed down by this world, even as we feel the struggles of this world push on us, there is nothing shameful in it. Saints through the course of time, men and women whose faith would be renowned for its strength would face the same even as they trusted in God, finding that the hardships of this world would find the weaker places in them and try to break them. There was and there is nothing shameful, nothing wrong in that. The true test of faith is not in never feeling depression or darkness surrounding us, it lies in how we seek God and those who He has sent to help us through that journey into the foggy mists of the hazier places in our minds.

More than just singing a joyful song or praising God for all of His blessings, being a Disciple of Christ is about being honest with Him. You cannot be faithful in your steadfast devotion to your faith if, like Adam and Eve in the Garden, you hide from Him when you feel as if something is shameful and wrong. You cannot seek His plan and design, you cannot find the peace of His love if you pretend to Him, refusing to bear your heart and your soul to Him.

There is nothing wrong or bad or shameful about what you feel or face, the only wrong that can occur is when you refuse to let the Lord, your Heavenly Father who loves and care for you, heal you, guiding you to the people and places you need where hope and love and help lie waiting for you.