1 John 2:15-17 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
What’s more important; the things in your life or your relationship with God? Before you answer that, pause. It’s easy to jump at answering what we know we’re supposed to say, but take a moment. Think about what really matters in your life. How do you spend your money? Your time? What do you pursue? Now is your answer still the same?
It’s tempting to be overtaken by our flesh, to give into every craving we have for pleasure or entertainment, or material things. But those things won’t last and they don’t matter. They’ll be here one day and gone the next. These things rot and rust, they deteriorate and fail to satisfy. But God is eternal and He’s never going to leave us. Shouldn’t we put more into walking with Him than we do in walking in worldly desires?
John goes so far in God’s Word to say that if we love this world we don’t love God. Let that sink in. If you spend more time trying to gain pleasure out of this life than you do trying to walk in God’s will, then you really don’t love God. It sounds harsh, but put it in human terms. If I marry a woman and then spend most of my time trying to make myself happy through every means besides her, then do I really love her? If God is really our love, then we should be pleased by Him and not need all of the other things of this world. They won’t matter to us because all we’ll want is more of Him.
Colossians 1:15-20 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Can I be honest with you all? Sometimes I forget what it’s all about. I have this habit of making my life about me and when I do that I get things all twisted. It’s no wonder I sometimes lose my awe for God. I’m focused on myself.
The thing about this world and this life is it’s all about Jesus. If you want to have joy, look to Jesus. If you want peace, look to Jesus. If you’re looking for healing, look to Jesus. If you want to know God – look to Jesus. He’s the image of the invisible God. Everything God the Father wanted us to know of himself, He revealed in the Son (Hebrews 1:2-3).
With everything going on in this busy world, it’s far too easy to get lost in the wrong stuff and forget what really matters. All things were created through Christ, for Christ. It doesn’t matter what people think of you, it doesn’t matter what you have or where you live. What matters is Him.
Take some time and reflect on who Jesus is – God in the flesh. Just think about the fact that the Creator of the universe came down into humankind and revealed himself. You will be in awe.
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 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 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 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 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 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 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.