John Stott called his fine commentary on Romans chapters 5 to 8 “Men made new”. And that is the wonderful truth! We have been thinking about the blessings of salvation the gospel brings to all who believe. We have been given peace with God, the hope of sharing God’s glory and an inexpressible joy even in the midst of suffering. But God then calls us to live new lives, indeed to reign in life, and we do that by considering ourselves dead to sin but alive to God. We must not let sin reign in us so that we obey its evil desires, but instead we should offer ourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life.
Last week I told you about a book for new Christians which had a dreadful mistake in the bibliography and instead of pointing to Michael Green’s excellent New Life New Lifestyle it gave the title as New Life New Hairstyle. I noticed another mistake in that bibliography and for some inexplicable reason the title “Live a New Life” appears as “Hire a New Wife.” It is sadly the case that to some Christians the new life we have in Christ makes as little difference as a new hairstyle, or some temporary external change like the bizarre image of hiring a new wife.
Because the truth is that most of us find that our Christian life is a continual tug of war between our old sinful human nature and the new life God has given us in Jesus Christ. And too often we end up losing that battle and falling back into sin. Last week we saw that Paul expresses it this way.
21 So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?
But praise God that is not the end of the story! Last week I left you in suspense. Is there no hope? What is the secret of victory in our Christian lives? Paul goes on to explain the secret in Romans 8 – and it is all down to the difference God the Holy Spirit makes in our Christian lives. We aren’t alone in our battles with temptation from the world, the flesh and the devil. We don’t have to fight in our own strength to live new lives as men and women made new. God gives us the grace we need to overcome! The secret is that the new life we have been given is life empowered by God the Holy Spirit – life in the Spirit. And here in the first half of Romans eight are three characteristicss of this new life in the Spirit.
FREEDOM (verses 1-4)
The Holy Spirit sets us free and assures us that we are forgiven. The starting point for living a new life is to realise that we have left the old life behind.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,
No condemnation! As believers we are “in Christ Jesus.” We are united to Christ by God the Holy Spirit living inside us and so we are set free from the condemnation which sin brings. God sent His only Son to be a sin-offering in our place.
Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood – Hallelujah! What a Saviour!
When we give our lives to Christ, God forgives all of our sins. All the sins we had committed up until that point. All the sins we still commit. All the sins we ever will commit have ALREADY BEEN forgiven, the very moment we died with Christ and God raised up with Christ to live a new life.
Psalm 103: 8The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
9He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
11For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;
12as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
So there is no condemnation. God does not condemn us. And we shouldn’t condemn ourselves either.
Micah 7 19You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
Corrie Ten Boom said, “God takes all our sin, throws it into a bottomless lake and puts up a sign that says, ‘No Fishing’.” So even if we still let ourselves down and let God down sometimes, we shouldn’t let that get us down. God has already forgiven us. There really is NO condemnation!
And God has set us free
2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.
God has released us from our bondage to sin. Before we were Christians we were trapped in original sin, that bias within us which led us always to make the wrong choice and do the wrong thing. But God in Christ has freed us from that grip of sin. We have been freed from the power of sin, although in this life not finally freed from the pull of sin. Now we are free to serve God in the power of the Spirit.
Romans 7 6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
We are not bound by rules and regulations. We don’t serve God out of duty but out of love. We are not serving God to earn a reward, but we serve God out of gratitude for the free gifts we have already been given. We let God the Holy Spirit guide our minds so experience true freedom. Augustine said, “Love God, do what you like.” When we truly love God, what we truly like is to please God. That is the freedom which life in the Spirit gives us. And the second characteristic of this new life controlled by the Spirit is
HOLINESS (vv 5-13)
The Holy Spirit helps us to live different lives – holy lives, like Christ Himself. He is the HOLY Spirit, the Spirit of Holiness, who makes us holy.
That holiness comes as we set our minds on what the Holy Spirit desires.
5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace;
Being a Christian is not about just one moment of decision when we accept Christ as our Saviour and Lord. That is only the beginning. Being a Christian is a lifelong commitment. A holy life is a succession of holy moments. Pure word and pure actions begin with pure thoughts and pure attitudes. God wants to purify our minds and transform our thinking. So let’s not forget the importance of disciplines like daily Bible reading, personal prayer and Home Groups. And then we must consciously offer ourselves to the Holy Spirit, day by day and moment by moment, finding out what the Spirit wants and putting all our effort into doing it.
As our minds are set on what the Spirit desires then more and more we will be controlled by the Spirit.
9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.
The Holy Spirit directs our actions, guiding, leading, empowering everything that we do. Not just in our “holy moments,” not just in our Christian activities, but in every aspect of our lives. And this is so exciting and inspiring
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 through his Spirit, who lives in you.
Stop and think for a moment what this means. It was God the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus Christ from the dead. And that is the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead, who is LIVING IN YOU! Which is harder? To bring the dead back to life? Or to help us turn from sin and live new lives. All the power of the resurrection, available IN US!
For this to happen, we must put to death the misdeeds of the body.
12 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live,
This means letting God the Holy Spirit give us the strength to say no to sin and yes to God. There are many wonderful experiences God the Holy Spirit gives to believers. Spiritual gifts. Prophetic words. Some people find themselves, “Resting in the Spirit” or being “Slain in the Spirit”. We praise God for all these activities of the Holy Spirit. But the most important thing the Holy Spirit does in the life of the believer is to bring the resurrection life of Christ into our lives. That new life is the most important experience of the Holy Spirit any of us could long for. Andrew Murray wrote that any of us can have as much of the Spirit as we are prepared to have of His Holiness.
Freedom, holiness, and the third characteristic of our new life in Christ is this.
The Holy Spirit comes to assure us that we are God’s children. He is the Spirit of Sonship
14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
I didn’t become a Christian until I was nearly 17. My family were not Christians. Sometimes I think it must be harder in some ways for folk who were brought up in a Christian home to appreciate what a fantastic thing it is that God chooses to make us his children. It meant so much to me to discover for the first time that God actually exists, and that he loved even a person like me. To find out that God changes us from his enemies into his friends, and even more than that, adopts us as his beloved children. We are not God’s slaves, or God’s servants. We are God’s children. When he returned home, the prodigal son did become a servant. He was welcomed home with the best robe and the ring and all the privileges of a son.
And so we cry “Abba, Father.” Abba doesn’t actually mean Daddy. But Abba is indeed the word that little children used and still do use today to address their beloved father. We should never forget that the heart of living the Christian life is not some metaphysical state of “eternal life.” Nor is it some forensic legal status of “being made righteous.” The beginning and middle and end of our Christian life is in those simple words, “Abba, Father.” A Christian is a person who enjoys the immense privilege of a personal relationship with the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. A Christian is a person who can call Almighty God, “Abba, Father.”
May our Christian service never get in the way of our relationship with God. A.W.Tozer said, “God calls us to be worshippers first and workers second.” Work done by a worshipper will have eternity in it. Our relationship with God must always be our top priority. The Holy Spirit comes to us to make that relationship real to us, to assure us that we are indeed God’s children.
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
God’s children. Heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ! Again I am going to leave you on a cliff-hanger. We will think much more about our glorious inheritance in Christ next week. But next time you are tempted to sin, remember who you are. A child of God, entitled to come into God’s presence at any time and pray, “Abba, Father.” An heir of God and co-heir with Christ with the happy certainty that one day we will share Christ’s glory forever. That is who we are!
Here indeed is the secret of living the new life Christ gives us, the secret of being men made new and women made new. It is to know the freedom of no condemnation. It is to allow the Spirit to make us holy even as Christ is holy. And it is to realise that we are not servants but we are truly God’s children!