Title: The Spirit-Filled Life brings Focus!
Text: Romans 8.4-9 (pg. 887)
Introduction: The Spirit-Filled Life brings Focus! Last week we began to dig into Romans chapter 8 as we took a look at The Spirit-Filled Life brings Freedom! This week: We look at the 2nd part of the Spirit-Filled life for the new believer: Focus. Romans 8. If you’re using a pew Bible, I’m on page 887-888. By the way, if you’re sitting near someone who doesn’t have a Bible, help them find one near you.
IN the 2018 News of the Year Edition of World Magazine, a lady in Duquesne, PA was reported as driving on the train tracks. It was last November 21st, and local police were summoned and when they tracked her down they did, in fact, find that she was driving on the train tracks. The police reported that she was sober. No alcohol or drugs in her system. She seemed perfectly fine. Why then was she on the train tracks? She was simply following her GPS, which had told her to go that way. And she did! She was so focused in on following the directions from her GPS that she followed directions down the wrong track… pardon the pun.
BTW: she got a ticket!
I think that’s a good way to describe the difference between living your life according to the flesh and according to the spirit. The Spirit of God will never steer you wrong!
But to be fair: this doctrine of the Holy Spirit living in us is a hard concept for us all. Isn’t it? Consider the man in John 3, Nicodemus – who comes to Jesus by night. John calls him a ruler of the Jews. Jesus calls him the teacher of Israel. And yet, when Jesus tries to explain spiritual matters to him, he still thinks in earthly terms.
Jesus told Nicodemus: flesh gives birth to flesh and spirit gives birth to spirit. Nicodemus struggles intellectually to grasp the concept that Jesus is laying out for him. He says: that which is born of the flesh is flesh. That which is born of the Spirit is Spirit. So consider: we are speaking of earthly, physical matters and heavenly, spiritual matters. The physical matters we get. The spiritual… they’re much more difficult to grasp. The difference can be like trusting your life to a human or a machine.
We pick up in v 5 of Romans 8, but I’d like to start in v1. That’s on Page 887-8 in your Pew Bible.
Let’s read that together. If you’re knees work well and you’re physically able, would you mind standing? Let’s begin in v.1 of Chapter 8:
8 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 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. 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. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 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. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
The big idea behind Paul’s teaching is pretty simple: there is a contrast between those who are in Christ Jesus and those who are not. That contrast? It is their focus. You see, those who live their lives according to the flesh have their minds set on the flesh. Those who live their lives according to the Spirit have their minds set on the Spirit.
Let’s discuss this latter group first: For those who are in Christ Jesus, verse 1 tells us that we are no longer under condemnation. Why? Verse 2 tells us that we’ve been set free from the law of sin and death. How is that even possible: see v 4 – because God sent his own Son to die for us in the likeness of sinful flesh. That means that God became a man in order to fulfill the requirement of the law. When sin was condemned the punishment was death. Jesus died in our place. He satisfied that requirement. But Paul doesn’t just stop there. Even though that is where we stopped last week. Let’s continue from here… rd v 4; 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. So, it is fulfilled in us – not by us. And then, who is us? Answer: Those who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
You might just be asking yourself at this moment if you are one of those people. How can you know? Paul is going to tell us in v 5&6; So, there are two types of people with two different results in their lives.
1st, to set the mind on the flesh is death. But, it isn’t that way for the believer. For that person, their mind is set on the Spirit – and that brings life. You have two opposites here: death and life. He gives us two others, as well: notice the end of that sentence – and peace. Keep reading and you see its opposite; rd v 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. So, those in Christ have peace and live their lives with a sense of peace that lost people just can’t have and just don’t understand.
Philippians 4.7 says: 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. How is that? How does that work? Well, the whole passage says:
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4.4-7
Does it say: Rejoice in the Lord sometimes? When times are good? When you have money? When you’re healthy! No. Always.
Reasonableness: or gentleness. The idea is when you respond to life and the hits you take from life – respond in a gentle – reasonable way that communicates to everyone your peace. Do you believe God’s got this? Then respond that way. We usually respond out of selfishness, don’t we?
The Lord is at hand. Instead of responding in selfish anger, TRUST the Lord – he knows what he’s doing. Pray about your situation. Don’t be anxious about anything, but in everything… Pray. And then…rd v7.
Transition: You see that is how the person who lives their life with their mind set on the Spirit responds.
Those in the flesh live in hostility toward God. And, the reason is (rd v 7) that they cannot submit to the law.
Two interesting facts here I want you to note about v6-7.
1st, note the chiastic structure Paul is using in this passage. A chiasm is a form of writing used in Hebrew teaching. You have:
The emphasis and point here is life and peace.
2nd, note that’s the 2nd time we’ve seen the law in this text. The first one was in v4 where Paul told us that Jesus died for our sins in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us. Those who walk according to the flesh live a life hostile to God and (see v7) they cannot submit to God’s law. It isn’t in them to do so. Back up in v2 Paul told us the law was sin and death.
Verse 4 tells us that Jesus fulfilled that righteous requirement. Jesus is the only one who could ever fulfill the righteous requirement of the law. When he comes to live in you by his Spirit, he writes his law upon your heart. That was the promise of the OT. One day he would write his law upon our hearts. BTW: that comes from Jeremiah 31.33: 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
This prophecy, of course, is fulfilled in Jesus. But, the one without the Spirit of Jesus coming into his life – he is filled with hostility toward God. And note these two results now: v7 he cannot submit to the law and v8, he cannot please God.
In reading this I’m reminded of another verse that mentions an inability to please God. It is found in Hebrews 11.6: 6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
So let’s review these steps:
- We now stand no longer condemned.
- Why? Because the law of the Spirit of life has set us free from the law of sin and death. That Spirit of life is what has come to live in us when we believe, and, he has set us free.
- How? Because God did for us what we could never do on our own. He fulfilled the righteous requirement of the law through the sending of his Son. And so now we see two types of people:
- Those who live life according to the Spirit.
- Those who live life according to the flesh.
- These two types of people show themselves to be who they are by the way they live and think. The Gk uses the terms be and
- Those who find their being in the flesh will experience death and hostility. They cannot submit to God’s law and they cannot please God.
- Those who find their being in the Spirit will experience life and peace. The righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in them because of Christ’s work and his presence in their lives. God’s Spirit moves into our lives and God writes his law upon our hearts.
Conclusion: So, why don’t we always live like it?
I think that is because we confuse the doctrines of Justification and Sanctification. Justification declares we’re saved. Sanctification is that process in which we must choose to what’s right. When the Spirit of God comes to live in you, you feel guilty when you do wrong. That’s called conviction.
I think Satan does a great job of deceiving us and he makes us think that because we’re justified we can live however we want. And through that deception, we make wrong decisions and suffer dire consequences. Aren’t you thankful for God’s grace?
This week I came across a video that is 18 years, almost 19 years old now. It is from Passion 2000 and the speaker is John Piper. His now famous speech is entitled: Don’t waste your life. That 7 minutes or so section from his Passion sermon spurred the book in 2003, Don’t waste your life and became a best seller.
I mention this video because I think you should YouTube it. Watch it. But, I also mention it because Satan wants you to do just that – Waste your life! He makes you think that you can never be the person God wanted you to be. You’ve messed up too bad, for too long. You’ve chased the wrong dream for too long. You’ve climbed the ladder up the wrong wall for too long. But it is never too late as long as we are here this side of Glory. The lie is: You’ve already messed up… why don’t you just keep doing what you’re doing!
While researching more information on this video, I came across a blog by a Scottish pastor. I couldn’t find his name anywhere on his site, but, he quoted a story by Octavius Winslow, who lived from 1808 to 1878. This story was used to add emphasis to the idea of Don’t waste your life. The story goes:
A young man, whom he had known as a boy, came to an aged professor of a distinguished continental university, with a face beaming with delight, and informed him that the long and fondly-cherished desire of his heart was at length fulfilled – his parents having given their consent to his studying the profession of the law. As the university presided over by his friend was a distinguished one, he had repaired to its law school, and was resolved to spare no labor or expense in getting through his studies as quickly and ably as possible. In this strain he continued for some time; and when he paused, the old man, who had been listening to him with great patience and kindness, gently said, “Well! And when you have finished your career of study, what do you mean to do then?” “Then I shall take my degree,” answered the young man. “And then?” asked his venerable friend. “And then,” continued the youth, “I shall have a number of difficult and knotty cases to manage: shall attract notice by my eloquence, and wit, and acuteness, and win a great reputation.” “And then?” repeated the holy man. “And then!” replied the youth, “why then there cannot be a question- I shall be promoted to some high office in the state, and I shall become rich.” “And then?” “And then,” pursued the young lawyer, “then I shall live comfortably and honorably in wealth and respect, and look forward to a quiet and happy old age.” “And then?” repeated the old man. “And then,” said the youth, “And then- and then- and then I shall die.” Here his venerable listener lifted up his voice, and again asked, with solemnity and emphasis- “And then?” Whereupon the aspiring student made no answer, but cast down his head, and in silence and thoughtfulness retired. This last “And then?” had pierced his heart like a sword- had darted like a flash of lightning into his soul and he could not dislodge the impression. The result was, the entire change of his mind and course of his life. Abandoning the study of law, he entered upon that of divinity, and expended the remainder of his days in the labors of a minister of Christ.
Now, I’m not in any way suggesting that you’re wasting your life if you don’t pursue the ministry. But, I am suggesting that you’re wasting your life if you’re not following Jesus. Truth is, you can pursue just about any vocation and be an ardent follower of Christ. How you ask? By living according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh. Too many people will live out their lives in fleshly pursuits and never find true peace and life. I hope and pray you’re not one of them.
Application: So, what would I like for you to take home with you today?
- Your walk is reflective of the way you think – i.e., your mindset. What you think comes out in the way you live. You cannot live according to the flesh and according to the Spirit at the same time. These two appear to me to be mutually exclusive. You are one or you are the other. But, you cannot have both. With that in mind, you know if you’re saved or not. If you aren’t, would you come to talk to me about it?
- I’d like to go back to verse 8: 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. I am by nature a people pleaser. I’ve had to work hard to get to a place where I don’t do what I do to please people. I hope people are pleased because I’ve pleased God with my life. I’m hoping I find God’s pleasure in my life. These verses in Romans 8, about God being pleased or not pleased, strike a chord with me. I see the Father say of the Son, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” I like that. When I hear verses quoted like, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I am moved. I think a wasted life would be a life lived that did not find the Master saying to that person, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” As you think about your life as it has been lived out to date, would you consider you’ve lived a good and faithful life? Would God declare his pleasure? Maybe there are some changes needed in your life, in your habits, in your routine. Let’s talk about that.
- Maybe there is another decision on your heart: joining the church, maybe you just need prayer. Maybe you’re considering a call to the ministry or the mission field.
In a moment we’ll be dismissed. We’ll have a moment of silence and then someone will lead us in a closing prayer. If you’ve never given your life to Christ, won’t you do that this morning? Maybe there is another decision on your heart: church membership, surrendering to ministry. Whatever it might be, I’d love to visit with you about that. Maybe you’re visiting with us this morning. Please, come introduce yourself. I’d love to visit with you some. We’ll have coffee, donuts, and cookies back in the back. Let’s fellowship together for a while.