The book of Romans is a mainstay of Christian doctrine.
The Roman road to salvation.
‘There is none righteous, no not one.’
‘All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.’
‘Justified by His grace.’
‘Believe in your heart and confess with your mouth and you will be saved.’
‘Free from the power of sin.’
Tucked in there with redemption, justification, and freedom from the bondage of sin is a little passage, the last part of chapter seven, where Paul talks honestly about the struggle of the new creature in us with the old man, the sinful creature that used to control us. He says, “What I desire to do, I don’t do and the things I don’t want to do, I do. Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
Then he says this. ‘Thanks be to God who gives me the victory.’ What victory? I find myself in the same struggle and many times I don’t seem to find that victory Paul rejoices over. I find myself loosing the battle and being left with shame and condemnation because of it. Where is the victory?
Well Paul has an answer and he shares it in the first verse of Chapter eight.
‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death.’
One of my favorite scripture choruses.
Paul goes on in Chapter eight to spell out the difference between living by the flesh and living by the spirit. Too much to share here but it’s worth reading regularly. Foundational to living the Christian life.
In Chapter twelve Paul breaks this (living by the spirit) down to a practical level.
‘I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
And be not conformed to this world, but be transformed, by the renewing of your mind, that you might prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
So here is where we are. We are spirit. When we receive Christ we are given a new spirit. We are able, by the spirit, to commune with God. Our spirit is in tune with God. But we are still flesh and our flesh is still carnal. Our flesh, our carnal, animal selves, cannot be allowed to have ascendancy. Those feelings of lust, wrath, envy, strife don’t just melt away. We can’t clean the flesh up. We can’t retrain the flesh. All we can do is say No to the flesh.
Caught in the middle between flesh and spirit is the mind. What do we do with the mind? We feed it with the Word. Paul said we set our minds on things above instead of things of the earth. Our minds can be trained, renewed day by day. And when we do that we find ourselves living more and more by the spirit. And we find that our flesh has lost it’s power to control us.
I fear that we let emotion control us too much. When we draw near to God in our spirits we get emotional. We can get confused and think that the emotion is the goal instead of a result. As good as it feels to feel good, our goal is not to just feel good. Our goal is to be controlled by the spirit. To obey God.
So the pattern is…
Make flesh a living sacrifice.
Renew the mind to God’s word and His will.
Walk in the spirit.