“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
This verse is the real conclusion of everything we talked about till now and it leads to the grand finale of the first part of Romans (Romans 1-8). We are free to live for Christ and the Power of the Holy Spirit enables us to live as sons and daughters. When we wake up in the morning, our minds don’t say that we are ‘sin waiting to happen’. No, we are enjoying being His children. We are OK with God. There is NO condemnation.
Does that mean that there is no struggle? No, it does not! The issue is not that we our lives are all of a sudden without a fight. There is still something going on, but it is a different fight. It’s the good fight of faith and not the desperate fight to not sin. That is a very, very different perspective.
There are two areas in life we need to be aware of when it comes to living in victory in the midst of trials and tribulations. The two are very much connected with one another. What are they? Although Romans 7 does not deal with it, I feel compelled to bring it up here, because people may still wonder if the struggle described in chapter 7 is the Christian struggle. For many years I grappled with seeing this. In fact, I was taught and believed for many years that the struggle in chapter 7 was still Paul the Christian. But then I read the whole letter several times and I couldn’t help but to see this chapter within the bigger context of the Spirit-filled life (chapter 8) and the freedom in Christ (chapter 6).
Allow me to give you two important tools to work with to not fight the wrong fight of ‘not to sin’.
First off, being right with God (= righteousness) does not mean that in this life sin is not presence anymore. The power of sin is overcome, but we still live in a fallen world. We also have mortal bodies and one day, not on this side of heaven, also our bodies will be restored as we will receive our resurrected bodies. Yes, sin is a reality that we need to reckon with, but it is not our identity anymore! We don’t have a dual nature. A holy nature living for God and a sin nature that does the opposite. We died to sin! We are born again. To be born again means that something first needs to die. That’s our old selfish nature. It is death!
Then why does Paul say several times in a lot of his letters to put off the old man in order to put on the new? It’s very simple. We still need to renew our mind. Our spirit has been regenerated. God breathed His regenerative Spirit back into us. That which was lost, is truly restored. Never, ever doubt that.
Yet, in Philippians 2:12-13 Paul says this: “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both the will and to do for His good pleasure.”
Now, what is it? We work or we don’t work? Well, it’s both! It’s not by our works, but it is through God’s enabling Spirit that gives us the power to work it out. Hmmm…
Where is then the battlefield? Where does the fight need to be won? In the mind!!
There are still thoughts that you think and you may wonder why you’re thinking it. You could think of patterns of thinking, automatic thoughts, negative self-talk, reflections, analytical rationalizations and more that need to be dealt with. God never created us in a way so that we can think ourselves out of a relationship with Him, for instance. Closely connected to our thoughts are our feelings and emotions. They need to be renewed too. Some of the emotions you know are not from God. Adam gave you those. Pastor Dan Mohler once said this: ‘We were home-schooled in the wrong home’. What he means with that is simple. Life taught us how to think and feel and a lot of it is really not from God. That’s why it needs to be renewed. But the renewal process is way more radical than we would like to admit. Paul says ‘Put to death the works of the flesh’. Why? Because works of the flesh only thinks for itself and that is our biggest problem. It’s you thinking for you!
This should not – I repeat, this SHOULD NOT – drive us to despair, guilt or condemnation. We simply allow God’s grace to do what it needs to do in our lives. Our job is to believe that He can and that we can’t. Did you get that?
So arena one is a very big one. It’s THE RENEWING OF THE MIND.
The second arena that we need to understand well in order not to mix things up of Romans 7 is SPIRITUAL WARFARE.
I believe that spiritual warfare is often the most misunderstood, misappropriated and misapplied area of the Christian walk. We are still in a warzone, but the warzone is not necessarily within us! It is the devil trying hard to get a foothold in our lives again by telling us lies. He is a schemer! He lies!
We don’t need to give him the attention that he craves for. On the other hand, ignoring his reality is the other extreme thing that we could do. “Demons and the devil are just fiction of our imagination,” some people may argue or “We have science now that explains things better”. Well, that would be a deception as well. He is for real and the battle is on! 24/7
I will come to this topic another time but let me say this by giving you an example. Let’s suppose you are a spirit-filled Christian wanting to live for God. You don’t want to sin and you are more and more enjoy His reality and presence in your life. Let’s say you are driving in your car and all of a sudden you hear something saying ‘in your heart’.
“Hey Patrick, you are enjoying yourself here, but do you remember last week when you got angry and frustrated with your kid? Come on, who are you fooling here? You are not a good dad!”
You ‘hear’ the thought and think immediately where that came from. In fact, it bothers you a lot.
Newsflash! The thought isn’t yours! It is the enemy of your soul trying to get a foothold. You see? This is not the sin-struggle of Romans 7, but a whole other ball game. Why would it bother you if it is your thought? It means that God’s transforming grace is working for real in your life. Why else would it bother you so much?
Now, I have two options here when this thought comes to my mind. I can either believe it, feel bad about myself and perhaps even ask for prayer. But the thought will not go away! WHY? Because that is what the enemy does and keeps on doing. Accusing! Lying!
Binding and rebuking out of frustration is not going to do it! Our job is to submit to God, which is our resistance to the devil. The only way the thought will really go away is by exposing it to truth. Light drives out darkness.
Instead of repenting, thinking that sin is still in us, we thank God for the fact that He is transforming us. We separate the thought, which isn’t ours in the first place from our identity. Why would we be bothered by it? That’s a sure sign that God has shifted our hearts and that something is growing inside of us!
When we get squeezed by the devil, we simply put on the new thanking God for what He is doing in us. Let me give you a simple example:
“Thank You God for your love. Thank you for Fathering me. I am your child. I used to be distant and afraid, but You have accepted Me. Your grace is transforming me every day of my life and I believe that you are shaping me into the best dad I can possibly be. I love you Jesus! AMEN”
Guess what? The enemy squeezed but he got Jesus’ blood all over him and it freaked him out!
When you squeeze an orange, what do you get? Orange juice!
Wouldn’t it be weird to get apple juice instead? It would!
Why wouldn’t it be weird that when a Christian is squeezed, anything but Christ comes out? That would be equally strange, right?
Jesus spoke of two trees producing fruit in Matthew 7:15-20. When He says tree, we hear fruit.
Every time we ‘get it wrong’, we have that outburst of anger or frustration, we immediately think it is our identity. But we don’t get it wrong all the time. There is also good fruit hanging in the tree. But bad trees cannot produce good fruit and all of a sudden, we get confused.
You see, when we focus so much on the fruit (read – our works) and we see a bad fruit, the tree will always be in question. Yet, Jesus is talking about the good tree producing good fruit. It’s about identity! We are right with God and that will more and more work itself out in bearing fruit to holiness. Don’t you ever allow yourself to condemn yourself, put yourself down or even blame the enemy for where you are. God loves you and gave His Son for you to get you back. It’s His way of saying ‘I LOVE YOU’.
Now, this is a freedom I can believe in! Freedom at last! O blessed man that I am!