Thank you for reading this blog.
That was a choice you made. In fact today you made many choices. Every day we are constantly bombarded with choices that we need to make. Some of those choices didn’t feel like choices perhaps. And it’s true that the vast majority of ‘our choices’ are in fact automatic and even sub-conscious of nature. You don’t necessarily think that out loud.
Life in the power of the Holy Spirit is not an automatic choice. You have to consciously choose to live in that place of relationship with God. Before you can even live a life in the Spirit, you need to be born again. That’s where everything starts. You receive God’s forgiveness and your dead spirit is regenerated (revived). God blows life into your spirit and you are again able to connect to Your Maker. But then what? How do you continue to connect to Him?
That’s where the choice comes in! You continue walking according to the Spirit and not to the flesh. That’s still a choice.
Every day we have the choice set before us: Am I going to walk with Him or not? That is not works! It’s relationship! Remember that God never wanted us to become robots that have to choose Him. He gave us a freedom to choose Him and only Him rather than choosing self. That choice is still set before us as if that tree of knowledge of good and evil is also set before you and me every day of our lives just as in the days of Adam and Eve. Every day we need to make that choice to be in that relationship with God. Every day!
And still, it is not works. It is not trying to be in that relationship as if we are indebted that to Him. That is not even love. That’s still slavery. God has enabled us to walk with Him just like Adam before he sinned through the finished work of Christ. Paul says it like this in verse 2:
“For the law of the Spirit of LIFE in Christ Jesus ahs made me free from the law of sin and death.”
WE are free. Romans 6 says that so many times (please have a look again at ‘Freedom I can believe in’). Romans 7 basically zooms in and shows what we are set free from: sin. Romans 8 now shows us how to walk this out through the power of the Spirit. Again, how does that New Life look like.
Let me give you a few characteristics of this New Life in the Spirit.
- The New Life in the Spirit is characterized by a new MINDSET
This is so important to understand. In Romans 7 I wrote that the inner struggle is NOT the struggle to not sin! That is the struggle of every human being that tries to meet the requirements of the law on their own. Sin does not allow us to do it by just being good or trying really hard. Why? We are carnal and in desperate need of a Saviour!
If it is true that we are really set free from the law of sin and death (which Paul confirms), then we need to live our new identity which is the restored image of God in us on a daily basis. That starts with our MINDS!! It’s a mindset. You can also call it a perspective on life. We need to look from Heaven’s perspective to earth rather than to look from earth’s perspective to Heaven. It’s a radical 180 U-Turn.
That’s the big choice we have before us.
Choice Number 1: Live according to the Flesh – have a mindset that is characterized by what?
NO peace. Inability to submit to God. Remember. This does not say the person doesn’t have a Christian confession, said a prayer one day, going to church…
It’s human striving, trying to be better without ever coming to the place of submission to God. Carnal nature – nature that is characterized by sin – can never, ever bring us into right standing with God, because it cannot submit itself to that place. It will still choose self over God.
Choice Number 2: Live according to the Spirit. Here there is peace with God (see also Romans 5:1). A very important characteristic of this renewal process is that God helps us to start a new process of thinking radically different. We once thought thoughts that were totally opposite to what we were created for. Colossians 1:21-22 says it like this
“And you, who once were alienated in your MIND by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight.”
Isn’t that amazing. In verse 21 we were still enemies of God because our mind was working against Him and against ourselves. We were our biggest enemies. In verse 22 God, through Christ, reconciled us to Himself and look at how He sees us: ‘HOLY, BLAMELESS AND ABOVE REPROACH!’
Sounds too good to be true, right? I mean, how do we usually look at ourselves?
That’s why Paul makes it clear to continue walking in this new identity when he writes in verse 23:
“IF indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard…”
So what’s our job in the whole matter? Continue believing! It’s a matter of perspective that informs how we see our reality, how we see God and how we see others. That’s so crucial to understand.
So the biggest battlefield of all times is where? Our minds! That’s where the ‘struggle’ takes place. Our minds need to be renewed. Renewing the mind is different from recycling. It’s not a bit of me and a bit of God. God is not a nice add-on. He’s everything or He isn’t. He is Lord or He isn’t Lord. Our feeling and thinking that seems so ‘natural to us’ needs a total overhaul, because we were born in Adam and we need to be born again.
Paul says it like this in Ephesians 4:17-24 and I will just highlight the main point here:
“…put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (verse 22-24)
Put off and put on! That’s the choice we have every day! And the battlefield where that takes place is our minds.
You see, ever since we were born – and remember we were born apart from God – we have the human tendency to think thoughts that are NOT of God. We were home-schooled in the wrong home! Our ways of THINKING – and very intimately connected – FEELING were shaped, formed, educated in the wrong place. Ever since we started to think, act and feel, we were shaped by the lie that we were not good enough, that we needed love and others weren’t always able to give it the way we expected it. This is true because we were all born in Adam and Jesus said that we need to be born again. In order to be born again, something first needs to die. What? Our self! Our way of thinking, reasoning and feeling.
That’s why Paul can say that even though we are free (We really are!), we continue putting to death the deeds of the body in verse 13. That’s a choice! It is NOT living in shame, guilt and condemnation. That is still Adam hiding in the bush clothed in fig leaves. No, it is rather the lifelong process of renewing the mind. And guess what? We don’t have to try harder to do that! Why? Very simple! We have God’s Spirit on our side! That is the life in the Spirit!
So the first characteristic is that we ought to have a new mindset. Let’s look at some more characteristics of the new life in the Spirit.
- Life in the Spirit is knowing that we are children of God and live from that place of sonship every day
There is a big difference between knowing things about God and knowing God. The first is perhaps factual, intellectual and informational. The second implies relationship, intimacy and love. Jesus restored us back into the original image of God and that means that intimacy with Him is possible again. We need to settle this in our hearts first, because if we don’t our relationship will be always in question. For example, we need to settle in our hearts that God loves us. Period! And still, how often do we, subconsciously perhaps, question that? Does He really love me? Why do we do that? Very simple. We still tend to believe that we are not good enough. It’s shame! When we get it wrong and miss the mark, whatever that may be, our first reaction is either denial, hiding, self-protection or blame-shifting. It’s a sure sign that we haven’t rested yet in the finished work of Christ.
Now, when we start where Christ finished, being in a right-standing with Him, knowing that our lives, destiny, purpose and calling are secure in Him, we don’t need to make up for anything. We don’t need to try so hard, because the hard work is already done. Instead of fearfully live the struggle of ‘trying to not sin’ we live a life enjoying His presence. WE are Sons and Daughters of the best Father ever. WE are not orphans! Jesus even promised us the Holy Spirit when He said goodbye to this earth. Christ’ Spirit is still present here! Who is the Holy Spirit? He’s our Helper, Comforter, Advocate, Counsellor. He’s very active, right here and right now. That’s why you don’t need to be a victim of what your father and mother didn’t see in you did or didn’t say or do! You are not the product of human ingenuity! You are loved by God! Settle that in your heart! That’s why we can truly cry out: ABBA. I am a child of God! He is my Father! What point is there in still looking with regret, pain, hurt to the past of people in our lives that didn’t love us the way we hoped for?
That’s why our spirit can cry out with His Spirit that we are adopted into His family. No longer we are orphans trying to survive.
So, new life in the Spirit has everything to do with renewing the mind and it brings us also into the family of God. We are adopted into a family.
Two more characteristics I would like to explore in my next blog.