Most people want a life
that is meaningful and fulfilling. We want to be
free from conflicts and stress. Even more so we want
to be less frustrated in our walk with the Lord.
Immature believers are filled with turmoil and
spiritual stress and struggle.
Romans chapter seven
teaches us if we try to live the Christian life in
human effort we will fail miserably. We experience
condemnation, hopelessness, entrapment, burn out and
exhaustion. Romans 8 tells us how to move beyond
that to a growing mature walk in the Spirit. The
dominant note in chapter eight is victory.
Let me share with you a
letter written by a sixteen-year-old high school
student that illustrates this exchanged life. It is
authentic and it is real.
Last week when delivering
flowers to patients in Hospital Vozandes–Quito I saw
an eight–year old boy in a coma from a serious car
accident he had several months ago. His name was
Toni. As I sat by his bed, a short lady came in with
tears in her eyes and told me what had happened and
she started to cry.
The mother told me about
her poor farm in a nearby Quechua Indian village.
She said that if the money didn't come in she would
have to take Toni home. He had been in the hospital
now for three months. He could hear and respond, but
could not talk. Toni's mom asked him to blink his
eye for a "yes" and a nod for "no."
I then went to the
balcony and saw an old lady sitting on a bench and
she asked me to sit down beside her. She told me
that her son was in room #305 recovering from an
operation. We began talking about what a beautiful
day it was and how God created man. As we talked she
asked me about my religion and asked what I was
doing in Quito. I told her about our work with
missionary radio station HCJB, the two mission
hospitals, medical caravans and that I was a student
in high school. I also explained why my parents
She told me that she had
attended a Catholic Church in the village of El
Corazon. She talked about how scared she was about
death and how her husband had left her. She asked me
questions like; "Do we have a priest who washes our
feet? What about the Lord's supper and confession."
With each question I tried to answer the best I
could. I took out a little New Testament and a
Gospel tract. We went step by step, verse by verse,
picture by picture over the Cinco Pasos (Five Steps
to Peace with God), a Gospel tract that I often use
to present the Good News of salvation in Jesus
Christ. As I shared Christ she believed on Him as
her personal Savior. We both rejoiced, and so did
the angels in heaven. I could see a twinkle in her
eye of perfect peace.
I have also had the
privilege of giving my testimony in chapel at the
Alliance Academy and on Christian Service Outreach
trips to different parts of Ecuador. Sharing my
faith in Christ has been a little scary at times but
exciting too. I love the promise in Deuteronomy
31:8, which says, "It is the Lord who goes before
you: He will be with you. He will not fail or
forsake you: Do not fear or be dismayed." I open my
mouth and He gives me the words to say and after I
sit down I think, "Oh mercy, did I say that: No, He
said it through me." I've been so blessed and look
forward to talking to others about Jesus and how He
can change their lives just like He changed, and is
I chose that letter
written by our daughter Paula because it perfectly
illustrates what it means to walk in the Spirit. How
old you are, or how long you have been a Christian
is not the issue, but are you yielded to the Holy
Spirit in your daily life. Paula still lives this
vibrant, wholesome witness for Christ as an adult.
This is the secret to living the Christian life.
THE CHARACTER AND
LIFESTYLE OF THE FLESH (8:5-11).
He has a fleshy
mind-set (v. 5a).
There are two ways of
looking at life. We will examine them separately for
a few minutes to draw out the contrasts.
One is an attitude that
tries to leave God out of the picture. The Apostle
Paul calls it a fleshy mind set. "For those who are
according to the flesh set their minds on the things
of the flesh, but those who are according to the
Spirit, the things of the Spirit" (8:5). The "flesh"
mindset is dominated by I, ME, and MINE. It is
selfish in outlook. Everything is centered on self
and how we can satisfy ourselves. His mind is set on
power, position, prestige, passion, and possessions.
His dominating impulses are set against God. He
takes legitimate human needs and fulfills them in
the wrong manner. We can even do the service of God
with self–seeking motives.
In this passage Paul uses
the word "flesh" to describe that weaker element in
human nature that yields to sin. This passage brings
out, moreover, that to have a mind of the flesh is
downright hostile to God. It means to a soldier in
the opposite army.
Paul uses an interesting
word for letting the mind dwell on something. It
means to think, be intent on, or to set one's mind
on or heart upon something. It is the seat of
intellectual and spiritual activity. It denotes the
whole person thinking, feeling and choosing. It
includes our outlook, assumptions, values, desires
and purposes. Do we take the side of self and the
flesh in opposition to God and His kingdom? Or do we
have a mindset that seeks to be in tune with the
Holy Spirit delighting in wherever He chooses to
What do you choose to let
your mind dwell upon? We have a choice since we have
believed on Christ as our personal savior. Here Paul
is contrasting the two ways of thinking. You can be
mentally preoccupied with something. He says they
"set their minds on." It is a mind-set. Here the
word for "mind" signifies the strong bent of the
mind regarding the object desired. When the mind is
described as fleshy it is set on the things that
gratify our corrupt nature. Ephesians 2:3 gives a
picture of the mind–set of the unbeliever.
The writer of Proverbs
saw this fact when he said, "For as he thinks within
himself, so he is" (Proverbs 23:7). You become like
that to which you set your mind on.
The human mind works a
lot like a modern missile guidance system. We can
achieve what we see in our mind. Our imagination is
the guidance system of our personality. Set your
mind on flesh and you will produce the works of the
flesh. The Christian has a choice.
Our actions and behaviors
are determined by our mindset, and our outlook on
life. As a man thinks in his heart (or mind) so is
he. What we choose to dwell on determines how we
behave. It is our thoughts, ultimately, which govern
our behavior. It is a question of our
preoccupations, our ambitions, and our interests,
which engross us. What we set our minds on will
ultimately determine how we spend our time, money
and energy. It is what we set our minds on that
determines how we live the Christian life. A mind
under the control of the Holy Spirit will produce
the fruit of the Spirit. A mind set on the flesh
will produce carnal behavior.
A mind set on the
flesh is death spiritually (v. 6a, 13a; I Tim. 5:6).
"For the mind set on the
flesh is death" (8:6a). There is a consequence for
this life style. The apostle Paul repeats the
warning in v. 13, "for if you are living according
to the flesh, you must die." Later Paul wrote
Timothy and described the results of such a life,
"But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is
dead even while she lives." Her mindset resulted in
A fleshly mind set
is hostile toward God (v. 7a). Cf. I John 2:15-17
"The mind set on the
flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject
itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to
do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please
God" (vv. 7–8). It is in open rebellion toward God.
The Apostle John defined
this mindset: "Do not love the world nor the things
in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of
the Father is not in him. For all that is in the
world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the
eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the
Father, but is from the world. The world is passing
away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the
will of God lives forever." The problem for the
believer has always been how to be in the world and
not buy into its philosophy of life. Far too often
we try to compromise with the world, we want to be
socially accepted. We look at appearance,
performance and status to find fulfillment. The
world's system and philosophy has always been in
total enmity with God. How tragic when Christians
don't realize that and try to copycat the world's
He is rebellious
toward God's Word (v. 7b).
The person controlled by
the flesh is hostile toward God. He refuses to
submit to God's will. He wants to do his own thing
in his own way. When we are yielding to the flesh we
are in open rebellion toward God. "It does not
subject itself to the law of God."
He is incapable of
pleasing God (v. 7b-8).
No matter how hard we try
to please God while we are acting in the flesh we
cannot. When our minds are controlled by the flesh
we cannot please God. It is impossible.
He did not have the
indwelling of the Holy Spirit (v. 9b).
Note the strong contrast
in the next verse. "However, you are not in the
flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God
dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the
Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him." If you
have been born again you have the Holy Spirit within
you. If you have never been born spiritually you do
not have the Spirit dwelling in you and you need a
spiritual birth. You don't have to go pleading for
more of Him. What you need to do is yield to Him.
Instead of rebellion against Him, you need to yield
to His indwelling presence.
The Christian lives in a
physical body like other people, but they are not
obliged to it. The world system doesn't characterize
them. They belong to another realm, or another
dimension. They are "in the Spirit" of God. Paul
speaks of our being "in Christ," and Christ being in
us. Believers live very close to God and in His
constant presence. He is not an occasional visitor.
The Holy Spirit has taken up residence within us. He
is a permanent dweller. The Spirit of God has come
to live in believers. This is our strength. It is
He did not belong
to God, and has never been born again (v. 13).
We do not owe the flesh
anything. The only payday sin has is death. Paul
says, "So then, brethren, we are under obligation,
not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for
if you are living according to the flesh, you must
die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death
the deeds of the body, you will live."
What is the fruit
of this mind-set? Cf. Galatians 5:19-21
The Apostle Paul gives us
a list of the works of the flesh. How would you like
to be married to someone like this? We could ask the
question how will I know one if I saw one?
"Now the deeds of the
flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity,
sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife,
jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions,
factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and
things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as
I have forewarned you, that those who practice such
things will not inherit the kingdom of God."
This is what the mind set
on the flesh will produce in your life. If you dwell
on it you will produce it. Let your mind be under
the control of this way of living and you will live
this kind of lifestyle. You will produce what you
set your heart to.
Now Paul says, let me
show you a better way. We have a choice as to what
we allow our minds to dwell on. Here is another way,
indeed, a better way.
The believer is
eternally secure in Christ (8:1).
Verse one is like a
breath of fresh air. "Therefore, there is now no
condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." We
can never lose our salvation because it does not
depend on us but on God. Once we are in Christ by
faith, it is the Lord who keeps us there forever. In
Romans 8:35-39 Paul gives us a list of things that
cannot rob us of our salvation. It covers
Do you wake up every
morning and say to yourself, "I am a child of God. I
have been forgiven of my sins. I am accepted in
God's family. He has marked me out as His own. He
has put His Spirit within me, releasing to me the
full–life of the Lord Jesus Christ. Every power that
Jesus Himself had to perform His life upon earth, I
have in Him. I am equipped to handle whatever comes
today. I can take whatever life throws at me because
I have Him and all the fullness of His life." This
is where the believer finds his identity, security,
significance and sufficiency. It comes from Christ
dwelling within us by His Holy Spirit. The world
system will leave you high and dry every time. Only
mind-set (v. 5b).
The Holy Spirit creates
in believers a deep–seated orientation toward
righteousness. Verse five reminds us of the
Spirit–controlled mind, "those who are according to
the Spirit, the things of the Spirit." The
Christian's mind is to be constantly set on the
things of the Spirit and what He desires. The
principle of the renewed nature dominates his
thinking and therefore his actions.
Romans 12:2, says, "do
not be conformed to this world, but be transformed
by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove
what the will of God is, that which is good and
acceptable and perfect." You see, we now have a
choice. We are no longer slaves to the flesh. We do
not have to let sin rule our lives. We have been set
free. We have a new master.
The apostle Paul stresses
this battle of the mind in 2 Corinthians 10:3-6. "We
are destroying speculations and every lofty thing
raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are
taking every thought captive to the obedience of
Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience,
whenever your obedience is complete."
True believers have
"life and peace" (v. 6b).
The way of holiness is
the way of life and peace. This passage stresses
that there is no other way to find life and peace.
The carnal life is filled with stress. The
Spirit-controlled life is filled with peace.
"For the mind set on the
flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is
life and peace" (v. 6). The kingdom of God is
righteousness, peace and joy in the Spirit. It is a
whole different life style. Jesus said, "My peace I
give to you."
"Thou wilt keep him in
perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because
he trusts in thee" (Isaiah 26:3). Jesus said, "Seek
first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all
these things will be added to you" (Matthew 6:33).
In John 10:10b, Jesus said, "I came that they may
have life, and have it abundantly." Men search in
vain in every other location. We find life and peace
in Christ alone.
Christians are "in
the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in
you" (v. 9).
The transforming power of
the Spirit abides in all believers. Every born again
believer has the Holy Spirit dwelling in Him. He
doesn't have some of the Spirit, or a portion of the
Spirit. He has all of Him. We don't need more of the
Spirit we need to yield ourselves to Him without any
reservations. We cling on to areas of our lives that
need to be in submission to His will. When you read
His Word and there is the pull on the heart by the
Spirit or inner prompting and prodding we must yield
to His leading. When He points out sin in our lives
we need to confess it and stop doing it. When He
points us to a great promise or illumines our mind
as to who we are in our position before God we need
to believe Him. It is His Word.
Jesus said, "Abide in Me,
and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of
itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can
you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are
the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he
bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do
nothing" (John 15:4-5). This is an intimate love
relationship with Christ. It is walking in the
Spirit. It is a humble submission to Him.
The Apostle Paul said the
same thing, "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you
will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the
flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the
Spirit against the flesh; for these are in
opposition to one another, so that you may not do
the things that you please. . . If we live by the
Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit" (Galatians
We are spiritually
alive (v. 10).
"If Christ is in you,
though the body is dead because of sin, yet the
spirit is alive because of righteousness" (v. 10).
It is true our physical bodies remain subject to
physical death. We will die. However our inward man
is being renewed into the everlasting image of
Christ. In 2 Corinthians 4:16 Paul write, "we do not
lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying,
yet our inner man is being renewed day by day."
There is continual refreshment for the
Spirit–controlled believer, even though the renewing
of our image in the likeness of Christ is a gradual
process of spiritual growth. (Cf. Col. 3:10-11). A.
T. Robertson writing in Word Pictures reminds us,
"The restoration of the image of God in us is
gradual and progressive (2 Cor. 3:18), but will be
complete in the final result (Romans 8:29; 1 John
3:2)." The renewed sprit has God–begotten,
We have the power
of the Resurrection life (v. 11).
Paul continues in verse
eleven, "if you are living according to the flesh,
you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting
to death the deeds of the body, you will live." The
spiritual resurrection life is present in us now. We
have the supernatural power to live the Christian
life, and produce righteousness. Now we have a
choice, and the power to act on it (6:11). Before we
became Christians we were slaves to sin, but now we
have been liberated and we have the power to live it
because the Spirit of Christ lives within us.
The result of a
Spirit mind-set (Gal. 5:22-23).
What does this kind of
mind set produce? It has a distinctive aroma of
Christ all about it. Paul describes the fruit of the
mind set on what the Spirit desires in Galatians
"But the fruit of the
Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;
against such things there is no law."
Now, how many of you
would like to have a child lived like that? Wouldn't
you rather have a spouse who had these
characteristics? Wouldn't you rather be this kind of
a person? Man, I do! The mind that is under the
influence of, dominated by the Holy Spirit produces
this kind of life.
OUR RESPONSIBILITY AS
BELIEVERS TO LIVE CHRIST (8:12-13).
We are under
We have a debt.
Negatively, we do not to live according to the
flesh. If we are living according to the flesh we
The media in Bogota was
dogging Al Wheeler after the murder of Chet
Bitterman. They came up to Al after word of
discovery of Chet's body in a public bus where the
M–19 killed him. The M–19 hijacked a public
transportation bus and rode around in it during the
night in the southern part of Bogota. With the radio
blaring loudly one of the men pulled out a gun and
shot Chet in the heart with one bullet. Then they
slowly stepped off the bus one by one and
disappeared in the night.
A little later in the day
the reporters asked Al Wheeler, "Mr. Wheeler, we
understand that you were really the one the M–19 was
after. What is it like knowing someone, a friend,
died in your place?" Al paused, and
characteristically ran his fingers through his wavy
hair, pushing it back, said, "It makes me feel very
sad to know that Chet died for me. But it is a keen
reminder that Chet wasn't the first person who died
for me. Two thousand years ago Jesus Christ came to
this earth and died for me on the cross and rose
form the dead. He died for you and me. And I am
eternally indebted to Him."
Paul is always reminding
the believer that we are under obligation. We owe a
debt. Not that we can ever pay for our salvation.
But we owe a debt of gratitude.
We are responsible to
the Holy Spirit to "put to death the deeds of the
body" (vv. 12–13).
Paul stresses our
responsibility by saying, "if you are living
according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the
Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the
body, you will live" (8:12–13).
Mortify means cut it off,
put it to death. Living the Christian life is
Jesus placed a strong
emphasis on repentance in Matthew 5:29-30. " If your
right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw
it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of
the parts of your body, than for your whole body to
be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you
stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is
better for you to lose one of the parts of your
body, than for your whole body to go into hell." It
must be slain, or it will slay us. He is not talking
about literally chopping off the hand or foot or
pulling the eye out. But you get the picture! That
is just how severe a judgment it calls for in our
lives. The severity of the responsibility is seen
again in Paul's language in Galatians 5:24. "Now
those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the
flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by
the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit."
declared: "There is no such thing in the Christian
conflict as a painless development. We must mortify
the deeds of the body if we are to live in the
Spirit. The Christian progress has in it the nature
of a crucifixion. It is to be effort, steadily
directed for the sake of Christ, and in the joy of
His Spirit, to destroy sin, and to win practical
Russian lumberjacks were
cutting timber on a high mountain slope. In order to
get the trimmed logs down to the river below they
sawed logs and made a huge ramp down the mountain
side so the trees would slide rather freely down the
mountain side until they landed in the river below.
There the lumberjacks would gather up the logs and
float them on down river to the sawmill. Late one
afternoon as the lumberjacks were headed down the
mountainside one of the men was walking down the
wooden slide because it was easier walking than the
rugged mountain terrain. As he skipped along he got
his foot caught between two pieces of wood. No
matter how hard he pulled and tugged and pried he
could not get his foot out of the crack. Suddenly
there was a shout high up the mountain signaling a
tree was coming down the shoot. As the giant log got
closer and closer it signaled instant death for the
lumberjack. In an instant he whipped out his hatchet
and chopped off his foot freeing himself just in the
nick of time. There are some things in life that
call for urgent action. Some things need to be cut
out of our lives to free us from greater spiritual
Jesus said, "You will
know the tree by its fruits." What kind of fruit is
your tree producing?
PRINCIPLES FOR US TODAY
1. Are you absolutely
sure about your relationship with Christ? Robert
Haldane wrote: "Multitudes who profess to have
received the Gospel, are walking after the flesh,
seeking to satisfy their conscience, and saying
peace when there is no peace." It is absolutely
imperative that we know Jesus Christ in an intimate
love relationship. This is not religious jargon or
religious faddism. It is a serious call to come and
be a disciple of Jesus Christ. You can have His
peace and sense of forgiveness right now by trusting
in Him as your personal Savior. Take a few moments
and examine your life before God and make sure of
your relationship with Him. There is an excellent
help in A Free Gift for You. It will show you the
way to Christ.
2. Is your mind set on
the flesh, or the Spirit? One way you will know for
sure is by examining the fruit of your mind set. If
your mind is set on the flesh you will reap the
works of the flesh. If you are focusing on the
Spirit–controlled mind set you will produce the
fruit of the Spirit. It is my prayer that you will
find the great joy of walking in the Holy Spirit
8:5-13 The Spirit–Controlled Walk
Life in Romans