- Sermon Notes
The Law of the Spirit - 2
Romans chapter 8 is one of the most powerful chapters in the entire bible. There are more finger grease stains on this page than any other page in my Bible. This has to be the high point of all of Paul’s letters because it’s so practical and so spiritual at the same time.
Last week in chapter 7, Paul described what happens when the flesh is under the law. When a person lives under the law their flesh wants to rebel from it and they’re like a teenager with an attitude constantly resisting their parents’ rules. That brings the terrible conflict that Paul described in the famous verses, “I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I’m doing the very thing I hate… For the good that I wish, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not wish.”
Paul built the conflict into a great crescendo and then shouted out, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” He immediately gives the answer, “Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
This is why Paul is not ashamed of the gospel. It is the power of God for salvation for all those who believe and it is the answer of God to the second dilemma every sinner has; how do we have victory over this sinful flesh that we still live in?
We’re born with this flesh of ours and we’re going to die with it, but it doesn’t mean it has to ruin our lives or destroy us. Romans chapter 8 describes the victory that we have in Christ. It’s very practical, it’s very spiritual, and it’s very effective.
I. The Law of the Spirit of Life Sets You Free
- The question Paul asked in 7:24 was, “Who will set me free from the body of this death? I want to do good and right, but I’m serving the law of sin and death with my flesh.”
- It’s the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus that sets you free from the law of sin and death.
- What is the law of the Spirit? Paul applies the word “law” here and in chapter 7 as the principles that guide our lives.
- There is the Law of God; these are the principles God gave to Israel in the Old Testament to show them His way to live. But the Law of God is powerless to overcome sin. In fact, it only makes it worse. The law makes something wrong, and the very fact that it’s wrong only makes it more enticing to the flesh.
- There is the law of the mind; this is the desiring to do good and right in the mind. It’s that part of a person which agrees with the law of God in the inner man.
- There is the law of sin and death; these are the guiding principles of the flesh; who cares about the consequences? Eat, drink and party it up; indulge in pleasure; throw caution to the wind.
Galatians 5:19-21, These of the deeds of the flesh…
- Then there is the law of the Spirit; these are the principles of the Spirit of life. God gives His Holy Spirit to strengthen and guide our lives. This is God’s answer for our victory.
A. Therefore there is now no condemnation
- … for those who are in Christ Jesus.
- This is one of the most powerful verses in the entire Bible. Not only is God’s Law unable to bring victory over sin, it brought condemnation.
Romans 5:18, As through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.
- This is extremely important to understand because the enemy often uses condemnation to defeat people and many people actually condemn themselves.
Illus - When our daughter Nicole was in first grade we were called down to the school because she had taken some scissors and cut the sleeve on a boy’s shirt. When we got home she came up to me and showed me that she then cut her own shirt. This is enough to break a father’s heart.
- Other people promise God that they’re going to do better next week, “I’m sorry, Lord, I promise I’ll do better, I’ll try harder next time.” But they break that vow and feel guilty and defeated. Then, because they don’t feel worthy of God’s love, they’re convinced God condemns them, so they give up on themselves, “What’s the use? I’ve already made a mess of it, I’d might as well jump in with both feet.”
- The reason there is no condemnation is because you are in Christ Jesus. This is one of the greatest spiritual truths there is. That’s the point of the next several verses…
B. God did what the Law could not do
- Verse 3– what was it the law could not do? It couldn’t make me righteous before God and it couldn’t defeat the power of sin in my life. In other words, the Law of God cannot defeat the law of sin and death in the flesh. But God Himself can.
- By sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteous requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us.
- This is all given to those who are in Christ Jesus. If we could only understand the vastness of what we have because we are in Christ Jesus, we would be absolutely amazed.
- Because we’re in Christ, we’ve been crucified with Him and we’ve been raised from the dead with Him. And because we are in Him the requirement of the Law has been fulfilled; because He fulfilled it all and gave that to us as a gift.
Philippians 3:9, That I may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.
- In verse 3 I love the fact that God turns condemnation on its head, you might say. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because He condemned sin in the flesh.
- In other words, God condemned sin when Christ came in the likeness of sinful flesh and took our sin into His own flesh and in that flesh took the condemnation we deserved by dying on the cross.
- The law no longer has authority over us because the payment required by the Law has been paid in full.
Colossians 2:13-14, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having counseled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
II. Think According to the Spirit
- In these next verses Paul gets very practical. Victory has everything to do with what happens in the mind.
- Paul says that if you are in Christ, you are no longer walking according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
- When Paul lived under the law, the law of his mind was made prisoner by the law of sin in his members, in his flesh.
- But the law of the Spirit of life sets us free so we’re no longer defeated and it all begins with what the Spirit does in our heart and mind.
A. Set your mind on the things of the Spirit
- This is where the Pharisees, the Jewish leaders, had it all wrong. They thought that if they had the appearance of righteousness by conforming outwardly, they had good standing with God.
- They were wrong. God’s Word had a lot to say about what happens in the mind, Jesus also spoke about the heart and the mind.
Mark 12:29-30, Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’”
Leviticus 19:17-18, “You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart… nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.”
Matthew 15:18-20, “The things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and slanders. These are the things which defile the man;”
- Many people don’t understand the importance of controlling what happens in the mind because they think that as long as it’s just contained in the mind, no harm can come from it. They couldn’t be further from the truth.
- Thoughts are seeds that germinate into action.
James 1:14-15, Each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.
- Many people desire godly change in their lives, but don’t know how that happens. It comes from changing the mind.
Romans 12:2, Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Illus - If you want to be a man of grace, you must have gracious thoughts, or patient thoughts, or forgiving thoughts, or faithful thoughts.
- You can choose what you reap by what you sow in the thoughts of your mind.
- The mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God. The mind set on the flesh will see death as the result.
- The problem is that the flesh wants you to ignore sound reason and do something stupid. The reason it’s stupid, or foolish might be a better word, is because it gives no thought to the future; its only concern is the pleasure of the moment, the here and now. That’s foolishness.
Illus - It’s like a spoiled brat; it wants what it wants and it wants it now.
- Short-term pleasure that brings long-term pain is not reasonable.
Illus - A good illustration might be raising children. I brought my grandson, Ethan, to Best Buy with me to get an ink cartridge and of course they put candy right next to the checkout lane. But giving in to his pleas may bring short-term peace, but will make long-term lack of peace.
- The fleshly minded doesn’t calculate very well.
Illus - When Esau came in from the field he was famished. He saw that Jacob had cooked stew and wanted some, “First sell me your birthright,” Jacob said.
C. Take every thought captive
- In verse 13 Paul says that if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the body, we will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.
- There’s a couple of keywords there – “putting to death…” In other words, it’s an ongoing process. The second keyword – “being led by the Spirit.” In other words, the Spirit is leading the one who is victorious.
- How? By taking every thought captive.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5, Though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful… and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
- When you are taking every thought captive, you are putting to death the deeds of the flesh by reigning in the desires that want to be the master.
Hebrews 5:12-14, You have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
Illus - I remember watching Caesar, the dog whisperer, help a woman understand that she was training her dog to misbehave because she was rewarding the behavior.
- Many years ago there was a counseling movement that emphasized nurturing the inner child. Here’s a greater truth; the inner child is a spoiled brat. We need the Spirit.
Title: The Law of the Spirit - 2
Text: Romans 8:1-14
Date: December 14, 2014
We are in Romans 8 and I’ve got to tell you I’m excited because Romans 8 is perhaps one of the most significant chapters in the entire Bible. It’s just
one of those exciting moments because there’s so much contained in the Book of Romans that speaks to a person’s life. You know how you get those grease
marks on your page when you turn to the same page all the time? There are more grease marks on this page than any other page in the Bible because I
refer to it so often. Great truths contained in this. It has to be the high point of all of Paul’s letters. It’s so practical, so spiritual and powerful
at the same time. But he built up to it.
Remember last week in Chapter 7, Paul was describing what happens when this flesh of ours, this sinful flesh with the passions and desires, when it’s under the Law, well that doesn’t work. That was the point that Paul was making. We know that doesn’t work so well. He says, when a person’s living – their flesh is living under the Law, the flesh wants to rebel from it. They’re like a teenager with an attitude constantly resisting their parent’s rules. And he described the conflict internally with those famous words, “I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, I’m doing the very thing I hate. For the good that I wish, I don’t do. I practice the very evil that I do not wish.” This is the conflict. And he builds this conflict into a crescendo and then he shouts out, “Wretched man that I am, who shall set me free from the body of this death.” And he answers it, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
See, this is why Paul is not ashamed of the Gospel. “I’m not ashamed of the Gospel, it’s the power of God for salvation for all who believe.” It’s the answer of God to the sinner’s second dilemma, which is this; how do we actually have victory over this sinful flesh that we’re still living in? That’s a dilemma. We were born in this sinful flesh; we’re going to die with this sinful flesh. But it doesn’t mean it has to control us or master us or ruin our lives or destroy us. That’s why he gives us chapter 8. It describes the victory that we have in Christ and gives us very practical answers, very powerful and effective answers.
Let’s read Romans 8:1-14. No way we’re going to cover this whole chapter in one message. Romans 8.1; “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 you free from the law of sin and death. For what the Law could not
do, weak as it was through the flesh,” remember that’s the struggle, the flesh under the Law, well the Law doesn’t have any ability to help. So “what
the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did; sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh,” notice the words “likeness of”,
“and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh.” Interesting phrase. “In order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us,
who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”
I’ll tell you, that phrase right there in verse 4, that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us is so deep, there is so much contained in that one phrase, books could be written of it. It is a powerful understanding. And then from verse 5 he gets really practical. “For those who are according to the flesh, they set their mind on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, they set their mind on the things of the Spirit. For the mind that is set on the flesh is death, but the mind which is set on the Spirit is life and peace because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it doesn’t subject itself to the Law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh, they cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.”
Hey, if you have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and He is the forgiver of your sin, the Redeemer of your soul, you have also been given the Holy Spirit. That’s the point he makes. He goes on to say, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he doesn’t belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.” Now that’s a verse. That is a beautiful, powerful insight. This body of ours, this body of sin and death, it’s dead, but the spirit is alive.
Verse 11, “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you” in other words, this is the power of the Holy Spirit, He raised Jesus from the dead, “if He who raised Christ from the dead dwells in you, then He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies.” Now there’s some hope. 1 Corinthians 15 describes, “as Christ received a glorified body, so shall we also.” This is done through the Spirit who indwells you.
“So then brethren, we are under obligation, but not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. Because if you’re living according to the flesh you’re going to die. But if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body you will live.” Notice there “putting to death”, it’s an active present word. It’s a continuing action. You’re continually getting that victory he describes. “For all who are being led by the Spirit” keyword “led” there. “These are the sons of God.” And he’s going to then go on to more verses that describes the relationship we have now as adopted sons and daughters. Really powerful! We’ll get into that next time.
I. The Law of the Spirt of Life Sets You Free
But these verses are so important for us because they contain some of the deepest, most significant truths of our spiritual victory. And this is what he says. “The law of the Spirit of life sets you free.” Remember what Paul said in that conflict when the flesh is under the Law. “Who will set me free from the body of this death? I want to do good and right but I’m serving the law of sin and death in my flesh. Who is going to set me free from this?” He says, “It’s the law of the Spirit of Life, which is in Christ Jesus that sets you free from that law of sin and death.”
Would you notice with me the word “law” here, and he uses it broadly. What does the word law mean? Well it is the principles that guide life. For example, there’s the Old Testament law, the Law given to Moses and the Mosaic Law. These are the principles that guide their lives. Yeah, the principles that God gave to Israel showing them His way.
But Romans 7 showed us that those guiding principles, the law, is powerless to help us. It doesn’t help to overcome, in fact, it only makes it worse. The law makes something wrong and then the very fact that it’s wrong makes it only more enticing to the flesh. Then he said, there’s the law of the mind. This is the part of us that desires to good and right. The part of us that agrees with the law of God in the inner man.
Then he said, there’s also the law of sin and death. Yeah, it has its own guiding principles. Really? The law of sin and death, the flesh that we have? It’s got its own guiding principles? Oh yeah, it does. Like this, who cares about the consequences, that is a guiding principle. Eat, drink, party it up, that’s a guiding principle. Indulge in pleasure, throw caution to the wind. Those are guiding principles. And in fact, we get a tremendous description of the deeds of the flesh. Just in case you were wondering what they might be; they’re in Galatians chapter 5. Let’s just turn to the right, there’s 1 and 2 Corinthians and then there’s Galatians chapter 5. I think your notes say we’re going to look at verse 19 but actually let’s start in verse 16, it’s a better run up. Because verse 16 has got a great powerful insight.
He says it this way, “I say to you, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.” See, if you have received Christ as Lord and Savior, you have the Spirit. Well he says, “Yeah you have the Spirit but I’m telling you to walk by the Spirit. If you walk by the Spirit, you won’t carry out the desires of the flesh. Verse 17, “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, the Spirit against the flesh, these are in opposition so that you don’t do the things that you please. But if you are being led by the Spirit,” same phrase, “you’re not under the law.”
This is his point, hey when the flesh is under the Law, that didn’t work out so well. Chapter 8, is the flesh under the Spirit. . . oh that’s a whole other thing. He goes on to say, verse 19, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are…” by the way, this is not a complete list, this is a sampling. . . “immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities” that’s like strife, “jealously, outburst of anger, disputes, dissentions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these of which I forewarn you just as I forewarned you that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” God’s not into those things because those are the things of the flesh. He says, but verse 22 is the famous, “the fruit of the spirit”, a whole other list, “love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness,” etc.
Now let’s go back to Romans Chapter 8, because he then says, “Then there’s the law of the Spirit - guiding principles of Holy Spirit guiding you. The truth, the victory, the joy; these guide our lives because He ignites.” Verse 10, “the body is dead, the soul is alive.” That’s the Holy Spirt.
A. Therefore there is now no condemnation
Let’s look at Chapter 8 and kind of break it down to its practical truths. The first thing he says to us, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” That is absolutely one of the most powerful truths a Christian could ever get a hold of. It’s really important that we see it, lock into it, write it on your heart, absolutely register it in your mind. It’s a great truth.
There is no day out there in the future that you’re going to have to stand before the judgment throne of God and be knocking your knees together, afraid that you might get condemnation from God. It won’t happen, it’s not in your future; that is if you’re in Christ Jesus. Why isn’t it in your future? Because it’s in your past. Christ did it for you, He took all of that judgment and condemnation so that you have been set free. That’s his whole point, that’s not out there in your future. You’re living an eternal life right now. He’s given you that as a great truth. There’s no condemnation.
Now it’s true that being born in the sin of Adam, there is condemnation. We’re born in that. Romans 5:18, “as through one transgression”, Adam’s, “the result of condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness through Christ that resulted in justification of life to all men.” Very, very important to lock into, write it down, make sure that we absolutely grasp it. The reason is because the enemy often uses condemnation. He’s the accuser of the brethren and actually people often condemn themselves. It’s the nature of the weakness that we’re born into. But God has a greater truth.
It reminds me of when our daughter, Nicole, was – actually she was in kindergarten, we got a call from the school and Jordi took the call and it was Nicole on the phone and she’s just sobbing. The teacher made her call, I said, “What happened?” She was trying to get the words out. She got in trouble because she took some scissors and she cut a boy’s shirt sleeve. Apparently she didn’t get the memo on how to flirt with boys. When you’re that age apparently, that’s what flirting looks like. And so, she had to call us and of course that’s property destruction. So, when Nicole came home she came up and showed her sleeve on her shirt, it had been cut. How did that happen? She says, “I did that to myself.” “Why did you do that?” “I felt so badly for what I did to the boy, that I did it to myself.” Oh my father’s heart just reached out to her. “Oh Nicole. There’s such a truth that we’ve got to take hold of if you only understood what God’s love meant to you and our love meant to you. Okay, you made a mistake, we can learn from it and grow. But the condemning of self.”
Other people, they look at it this way, “I promise God, I make a vow, I promise, I’m sorry Lord, I promise I will do better. I’ll try harder next week. I will.” But they break that vow and then they feel guilty and defeated and unworthy and they’re so convinced that they’re unworthy of God’s love, they’re self-condemning and so they say, “What’s the use? What’s the use? I’ve already made a mess of it. I might as well just jump in with both feet.” There’s a better truth here. There’s a deeper truth to get a hold of for our lives. “Lock into this truth” he says. The reason there’s no condemnation is because you’re in Christ Jesus. This is one of the greatest spiritual truths there is.
B. God did what the Law could not do
That’s the point of the next several verses, where he goes on to say, listen, God did what the Law could not do, what the Law could not do because it’s weak in the flesh. Well what was it the Law couldn’t do? The Law couldn’t make me righteous. Law couldn’t make me righteous and I’m standing before God, and it couldn’t make me righteous by helping me defeat the nature of sin in my life. But God can. What the Law couldn’t do, God can do Himself. How? He says, “By sending His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin he condemned sin in the flesh in order that the righteous requirement of the Law might be fulfilled.”
Now this is such an important truth. Let’s kind of see it again, phrase by phrase. If we could only understand what this means. By sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, He condemns sin in the flesh by taking His flesh and receiving our sin in it, and He received the condemnation that we deserved. If we could only understand the power of that great truth, for we are in Christ Jesus. The vastness of that phrase is so right, so deep, if we could only grasp how deep it is that we’re in Christ Jesus. If books could be written about verse 4, libraries could be written about this.
Because we’re in Christ Jesus, all that we receive, “you’ve been crucified,” he says. You’ve been crucified? “Yeah, you were in Him when He was crucified. That made you crucified. You’ve been raised from the dead.” You’ve been raised from the dead? “Yeah, you were in Him when He was raised from the dead. That makes you raised from the dead.” “All the requirement of the Law has been fulfilled because you’re in Christ.” You have fulfilled all the Law? “Yeah.” So, as some judgmental person comes up to you and says, “Oh yeah, well have you fulfilled the requirement of the Law?” You can say, “Well I didn’t, but Christ did. And I’m in Him, so I guess I did.” Yeah the requirement of the Law has been completely fulfilled, all of that. This is so important to understand.
Philippians 3:9, “That I may be found in Him not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.” See in verse 3, I love the fact that God turns condemnation on its head, you might say. There’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ because He condemned sin in the flesh. He condemned in the flesh when Christ came in the likeness of that flesh and took our sin in His own flesh and He received the condemnation that we deserved when He died on the cross. Therefore, the law no longer has any authority over us, the payment has been made in full. Colossians 2:13-14; “He made you alive.” I love that phrase. You are alive, “He made you alive together with Him having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled,” to be canceled “out the certificate of death, consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us and he’s taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”
II. Think According to the Spirit
Then in verse 5 he gets so practical, helping us to see how, how do we have the victory? Many people want it. I want spiritual victory; I want to know how do you do that? And he says it very practically when he says, “Think according to the Spirit.” The thinking? See, victory has everything to do with what happens in the mind and in the heart. He goes on to say, “If you’re in Christ, you’re not in the flesh, you’re walking according to the Spirit.” See, when Paul lived under the Law he said, “The law of my mind was a prisoner of the law of sin and death.” But the law of the Spirit sets us free, so that we’re not defeated by it and it all begins by what the spirit does in the heart and mind. This is how he says it, “set your mind on the things of the Spirit.”
A. Set your mind on the things of the Spirit
This is where the Pharisees, the Jewish leaders, got it all wrong. Remember when we were going through the Gospels and there was this constant conflict of intention between Jesus and the Jewish leaders, what was that about? Well the Jewish leaders thought that if they just had the appearance of righteousness by looking like they were conforming outwardly that they were all good with God. hey couldn’t be more wrong. God’s Word has a lot to say about the mind; what happens in the mind and the heart. Jesus had a lot to say about that. Let me just give you some verses. Mark 12:29-30, Jesus answered because He was asked, what’s the highest foremost of all laws? The foremost is this, “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength.” This is the highest that God wants for you and it’s in the heart.
Leviticus 19:17-18; “you shall not hate your fellow countrymen in your heart.” This happens inside. Don’t harbor that. Don’t harbor hatred. He goes on, “Don’t bear a grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself, I am the Lord.”
And Jesus quoted that one. Matthew 15:18-20; “the things that proceed out of the mouth, these come from the heart.” This is so important, Jesus wants us to see it. The things that come from the mouth, these come from the heart. For out of the heart come evil thoughts. God is very concerned about what happens in the thoughts. God’s very concerned about what happens inside. Out of the heart comes evil thoughts like murderers and adulteries and fornications and thefts and false witness and slanders. These are the things that defile a man by thinking.
See, many people do not understand the significance, the importance of controlling the mind because in their minds they think, as long as it’s contained in the mind no harm comes from it. As long as it’s just in me what harm is just coming from thinking? That couldn’t be further from the truth because thoughts are seeds that germinate into life. Where do actions come from if they don’t start in the thinking?
In James 1:14-15 is one of the most powerful descriptive and accurate pictures of the lifecycle of sin, you might say. “Each one is tempted when he’s carried away and enticed by his own lust.” That happens inside, right? “Then when lust has conceived,” how’s that for pointed, “it gives birth to sin and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” There’s the whole cycle of sin right there. See, here’s the insight, here’s where it gets very practical. Many people want godly change, many people want godly things but they don’t know how to get there, they don’t know how that happens. But he’s telling us right here. It comes from changing the mind. Romans 12:2; “do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of the mind.”
Let’s maybe look at it practically and let’s do a show of hands. How many people, in just a moment we’re going to do a show of hands, how many people would say, “you know I would really love to be a man or a woman of grace. I mean, I know that’s a character quality that God wants from me, I know that God has grace, He wants me to have grace, I want to be a man or woman of grace.” How many people, show of hands, say, “I would like that in my life.” See, there’s a great desire for it.
But many people don’t know how to get from here to there. How do I get that in my life? He gives us a great insight. “If you want to be a man or a woman of grace, then think grace.” Think grace. You know how we are, if somebody hurts you, betrays you, says something about you, backstabs you, immediately your mind takes that and just runs with it. That was just the rudest thing. I can’t believe…and then you run into that person and you’re like, “Oh hi, how are you doing?” And in your mind many people think, “Well I was gracious, I treated them nice. I was thinking mean but I saw them and I was nice, that’s gracious, isn’t it?” Jesus says, “No, actually it starts in the mind.” Think grace. Think grace.
Now I was going to do a show of hands for who wants patience, but no one wants to raise their hand when it comes to patience because they’re going to say, “Well if I raise my hand that I want patience, God is going to do something that I’m going to have to be patient about and I don’t want that.” Okay, we won’t do a show of hands. But if you want patience you have to think patiently. Think patiently.
If you want to be forgiving you have to forgive in your mind. You’ve got to forgive them in your heart. It starts there. You want to be faithful? You want to be a man or a woman of faith? Of deeper faith? Think faith, have faith in the heart. That’s where the reality of faith actually is born.
Many of you know the story of our family, the tragedy that we endured with losing our daughter. And I said publically, my faith is sure. I have a Rock on which I stand. I have an anchor to my soul. But what good is it to say that publically if it is not a true reality. But I’ll tell you, it’s a true reality. I think about this all the time. This morning as I was going over to the Beaverton Campus, every Sunday morning I go to Beaverton Campus and help them set up and then come back. Driving over there by myself, it’s often when I’m alone. Thinking again. Thinking again. But I’ll tell you, in those private thoughts in my heart I don’t shake my fist at God. I trust God. I know His love for me is real. I know His love for me is steadfast. It is an anchor for the soul. The soul is inside. The reality must be found in the heart, in the mind.
B. The flesh doesn’t think very well
See, we can choose what we reap according to what we sow in the thoughts of the mind. And here’s where Paul is saying to us, very important, he shows us this. “The flesh doesn’t think very well.” He wants us to see. I want you to understand, you need to set your mind on the things of the Spirit because frankly, the flesh doesn’t think very well.
See, the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God. I don’t want the things of God, this is my domain God, stay out of my mind. Now a stiff arm to the things of God. See, here’s the problem with the flesh, the flesh wants you to ignore sound reason and do something stupid. The flesh wants you to ignore sound reason and do something stupid and the reason why it’s stupid, or foolish might be a better word, is because it gives no thought to the future. See that’s just stupid. To be only concerned for the moment without regard at all for the future is not reasonable. That’s the problem with the flesh, it gives no thought to the future. Its only concern is the pleasure of the moment, the here and now. That’s not reasonable.
Maybe a good illustration would be a spoiled brat, if you’ve ever met a spoiled brat you know the theme of it. They want what they want and they want it now. Where does that come from? That comes from the movie and the book “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” And now we’re taking care of our granddaughter, Aviah, so we’re trying to help her not to be whiney and want and ask for, so we help by using that phrase out of the movie. And so she can kind of step back and see in a very humorous, objective way, so she says, “I want some ice cream.” Well let’s do it together. “I want some ice cream daddy and I want it now.” So we help her say it, but you have to it with the British accent. Let’s do it properly. And so then she wants something else and so, well, let’s do it together, “I want some and I want it now Grandpa.”
It’s a humorous picture. But it’s accurate. Because short-term pleasure that brings long-term pain is not good thinking. The flesh doesn’t estimate very well. It doesn’t think very well. But if you think about the Spirit it’s a whole other thing.
Actually raising children is a good illustration. I brought my grandson, Ethan, to BestBuy, he’s like 2 ½ or so, and we went to get an ink cartridge and so we’re coming into the checkout line and of course as you’re standing in the checkout line, what do they have? Candy case. And they put it nice and low for the children to see. I could just see some marketing. And so there’s Ethan right there in front of the M&M’s. “Grandpa, there’s some M&Ms, I want some M&Ms.” “No, sorry you’re not getting M&Ms today.” “Grandpa! I want some M&Ms.” “No, you’re not getting M&Ms today.” “Grandpa! I want some M&Ms.” “Well you’re going to have to cry that one out pal because you’re not getting them M&Ms.” And he goes “Aww” and he walks away. I thought, “That is so cute, I want to buy you the M&Ms.” But I didn’t.
See, it is a good illustration, because to give in to those pleas, “Grandpa, I want…” to give in to that will buy you short-term peace, it will. Anybody knows, if you give into a kid you can buy short-term peace and it will bring you long-term pain. Can I have an “Amen” from somebody? AMEN! It’s a great illustration of the point. See, short-term peace, long-term pain - doesn’t calculate very well.
A good illustration might be the twins in the Book of Genesis, Jacob and Esau. Esau was born first by a few minutes, but he’s the older, he’s the first born and that means he has the rights of the first born. Double the inheritance, all the authority and the rights that come with being in that position. So, Esau loved the outdoors and one day he came from the field and he was famished. And Jacob had made some stew, it was red stew. And so Esau comes in and he’s famished and he’s hungry and he sees the stew and he says, “Give me some of that stuff there.”
So, Jacob, sees the opportunity, being a bit of a conniver, at least at this point in this life, sees the opportunity and he says, “Oh you want some stew. I see you’re very hungry, you want some stew. I’ll tell you what, give me your birth right and you can have a bowl of stew.” Your birth right. Your entire birth right. Double the inheritance, all the authority and the rights that come with it, for a bowl of stew. Are you crazy? That’s the most insane offer I’ve ever received. That’s not what Esau said. What Esau said was, “Okay.” In other words, the flesh doesn’t calculate, it doesn’t think very well. The flesh is more like this, “Me want stew.” “Me want stew, I guess you get stew, you’re the boss.” No, he says, “Listen, the flesh doesn’t think so well.” The flesh…” “Me want stew. Me want whatever…” He says, “Your spirit is higher. Igniting something deeper, more powerful. Here’s a greater truth, ‘take every thought captive,’” he says.
C. Take every thought captive
In verse 13 Paul says that, “If by the Spirit we are putting the death the deeds of the body.” “Putting to death”, the deeds, it’s a present, active constant. “Putting to death the deeds of the body.” See, because we need to see that it’s a continuation of the Holy Spirit’s moving in us because the flesh doesn’t give up so well. The flesh doesn’t give up. Wouldn’t it be great, wouldn’t it be great if someone struggling with the flesh and there’s like one prayer, one amazing prayer, “oh you’re starting with that flesh, come on I’ll pray for you. Let me lay hands on you,” this is a powerful prayer. “I’ll lay hands on you and you will never ever struggle with the flesh ever again.” Wouldn’t you love a prayer like that? Well there’s no prayer like that, because the flesh doesn’t give up. As long as it’s breathing, it’s not going to give up. But your Holy Spirit…see that’s why it says in verse 10, “the body is dead” in other words it results in death, “but the spirit is alive.” There’s something higher. That’s why he says, “putting to death by the Spirit and being led by the Spirit,” keywords there. How? By taking every thought captive. But what we have to see is that it’s a spiritual truth.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 he says, “Though we walk in the flesh”, yeah we have this body, we’ve got to do it. We’re walking in the flesh, “but don’t war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but are divinely powerful. And we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”
What does the word “divinely” mean? Spiritually. Powerful. Ignited by the Spirit, in other words. And by the Spirit we’re taking every thought captive. So what does the flesh say? The flesh says, “Me want stew.” But the Spirit ignites something that says something different. Well I’ll tell you what I want. I want that which is more honorable than that. I want that which is more beautiful than that. I want that which is more glorious and true and pure and holy, that’s what I want. And the passion behind that is the Holy Spirit igniting it. I want the things of the Lord, I don’t want anything taking it away from me. Me want stew. Well I want something much better than that. I want that which is honorable.
When you’re taking every thought captive, you see, you’re putting to death the deeds of the flesh by reigning in the desires that want to be the master. Of course, it wants to be the master, it wants stew. Well I want something higher, and I’m not going to lose it because of that. What you’re doing is your training the flesh. You’re putting the flesh in its place.
Hebrews 5:12-14; powerfully said, “You have come to need milk” he’s kind of rebuking them here. “You’ve come to need milk and not solid food, for everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustom to the deeper things, the word of righteousness”. He’s just a baby, he’s an infant. “But solid food, it’s for the mature who have deeper desires. Who, because of practice, have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”
Here’s an illustration; I remember some time ago watching this guy and he has a show where he trains dogs, his name is Cesar, do you know his show? I don’t remember his full name, nor do I remember the show name but I remember he trains dogs. Anybody remember this show? Okay. So I remember watching this one episode where he’s training this woman who’s got a problem with her dog and her problem is that the dog is very aggressive and so she says, “He jumps up on the couch and he’s right in my face. He’s like raahhhh and he’s all aggressive.”
And he says, “Well what do you do about that?” And she says, “The only way that I can get the dog away from me is by throwing a treat across the room.” “Yeah and then what happens?” “Well he comes right back and he does it again, so I’ve got to throw another treat and he comes right back, so I’ve got to throw another treat. I don’t know what’s wrong here.” “I do know what’s wrong here, you’re rewarding the thing.” See what happens? When the flesh says, “Me want stew” “Okay, I don’t want you to bother me; here you can have what you want.”
You know many years ago there was a counseling movement that emphasized the nurturing of the inner-child. When I was in seminary it was kind of a thing and we studied these things. Anybody ever heard of this? The counseling movement; nurturing the inner-child. Well I’ve got a greater truth. The inner-child is a spoiled brat and what we need is the Spirit. We need the Holy Spirit igniting a deeper passion, a higher desire, and I’m not going to sacrifice that which is honorable and glorious and beautiful and honorable, for something as cheap as a bowl of stew.
Romans 8:1-14 NASB