Preached @ Anchor Community Church on August 17th
“…by making life easier for ourselves in minimizing the nature and seriousness of our sin, we become greater victims of it. We are in fact not healing ourselves. Those who say that they already feel bad enough without being told about the corruptions of indwelling sin misread the path to peace. When our people have not been taught well about the real nature of sin and how it works and how to put it to death, most of the miseries people report are not owing to the disease, but it’s symptoms.
It is often thought that “Accepting Jesus in your heart” is how you come to Jesus, but that’s a reductionist approach to the truth of the gospel. There is no doubt that “In Christ” our lives are made new, and are sins are forgiven, and we are made righteous because of what He has done for us on the cross. However, we truly come to Christ when we “Repent” of our sin and turn to Him in faith, because we recognize that it is the only way that we can be saved, and He alone is truly worthy of our worship.
It is His work on the cross that justifies the sinner before a perfectly holy and righteous God, and the subsequent power of the Spirit enables us to live the life God has called us to. We are privileged in Christ, and because in Him we have Peace with God, a Union with Christ that destroys any judgment and condemnation, a Freedom from the tyranny of the law, and we have been given a New Mind that changes our heart and identity, that will begin to create a desire to love God more, and do what He desires in our life.
Today we are continuing our understanding of what life in the Spirit looks like.
The Big Picture: Our Adoption as children of God supplies us with the motivation and tools we need “Put to death the deeds of the body”
How can we do this?
There are 3 Powerful Truths that Motivates us toward Holiness.
From the Head…
Life In The Spirit Empowers Us To Kill Off Indwelling Sin (Romans 8:12-13)
According to Theologian John Stott, we are in debt to the Spirit of God. He says, “In particular, if we live in the Spirit, we have an obligation according to the Spirit.” Christ’s work has justified us, and the power of the Spirit enables us to follow the Spirit to life.
Here Paul contrasts the reality of living in the “Flesh” and living in the “Spirit.” The first results in death, while the latter results in life. Clearly Paul is speaking of life and death as scripture has from the beginning in relation to our proximity to God. While it is true that someone can be happy without knowing God on a personal level, Paul seems to indicate that the depth of our joy (Especially in the midst of painful times) may be negligible. The fact is, when we give in to all of our desire in the pursuit of happiness, we often come up very short of our goal
In our passage living and dying according to the flesh, are both in a tense and mood that indicates we get what we deserve. “There’s a song written by Nine Inch Nails that says, “Bow down before the one you serve. You’re going to get what you deserve,” and in reality this is true. Who you ultimately bow down to will master you, and you’ll get what you aimed at. In contrast, living when we are being “led” by the Spirit, we will “Put to death the deeds of the body.” What deeds are we talking about? The word “Deeds” (Praxis) has the idea of Practice. What Paul is saying is that it was our “Flesh” that worked in concert with a dead heart/soul to do whatever it wanted, and whatever pleased it; but in Christ, we have died to sin, and we have been made new in the Spirit, but the flesh (Our Indwelling Sin Nature) still wants what it wants (See Romans 7:14-25). This is what the Spirit does; it gives us a new heart, a new identity and the power to change. Thus Paul says that when we live by the Spirit “you put to death the deeds of the body.” This is in the same tense and mood as living according to the flesh, but the result (Life) comes from God and our response to His grace and favor on us. Basically life in the Spirit will never be recognized without obedience (2 Corinthians 13:5; Psalm 139:23-24). This is an intentional desire to combat indwelling sin. What does it mean to “Put to death” Mortify) sin? Puritan Theologian Jon Owen helps here:
What Mortification is Not
Utter destruction of sin
The hiding of sin
The “Improvement” of a good soul
A Diversion of sin
An occasional conquest over sin
What Mortification Is
Habitual weakening of sin
Constant fighting and contending against sin
Frequent success over sin
If we are spiritual pacifist’s we will never be able to kill of our indwelling sin. We are either killing sin, or sin is killing us. Owen’s offers many ways to do this, but there are a few that are important. Remember, we are talking “Indwelling Sin.” The deep stuff that often times is dormant until circumstances (Good or Bad) root them out.
First we need to understand that only in the Spirit is this possible. Most of the indwelling sins are dormant, and seemingly benign. If the Spirit hasn’t regenerated your soul, there will be no desire to mortify sins that either don’t bother you, or you like. The spiritually regenerate individual begins to have distaste for sin, because it grieves and dishonors God.
Secondly, we need to consider what Owen’s calls the “Dangerous Symptoms.” Those symptoms are hardened sin, the sins we approve of, the sins we apply grace and mercy to instead of repentance, and the sins we give consent to.
Thirdly, we need to get a clear sense of the guilt (Not feeling of guilt, but thee fact your sins make you guilty), danger and evil of our sin.
Fourthly, constantly long for God and for Him to deliver us from the presence of sin in our life.
Fifthly, A sincerity and diligence toward eradicating all sin, not just the ones that we deem as big, or the ones that affect us most.
Sixthly, meditate on God and His majesty in such a way that you see the utter “Vileness” of your own sin. Here Owen’s goes to Isaiah 58 showing that even though the Israelites seemed to desire to please God, their worship wasn’t accepted because they didn’t take care of areas of sin (Sins of Omission) that infuriated God. They felt that if we go to church, throw up a few songs, and refrain from doing the big sins we are ok. But rooting our consumerism, materialism and individualism from us Americans is a very difficult task, that only diligent study and changing of the mind can do.
Life In The Spirit Radically Alters Our Heart Cry (Romans 8:14-15)
O be “Led” by the Spirit is to be guided by the Spirit. It’s a re-orienting all of our life around God, and this identity change literally changes our heart cry. We are no longer slaves, we are extremely wealthy children of God.
We have been “Adopted” by the king of Kings, whose wealth is unsurpassable. It changes us from slave, fearing God, children crying our “Abba Father.” That word Abba, is not a word, it’s a word a baby would make in any culture. It’s a term of trust and love and awe. This love, changes our hearts to cry out to a loving Father, because we have been adopted (Which in that culture meant far more than it does in our own) into His family, and no longer poor and downtrodden. It is the Spirit that turns hearts toward God, which otherwise are only turned inward toward ourselves.
Life In The Spirit Provides A Witness To Our Inheritance (Romans 8:16-17)
In Christ we have an incredible inheritance to say the least. And this “Witness” the Spirit gives us is not a witness of what we do, but an inner witness in our own heart that even in the face of pain, we have the love and comfort of the Spirit in our life. Pastor Greg Laurie said, “Only those prepared to die, are really ready to live” This is not much different than William Wallace’s soliloquy:
“Yes! Fight and you may die. Run and you will live at least awhile. And dying in your bed many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance, to come back here as young men and tell our enemies that they may take our lives but they will never take our freedom!”
Running from God may save you from persecution, but it will never bring you the joy you desire, a joy that is experienced the most in our pain.
…to the Heart
Life begins when we die to yourself, and turn to Christ! We struggle mightily with this idea of “Mortifying” sin, for two reasons. First, we have been fed a weak grace theology that doesn’t preach repentance, and the daily need of it, and secondly, because we are often too self focused to feel we do anything worthy of this kind of diligence. We have brought Jesus into our life, and not allowed Him a place of honor. Maybe now, it’s time we did, and that begins with repentance. God wants so much more for you, but many of us are wallowing in a very boring religion, waiting for the rapture, rather than seeing victory in our lives and the people around us.
Questions For Study
- If we are “saved” by Christ, why do we need to “Mortify” our flesh?
- What is “Mortifying the flesh?
- In what way(s) have you failed to fight against sin?
- What result does spiritual passivism have in your life?
Books For Further Study
NT Commentary on Romans, William Hendrickson
John MacArthur NT Commentary, Romans 1-8, John MacArthur
Encountering the NT Series: Romans Doug Moo
Romans, Martin Luther
Romans: God’s Good News For the World, John Stott
Romans, R.C. Sproul
Romans, John Calvin
St. Paul For Everyone: Romans, N.T. Wright