Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Flesh and Spirit

Romans 6-8.

Paul is showing us a different way of living in right relationship with God. That is his stated purpose for this whole letter. This is greatly illustrated in the second half of chapter 7 and the first half of chapter 8.

Paul gives us an illustration of how things work apart from the Spirit of God working in us. He says "The things I want to do, I do not do, instead I do the things I hate." This is our common plight as human beings. We set our minds on doing, or not doing, something only to fail again and again. We get so frustrated as we try and try and try, only to fail. Paul ends by saying "What a wretched man I am, who can save me from this body of death?" Eventually we come to the end of ourselves and our own strength and need someone to save us.

Paul answers his own question by saying that God, through Christ Jesus saves us and removes the burden of condemnation from us. Moving into chapter 8, Paul shows us the role of the Spirit in our lives. God put to death the sin that binds us, and that freedom from sin is offered to us in the Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts as we have faith in Christ. The former way of struggling with sin on our own leads only to anxiety and death. The Spirit brings life and peace.

That peace not only applies to our freedom from sin, but also to our relationship with God. In the old way of trying to defeat sin on our own and trying desperately to win God's favor, we never knew if we were quite good enough. With the Holy Spirit in our hearts, we have a great gift. God gave us this Spirit, not so that we would live in fear of him, but so that we would learn to cry out to him as our loving father. The very Spirit cries out for us, "Abba, father!" Literally "Daddy!"

Our relationship to God suddenly goes from distant and wondering, to intimate and confident. No longer to we rely on a list of rules to tell us right and wrong. The Spirit directs our actions, changing our motivation from self-interest to love. God does not leave us wondering if we are on the right path. The Spirit nudges our hearts, saying this is the way. When failure comes and we get off track, the Spirit directs us back on course with repentance and acceptance of God's forgiveness.

Why walk in the former way, depending on your own strength to fight sin and be good enough? Surrender your life to Christ, receive the Holy Spirit and begin walking in life and peace; free from sins chains and the uncertainty that you are not enough.