February 1. Romans 8:11. The Spirit of Life, Buster Scruggs, and the Meaning of Death.

Romans 8:10-11. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Here’s the bad news- your body is dead because of sin.

Here’s the good news – your spirit is alive because the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you.

So, if the Holy Spirit raised Jesus’ dead body from the grave, can he do the same for you and me? Will he do the same for you and me? Are you sure? How can you be sure? Because the Spirit of life dwells in you, that’s how. Because you have Christ’s righteousness.

One day our mortal bodies will be just as immortal as our spirit is now.

Q: Romans 7:24. Who will deliver me from this body of death?

A: Romans 8:11. he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

This is the finale of “to live is Christ.” Not only are we forgiven and guilt free. Not only are we dead to the internal power of sin and the law so that sin no longer has to control us daily. Not only are we regenerated spiritually and alive to God so that we can live holy and righteous lives. Now, beyond all of those blessings, we know that we will live forever physically in the body, with the bodily Christ. Death now has meaning. And if death has meaning then life has meaning.

We live in a culture that struggles to find meaning in death. I recently watched the Cohen brother’s Netflix original movie The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. It’s an anthology of six stories set in the “old west” of late 19th century America. Each chapter tells a story of death. It’s well done (but violent).

Scruggs is asking us to confront the reality of death. As Brett McCracken has written, “it is a feel-bad movie with a nihilistic bent.” In Scruggs death seems so random and even pointless. Sometimes comical, sometimes scary. Sometimes the “bad guy” dies. Sometimes the innocent “good guy.” But as McCracken asks, “Is it right to dispense with the categories of good and evil all together?”

Romans 8 doesn’t.

Those who are righteous live.

Those who aren’t righteous die.

Romans 8:13. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Maybe what the Cohen brothers are on to is that when we look at humanity and judge people simply from their behaviors the line between good and evil becomes very blurry. If the good are evil and the evil are good, then life, and death, become the comedy they have turned it into. If death comes to us all, both good and evil, then what’s the point?

Ecclesiastes 7:15. In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these: the righteous perishing in their righteousness, and the wicked living long in their wickedness.

If the righteous just perish anyway, then life and death are meaningless. But maybe the better question is, “were they really righteous?”

The answer is of course no. The righteous don’t actually die in their righteousness because “none are righteous” (Rom. 3:10). All deserve to die. Death was never meaningless. Death was the wage of sin. It always served a purpose.

Here’s the good news that Buster Scruggs, and most of the world fails to see – there is a righteousness available for us by faith. And this righteousness is given to us by the Spirit of God. It is Jesus Christ’s own righteousness imputed to our account when we trust in him by faith. When we receive his life as a free gift. When we turn from our own self-righteousness and throw ourselves on the mercy of God.

When this happens you receive life because of righteousness. His righteousness. His life. Eternal life. Eternal life for your spirit and your body. To live is now Christ.

Death is not meaningless. It’s either your wage for your sin, or it’s your passage into Christ’s eternal, immortal life. When you are in Christ you know the meaning of your death. Now you’re able to live a life of meaning. A fearless life of Christ’s own love.

As You gave Your life to make me new / You rose from the grave, so I can too

January 31. Romans 8:7-10, The Sobering Reality of Grace, and Christopher Hitchens.

Romans 8:7-10. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

It’s a pretty glaring contrast: There are those that are IN the flesh and those that are IN the Spirit.

  • In the flesh: hostile to God; cannot obey God’s law of love; cannot please God; a dead body because of sin.
  • In the Spirit: Spirit of Christ dwells in us and we belong to God; LIFE!

People can get really frustrated with Christianity. Death bed conversions. Good people don’t automatically go to Heaven. Bad people just have to “believe in Jesus” and they’re saved. It can all seem so unfair.

“If you here of a death bed conversion don’t believe it.”

Well it kind of is unfair. In fact, it’s not about God being fair. It’s about grace.

When Paul places us all into one of two categories, like he’s doing above, it serves as a warning for us. ONLY THOSE THAT ARE IN THE SPIRIT PLEASE GOD.

This is not about behavior. This is not about religion. This is not about how good you are. It’s about grace and faith in that grace. It’s about the work of Christ and therefore the Spirit of Christ. To be in the Spirit is to be in Christ. To be in Christ is to know that salvation has to be given to you free of charge. This means that it can be given to me on my death bed. It can be given to me when I’ve done nothing to deserve it. And, just because I’m good doesn’t mean I have received what is being offered to me as a gift.

In God’s system, being good is not the point. A good person can still be in the flesh. The sinful, unpleasing to God flesh, the flesh that leads to death, this can be the status of the person who goes to church every week, and gives to the poor, and is kind to his mother-in-law, and is a nice guy.

Because nice people don’t go to Heaven. NEW people do. Nice people don’t please God. People with faith in Christ’s work on the cross for their salvation please God. God is pleased when his GRACE is displayed. Grace is God’s ultimate character trait. God handing out eternal life to the “good” people and sending all the “bad” people to Hell does nothing to display his grace.

Wait…what? Why?

First of all, because there really is no such thing as a good person.

Romans 3:20-23. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin…. 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

“Well as long as the good outweighs the bad…right?”

Sorry. That’s still a rejection of grace. And also impossible by the way. Let’s just be honest, our bad will always outweigh our good (think about your motives, thoughts, omissions, attitudes).

Second, because giving out Heaven and Hell based on how good or bad we are is by definition a system of payment and not a system of grace. God’s system of payment is called the law. And that system was never meant to earn Heaven for us. It was meant to show us that none of us could earn it. We all come up short (Romans 3:23 again).

Romans 5:20. Now the law came in to increase the trespass

This is the sobering reality of grace: you are completely unable to be reconciled to God on your own.

So what’s the solution?

Romans 8:10b. the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

Our eternal life and our righteousness are now found in the Spirit. Not in ourselves. Not in what we do. What we say. What we earn. How we compare. How good we are. No. Our life is Christ’s by faith. Our righteousness is Christ’s by faith. Faith is the solution. Trusting that to live is Christ. Christ alone.

Are you trusting in Christ alone?

This life is just a fleeting shadow I realize that life is found in You alone

January 30. Romans 8:5-6. The Mind of the Spirit, Jonathan Haidt, and Self Righteousness.

Romans 8:5-6. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

In these verses Paul introduces s to the importance of the mind. He uses a verb for “to set the mind” and he uses the noun form of the same word for “mind.” Let me show you:

In verse 5 he uses the verb phroneo, which means “to set the mind upon.” Those who live according to the Spirit have phroneo the Spirit.

In verse 6 he uses the noun phronema, which means “the mind.” The phronema of the flesh is death, the phronema of the Spirit is life and peace. I know verse 6 reads like a verb, but it’s actually the noun.

So what is Paul saying? He’s saying you either have the mind of the flesh or the mind of the Spirit. And you WILL actively set your mind on which ever of those two minds that you have – flesh or Spirit.

As we said yesterday, these are positional truths. Paul is not describing the battle that takes place in the mind. Yes, that is real. And yes, he did already talk about that back in chapter 7 of Romans (remember the 3 laws?). And yes again, he will later say that our minds need to be renewed over and over again. And NO having some “fleshly” thoughts does not condemn you or mean that you are not a Christian. The conditional truth is that your mind will fluctuate between flesh and Spirit all day every day. But this is Romans 8. This is about what we ARE at our core.

Romans 8:9. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.

We ARE in the Spirit. We HAVE the mind of the Spirit. We DO set our minds on the Spirit. This is what a Christian IS and DOES. If you are in Christ, you are in the Spirit. The law of the Spirit now governs your mind. You have his mind set. Back in Corinthians, Paul put it this way:

1 Corinthians 2:16. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

So what is the “mind.” What is phronema? What does it mean to phroneo? And how does having the Spirit’s mind change everything.

We’re talking about much more than just your intellect. Paul calls it your entire walk. Attitude. Lifestyle. Outlook. Worldview. Choices. POV. Opinion. Disposition. Even feelings.

Let’s just say the mind is super important. For Paul it’s what drives our entire life. And it will always drive us toward some version of righteousness. In other words, because our mind is naturally ordered by the knowledge of good and evil, it will always work to convince us that we are right, not wrong. That we are good not evil. That we are better than others. That we are more moral than everyone else (even when we don’t care about the morality of everyone else).

In our modern context, Social Psychologist (and atheist by the way) Jonathan Haidt says basically the same thing. His book The Righteous Mind outlined how our minds are intrinsically moral and judgmental. He says that we reason things out not to change our own judgments, but rather we use reasoning to prove to ourselves why everyone else should change their judgments to match ours. In his most recent book The Coddling of the American Mind, Haidt proposes that this bent of our minds towards our own self-righteousness has produced an entire generation of people who simply cannot handle a different opinion from their own. Things like “micro-aggressions” and “trigger warnings” now inhibit speech and the exchange of ideas. Emotional reasoning is commonplace – what we feel is what is real. In short, our mind’s bent toward’s our own self-righteousness now validates all of our personal offenses.

Here’s one of Haidt’s early TED talks about the righteous mind.

Whether he realizes it or not, Haidt is close to describing the same mind of the flesh that is death that Paul describes in Romans 8:6. A mind set on self-righteousness is the death of kindness. The death of humility. The death of confession. The death of friendships with people that are different from us. The death of personal growth. The death of true reason. And ultimately a mind that only self-justifies will produce eternal spiritual death.

“To live is Christ” is the mind of the Spirit. It is life and peace. Not because everything we think and believe and love are always correct. Or because our thoughts and morality are better than everyone else’s. Quite the opposite. The mind of the Spirit is given to us in spite of us. The truth that guides our mindset is Christ himself, not some achieved self-realization. His life is my truth. His life is my mindset. The righteousness that my mind is set upon is not my own.

This assurance now allows us to face our own moral and intellectual limitations. We no longer have to be consumed with our personal justifications. We can fight to win hearts not arguments. Because we have the life and peace of Christ, our mind can now rest. It can stop running toward self-righteousness. It can actually be quite humble and open minded. It can be renewed in love.

You are more than the human mind could ever hope to comprehend but still You’re calling me out into the ocean of your endless beauty I want to know You more.

January 29. Romans 8:2-9. Two Ways to Live.

Romans 8:2-8. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Romans 8:4 begins a sobering discussion contrasting the two ways to live – according the the flesh or according to the Spirit. These are positional truths. There are two kinds of people. YOU are either in the flesh or in the Spirit.

There’s two kinds of people my friend. Those with loaded guns, and those who dig.

Walking according to the flesh is the Fall of man. It’s choosing the knowledge of good and evil over God’s own spiritual life.

Walking according to the Spirit is what life was truly meant to be. It’s the Garden restored.

Walking according to the flesh is law keeping that drains us of the joy of life.

Walking according to the Spirit is freedom that is found in a new law – a law which is a life, Christ’s life. The Spirit’s life. God’s life.

Walking according to the flesh is guilt ridden failure after failure as you run from God.

Walking according to the Spirit is the guilt free life of knowing that no failure can steal your righteousness.

Walking according to the flesh is a mind set upon the self. Self-righteous religion. Self-indulgent lusts. Both are the mindset of the flesh. Both are living by sight only.

Walking according to the Spirit is a mind set upon God. The Trinity. Loving them and receiving their gracious life. This is life by faith not sight.

Walking according to the mindset of the flesh is death.

Walking according to the mindset of the Spirit is life and peace.

Walking according to the flesh is enmity with God. This is a life that opposes God’s grace and therefore can never please God.

Walking according to the Spirit is reconciliation with God. It is a faithful life that is pleasing to God.

Romans 8:9. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.

YOU…ARE…IN THE SPIRIT!

In this passage Paul is NOT describing two mindsets or ways of life trapped in the same person (that was chapter 7). No. Here he is declaring over us what we ARE. We ARE in the Spirit. We ARE indwelt by God. We ARE walking in the Spirit. We have the mind of the Spirit. Period.

Oh wait. There’s an IF.

if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you

If you have placed your faith in Christ, then the Spirit does indwell you. Know it. Consider it. Act on it.

If you haven’t, won’t you turn to Christ today? There’s no better way to live than “to live is Christ.”

You are here/Your spirit lives in me/You’ve opened my eyes to see

January 28. Romans 8:4. The Righteous Requirement of the Law, Pursuing Holiness (a warning), and “Chocolat.”

Romans 8:3-4. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Why did God save us?

That’s a pretty important question isn’t it? Paul actually answers it right here in Romans 8:4 – in order that… God sent his son and condemned sin in the flesh in order that we might be holy.

Holiness is the goal of your salvation. Of your whole life really. Holiness is life. It is living. God saves us to make us holy. We are not just saved FROM something (death, hell, sin), we are saved UNTO something…holiness (like the Israelites in Exodus).

Romans 8:3-4 shows us three things that have to happen for you and me to be holy:

First, God has to completely do this work in us (God has done). We could never ever achieve holiness on our own, because the law was weakened by the flesh. That means that we, apart from God’s work in our lives, would never want to obey God’s law and thus be holy. God had to do it.

Second, the righteous requirement of the law had to be fulfilled in us (not BY us). There is no holiness without the requirement of the law being fulfilled in us. What is the requirement of the law? Love – love God, love neighbor. Because we are IN CHRIST we stand completely righteous before God as concerns the law – there is no condemnation for our lack of love.

Third, we must be led by the Spirit of God himself. Because CHRIST IS IN US by the Spirit, we now have the progressive ability by faith to obey God’s law of love and thus see the righteousness of God fulfilled in our own lives.

What do these three truths have in common? God does it all. He sent Jesus. He condemned sin in the flesh. He gave us the Spirit. Oh yeah, He IS the Spirit. The Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, who did everything for us. It’s all grace.

Here’s the thing about the pursuit of holiness though – it’s a slippery slope. If you read Romans 8:4 and set out to pursue the holy and righteous requirement of the law, you will most likely fail miserably. The 2001 movie Chocolat gives us a glimpse of this. The story takes place in a small town in France. When a new comer to the town opens a chocolate shop with treats that are bit too “sexy,” the pious town mayor seeks to destroy her shop on Easter. But his pursuit of holiness doesn’t exactly go the way he planned:

What if what Romans 8:3-4 teaches us is that holiness only comes by grace? If our holiness is the righteous requirement of the law, and that requirement is love, then how do we love? Don’t we start by receiving love? That is, by receiving grace? If the righteous requirement of the law is IN us, then we have already received it by grace. Wouldn’t it make sense that it then grows IN us by that same reception of grace? If you set out to pursue holiness, aren’t you in danger of losing all your humility, becoming self-righteous, and being filled with pride (and then eating chocolate until you pass out)?

What if holiness comes from receiving grace rather than from pursuing holiness? What if it comes as we embrace humility, repentance, and the completed work of God? What if the fruit of the righteous requirement of the law only comes when we trust that it has been fulfilled in us by the Spirit?

We are under grace not law (Romans 6:14). “Under grace” means that it is faith alone that will produce this progressive sanctification of the “law IN us.” That’s “to live is Christ.”

We will feature the music of “Rivers and Robots” this week. Here’s your lunch break song and a great reminder that God does it all.

January 26-27. Romans 8:3, New York’s Abortion Law, and the False Humanity-Personhood Divide.

Romans 8:3. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,

Yesterday we looked at the importance of this phrase in Romans 8:3 – he condemned sin in the flesh. We stressed the importance of this deep theological truth for our union with Christ. God loves our bodies. He redeemed our bodies by condemning the Sin that dwells within our bodies. He made our flesh savable. He made our bodies habitable by his own holiness.

Today I want to extrapolate this doctrine out and apply it to the issue of abortion. January marks the anniversary of Roe v Wade. And this January saw New York State join the ranks of those states that will allow for late term abortions.

The biblical worldview, one that we see in Romans 8:3, is that humans are wholistic beings. We are both body and soul. We are a psycho-physical unit. God couldn’t save our souls without also saving our bodies. He had to end sin’s reign in not only the soul but also in the flesh. Christ had to take on an actual physical body in order to save us. All of this carries a huge ethical implication as it relates to abortion.

Today, many see a divide between personhood and humanity (the physical). Plato saw the body as being separate from the true self. Like a chariot driver is separate from his horse. French philospher Rene Descartes also separated the mind from the body (I think therefore I am). The mind actually needed to be freed from the body to thrive, he said.

The question regarding abortion used to be “when does life begin?” This is no longer the question. Almost every scientist, ethicist, theologian, and philosopher agrees that life begins at conception. The question now is “when does personhood begin?” Being a human is no longer the same things as being a person. To accept abortion is to accept a human/person dualism. But the Bible doesn’t allow for this. Our individual salvation doesn’t allow for this. And our salvation as a society doesn’t allow for this.

If sin can be condemned in the flesh, then the flesh (the body) must house sin. If life begins at conception, then sin also begins at conception. It begins when the flesh begins. But still many have tried to separate the sins of the body from true personhood or spirituality. This was the argument of the Corinthians. They believed the body to be merely a temporal casing for the soul. Therefore, they could just go around having sex with each other (1 Corinthians 6:12-20). But Paul taught them that what they did with their body was directly connected to their spirit, their soul. Christ was joined to their spirit and their flesh. Again, we are one whole being.

In order to kill the unborn we have to be able to say that the body is disposable, that it is lacking in value and dignity, and meaningless to personhood. We have to deny that the body and soul are somehow connected. But the scripture, God, and union with Christ won’t allow it.

“To live is Christ” offers us a better way. Those living from union with Christ must protect women and the unborn. These two things are not mutually exclusive. We can love both. We can provide justice for both. Abortion will never be defeated without a love and respect for women. If abortion rights are about respecting a woman’s bodily rights, what if we respected her bodily long before an abortion was deemed necessary? What if men fought not only against abortion but also against unwanted pregnancies by respecting women as the image bearers that they are, and manning up to protect women by adopting a Christ centered sexual ethic? Could this change things? In fact, it is the only real way to change things.

*Many of the thoughts in today’s blog came from reading Nancy Pearcey’s book Love Thy Body. I highly recommend it.

January 25. Romans 8:3. Sin Condemned in the Flesh, Coffee with Jesus, and The Finished Work of Christ.

Romans 8:3. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,

Romans 8:2 introduced us to the Fourth Law, the law of the Spirit of life. Romans 8:3 begins to explain the “how” of the Spiritual life. It can seem a bit confusing, but it is one of the greatest statements about our union with Christ that we could ever read. There is great hope in this verse. Hope for victory over the flesh and the death that comes with it.

Let’s break it down:
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do – The law could never destroy the Sin inside of you. Why? Because the flesh, or the indwelling sinful desires, would not allow it. Because of the flesh, the law could only stir up sin, not condemn it to death. So God did for and in us what his law could not do.
By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh – God initiated our salvation by sending his Son, Jesus. Jesus came as a human (in the… flesh) but without Sin (likeness).
and for sin – Christ judged Sin on the cross. Yes, he dealt with the guilt of our sins by his blood. This is called the atonement. But Christ also judged and condemned Sin itself. Sin no longer rules over us in the flesh. The power of Sin is gone, although the presence of Sin remains (see Romans 7).
he condemned sin in the flesh – Stay with me here. By uniting his life to humanity (the incarnation), and taking Sin into his own body on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21), he allowed for Sin to be judged and found guilty in his fleshly death. By our union with his death the condemnation of Sin in his flesh now is applied to our flesh. Sin is now condemned in the flesh.

This condemning of sin in the flesh means three very important things in our lives.

  • Your body is now redeemable. It can be resurrected. We don’t look forward to an eternal disembodied state. We will live bodily with a embodied Christ on a physical earth forever. We don’t become angels, or ghosts. We don’t float around on clouds. This is our resurrection hope. Our tent will become a building.
  • Christ can indwell your body. Because Sin no longer has control over your body, Christ can now, by the Spirit, live within you and control your body. You can present your body to righteousness. You can walk in the Spirit. You can have resurrection victory each and every day. Christ is in you!
  • And, looking back to Romans 8:1, this is the reason why you will never be condemned by your sin. Because your sin has been condemned. It’s the guilty party, not you.

Romans 8:3 describes an amazing work that has been done in you. But never forget, it also describes a completed work. There is no more to do. The indwelling Holy Spirit will not go beyond what Christ has already done at the cross (his death FOR you and WITH you).

I was talking to a friend today who was describing a really rough experience of temptation. She said that she kept crying out to God to help her, but it didn’t feel like God was doing anything.

We must remember that there is no no work of God beyond the cross. There’s no other help coming. It’s already happened. You have all you’re going to get in Christ. The Spirit’s work is to take us to faith in the cross. Crying out to God to do something beyond the cross will never work. Instead, in times of temptation, we need to remember what has already been finished at the cross – the condemnation of sin in the flesh.

Image result for coffee with Jesus it is finished

btw: I love Coffee With Jesus because Jesus is always seated, relaxed, cool, and enjoying a cup of joe stress free. It is finished.

“To live is Christ” means living by faith in his finished work. The work that God has done through his Son and his Spirit. There is no more for Christ to do. But there is plenty more opportunities for us to believe.

Do you believe that Sin has been condemned in you? That your future resurrection is secure? That Christ is living his life of love and holiness through you? How would your life look different today if you believed this?