SUNDAY NIGHT CROSSTRAINING NOTES
The Mean Streak of Genuine Spirituality
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Sunday, April 20, 2008 - 10:00 a.m.  Sermon #: 1167
Pastor Don Horban

Romans 8:12-14 - “So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. [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. [14] For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”

Paul starts this section off with a concept we all understand - debt - “So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh”(8:12). Almost nothing else pictures obligation as strongly as debt. We can’t wait to eliminate our mortgage. Even worse than being in debt would be thinking you were in debt when you, in fact, weren’t. That’s the situation Paul confronts in our text today. He starts out with those words “So then....”(12). They draw our minds back to 8:9-11 - “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. [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.”

Then come the important words - “So then....”(12). In view of this - because of this - knowing this is now true of you - things are permanently, drastically different. Paul wants us to make a definite record of a huge change in these verses. Because of all this, says Paul, we are not debtors to the flesh - “So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh”(12). Stop making payments to the flesh. Stop living as though you were obligated to the desires that used to rule and reign. You might think like you still have to do that, but you don’t. You belong to Christ. Christ’s Spirit lives in your heart.

1) FREE JUSTIFYING GRACE PUSHES US INTO A DESPERATE BATTLE TO KILL INDWELLING SIN -
Romans 8:12-13 - “So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. [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.”

Free grace justifies us, but it also awakens and energizes us. The first thing free grace does is awaken us to what is at stake in our Christian walk. Nothing could be clearer than the warning Paul sounds in this text - “For if you live according to the flesh you will die....”(12a). This is what is at stake.

We need to be clear here. You and I don’t earn God’s grace by putting “to death the deeds of the body”(13b). Rather, the proof that we have received God’s Spirit is we do put to death the deeds of the body. Before we were saved we never knew what was at stake. We may have had some general desire to be better people in certain areas of life, but that was all. Then divine grace came. God’s Spirit quickened our minds and hearts. Suddenly, we can no longer be content with sins that Christ died to purge us from.

And there’s something else. When Paul says those who live according to the flesh will die he isn’t talking about physical death. We know that because he tells us in the next phrase that those who, by the Spirit, put to death the deeds of the body will live. So some die and some live. Yet we know that all these people will die physically. So the death Paul pictures is a spiritual, eternal death. That’s what is at stake here.

Paul is saying if we know this - if we see the seriousness of sin and the death it brings - we will allow the Holy Spirit to make us violent with the sins of our flesh. This is not legalism. This is a Spirit inspired battle. It is pleasing to the Lord. I’ll talk more about how we fight it in a moment, but my concern here is very different. I’m deathly afraid of the ignorance - the broad based ignorance - that there is in the church about the necessity of being brutal with the sins of the flesh.

Until you understand that spiritual life is war you will just play at Christianity. Jesus understood this - Matthew 11:12 - “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.” This is not violence against others. It is violence against sin in ourselves - “And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire”(Matthew 18:8). Yes, Jesus knew better than anyone that the kingdom was brought to us by divine grace. He died to purchase redemption and entrance into that kingdom. But He also knew what divine grace did to the one who received it. It doesn’t just cleanse the recipient. It enlists him.

2) THE TIME TO KILL THE SINFUL DEEDS OF THE FLESH IS BEFORE THEY HAPPEN - Romans 8:13-14 - “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. [14] For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”

Somehow, the key to putting to death the sinful deeds of the body is the presence and leading of the Holy Spirit. We simply can’t kill the sinful deeds of the body just by trying to stop doing bad things. We should try very hard to stop doing sinful things, but, on its own, our will-power will fall short of success.

So how does the Holy Spirit change all of this? How does He make killing the sinful deeds of the body something more than moral improvement? I think Paul has already hinted at how this works in Romans 8:5 - “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.”

Sinful deeds must be killed at their root. You don’t change deeds at the point of action. That’s too late. They already have too much momentum by then. The sinful deeds of the flesh must be killed earlier on - before the moment of actual temptation. Paul says the key is to live life with our “minds set on the things of the Spirit.” This is the same point he makes in today’s text, when he says we will Iive if we “by the Spirit put to death the deeds of the body....”(13). Now it remains to see how we are to put to death the deeds of the body by minding the things of the Spirit:

3) BELIEVING THE WORD OF GOD IS THE LINK BETWEEN THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE POWER TO KILL SIN - Romans 8:13-14 - “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. [14] For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”

First, we’ve already seen the link between Romans 8:13 and Romans 8:5 - “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.” So the capacity to kill the sins of the flesh comes from the Holy Spirit (8:13), and, more specifically, it comes from setting our minds on the things of the Spirit (8:5). We gain the power of the Spirit by setting our minds on the “things of the Spirit.”

But what are these things? What exactly is Paul telling us to set our minds on? There is only one other place in the whole Bible where that exact phrase - “the things of the Spirit” - is used: 1 Corinthians 2:13-14 - “And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. [14] The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” So here, the “things of the Spirit” are the words taught by the Apostles - the doctrines and teaching of the New Testament. So when Paul says those who are of the Spirit “set their minds on the things of the Spirit” (8:5), he means they set their minds deeply and permanently on the Word of God.

Now we’re on our way to discovering how we kill sin in the power of the Spirit. It starts with setting our mind on the Word of God. And what makes me think we’re on the right track here is the way Paul describes the Word of God as the “sword of the Spirit” in Ephesians 6:17 - “....and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God....” The Bible is the sword of the Spirit. And we mustn’t soften this picture. Swords are for killing. And Romans 8:13 tells us we must “put to death the sinful deeds of the body.” This is all starting to fit together. But it’s not quite complete yet.

How does the Holy Spirit use the Word of God to kill sin in my life? This is where the rubber meets the road. How can this truth be a flame with a power that burns up sin instead of becoming a religious cliche? I think Paul explain this in Galatians 3:5 - “Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?....” How does the power of the Spirit get applied through the Word? Paul says it must be by the “hearing of faith.” This means the power of the Spirit - the sin killing power of the Holy Spirit - isn’t conveyed by the print on the page of your Bible automatically.

The power to kill sin - to kill sin before the outward act of sin is committed - comes from believing God’s promise more than we believe the promise of our own sinful desires. The power of the Spirit through the Word is released as we “set our minds” to relish and taste the goodness of God’s promise more than the promise of our fallen tastes and desires.

This works in all areas of holy living. We trust that God’s sovereignty is better to look after our personal rights more than our own vengeance - Romans 12:19-21 - “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." [20] To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." [21] Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

We trust God’s promise to meet our material needs more than we trust our own greed that we alone secure our future security - 2 Corinthians 9:6, 10-11 - “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully....10-11....He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. [11] You will be enriched in every way for all your generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.”

Finally, it is in this sense - this sin killing work of the Spirit - that we’re meant to read those famous closing words of our text today: Romans 8:14 - “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” There is a very context-specific way of interpreting these famous words. Paul isn’t just talking about the leading of the Holy Spirit in all the guidance decisions of life - where to go to college - whom to marry - or which career path to take. He’s talking about letting the Holy Spirit use the sword of the Spirit - the Word of God - to kill sin before it happens in our lives. He’s telling us yet again to keep our “minds set on the things of the Spirit”(8:5), and to so follow His direction that we can indeed “by the Spirit....put to death the deeds of the body.”