Understanding the Gospel 
 by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira 

6 – Life in the Spirit

In our study of the Book of Romans, we have discovered two main facts and have had the opportunity of being totally convinced of them and of accepting them.

  1. The first is the fact of our total depravity, that we are sinners, not eighty percent but one hundred percent.  From head to foot, there is nothing good in us.  This can be discouraging, because it can cause a very low self-esteem, but I thank God for the other truth that in Christ we are sons and daughters of God.

  2. The second is the fact that, even after conversion in and of ourselves — and I repeat, in and of ourselves — the law is still out of our reach.  We can desire it; we can delight in it; we can promise to keep it; we may want to keep it, but we cannot because there is a force in us which Paul calls the law of sin and death.  It takes our mind into captivity and makes us do what we do not want to do.  But Paul ends Romans 7 with the words, “I thank God — through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Romans 7:24-25a:
What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Now in Romans 8, for the first time, Paul turns to the Holy Spirit.  He has waited this long to speak of Him because the gospel is Jesus Christ.  Having finished His work on earth, Jesus went to heaven and He promised the Christian church, through the disciples, to send the Holy Spirit, who was to represent Him.

He gave the Holy Spirit a special name.  He called it parakletos, which means not only Comforter but also somebody who is by your side to direct you, to guide you, to teach you.  He is to fulfill in our lives what God has already prepared for us in Jesus Christ.

Paul ends Romans 7 by summing up his predicament.

Romans 7:25b:
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

The very first thing he tells us is that, even though as Christians we still have the law of sin and death in our members and we are still struggling, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ.

Romans 8:1:
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus....


Notice, he is not saying this in the context of our sins.  He has done that already in Romans 3:21-31.

Romans 3:21-31:
But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.  God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood — to be received by faith.  He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished — he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Where, then, is boasting?  It is excluded.  Because of what law?  The law that requires works?  No, because of the law that requires faith.  For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.  Or is God the God of Jews only?  Is he not the God of Gentiles too?  Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.  Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith?  Not at all!  Rather, we uphold the law.

He is talking in the context of the law of sin in our bodies.  Sin is a dual problem and, normally, when we first come to Christ, we are familiar with only one aspect of sin and that is our many failures, our acts of sin.  Our primary concern is that we want forgiveness and thank God the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin.

But after we become Christians, we discover that sin is more than an act.  It is a force; it is a principle that makes Christian living very difficult and frustrating.  In fact, it is that principle, the law of sin and death, that makes us sinners.  Our sins don’t make us sinners.  Our sins only prove what we are, which is sinners.

The gospel has solutions, not to the sins only, but to the sin problem.  We must keep in mind that, even though we have not sinned in the last two hours, we are still sinners.  Even when God gives us total victory over sin, which I believe He is able to give us, we are still sinners saved by grace.

Remember, Paul says in Romans 5:19 that we will be made righteous by the obedience of Christ, but it is future because it is only at the Second Coming of Christ when this corruption puts on incorruption. 

Romans 5:19:
For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

Let me give you another term from Philippians 3:21:

Philippians 3:21:
[The Lord Jesus Christ], who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

The reason the law of sin and death doesn’t condemn us, even though we still have the law of sin in us, is found in Romans 8:2.  Verse 2 is not discussing what God did in us but what God did in Christ, because it is in the aorist tense, past historical tense.

Romans 8:2:
...Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

Notice there are two laws here in verse 2:

  1. The law of the Spirit or the law of life.
  2. The law of sin and death.

Remember, they are both laws and, therefore, they are both constant forces and these two forces met in the person of Jesus Christ.  Since they are constant forces, when one wins, it wins all the time and in Christ Jesus we have been set free.  That’s part of the good news of the gospel.

Jesus did not only save us from the acts of sin and from the guilt and punishment of sin, He saved us from the power and slavery of sin.  In Romans 8:3 he explains how it took place.  We saw in Romans 7 that the law of God cannot give us victory over the law of sin.  The law of God cannot produce righteousness in sinful flesh.

Romans 8:3:
For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh [the flesh made it impossible to keep the law], God did [what the law could not do, God did] by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in the flesh....

Notice that “God condemned sin in the flesh.”

The word “sin” is in the singular.  Paul is not talking here about the acts of sin; he is talking of the law of sin and death.  “Sin in the flesh” in verse 3, “the law of sin and death” in verse 2 and “sin in my members” or “indwelling sin” in Romans 7:17, 20, 23 are all synonymous terms.  God took care of only half our problem if He only took care of our sins.

When we first went to our college in Ethiopia, there was an orange tree in the backyard and we all looked forward to eating oranges from it.  When the first orange ripened, since we were four in the family, we cut the orange into four pieces.  Each of us had a slice but all of us took only one bite because it was so sour.

So I said to the children, “Now, we need to solve this problem.”  My little girl, three years old, came up with a solution.  “Feed the tree with sugar.”  It made sense to her.  I bought two kilos of sugar, about four pounds, plus some fertilizer.  We dug around the tree and fed it with sugar and, of course, fertilizer.  It was the duty of my children to water it.  The tree grew better; the leaves were shinier and it bloomed.  When the next crop of oranges came, they were bigger and sweeter looking.  In fact, when the oranges were half the size I put two more kilos of sugar to make sure the oranges would be sweet!

When the first orange ripened, it was really big and juicy.  The big argument was who would have the first taste.  My girl said, “It was my idea.”  My son said, “No, I am the one who did most of the watering.”  So we had to toss the coin and she won.  Well, we cut it into four and my girl took that first piece and bit into it.  It wasn’t sweet but she was clever.  She didn’t want her brother to miss the fun so she said, “This is excellent,” and he fell for it.  I had to stop the fight after that.

She asked, “What went wrong?”  The problem was in the nature of the tree.  This is one of the greatest mistakes that Karl Marx made.  He admitted that man is selfish but he blamed capitalism.  He was living in the 19th century during the industrial revolution and he said that capitalism had taught man to be selfish so we needed to change the political and economic environment and we needed to force the people to share until it became natural.  He claimed that this was a scientific method and, therefore, it was guaranteed to succeed.  Well, nobody believed him.  He died a poor man in exile in his London home.  Russia tried it for 75 years until they had nothing to share.

Selfishness is not something we acquire.  We are born with it.  I remember our first child thought that breakfast was at three o’clock in the morning.  He sounded the breakfast bell and it was worse than any breakfast bell that you normally hear.  His mother woke up, gave him his breakfast and put him back in his cot and he thought this was the time to play.  So she turned to me and said, “Now it’s your turn.”  I would rock him and play with him hoping he would go to sleep and finally, at 6:00 o’clock, when it was time for me to wake up, he would doze off to sleep.  I would gradually, slowly put him in the cot and when he touched that cold bedsheet his mouth opened.  It wasn’t the environment that taught him to live for himself.

So Russia had to learn the hard way.  At Whitman College, I had the privilege of listening to the second man in command to Gorbachov, who openly confessed that Marxism has failed.  We cannot change our nature by promises or by resolutions.

Jeremiah 13:23:
Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard its spots?  Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.

We can camouflage it; we can paint it white, but we are only fooling ourselves.  It is impossible for us to change ourselves.

I said to the children, “What do we do with this orange tree?”  Well, my son came up with a better idea, “Cut it down and plant a new one.”  That’s exactly what we did and that’s exactly what the cross does.  It cuts down the old life.  It strikes the ax at the root of our sin problem.  When Paul says God condemned sin in the flesh, he meant that the law of sin and death was executed at the cross.

Jesus did not bear just our sins, He bore us on the cross.  The Adamic life, which was infected with the principle of self, was brought to an end at the cross of Christ and, in exchange, God gave us the life of His Son, the life that is dominated by love.  And when that life dominates us, the world will see “Christ in you the hope of glory.”

Colossians 1:27:
To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Jesus said:

John 13:35:
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another [just as I loved you].”

So what the law could not do because of our sinful flesh, God did in Christ.  He condemned sin in the flesh.  The result of that is:

Romans 8:4:
...In order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

When you accept Christ, you surrender the flesh to the cross, but you do it only by faith and faith is not by reality.  The flesh is still there and you have to remind it daily it belongs to the cross.

Galatians 5:24:
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Then you must allow the Spirit to control you.

Notice the words “that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us.”  The “us” is the believers who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  The word “flesh” is that whatever is true of us is the flesh.  The Spirit is the life of Christ.  The Bible has two words for life.  Bios is our natural life and zoe is the life of Christ.  Remember that Christ said:

John 10:10:
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

That is zoe; that is the life of Christ.

Before the cross, Jesus is called the only begotten of the Father.  The word “begotten” in English can mean something that has been produced.  But the Greek word means somebody unique, somebody special.  Jesus is never called “the only begotten” after the cross.  He is called “the first begotten” because, before the cross, God had just one special Son.  But because He shared that life with us, now God has many sons and daughters of whom Jesus is the first.  John says:

1 John 3:1a:
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!

In Romans 8:5 onwards, Paul discusses the two walks.  He has made the two statements in verse 4 “walking in the flesh” and “walking in the Spirit.”

Romans 8:4:
...In order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Now he tells us what the walking produces.

Romans 8:5a:
Those who live according to the flesh [those who live according to their natural strength; those who live in their own power] have their minds set on what the flesh desires...

People who are walking in the flesh have a mind that is controlled by the flesh.  Our thoughts, our desires originate from the flesh.

Then he goes on to say:

Romans 8:5b:
...but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

So the question we must ask is, what preoccupies our minds, especially during our leisure hours.  What are we thinking about when we are having our shower?  What goes on in our minds?  Who is controlling our minds, the flesh or the Spirit?

Romans 8:6 tells us what happens if the mind is controlled by the flesh.

Romans 8:6:
The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

If the mind is controlled by the flesh, the end will be death, because the flesh is dominated by sin.  Remember, Nicodemus came to Jesus one night saying, “No man can do the miracles You are doing unless You come from God.”  Jesus ignored all that flattery and all his talk and said, “Nicodemus, you need to be born again.”

Then in John 3:6 He made this statement:

John 3:6:
Flesh gives birth to flesh [always], but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.

Let me make it very clear that, according to the New Testament, the flesh cannot be salvaged.  The only verdict that God has for the flesh is the cross of Jesus Christ, so we have to stop trying to improve the flesh.

Paul is saying that, if you allow your mind to be controlled by the flesh, you will end up out of Christ, because the flesh is still the tool of Satan.  He uses your flesh to get you.  That is the greatest mistake the monks made.  In the monastic system, the monks said, “We must not be of the world.”  So they left the world and built their monasteries on difficult, inaccessible mountains, but they took the world with them in their flesh.  If you read what was discovered in some of those monasteries, you will be absolutely shocked that these monks were practicing such atrocities.

The fact that we go and live in the country doesn’t mean that we are leaving the world.  The world is in us; it is part of us; it’s in our flesh.  John describes the world in 1 John 2:15-16 — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (boasting of what we have and do).

1 John 2:15-16:
Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.  For everything in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — comes not from the Father but from the world.

This belongs to the world so for us to conquer the flesh we must be spiritually minded.  That means that we must have our mind controlled by the Spirit.

Romans 8:7:
The mind governed by the flesh is [1] hostile to God; it [2] does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.

The flesh is unconvertible so please don’t get the idea that God will change your flesh.  There will never come a time when your sinful human nature will be in harmony with God.  That is why, when God gives you the victory over the flesh, the flesh will always suffer.  It will be deprived of what it wants.

Now this is only in this world.  When Christ comes and “this corruption puts on incorruption,” the struggle will be over.  I thank God the struggle is not for eternity.

Romans 8:8:
Those who are in the realm of the flesh [that is, those who are controlled by the flesh] cannot please God.

No matter how much you use your willpower, no matter how much you make promises and resolutions, you cannot please God through your natural ability.

Then Paul tells us:

Romans 8:9:
You [Christians], however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you.  And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.

The question is not if you are a member of the church and have your names on the books, but whether you are a born-again Christian.  Your name in the books has nothing to do with it.

I remember at our college in Ethiopia, we had two school fees:  one was for students who came from homes of church members and one was for outsiders.  One bright student who came from a very poor family said to himself, “If I join the church, I will save myself $50 a month.”  So he went to the pastor and said, “I’ve been noticing you people and I’m very impressed with you.”  Every pastor likes such statements.  “Can I have some Bible Studies?”  The pastor gave him studies and he said, “Yes” to everything.

“When can I be baptized?”  He was anxious and three weeks later he was baptized.  As he was coming out of the water, while he was still wet, he said to his friend in Amharic — the pastor was not a missionary; he did not understand the language — “I just saved myself $50 a month.”  Four years later, after he graduated from the college, he said good-bye to the church.  He got what he wanted for a lesser price.

Paul is talking to those who are born-again Christians.  “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.”  One day I had a couple come to visit my home.  They didn’t know I was a pastor and they said, “Can we study with you?”  I said, “Sure.  Can we begin with prayer?”  “Oh, no, no.  You’re a Philistine.  How can two pray unless they agree?”  So we had to go to the Bible study and the first thing they said to me was that Jesus was not divine, that He was “a god.”

I let them talk.  This lady went on and on how the scholars had perverted the English Bible.  That’s why they had to have their own Bible and that what the Bible says is that Jesus was “a god.”  After she had finished, I went to my bookshelf and pulled out my Greek Bible and I said, “Show it to me.”  She said to me, “Do you know Greek?”  I said, “Well, this is a Greek Bible.  You have been talking about the Greek.  Here it is.”  She said, “No, no, I do not know the language.”  I said, “Please, then, don’t use it if you don’t know it.  Let me tell you something.  The indefinite article does not exist in the Greek language so what you just told me is a lie.”

Then she explained to me about her church.  They have two groups — 144,000 and the rest.  The 144,000 will go to heaven; they can take the Lord’s supper and have the Spirit.  The rest will have heaven on earth, but they do not have the Spirit.  I said, “Then are you a Christian if you do not have the Spirit?”  “Oh, yes.”  So I read them this text:

Romans 8:9b:
And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.

I said, “Now someone is lying.  Either Paul is lying or you are lying.  I know who is lying.”  By this time, they were ready to leave.

“If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.”  In other words, he is not a true Christian even though he may be a member of the church, a deacon, even an elder.  God does not give us the Spirit on the basis that we promise to be good but on the basis that we accept our death in Christ in exchange for the life of Christ.

The confession of that is baptism, which is a public confession that “I surrender to my death in Christ.  I am crucified with Christ and, in exchange, I accept the gift of God, the life of Christ, which comes to me through the Holy Spirit.”  In Romans 8:10, to Paul, “the Spirit in you” and “Christ in you” are synonymous.

Romans 8:10:
But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death [because you have surrendered it to the cross] because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.

The life of the Spirit is the life of righteousness and that life, that Spirit, can produce righteousness in sinful flesh.  That is a mystery.

Here it is in Romans:

Romans 8:11:
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies [in other words, bodies dead in sins] because of his Spirit who lives in you.

It is very significant what the resurrection of Christ has to do with all this.  We saw that the ultimate power of sin is the grave.  If you can conquer the grave, you can conquer sin.

When I was in Ethiopia, I was having a discussion with a Russian Communist who called himself “A Missionary for Communism.”  He said to me that Christianity has not solved the problem of exploitation.  I asked him if Communism had solved the problem of death.  If you give people all the wonderful things of this world but have not solved the major problem of the grim reaper, you have not given them peace and joy.  He said, “Not yet, but give us time.  Science will find a solution for that.”  I said, “While you are waiting, I already have it because my Savior has already conquered death.”

If science could conquer death, it could conquer sin, because the ultimate power of sin is to take you to the grave.  Jesus really died and our sins killed Him but our sins could not keep him there; therefore, the resurrection of Christ is the greatest proof of the power of the gospel against sin.  When John introduced Jesus he did not say, “Here is the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.”

John 1:29:
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

The word sin is in the singular.

Paul is talking of sin as a power and Jesus conquered sin as a power.  He did it through the Spirit and that same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead is now dwelling in you.  The Holy Spirit does not add to the gospel.  The purpose, the function, of the Holy Spirit is to make real in your life and in my life what is already true of us in Jesus Christ.

Paul says:

Romans 1:17:
For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed — a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written:  “The righteous will live by faith.”

A justified person begins to live, not at the Second Coming of Christ, but the moment he is converted and has experienced the new birth.  The reflection of Christ is gradual because, when you become a Christian, you have to learn to walk in a new way.  All your life you were walking in the flesh.  Now, as a baby in Christ, you have to learn to walk in the Spirit.  Like any baby, you will fall many times.  Mothers, do you count how many times your baby falls?  After seventy times seven you say, “Next time you fall, baby, out of the house?”  If we sinful beings are patient and long-suffering with our children, don’t you think the Father is patient with His children?

Paul is concluding this section:

Romans 8:12-13:
Therefore, brothers and sisters [talking to believers], we have an obligation [that obligation is based on the fact that we have obeyed the gospel]— but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it.  For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

Remember one thing:  that after you have become a Christian, Satan has lost a subject, because becoming a Christian also involves a change of citizenship.  You belonged to the world, you were a part of the world before becoming a Christian, but now you have moved to the kingdom of heaven.

You are still living in the world but you are not of the world.  God has called you out of the world.  You are now a citizen of heaven still living in enemy territory and Satan does not take that lightly.  He will do everything to make your life miserable or he will do everything to get you back.  So the battle between the flesh and the Spirit begins when you become a Christian.  If you allow the flesh to control you, then the flesh has a hold on you.

One day a little girl, who was the daughter of the head elder of our local church in Kenya, went to the mission houses selling eggs.  The father had told her, “You will not come home and will have no breakfast, no food, until the eggs have been sold.”  She went to every missionary house and had no success.

She came to our house, the last house in the circle, and my wife asked her a question, “Are these chicken eggs?”  She said, “Yes.”  My wife said, “I’ve never seen such big eggs in my life, not even in England.  Are you sure they are chicken eggs?”  She said, “Yes.”  “Why are they so big?” She said, “Because my father has special chickens.”  She was right.  I was in my study and my wife called me and asked, “Are these chicken eggs?”  I took one in my hand and immediately realized they were duck eggs, which are very transparent.

I did not want to embarrass the child so I spoke in Swahili, which my wife didn’t understand.  “Why did you lie?”  She answered in Swahili, “Because my father said that if I don’t sell these eggs, I will have no more food and this is the last house.  Africans won’t buy eggs from us.  Only you missionaries buy eggs and I have to sell them.”  I turned to my wife and said, “Why don’t we buy them?”  She said, “What will we do with them?”  I said, “Eat them.”  She said, “They are unclean.”

We went to Scripture and we couldn’t find any evidence.  She said, “I think I remember something about webbed feet.”  I said, “You’re dreaming it because you looked at all the books.  Anyway, this girl will have a problem not only this time but when she comes again.”  So I said to the girl, “Why don’t you call your father here?  I’ll explain the problem to him so that he can feed you.”

She brought her father and he was mad!  The pioneer missionaries to East Africa were from Europe and they ate everything.  He said to me, “I don’t like you new missionaries coming from America.  The old missionaries allowed us to eat everything but you new missionaries say we can’t do this and we can’t do that.  We prefer the old ones.  Why don’t you go home and bring the old ones back?”  That head elder was defining Christianity in terms of dos and don’ts.

My wife is English and her mother came to visit us when we were at Andrews University.  In England, a married woman without a wedding ring is a no-no.  My wife removed her ring when she came to America because “when in Rome, do as the Romans do,” but, when she went to meet her mother at the airport, she put the ring on.  Then she brought her home and she had to go to work.  She forgot to remove the ring and she had fireworks from her boss.  I said, “Jean, it’s very simple.  Take the ring off, pin it on your collar, it’s all right.  It’s only wrong on the finger because I see these ladies with all kinds of golden brooches.”

You can see how inconsistent we are.  Our young people see this and they look at the church as being hypocritical.  We can’t wear jewelry, we can’t do this, but we can ride in Cadillacs which cost much more than the jewelry.  This is the kind of thing that our young people cannot stand.  Don’t blame them.  Don’t be surprised that the Bible says nothing about not wearing jewelry.  Now please don’t say Pastor Sequeira says it’s all right to wear jewelry.  I am not saying that.  The Bible says that our inward beauty should be our first priority, not the outward.

1 Peter 3:3-4:
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.  Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

Look at Timothy, Peter, the Old Testament.  If the inward beauty is clean, the outward will take care of itself and we will do it not because the church says so.  When the Pacific Press moved to Idaho, I was a pastor there and one of the big arguments among the business men was, “Should we allow this church group to come to Idaho?  We already have one group and do we want another one coming here?”

So they had an argument among themselves.  I had given one of the richest men in the area the gospel because he accused me of being a legalist.  He came to my church, heard me preach, and was convinced that we believed in grace.  So he tried to convince them and they said, “No, impossible, we know them.”

So finally he made a deal.  He would have a supper and he would invite them and my wife and I.  He told them, “You can bombard him with all kinds of questions.”  So we went and I will not forget one of the ladies who was there who said to me, “My neighbor next door is a member of one of your churches.  When she goes to church on Sabbath all this jewelry comes off, but when she goes to work on Monday, it comes back on.”

Because this woman’s church has the same problem, one day she asked this girl, “Why are you afraid to wear jewelry to go to church?”  The reason she gave was, “Because my church won’t allow me.”  That is not Christianity.  When the love of God constrains us, we will do two things:

  1. We will do nothing to affect our relationship with God.

  2. We will do nothing that will be a stumbling block to our fellow believers.

One day I was 9,000 feet up in the highlands of Ethiopia.  It was a cold day.  The church was made of poles with a thatch roof.  The wind was blowing and howling; it was Friday night and I was beginning a weekend series.  I said to the pastor, “Why can’t we have a hot drink before we start the meeting?  These people are shivering.”  And he said, “Pastor you know it’s the Sabbath; we don’t kindle the fire.”  I thought, “Oh, I’ll have to be careful.”

Now I had a little gas heater in my car.  All I had to do was turn a little knob and make a hot drink for myself.  I really wanted a hot drink but I knew that, if I made one, they would immediately turn their hearing aids off because they would say, “This man has broken the Sabbath.”  For their sake, I did not make a hot drink.  One day Paul went into the synagogue with Timothy.  “Aha, you are there with an uncircumcised Jew.”  Paul said, “No problem; give me the knife.  Does that make you happy?  Now listen to the gospel.”

We do nothing that will cause somebody to stumble because the love of God constrains us.  The love of God will do nothing in us that will hurt my fellow believer.  Read through all of Paul’s writings in terms of Christian relationship.  The fundamental principle in Romans 12, 13, 14, and 15 is that we live for others, not for ourselves.  Remember, I did not say that we can wear jewelry.  I am simply saying that whatever you are doing, do it for the right reason.  Let the love of God control you.

It is the same with Sabbathkeeping.  It is wonderful when people agree on how to keep the Sabbath but when you travel you will find that in Scandinavia they swim on the Sabbath, in Italy they play football.  In America, you can go for long drives and the excuse is to see nature.

Then we send missionaries from each of these countries to Africa and we have confusion.  As one Ethiopian said to me, “I never swam on the Sabbath until I learned it from a missionary.”  I knew exactly the country that missionary came from.  I said, “Make sure he is your advocate in the judgment.”  We don’t live for ourselves; we live for Jesus Christ and He lived for others.

We find two very interesting words in Romans:

Romans 8:14:
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.  The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.  And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

Paul uses two words here, one in Aramaic.  “Abba” is an Aramaic word for “father,” and the other word which is translated father in English is the word “pater,” which is a Greek word for “father.”

Paul used both Aramaic and Greek because both Jews and Gentiles call God, “Dear Father.”  Their relationship with God has been made possible because the cross of Christ has removed the barrier, the curtain, between a holy God and sinful man.  Christianity is not rules.  Whether government or Christian, every school has rules that we must keep because they are the rules of the school.  The Christian school is also a place where the young people should have the opportunity to discover Jesus Christ, who will change them from inside.  We must never give the impression to our young people that God is a God of rules who will punish them for every rule they break.  God is a God of love who loves us and gave His Son to save us.  The love of God will constrain us but young people do not know that.  If discipline doesn’t come from within it has to come from without.  The Duke of Windsor visited America and made a very interesting statement about America.  It’s a typical English joke.  He said, “Everything in America is controlled by switches except their children.”  How true it is.

Paul says:

Romans 8:16-17:
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  [One part of the work of the Spirit is to convince us that we are children of God.]  Now if we are children [this is the wonderful privilege of being a Christian], then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

The life He has, He has shared with us, which means that the wealth He has, He has shared with us.

In Hebrews, we read:

Hebrews 2:11:
Both the one who makes people holy [that is, Christ] and those who are made holy are of the same family.  So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.

Paul is saying here that He has become one of us.  He was rich; He became poor that by His poverty we would become rich but he adds in Romans:

Romans 8:17:
Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

The life of Christ becomes our life and when Christ was on this earth He was rejected, He was hated, He was mistreated, and He had to deprive the flesh of its desires.  Therefore, the sufferings of Christ become our sufferings.

But suffering is relative:

Romans 8:18:
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

Notice it is only for a season.  My wife and I went through many crises in Africa under Idi Amin, under the Communist regime in Ethiopia, in Beirut with all the fighting going on.  Every time we went through a crisis, my wife had a favorite text, “It came to pass.”  She gave it her own meaning:  “Nothing is here permanently.  Everything comes to pass.”

So the sufferings of this world, which can be physical or economical, can simply be depriving the flesh of what it wants.  In 1 Peter 4:1, Peter tells us that he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.  Hebrews 2:18 says that Christ did that for us, too.

1 Peter 4:1:
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin.

Hebrews 2:18:
Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

The joy and the hope of Christianity is not only on this earth.  Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians, speaking to the Corinthians who did not believe in the resurrection:

1 Corinthians 15:19:
If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

The actual hope of the Christian is at the Second Coming of Christ.

But the problem is, if we are depending on our goodness to go to heaven, then we will never want Jesus to come soon.  Someone who is depending on his goodness to go to heaven will say subconsciously to God, “Please don’t come as yet; I am not ready.”  Even if we lived as long as Methuselah, we will never be ready in ourselves.  But if we know our position in Christ we will say, “Come, Lord, quickly.”  The only reason we may say, “God, delay Your coming” is because we want others to hear the gospel.  We are no longer worried about ourselves and we are no longer worried to die because we know in whom we believe.

So there is an expectation we have as Romans tells us:

Romans 8:19-21:
For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

God allowed sin to come into this world and, when He allowed it, the whole world came under the curse.  But He sent us a Redeemer.

Romans 8:22-23:
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  Not only so, but we ourselves [Christians], who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.

Notice:  you are redeemed; your body has not been redeemed.  It will be redeemed at the Second Coming of Christ.  Until then you have to drag this body along with you.

We had a missionary with us in Uganda who brought a very nice dog with him but that dog got into a bad habit of killing chickens.  When he went for a walk the neighbors would bring him a dead chicken and say to this missionary, “Your dog killed it.”  So he would take out five shillings and pay for the chicken and the people would go home with the chicken and the five shillings.

One day he told me this problem and I said to him, “How easily missionaries are deceived.  You need to be born in this country.  Let me help you.  Your dog didn’t kill all those chickens.  He may have killed the first one but now they have found a good thing.  They now have chicken for a Sunday meal plus five shillings which can buy three more chickens in the market.  So the next time they come here, give them the five shillings and take the chicken from them.”  He did that and the problem was solved.

But now he had a dog problem and he said, “What do I do with the dog?”  I said, “Tie the chicken around the neck of the dog.”  For three days the dog tried to get it off and he never chased a chicken again.  The problem was solved.

Jude 23 tells us the time will come that we Christians will hate even the garment spotted by the flesh because it is the sinful nature — not the Jews — that killed Jesus Christ on the cross.

Jude 23:
...Save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear — hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

It is the flesh which is enmity with God that cried out, “Crucify Him.”  We cannot blame the Jews.  If we were there and were controlled by the flesh, we would have done the same thing.

That is why Jesus said to the Jews:

John 8:44:
You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires.  He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

We have a nature that is anti-God.  Given the chance, it will crucify Christ afresh.  There must come a time that we will hate sin for what it did to our beloved Savior.  And when we hate the flesh, we won’t worry about wearing jewelry because that is what the flesh desires, not the Spirit.

Romans 8:24-25:
For in this hope we were saved.  But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what they already have?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have [the reality of the full salvation], we wait for it patiently.

When the Bible talks of salvation as a subjective experience, it talks of it in three words.  When somebody asks me, “Are you saved?” my answer normally is, “I am saved; I am being saved; I will be saved.”  I am already saved from the guilt and punishment of sin; I am being saved from the power of sin; I will be saved from the nature of sin at the Second Coming of Christ.  That is the full salvation God has obtained for me in Jesus Christ.

If somebody says to me, “I am saved,” I say to them, “Then what are you doing here on this sinful earth?”  We must not condone the “holy flesh idea” or the idea of “once saved, always saved.”  Remember that the righteousness that saves us is always in Christ.

The faith that makes that righteousness ours is in us.  The devil can touch that.  We do not become unjustified every time we fall, but it is possible for us to say good-bye to faith.  When we say good-bye to faith, we say good-bye to Christ, because our faith is always in an object and the object is Jesus Christ.  When we say good-bye to Christ, we are saying good-bye to His righteousness and, therefore, we are rejecting the robe of righteousness that once covered us.  The holy flesh movement says, “Now I can never sin again,” but we will struggle with the flesh and the principle of self till our dying day.  But thank God we have victory in Christ.

Romans 8:26:
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

Yes, this life is full of struggles because of the flesh in us, but remember, we have a hope.  We cannot let anyone let anyone rob us of that hope.

Romans 8:27:
And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

Remember this one thing:  we have no idea how our fellow Christians are struggling.  We cannot judge our fellow brother or sister by outward appearance.  There are some people who are experts at camouflaging their sinful behavior by their outward appearance and there are some people who are struggling who look like sinners but in their hearts they want to please Christ.  God looks at the heart; we look at the outward appearance.

One time in England I was coming home on a Friday night from a youth program and a lady from a second floor window called out to me and said, “Excuse me, sir, can you come up and help me turn the light on?”  I thought she was a cripple so I climbed up the steps and she opened the door.  I thought, “Something strange is going on.”  I said, “Is a switch that hard?”  She said, “No.”  She explained, “I’m a Jew and it’s a sin for us to turn the light on; it’s kindling the fire, so can you please turn it on for me?”

She had asked the wrong person.  So I said to her, “If I remember right, the law says that even the stranger within your gates should not work on the Sabbath.”  She was shocked that this Gentile knew the fourth commandment.  “Oh, yes, but you’re a Gentile.”  In other words, “You’re lost in any case, so it doesn’t matter if you break the Sabbath.”  I said, “Do you have your Bible?”  She said, “Yes.”  I said, “Please read for me.”  She brought the Old Testament which is all they have.  She had the Hebrew Bible and I said, “Please read to me 1 Samuel 16:7, which says that God looks at the heart; man looks at the outward appearance.”

1 Samuel 16:7:
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.  The Lord does not look at the things people look at.  People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

She said, “What has this to do with my request?”  So I turned the light on and I said, “Sister, here’s the problem.  I have turned the light on, as far as you are concerned.  As far as God is concerned, you turned the light on.  You used me as a tool.  I wasn’t doing my will; I was doing your will.  Therefore, sister, you have just broken the Sabbath and, therefore, you are lost.”  She said, “You are making it hard for me.”  I said, “No, I will go one step further.  It is impossible, for by the works of the law shall no man be justified and I learned that from a Jew.”  She said, “I’ll never become a Gentile.”  “No, no, I’m not asking you to become a Gentile.  I am asking you for your own sake because the only hope you have is accepting that Jew by the name of Jesus Christ as your Messiah.”  Then I turned the light off and I said, “Sabbat, Shalom.”  I was naughty but, you know, sometimes you have to be hard to get the truth into some people.

Remember Romans 8:28 because God is in control, He is sovereign, because the devil is a defeated foe, even though we are living in enemy territory and He allows us to go through many crises:

Romans 8:28:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

He is not saying that all things are good, but he says God takes whatever circumstances you are in and He works it for the good.  He is in control.

Now we have a very difficult statement that we need to look at.

Romans 8:29:
For those God foreknew he also predestined [not predestined to be saved; this is not Calvinism] to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

Do not interpret the word “foreknew” with the same word as “predestined.”  “Foreknowledge” and “foreordained” do not have the same meaning.  “Foreknew” means He knew beforehand.  He did not choose beforehand but He knew beforehand who will accept His Son and who will reject His Son.  The fact that He does know doesn’t cause Him to say, “Why should I waste My time?”  He does everything in His power to pull people towards Him and salvation.

But He knows who will accept and who does not accept.  For those He knew would accept His Son He goes beyond a ticket to heaven.  “He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.”  Sanctification is not prepared for the unbeliever.  Salvation or “the ticket to heaven” is prepared for all men but, the moment you accept Christ, He has something else for you which is to reflect the character of His Son.

It is very simple.  In the New Testament, the church is the body of Christ and the head of the church is Jesus Christ.  The Head, who lives in heaven wants the body to reflect Him.  The world can no longer see Jesus because He is in heaven but the world can see His body, the church, which is on earth.  His greatest goal for the world is that they accept Christ as their Savior, but His greatest purpose for us is that we reflect the character of His Son.  We cannot do it; God does it through the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.

So here are the steps.

Romans 8:30:
And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Glorified not only as an end result but also in our lives.

2 Corinthians 3:17:
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

This is freedom from the flesh because the life of the Spirit in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death.  Now Paul tells us what that liberty produces.

2 Corinthians 3:18:
And we all, who with unveiled faces [no longer are we afraid to come to God because there is no barrier] contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

This is the goal God has for us on this earth.

It is my prayer that we, individually and corporately, will reflect the character of Christ.  Remember that, since we are the body of Christ, no single believer is the body of Christ.  Each of us is part of the body of Christ so it is impossible for an individual to fully reflect Christ.  You can reflect what you are.  If you are the finger, you can reflect the finger.  It is the body united that reflects Christ.

For that to happen, self must be crucified and Christ must control each one of us.  Then there will be unity in the body.  We will live for each other.  We will live as one body and together the world will see Christ in us.  When that happens, we have proven scientifically to the world that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.

My prayer is that from this series of studies on Romans you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.

Study Materials