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3. God Raised Us Up With Christ

 

(5) The dead are freed from the sinful nature, so that the righteous requirements of the law may be fully met in those who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit (Romans Chapter 8)

 

    

Let’s pray:  Oh Lord!  We are so thankful to you.  For what the law was powerless to do because of our weaknesses, you became flesh to dwell on earth, and completed the salvation plan for us.   Oh Lord, you fulfilled for us this “law of the Spirit of Life” that is so simple – namely, to follow the inner peace and outer harmony to live.  Praise Jesus, your burden is light and your yoke is easy.  Oh Lord, we desire to train ourselves through constant use of our spiritual minds, and to train ourselves to be godly.  Lord, I believe that you will fulfill your work in us, thank you.  In Lord Jesus’ name we pray!  Amen!

Give thanks to the Lord, when we confessed that we were sinners incapable of doing anything but could only look up to Jesus Christ to save us, we were born again by the Holy Spirit; we were dead in our transgressions and sins, and were made alive in Christ.  When we were faced with our daily cross (all things that did not go our way, and all people, things, objects that didn’t agree with us) – God’s requirements of us, we just had to continually pray to God, because God will “give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11: 13).  The Holy Spirit works continually in us, gives us extraordinary peace, and we just submit and rely on the Holy Spirit to act:  on one hand, our character of holiness is being build up so that we may gradually take off our old-selves and put on our new-selves and being molded into the likeness of the Son; on the other hand, the great power of Christ’s resurrection can resolve and rescue us from all difficulties (all people, things, and objects that are not to our liking).  On our own, we cannot deal with our daily cross, and God does not want us to face these by relying on ourselves, rather he wants Christ to become our lives in us and to fulfill all things for us.  Today, our biggest issue is “living under law” – “I” am going to deal with …., but God’s salvation plan requires us to “die” and let Christ fulfill all things in us.  People saw Lord Jesus nailed on the cross thinking that was the end of him, but surprisingly he proclaimed “It is done”.  Hallelujah!  The salvation plan prepared by Lord Jesus for us is “without death, there is no life”, if we want the life of Jesus Christ to manifest in us then we must also experience the death on the cross, otherwise we won’t be set free from our old-selves, or from the control of the sin nature.  Thus after we have been saved and born again, we must take up our own cross daily to follow the Lord.  Give thanks to the Lord and the precious cross.  Just as Paul said: “I resolved to know nothing … except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”  Many brothers and sisters said: “When we started to walk on this path of life, we felt that we had found a way out:  For sure, more and more we came to know our corruptness, we boldly exposed our corruptness and looked up to Lord Jesus Christ to save us; surely we had tasted the true freedom that came from the promise of the Son of the Heavenly Father, how free and joyful it was!  Even if it would cost my life, I wanted to spread Jesus Christ and him crucified, and the way of the cross of taking up our own cross daily to follow the Lord.”

We see many crosses on top of churches, and in our homes we hang crosses on the doors and walls, what do these crosses signify?  Everybody knows the answer:  it signifies that Jesus died on the cross and shed his blood to wash away our sins.  Yes, this is the most basic part of our belief because this is the path that we make peace with God.  Romans Chapter 5 talks about “the blessings we received from being justified through faith”:  We were reconciled with God; we were saved by the resurrection of the Lord (changing from “sinners” to “the righteous”; from “under the rule of Satan” to “in the kingdom of the beloved Son”; from “the prodigal sons” to “the sons of God”); not only is this so, ……  brothers and sisters, please note the “not only is this so” here, in other words, our understanding of the grace brought to us by the cross, shouldn’t be limited to “Jesus shed his blood and died for our sins, through being justified by faith, we reconciled with God and changed our status”; it must also include living a life of “rejoicing in God” through Jesus Christ.  A life of “rejoicing in God” must be a life of always setting the Lord before me (Psalms 16: 8-9) and “being God–centered”.  Brothers and sisters, the cross not only sheds blood to wash away our sins; it also saves us by continually taking captive of our hearts and thoughts to make them obedient to Christ, and changes our life from “self-centeredness” to “God-centeredness”.  I remember a professor from the seminary once said this: A person’s heart is like a turntable, if the heart is centered on Jesus then it’s like the turntable having an axis in the middle.  If the axis is at the center, then the turntable will rotate freely and quietly.  If the axis is off-center, then the turntable will not rotate properly and will make noises.  That’s right; the reason why there is so much pain in our life and there are so many problems is because our lives are not “God-centered”.  But how is it possible for one to turn from being “self-centered” to being “God-centered”?  It is possible only through the cross of Jesus Christ!  When we take up our own cross daily to follow the Lord, we establish a relationship with the Lord’s cross – we die and are raised with the Lord.  We will continually acknowledge the sovereignty of God: “Yes, thank you Lord, all these that happen to me are for the purpose of building up my character of holiness.  Give thanks to the Lord, and all glories be to the Lord.”  When you submit to the Lord like this over and over again, gradually you will move from being “self-centered” to being “God-centered”.  Only by taking this “way of the cross” that “we may become smaller and the Lord may become greater” so as to achieve the true “self-denying”, this is a life-long process.  However, this is a road we must take.  Brothers and sisters, I sincerely hope that next time when we see a cross on someone’s door, or on someone’s necklace, or on a building, we not only know that the blood of Jesus washed away our sins, but also know that the cross is the great power of God:  if I die with Christ then I will be raised with Christ, and the great power of Christ’s resurrection will manifest in me; the cross will vacate my wisdom and ability so as to demonstrate God’s wisdom and mighty power.  Amen, hallelujah!

Brothers and sisters, do not think that when we are on the “way of the cross” we can only helplessly pray in all things and can’t apply our wisdom or ability, that is negative thinking.  We should think positively and be very thankful that when we experience crucifixion with the Lord we vacate our wisdom and ability, and when we are raised with the Lord, God’s wisdom and great power will manifest in us.  Hallelujah!  May God strengthen our resolve: “Lord, I am willing to take up my own cross to follow you.  Oh Lord, may you lead and guide me.”

As we journey on the way of the cross, when we call on, look up to, and pray to the Lord, the Spirit of God works in us and the Holy Spirit will put the peace of Christ in us (Christ’s peace must not be contrary to the Biblical truth), then we should just follow this thought to act, this is the meaning of submitting to and relying on the Holy Spirit to act.  The important thing for us is to pray.  Some people treat praying as a money tree, when the need arises, just shake the tree and money will fall from the tree; some think that only big things need to be prayed over and skip the small things.  We should never regard prayer as a money tree, rather we use prayer to become more closely united with Christ, let Christ be our life so that Christ’s life is manifested in us.  If we live by relying on “ourselves”, then Christ cannot be manifested in us.  We should pray and read the Lord’s words often, for Jesus said, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”  Only through prayer and God’s words, can we unite with the Lord more closely, just like the branch is connected to the vine, so the sap in the vine may flow to the branch steadily for it to bear fruit.  Therefore Jesus said, “apart from me you can do nothing.”

When discussing Bible reading and praying, please note this scripture passage, John 5: 39-40: “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life.  These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”  The scriptures are made up of black letters printed on white papers, by itself it has no life; you must study the Bible to “go to the Lord” to have life.  What does it mean to go to the Lord to have life?  To put it concretely, unite the scripture passage you read with the Lord (for example, use it in a prayer and through praying to unite with the Lord).  For instance, you read this sentence “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son”, and put it in your prayer: “Oh!  Lord, I thank you, you love us so much.  Thank you, we have believed in you, we have eternal life.  May the Lord increase our faith ever more so that our life may continue to grow.”  When we put the scripture passages we have read into our prayers and unite with the Lord, then it will generate the effect to promote life growth.  (Please refer to our website www.echousa.org for the column on Weekly Bible Memory Verses.)                                    

1.      How does the law of the Spirit of life through Christ set us free from the law of sin and death?  (Romans 8: 2-4)

      Romans 8: 2-4, “because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” 

(1)   “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature”, explains that human beings cannot rely on their own efforts to meet all the requirements of the law.  James 2: 10 also mentions that if you want to keep the law, then you should keep the whole law; because if you stumble at just one point you are guilty of breaking the whole law.  If by law when you stumble on one point you are guilty of breaking all of it, then no one can be saved by trying to keep the law.  A serious misconception that can affect our walk on the way of life is: “believing that we can rely on our own efforts to be good”.  In order to make us realize that we cannot rely on our own efforts to be good, God allows us to experience many attempts, struggles and failures etc. so that eventually we give up on ourselves, if we don’t give up on ourselves then we will still try to rely on ourselves.  For sure Peter was never weaker than us, and I believe he loved the Lord more than any of us, but when he boasted that even if all others fell away, he would not; it was a display of the true human nature: “others may be so but I am not”.  When he made that claim, God allowed him to fail.  Brothers and sisters, we all have had similar experiences; when the Holy Spirit shone on us and revealed our corruptness, we were still grudgingly saying, ah, why was I like that?  The reason that we sighed like that was because we didn’t know our true nature, we thought we weren’t like that, and thought that we were still very good.  Brothers and sisters, I am truly grateful for God’s grace, through the continual guidance of the Holy Spirit, I concede that: in the light of God, I feel that I am like a wall or a tomb with a fresh coat of paint, it looks good on the outside, but the inside is filled with bones and poisonous gas that kill.  Knowing your own corrupt true nature is part of the life growth process.  Let us continue to pray: “Oh Lord, may you continue to shine your light on me, so that I can find out more and more of my true corrupt nature, and realizing more and more that I am incapable of keeping the whole law.  Oh Lord, free me from myself and free me from my struggle of trying to rely on my own efforts to be good.”

(2)   “God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in sinful man.”

      Because it is impossible for us to keep the whole law, so it was necessary for Jesus to come and complete the salvation plan.  Jesus was sinless in his entire life on earth, he kept the whole law.  He was condemned as a sinful man and nailed to the cross, he shed blood and became a sin offering; God made him who had no sin to be sin for us and paid for all our debts under law.

(3)   “In order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.”

      “Christ is the end of the law” (Romans 10: 4):  Through his death, Christ paid for the price that we should have borne for our transgressions and sins.  Therefore, when we sinners accept Lord Jesus Christ as our own personal savior, through being united with Christ, the law cannot make any more demands of us:  Because one, Jesus Christ had already paid for our sins; two, we have been united with Christ in death, so we have died, “our old-self was crucified with him (Jesus Christ)” (Romans 6: 6) and “anyone who has died has been released from the law.” (see Romans 7: 6)  Therefore believers no longer have anything to do with the law.  We need not and should not try to be justified or become righteous through the law.  Lord Jesus through his death ended the requirements of the law, released us from the law; when he was resurrected a new law was completed – the law of the Spirit of life (also called Christ’s law) – replacing the previous law to be in charge of our hearts, so that we may attain the requirements of the law.  Lord Jesus completed the salvation plan for us, rose to high heaven; Father God in Christ Jesus’ name sent the Holy Spirit to earth to implement the salvation plan.  Through our calling on the name of the Lord, the Holy Spirit causes us to be born again to have life; he also becomes the law of the Spirit of life in the heart of all believers, uses the anointing teachings to guide and lead us in all things.  Through our submitting to and relying on the Holy Spirit to act, the righteous requirements of the law may be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit (Romans 8: 4).  Therefore, Christ’s salvation plan freed us from living under law and moved us to living under grace.  It is by God’s grace and through our faith that we died and was raised with the Lord, and were saved and born again.  Because we died with the Lord, and the dead have been released from the law, so we are no longer under law, no longer relying on our own efforts to meet God’s requirements; because we were raised with the Lord to live under grace, that is to live under the law of the Spirit of life, we no longer rely on our own ability but rely on the fact that Christ is my life, then just submit to the Holy Spirit to act to attain the requirements of God.

(4)   “Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”

      Please see Figure 3.  There are two branches in Figure 3.  The upper branch:  When we encounter things (i.e. when we face our daily cross) and choose to rely on myself, I am controlled by my sinful nature, resulting in death or temporary separation from God, this is the law of sin and death.  In other words, the moment I live by “relying on myself”, I am immediately under the control of sin, and the result of that is death, this is called the law of sin and death.  How to be set free from the law of sin and death?  Let’s look at the lower branch of Figure 3:  When I choose to trust (rely on) God and call on the name of the Lord, “Lord, I hand over this matter to you, may you lead and guide me”, and just follow the lower branch to do.  When you do that, you are freed from the result of the upper branch.  That is to say, when I call on the name of the Lord and live under the law of the Spirit of life, I am freed from the law of sin and death.  One time, after reading this scripture passage, a brother said to me: “Aha!  I finally understand it. God wants us to follow the lower branch to live under the law of the Spirit of life so that we naturally are freed from the consequence of the upper branch.  God does not tell us to overcome sin directly; rather it is through being freed from sin that we can overcome sin.”  Amen.                                

2.      How can we be freed from living according to the sinful nature?  How can we take off our old-selves?  (Romans 8: 3, 9, 11-14; Galatians 5: 16)

(1)   What are the meanings of “the sinful mind; living according to the sinful nature” and “the mind controlled by the Spirit; living according to the Spirit”?

      “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God.  It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.  Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” (Romans 8: 5-8)

·         “The sinful mind, living according to the sinful nature”:  In the Bible original text the word “mind” means “to focus one’s thoughts on”.  What is “the sinful nature”?  The salvation of Lord Jesus for us is “our old-selves are crucified with him” so that “I no longer live but Christ lives in me”.  The moment our union with Christ is weakened, and I am living in the “I” state (i.e. according to my will and relying on my own ability, or being self-centered), this is called the sinful nature.  Therefore the mind of sinful man is focused solely on how he should act.

      In the past, I had always thought that the mind of a sinful man was referring to our love for the worldly things like eating, drinking, clothing, etc.; give thanks to the Lord, after becoming a believer we seem to have shed these things.  But on many occasions, while working on God’s ministries we were still having the mind of a sinful man, still focusing on how “I” would do this or that.  For example, in church ministries I was responsible for arranging something; if I just concentrating on making plans for how to go about it, then all these planning are of the sinful nature because the focus is on how “I” want to go about it.  With this attitude how could I do a good job in God’s work?  Even if I do a good job, it is still borne of a sinful mind.  A “sinful mind” will lead to “living according to the sinful nature”, that is to say the actions of our body follow our thoughts.

·         “The mind controlled by the Spirit” and “living according to the Spirit”:  After becoming believers, when we read God’s words, we still mistakenly think that in order to be good, “I” should obey God’s words to do this or that; in reality, this in itself, is of the sinful mind.  The mind controlled by the Spirit puts the words of the Lord in the heart, and through continual praying to let the peace of the Holy Spirit be our master, to let the anointing teachings of the Holy Spirit talk to us inside, and then just follow the guidance and leading of the Holy Spirit to act.  If your mind is controlled by the Spirit then you will live according to the Spirit, in other words, we are focusing on how the Holy Spirit is guiding us so it follows that we will submit to and rely on the Spirit to act.  The brother who drew the illustrations of the resurrection of Lazarus gave a testimony that when he agreed to make these drawings he kept on praying: “Oh Lord,  save me from relying on my own thinking , oh Lord, guide me on how to make these drawings; lead me from inside to make these drawings yourself.”  Praise the Lord, on this matter our brother’s mind was focused on the Holy Spirit. Another example, we were thinking about adding a poem under each of the illustrations of the resurrection of Lazarus; since we had the thought so we started to pray, “Oh Lord, if this is your will then move us to go forward, if not then stop it.”  That kind of prayer was an example of focusing our thoughts on letting the Holy Spirit do his work.  A further example, we also prayed for our website ministry: “Oh Lord, we hand over the website ministry to you.  Oh Lord, you guide us to decide what titles to include.  Oh Lord, among the brothers and sisters who should offer their testimonies, may you personally call and move them to do so …,” this is the meaning of having a mind that is controlled by the Spirit.  The opposite way of going about it, such as making a decision on whom to invite to speak or write based on personal relationships or giving favor, then that’s relying on oneself and is of the sinful mind.

(2)   How can we be freed from “the mind of a sinful man”?  How can we be freed from “living according to the sinful nature”?

      “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.  And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.  But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.  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 through his Spirit, who lives in you.”  (Romans 8: 9-11)

·         “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.”

      We have been saved and born again, so the Holy Spirit lives in us forever.  We are no longer our own (not under the control of the sinful nature), but are managed and guided by the Holy Spirit.  1 Corinthians 6: 19 says: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; ….”  This is the objective fact of what was accomplished by the salvation plan which was completed by Lord Jesus.

·         What is the meaning of “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ”?

      When we receive Jesus Christ as our personal savior, the life of Christ lives in us through the Holy Spirit, therefore we have the Spirit of Christ which proves that we belong to Christ.

·         “But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.”

o   “Your spirit is alive because of righteousness”:  When we receive Jesus Christ as our personal savior, the Holy Spirit causes us to be reborn, so our spirit becomes alive (we are saved and born again), this is the meaning of “your spirit is alive because of righteousness”.

o   “If Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin …”:  Although we have been saved and born again, but if we still live according to our sinful nature instead of following the guidance of the Holy Spirit to act (either because of we are ignorant and don’t know we should follow the Spirit to act; or we don’t know the way to follow the Spirit), then we are controlled by sin and can’t help but commit sins (see Figure 3), this is the meaning of “if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin”.  In other words, though I have been saved and born again, but if don’t know to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit then my body is still dead because it is still under the control of sin.

      The meaning of Romans 8: 9-10 is that, we should not think that after a person has been saved and born again and has the Holy Spirit in him, then that is enough for a believer.  Only if we regard the Lord as the master of our life; respect the status of the Holy Spirit in us; show our willingness to follow and obey him; and continually accept the guidance and leading of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5: 16, 18, 25; Romans 8: 4), we can turn the objective fact of “not being controlled by the sinful nature but controlled by the Spirit” into our subjective experience.  Therefore, step one: we are saved and born again, we have the Spirit of Christ and the Holy Spirit indwell us; step two: after we have been born again, we live by the Spirit and take up our own cross daily to follow the Lord; this is the true state of “not controlled by the sinful nature but controlled by the Spirit.”

·         How can we be freed from the sinful nature?

      “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 through his spirit, who lives in you.”

o   God’s salvation plan is through our submitting to the Holy Spirit to be freed from the sinful nature.  Galatians 5: 16 says: “live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”

From Figure 3 we can see that the upper branch depicts “living by the sinful nature”; and the lower branch depicts “living by the Spirit”.  When we encounter things, we exalt the Lord and call on the Lord, “Oh Lord!”  When we call out “Oh Lord”, we are no longer on the upper branch.

o   The Holy Spirit is mighty and powerful;

o   The mighty power of the Holy Spirit was at work in Jesus to raise him from the dead;

Our minds are controlled by the Spirit and we live according to the Spirit:  when we exalt the Lord and call on the Lord, on one hand we are no longer on the upper branch of Figure 3 – living by the sinful nature (of the sinful mind and living according to the sinful nature); on the other hand, the Holy Spirit is at work in us, we are controlled by the Spirit and we live according to the Spirit; we continually experience “dying with the Lord” and “being raised with the Lord”, so that our mortal bodies (because of living by the sinful nature and controlled by sin so is destined to die) become alive, so as to live a new life or to put on the new-self.  This is also the meaning of “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 through his Spirit, who lives in you.”  It is also the meaning of what Ephesians 1: 19-20 state: “…, his incomparably great power for us who believe.  That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead ….” 

3.      Since we are not under law, so how can the righteous requirements of the law be fully met in us?  (Romans 8: 4)

If we rely on our own efforts to meet the requirements of the law, no matter how hard we may try, we still cannot attain the requirements of the law.  Only through the “crossing over from death to life” salvation plan completed by Jesus Christ, to call on the name of the Lord and to be united with the Lord in death and in resurrection, to follow, submit to, and rely on the Holy Spirit, can we gradually attain the righteous requirements of the law.

As an example, I had a bad temper, I was very prideful, and I was also very conceited.  When God’s light shone on me, I really hated my own corrupt nature.  I was really mad at myself and even banged my head against the wall in disgust, but what good would that do?  Even if I had killed myself, I would still be prideful and bad-tempered; I bit my own tongue so that I would not say anything because I often scolded myself for saying harsh things to people.  But all these things that I did are like what is stated in Colossians 2: 20-23, of no use in restraining my corrupt nature.  In fact, relying on yourself to suppress your prideful feeling and your bad temper is just like wrapping yourself up in linen strips and then tie a rope on top of that (refer to The Diagram of Lazarus Resurrection on this website).  Give thanks to the Lord, God showed us this path of submitting to and relying on the Holy Spirit.  I said to the Lord, “I so yearn to be on the path of taking up my own cross daily to follow the Lord, and to submit to and rely on the Holy Spirit to act.  Oh Lord, even though I may stumble, but I sincerely offer up my yearning heart to you, I praise you and believe that you will fulfill the work of salvation in me so that I may stay on this path.”  When I am facing my daily cross, I pray like this, “Oh Lord, these things that happen to me today are all your requirements for me, in order to build up my character of holiness.  Oh Lord, I thank you, what happens to me is in your hands, oh Lord, I thank you.”  When I just accept my daily cross like that, the Lord is so wonderful, for my old nature is gradually taken off little by little, while the righteous requirements of the law are gradually being met little by little also.  Although I can’t say that I am no longer prideful, can’t say that I have rid my bad temper completely, but I do know that they are being taken off; progress is being made and will continue for sure.  Hallelujah!  Let glories be to the Lord.  Brothers and sisters, we don’t need to know why God uses this approach or through that kind of things to teach us.  But I do know that he uses a multitude of things working together to remove my old natures such as being prideful and bad-tempered.  All I have to do is to submit to and rely on the Spirit, over and over again, and gradually the righteousness of the law is attained.  Our wonderful God has prepared this really simple way, so that through our praying, submitting to and relying on the Spirit, and following our inner peace and outer harmony to act, God enables us to meet the righteous requirements of the law under grace.  Not being prideful is a righteous requirement of the law and must be met; not getting angry is also a righteous requirement of the law and must be met too.  The question is how do we meet them?  God uses the new law fulfilled by Lord Jesus – the law of the Spirit of life, to work in me to set me free from being self-centered, so that I gradually take off my old-self and put on my new-self.  So how are the righteous requirements of the law met?  They are met in those who do not live according to the sinful desire (not relying on one’s own efforts to be good), but live according to the Spirit (submitting to and relying on the Holy Spirit).  “Living not according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit” is the process of life growth:  from “not living according to the Spirit but according to the sinful nature”, to “living less according to the Spirit and more according to the sinful nature”, to “living half according to the Spirit and half according to the sinful nature”, to “living more according to the Spirit and less according to the sinful nature”, to ……  We must acknowledge that during this process we will experience many failures of “living not according to the Spirit but according to the sinful nature”, this is a perfectly normal step of realizing our inability so that we may “live more according to the Spirit”.      

4.      What is the meaning of “living according to” or “living in accordance with” in “living according to the sinful nature” and “living in accordance with the Spirit”?  (Philippians 3: 19)

We have discussed previously that “to mind” means “to focus one’s heart and thought on”.

To have a sinful mind is to focus one’s thoughts on “what I want”; everything is “centered on me”, and the starting point is always “I”:  like “I want to …”, “I think …”, “I can …”, etc.

To have a mind controlled by the Spirit is to set one’s mind on what the Spirit desires:  Focusing one’s heart and thought on “God –centeredness”, focusing on what God says and what God wants.  In other words, it means to be “quick to listen”:  when you encounter things, be quick to listen to what the Lord is saying, and then just do whatever the Lord tells you to do, so that very naturally you are “living according to the Spirit”.

5.      In God’s eye, how does God regard “the sinful mind”?  (Romans 8: 6-8; Philippians 3: 17-19)

Romans 8: 6-8, “The mind of a sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God.  It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.  Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.”

In the past, I often thought that even though we couldn’t fully meet the requirements of the Bible, but we should try to do as much as possible.  Now we know that it is because of our sinful mind, our heart and thoughts are focused on how we may “rely on our own” efforts to attain the requirements of God.  In God’s eye, the sinful mind is hostile to God, does not please God, and does not conform to God’s law.  God’s requirement of us is not to obey the law of the Old Testament (if we choose to obey then we must obey the whole law of the Old Testament), instead we should submit to live under the law of the Spirit of life.  So which law do we want to live under?  Since we are not able to keep the entire law of the Old Testament and are also unwilling to obey the law of the Spirit of life, then we are of “sinful mind” and live according to the sinful nature; Isn’t this “not submitting to God’s law, not pleasing to God, and hostile to God?”

6.      What is the meaning of this scripture passage: “But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.”?  (Romans 8: 10)

      God created man to have three components: spirit, soul, and body (for the purpose of this course we accept this as true without debate).  It is through our spirit God talks to us.  In the Garden of Eden, God commanded Adam: “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2: 16-17)  Adam, because of his disobedience and breaking of covenant, was separated from God – dead (see Figure 1: The wages of sin is death); and because of him all men became sinners and were also dead and separated from God. (Romans 5: 12).

(1)   “Your spirit is alive because of righteousness”:  When we sincerely accept Jesus Christ as our personal savior, Christ’s life through the Holy Spirit causes us to be born again, and also dwells in our spirit, thus our spirit which was separated with God became alive, this is the meaning of “your spirit is alive because of righteousness”.

(2)   “Your body is dead because of sin”:  After we have been saved and born again, we have Christ’s life in us, so we were babies of the new life.  However, we didn’t know to live according to the Spirit so we still lived according to the sinful nature and still controlled by sin, bearing the fruit of death (see Figures 1 and 3) and being temporarily separated from God.  This is the meaning of “your body is dead because of sin”.

      Praise the Lord, we have been saved and born again, Christ’s life is in us and our spirit is alive because of righteousness.  This scripture passage especially mentions that if we only have Christ in us but are still living according to the sinful nature then our body is dead because we are controlled by sin.                

7.      How to make the mortal body alive and put on the new-self?  (Romans 8: 11-13)

Romans 8: 11-13: “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 through his Spirit, who lives in you.  Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation – but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it.  For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” 

(1)   Why are our bodies mortal?  As pointed out in Figure 1:  When Adam sinned, not only was he controlled by the sin nature, but he also brought sin into the world so all were controlled by the sin nature and became the old-selves.  The sin nature, through the old-selves, commanded our bodies so that we had no choice but to sin and bear the fruit of death, leading to our separation from God; hence our bodies were called the mortal bodies.  To Christians, the salvation plan completed by Jesus Christ for us is that “our old-selves are crucified with Christ and the dead are freed from sin”.  However, when we live according to the sinful nature (i.e. relying on ourselves to act), we are secretly controlled by sin, and fall into the condition of living with our mortal bodies. (see Figure 3)  

(2)   To children of God, “the mortal body” has two layers of meaning:

·         First layer:  Whenever we live by the sinful nature, or live in a “self-centered” way, everything that our bodies do are dead and separated from God.

·         Second layer:  Our bodies will die away, so our bodies are called mortal bodies.

(3)   The Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead:  Jesus Christ, “who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross”, to complete the salvation of the cross.  Throughout the entire life of Jesus Christ – the word became flesh, death on the cross, burial, and being raised, he was led and guided by the Holy Spirit.  For example, Mary was impregnated by the Spirit and gave birth to Jesus; the Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted and he triumphed over the temptation; the Spirit guided Jesus to be baptized and also guided him to select his disciples; the Spirit guided Jesus to teach people and to perform miracles; the Spirit guided Jesus to Gethsemane to pray loudly in tears and all the way until Jesus was crucified on the cross  (Luke 3: 22; 4: 1, 14; 10: 21; John 3: 34; etc.).  In the end, the great power of the Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead.

(4)    It is not enough for us to just have been saved and born again and to have the Holy Spirit indwell us, we must also live according to the Holy Spirit:  The Holy Spirit not only gave birth to us a second time, he also lives in us forever to continue to raise us.  Paul in Romans Chapter 7, talked about the frustrations he faced while trying to please God but was unable to, because of being unspiritual and controlled by sin:  “What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?”  In Romans Chapter 8, Paul was rejoicing and said, “Through Jesus Christ the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8: 2“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 through his Spirit.”  Jesus Christ came to the earth in flesh, his entire life was guided by the Holy Spirit all the way to his death on the cross; he was buried but the great power of the Holy Spirit raised Jesus Christ from the dead; likewise, through faith we are united with Christ, and if we live according to the Spirit, he will guide us to continually die with Christ and take off our old-selves; and to be raised with Christ so that our mortal bodies become alive.  We urgently pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal to us so that we may know “his incomparably great power for us who believe.  That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead …..” (Ephesians 1: 19-20).  As long as we believe, we surely will be united with Christ, then the great power of the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus Christ from the dead, will likewise work in us.  From Figure 3 we see that whenever we rely on the Lord and exalt the Lord, we are living in and by the Spirit; that is we are on the lower branch of Figure 3.  When I am facing God’s requirements, the moment I call on the name of the Lord, the Holy Spirit starts to work in me, and if I follow the guidance of the Spirit to act then I am no longer on the upper branch of Figure 3.  To be on the lower branch is to live according to the Holy Spirit; the result of that is that my mortal body will become alive little by little.

      For example:  In the past when my husband criticized me, I couldn’t just take it and always had to argue with him because I was such a prideful person.  Thanks to God’s teaching, slowly the Holy Spirit worked in me and guided me in every single thing that I faced (i.e. my daily cross) to call on the Lord from my heart, “Oh Lord, all that have happened to me are for the purpose of building up my character of holiness, they are all good.”  To tell you the truth, in the beginning I felt that I was greatly wronged: “Why can’t I have a chance to argue my case?”  But gradually, my attitude changed from passive and reluctant to actively obedient.  Give thanks to the Lord, when I said, “Oh Lord, all that you have done is good”, I was on the lower branch of Figure 3, the Spirit of God was at work in me to enable me to submit to the guidance of the Spirit (i.e. to live by the Spirit), and I would shed a little bit of the “sins of death” mentioned in the upper branch of Figure 3.  My old nature of always wanting to reason and argue thus was gradually removed bit by bit.  The more of my old nature is removed, the more of my mortal body becomes alive – not only freed from arguing but also able to be full of joy.  I am truly grateful that God used all sorts of things to teach me so that I could gradually submit and then submit some more.  If my husband told me not to say anything, I just complied; and slowly I was even able to comply with a smile, this is the so called taking off the old-self and putting on the new-self.  Therefore, when I lived by the Spirit, on one hand I was taking off my old-self (stopped arguing), on the other hand when my mortal body became alive, I was putting on my new-self (not angry but joyful), so that the things that I encountered were all handled easily; this is God’s amazing grace, I am truly grateful.  Just like the hymn says: This is the way of the cross, are you willing to take this on ….”, this is the meaning of “if you live by the Spirit, your mortal bodies will be made alive”.           

8.      What is the meaning of this scripture passage: “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”?  (Romans 8: 13)

(1)   If you live according to the sinful nature, you will die:

      From Figure 3 we see clearly that if our mind and thought are focused on what “I” should do, the result is living according to the sinful nature; then we are on the upper branch – even if you are very good at controlling yourself, do not become angry, you will still end in death.  Because all the self-control stuff is just on the surface, nothing has changed on the inside, so the result is still temporary separation from God.   

(2)   If you live by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live:

      What is “to live by the Spirit and put to death the misdeeds of the body”?  In the past I often pray like this, “Oh Lord, help me, help me, so that I won’t become angry; help me, oh Lord, help me and give me strength so that I won’t argue with others or be prideful.”  I had always thought that was what it meant by “to live by the Spirit and put to death the misdeeds of the body”, but I was completely wrong.  Now I finally understand that it is through living according to the Spirit, follow his guidance and look up to the Lord to rid the sinful deeds depicted in the upper branch of Figure 3.  We should modify our prayer to be: “Lord, I admit that I am a person of bad temper.  It is impossible for me not to get angry.  Lord, I look up to Christ as my life to work in me to rid my bad temper.”  If we think of the sin nature as tree roots then our sins are like the branches.  When we live according to the Spirit, the sin nature (roots) cannot control us so the branches (our sinful deeds) will dry up, this way the misdeeds of the body are put to death (in the original text “put to death” means “extinct”), This is the meaning of “living by the Spirit to put to death the misdeeds of the body.”  In other words, through calling on the name of the Lord, we are united with Christ more closely; we live according to the Spirit to rid the misdeeds of our bodies so as to put to death our sinful deeds.  If we keep on following the lower branch of Figure 3, the sins of the upper branch will disappear naturally.

      Let me say it again, in the past I kept thinking that I need to pray to the Lord to help me put to death the misdeeds of my body – not to be prideful, not to get angry, not to be conceited, etc.  All day long I was asking the Lord to “not let me this”, “not let me that”, but to no avail so in the end I was still beside myself trying to control my old nature.  That was the wrong way to go about it, rather we should use “Christ is my life” to submit to the Holy Spirit and thereby be freed from and ultimately extinct our sinful deeds.  Just keep on submitting to and relying on the Holy Spirit, over and over again, and gradually you will be freed from sins.  Hallelujah, God opened up this new and living “way of the cross” for us, and Lord Jesus fulfilled this law of the Spirit of life for us, so that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.  Hallelujah, praise God for the amazing grace and the wonderful and complete salvation plan.               

            Let’s pray:  Lord, we thank you, thank you, and thank you.  Give thanks to the Lord, heaven and earth and everything in it will pass away, but your words will never pass away.  Oh Lord, the salvation of “justified by faith” is to strengthen the law and not to abolish it, the righteous requirements of the law must be fully met.  But, Lord, what the law was powerless to do because of our weakness due to the sinful nature, God granted us this new law – the law of the Spirit of life, so that through our continual submitting to and relying on the Holy Spirit, the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.  Praise the Lord, your burden is light and your yoke is easy, hallelujah!  You didn’t ask us to do anything; we just need to be ever more submissive, and make every effort to enter God’s rest and rest from our own work.  All glories be to the Lord, in Lord Jesus’ name we pray!  Amen!  

 

 


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