Life in the Spirit

by Mike Ratliff

For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 7:22-8:1-4 ESV)

In yesterday’s post, The Carnality of Christians and the Mortification of Sin, we looked at the four things that Christians must do in order to find deliverance from sinful desires in their hearts. These four things should be part of our discipleship in our churches, but they have been forgotten or bypassed in our 21st Century American Christianity. These four things that need to be emphasized in our churches again are the Holiness of God, the significance of motivating desire, the need for self-scrutiny and the life-changing power of God. Instead most believers are taught what actions to do and what actions to not do. It is all external. Sin avoidance is emphasized when the Bible clearly tells us that God looks at the heart.

I contend that if a person is truly a regenerate Christian then they will have an inner drive to become conformed unto the image of Christ. Sins that continually trip them up will bring devastating, heart-wrenching anguish. Doubt about the validity of their own salvation can wring the joy from them. Since they are not instructed correctly in their discipleship how to mortify the sin within them, they try to be Christ-like via will power alone. They conclude that since they are Born Again and are new creations they should not be struggling with these indwelling passions, ragings and lusts. However, their walk resembles a roller coaster ride with successes followed closely by falls into sin. All along they beat themselves up over their failures and become very frustrated.

On the other hand, there are professing Christians who resemble the world in nearly every way except for their religion. They do not feel bad about their sin because there is little, if any, conviction in their hearts about the sinfulness there. These are more than likely false professors. They are not regenerate. They are simply religious. They look at their works or their religion to save them. They compare what they do with other people and their actions and believe they are just fine. The fact that conviction about their sin rarely bothers them is a clear indication that they are not in Christ Jesus.

So my Christian brothers and sisters, if your conscience is beating you up regularly about your sin then I say rejoice because God is working in your heart. You will never have peace with sin. In fact, you deeply desire to be free from it. We must declare war on sin in our Hearts. We must learn how to put our sinful desires to death by draining the life from them. Victory or deliverance from these sins may take time, but if we seriously take on the task of meditating on the Holiness of God while distrusting our deceitful hearts, examining our motives full time and fervently praying to our Lord for deliverance we will find that we will have learned to walk the walk by faith in our journey to the celestial city.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4 ESV)

Yes, we still sin but Christians are forgiven. This passage tells us that the penalty for our sin has been paid, therefore, there is no condemnation for us. Christians are free in Christ from the law of sin and death. Our sin natures still try to rule and reign in our hearts, but we have the power now to defeat it. With the Lord’s help and the sanctifying work of God in our Hearts, we are in the process of Soul reclamation. We are Born Again, but our Souls are a mess. We must learn how to deny our flesh. Outside of living in the Spirit it is impossible to do this, but Christians can walk according to the Spirit. The more successful we become at doing this the more successful we will be in mortifying the sin that lives within.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:5-11 ESV)

This passage shows vividly what the main difference is between the regenerate and the unregenerate. The regenerate heart has the Spirit of God. The Spirit of the regenerate is alive because God’s Righteousness lives there in the person of the Holy Spirit (v10) Also, we see in these verses that the unregenerate heart lives according the flesh. The mind (part of the Soul which is part of the Heart) is set on the things of the flesh. The regenerate person must learn to reject the things of the flesh as having any part in their motivations. Yes, that is right. We act because of motivations. If our motives are flesh driven then we will be plagued with evil, fleshly desires. If our motives are bound to the Holiness of God, the Word of God and our devotion to Him then sinful desires are nothing. They can be denied by simply turning our hearts to God. On the other hand, if we are focused on the flesh we will struggle with this. This is why even though we have the Holy Spirit and our Spirits are pure and undefiled, our Souls must be reclaimed. Praise God that we have the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ within our Spirits. If we learn to deny our flesh as we learn to walk in the spirit then our consciences will be pure and open freely to the Holiness of God. This makes us tenderhearted towards God. On the other hand, if we are bound to fleshly desires then our hearts will be hard towards God. Our behaviour will reflect this in a way that should devastate us. If we are walking by faith, walking in the spirit, walking according to the spirit, abiding in Christ as we are yoked up with Him then our behavior will be drastically different. Notice that our behavior comes from the treasury of our hearts. If we are tenderhearted towards God and are walking according to the spirit then the fruit from our hearts will be good and God glorifying. If we are hard hearted towards God the treasury of our hearts is flesh bound. What will our behavior be like? It will be like the world’s behavior.

Let’s end this for today. I will pick up at v12 in the next post. For now, examine your Heart. Ask God to reveal the truth to you. Ask Him for a tender Heart and a focus on Him that is loving and exults in Him at every turn. When we delight in Him, He does a wonderful work in our hearts. When we delight in ourselves we shut out that work. We can keep up looking good for a while, but eventually we will crash. I, for one, am very tired of doing that. Praise the Lord that He opens our Hearts to His truth and changes us according to His will for His glory alone.

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9 thoughts on “Life in the Spirit

  1. I am reminded of Deut 6:18-19, when Moses is instructing the Israelites for their entrance into the promised land.

    18 And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, that it may go well with you, and that you may go in and take possession of the good land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers 19 by thrusting out all your enemies from before you, as the Lord has promised.

    Part of our taking full possession of the good land/life the LORD has given to us is thrusting out all our enemies from before us.

    And praise HIM, through the power of HIS Spirit working in us He enables us to increasingly do so. He shines HIS light into our heart allowing us to see HIS holiness and our wickedness in the flesh. He convicts us of sin and troubles our conscience (the one HE gave us with our new heart). He disciplines us as all loving Fathers do, so that later the discipline yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Praise HIM!

  2. Kim,

    That was very astute of you. The name of this blog is, “Possessing the Treasure.” I came up with that title as I wrote my second book comparing the Israelites’ conquest of the Promised Land in the book of Joshua with our Soul’s reclaimation project. As we mature, what is happening is we are doing exactly what you said and it is His doing. We could never do this without His good work in our hearts. So yes, Praise HIM!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  3. Sound teaching of pure doctrine…and you even said the s__ word… How refreshing! May we be ever-sensitive to the pit holes of sin on our way to that great celestial city!!

  4. Jessica,

    My sister in Christ, you picked out that part of the post I wanted everyone to “see.” We are on a pilgramage to the celestial city. That’s the point. So many believers live like this life is all there is. No, it isn’t. We are simply journeying through it, being eternally changed to be made ready for eternity with our saviour. I want to be with Him more than life itself. However, He has not taken home yet so I best be about living for His glory in total surrender to His Lordship until He does.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  5. I hate to keep bringing up words from Paul Washer, but I think they fit with what you are teaching on right now so well. He said that if we are separating from sin and that is all then we are no better than a Pharisee. We must be separating from sin UNTO Christ because we long to full of Him. Matthew 13:44 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

  6. Sarah, that is exactly right. I know some good people, Christians, who are content with simply “not doing sinful things.” They do not see the imperative that we must put our sinful desires to death. God looks at the heart.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  7. Mike,

    I like your new format, it som much better on these old eyes :)
    Great stuff! I am now going to read part 3 and if I have enough time I will read “The Beatitudes, the Essence of a Genuine Disciple”. I like reading it slowly and obsorbing it all. Thank you Mike for your thoughts.

    “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart,
    O God, thou wilt not despise.”
    Psalm 51:17

    When we stop thinking about what we want and start asking what God wants, when we stop trying to justify sin in our lives and start questioning “Is this what God wants for me, then will we follower closer in His footsteps.

    I remember when the Christian Book stores use to sell those pins or bracelets, WWJD, I use to think it was another money making opportunity. But when you really think on those word, “What Would Jesus Do,” it is something we need to ask ourselves in all we do. We are His light in this world, let us shine brightly in His name.

    Cristina

  8. Pingback: Life in the Spirit Part 2 « Possessing the Treasure

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