Romans 7 and 8: The Reality of the Christian Walk

Some years ago I put myself under a form of holiness teaching that said, among other things, that a Spirit-filled, born again Christian had moved beyond Romans 7 to Romans 8, i.e. the experience of Paul in Romans 7 no longer applied. This is patent nonsense to anyone who is in any way alive but somehow I believed it. It also completely contradicts the bible (see 1 John 1:8 for example).

Just to make it clear, this is my experience and the experience of every Spirit-filled, born again believer, don’t be deluded:

“I don’t understand what I am doing. For I don’t practice what I want to do, but instead do what I hate.”

Romans 7:15.

Paul then goes on to explain why this is the case. There is a law, he says, that exists in the members of our body that makes us a slave to sin.

Sometimes chapter divisions are a right nuisance. They were not in the original Scriptures and they can interrupt and disrupt trains of thought in Scripture. Paul never intended there to be the gap there is between Romans 7 and 8. One should flow straight into the other.

The answer to the problem of sin in our members that Paul explains in Romans 7 & 8 is (thanks be to God) Jesus. Jesus will teach us to walk in the Spirit. And that means, among other things, taking up our cross daily and putting to death continuously the desires of the flesh. It is like that game where the gophers pop their heads above ground and the idea is that you hit them on the head with a hammer as soon as they appear. Similarly, when the flesh manifests itself in some temptation or lewd thought you need to take it immediately to Christ. He will have some very practical answers that usually involve discipline. For me this involves things like getting up at a specific time and going to bed at a specific time, praying and realising that some of my desires – which are not illegitimate or sinful necessarily – simply will not be fulfilled in this life.

Hope in the next life can extend to very intimate and practical things. Our deepest desires are often the ones we are most afraid to express but at their heart can be something very precious to God once He has refined them and taken away the dross.

Not by might or power

For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.

1 Corinthians 8:5,6

“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
    or the strong boast of their strength
    or the rich boast of their riches,
24 but let the one who boasts boast about this:
    that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
    justice and righteousness on earth,
    for in these I delight,”
declares the Lord. 

Jeremiah 9:23,24

‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’
Says the Lord of hosts.

Zechariah 4:6

One of the reasons God emphasizes knowledge of Him over power so much throughout Scripture is because we can so easily be deceived and because there are an array of powers out there that are ready to take advantage of that. It was deception that led to the first sin after all.

There is an unfathomable, incomprehensible gap between any creature and its creator. However, God is not insecure in any way and so He has made creatures (angels, “sons of God”) with astonishing power and the power of choice also. These creatures have fallen and interfered with mankind in the past both before the flood (see Gen. 6) and after it (e.g. the giants of David’s day) and can do so again. Satan can appear as an angel of light and his followers as false prophets (2 Cor. 11:14) even today.

So, how do we avoid being deceived? Well firstly, you must be filled with the Holy Spirit. The only way of knowing whether the light that is in you is not darkness (Matthew 6:23) is by knowing what God is really like. No amount of power can assure you of this as Jesus pointed out when He spoke about the many who would come to Him boasting of miracles and yet who practiced evil (Matthew 7:22). Christ in you is your hope and when He is formed in you (Gal. 4:19) and you are relating to Him easily and continually there is nothing that cannot happen.

But how do you know that it is Christ that is in you and guiding you?

How do you know that it is not some other god/ devil or even yourself and an overactive imagination?

The Holy Spirit in you is quite a subjective experience, the outward signs that someone is carrying around this treasure are often not that obvious in the earthen clay of our physical bodies (2 Cor. 4:7).

The second check is the Scriptures. No matter how amazing your experiences or power, if you are doing evil then you could be deceived. The Scriptures stand apart from your experience and can act as an objective mirror to your internal realities if you let them.

Thirdly, the church, let godly people see you for who you really are and give them the freedom to speak into your life and correct you if necessary.

See also “Three Pillars“.

Manna!

Of all the things that a Christian needs to do once they are born again, nothing is more important than that they eat and drink spiritually. Just like eating food is critical for our bodily life so eating the word of God is crucial for our spiritual life. If we don’t eat spiritually we will die spiritually.

Jesus said to pray to God “Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matt. 6:11) He also said that unless we eat His flesh and drink His blood we have no life in us (John 6:32-58) and that man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4).

In the OT there is a picture given to us physically of the nature of spiritual food. In Exodus 16 we are told that the people of Israel used to live on manna in the desert. The manna appeared all over the ground each morning and needed to be collected, put in a jar and eaten that day. If they didn’t collect it in the morning, by the time the sun got warm it had disappeared. If they tried to keep it overnight it went bad and was inedible the next day (except on the day before the Sabbath when it would keep for two days). When they went to collect it they found that no matter how much or how little they collected, each family had just what it needed.

From this picture we can see that we need to keep our relationship with God’s Word fresh. Jesus is called the Word of God. The bible contains the words of God.

Like everything else to do with walking in the Holy Spirit, let Him teach you what this means for you. For me it is clear though that I need to keep in daily communion with Jesus, meditating on His words and getting fresh words every day to eat and to share with others, particularly my family.

It is a rich picture worth thinking about and acting on.

Don’t starve to death spiritually!

Testing Faith

According to Peter, one of the reasons we go through difficulties is to strengthen our faith (1 Peter 1:6-9).  We all go through them.  Relative to the difficulties we can read about that our brothers and sisters in Syria and Iraq endure, our difficulties can seem minor in comparison.

However whether it is saying you will not deny Christ when faced with a beheading, or a determination to continue to praise God through a cold, the principle is the same:  God hasn’t changed and His love for us poured out on the Cross can’t be undone.

We ought to praise Him anyway.

And give thanks to the Holy Spirit living within us when we can, no matter what.

I have found that, if I let Him, the Holy Spirit will always praise God no matter how I feel.  The work of faith is to cooperate with Him and let the vessel He is in resound with that praise.  No matter what.

Out of the heart

“The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?
10 I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give every man according to his ways,
According to the fruit of his doings.”

Jeremiah 17:9-10

The Scripture clearly shows the connection between the heart and the mouth: “Out of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34)

However often in professional situations this is not the case at least in my observations.  The constraints of professional conduct cause doctors and other professionals to speak the logical truth arising from their analyses rather than what they might think in their hearts about the person they are dealing with.  Similarly, a salesman will not express his heart very often if he wants to make a sale.

This is not always a bad thing.  We can’t often do what we want nor should we.  Jeremiah records God saying that the heart is desperately wicked and deceitful above all else and that no one but He can understand it (Jer. 17:9).

Jesus said that it was out of heart that all forms of wickedness arise (Matthew 15:18).  Paul and James talk about the flesh and the Spirit being in opposition so that you can’t do what you want to (Galatians 5:17, James 4:4-6).  At the end of Romans 7 Paul says the secret is to do what Jesus says which is the same as walking in the Spirit and not in the flesh.

Logically

So Jesus died for all our sins past, present and future. Therefore there can be no law against anything any more if it is all forgiven.

23 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. 

1 Corinthians 10:23

Logical.

But then why not go out and sin?  Because God knows that the response of a believing heart to the revelation of Jesus’ death is gratefulness and a desire to please Him (1 John 4:19).  Paul says we died to sin when Jesus died (Romans 6:1-11).  The revelation that God sent His Son to die for us works in our hearts automatically and we want to do what pleases Him (Romans 7:23).  We are wed to Him in a way and forever spoilt for anything else.

However in some ways we haven’t changed.  The old nature still wants to do the wrong thing (Romans 7:14-25).  So the answer is to offer ourselves, our every member, to God as a love slave to Him (Romans 12:1-2). Then He will show us what to do and He will work within us to will and to do according to His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12).

You cannot serve God and Mammon

The bible says, quite rightly of course, that money answers all things (Ecclesiastes 10:19). It also says that the love of it is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10 KJV).

Jesus was completely unconcerned about having or not having money. He was supremely confident in His Father’s care and so wasn’t bothered when He ran out or who looked after His money. In Matthew 17:24-27 Jesus’ and Peter’s tax is due.

Every October I have to make sure I have enough money to pay the taxes that fall due on that day for the previous year. So I can imagine what it would be like to come to that day and not have a penny to give. But was He bothered?

No, first He says He and Peter shouldn’t be paying this tax anyway and secondly, a fish had swallowed a coin some time ago which He knew was available for them on the first bite of Peter’s line.

And then there was the small matter of who He told to look after His money – a thief who would betray Him – Judas (see John 12:6 and 13:29).

Oh, that I could be so trusting and so free from the love of money!

Tearing apart the Lion of Judah

Samson tore apart a lion of Judah in the Old Testament.  I don’t think anything is ever put in the Bible by accident.  A lot of the OT foreshadows things in the NT.

So Samson went down to Timnah with his father and mother, and came to the vineyards of Timnah.

Now to his surprise, a young lion came roaring against him. And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he tore the lion apart as one would have torn apart a young goat, though he had nothing in his hand. But he did not tell his father or his mother what he had done.

Then he went down and talked with the woman; and she pleased Samson well. After some time, when he returned to get her, he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion. And behold, a swarm of bees and honey were in the carcass of the lion. He took some of it in his hands and went along, eating. When he came to his father and mother, he gave some to them, and they also ate. But he did not tell them that he had taken the honey out of the carcass of the lion.

Judges 14:5-9

You could see Samson as a representation, or a picture in a shadow, of the powers that were at work to crucify Jesus, the Lion of Judah.  As we know the honey of our salvation and healing, something sweet, came from that death also.  Like Samson, we too need to take the honey out of the death of Jesus.

Under authority

When Jesus was twelve years old, he went up to Jerusalem with His family and stayed behind doing His Father’s business (Luke 2:41-52).  The trouble was that His earthly father and mother didn’t understand that.  They didn’t know that at 12 He was ready to start His ministry.

It would have been a challenge to me to have let my 12 year old son or daughter start his or her ministry especially if it meant they stayed behind on a trip we were on without letting me know .  But I hope I would recognise that they had a ministry if I saw it and that I would pray to God for wisdom on what to do.

It is interesting to speculate what could have happened if Joseph and Mary had let Jesus carry on His Father’s work at 12.  Would He have been crucified at 16?

We will never know because, as it says in v.51, He was subject to His earthly guardians.

To this day the age of majority among orthodox Jews is 30.  So for 18 years He waited, while His parents didn’t understand, until He was no longer legally under their authority.  No doubt this was part of His learning process as it says in Hebrews 5:8.  They still didn’t understand after He was 30.  But at that stage He could minister and still be righteous according to the law He had made Himself subject to.

Teenagers these days can be happy that majority occurs at 18.  But will they stay submitted to their parents even for that long?

Be Quiet!

Proverbs is one of the Bible’s Wisdom books along with Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs.  One of its major themes is the consequences of actions and words.  According to the bible, discipline in what we speak, how we manage what goes into our bodies and what we do with our time all matter if we want to lead a godly life.  It is the root meaning of what it means to be a disciple.

One of the great disciplines of the Christian is stillness.  “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) is easier said than done for most of us.  It is essential though if we are to hear God.  If we don’t hear the Holy Spirit within us we cannot pray.

Inner stillness can be disturbed by many things.  What we eat can disturb our bowels  making us uncomfortable and unable to stay still.  What we have said to someone can disturb us, we may be aware that we have hurt someone with our words.  Proverbs is full of admonishments to restrain our lips (e.g. Prov. 21:23) so that our souls and lives can be preserved.

Inner turmoil is exposed as soon as we try to be still.  For that reason many people avoid trying to be still as much as possible.  Some will work all day (usually older people), others will play video games or continuously interact with their smartphones (usually younger people).  Continuously blaring music of all sorts is a very common way of avoiding being still for many of us.  Constantly having the TV on or the radio when travelling is another way of avoiding inner turmoil.

Inner turmoil can keep us awake at night.  Our aching bellies, unfulfilled desires, our troubled conscience, worries and fears are unavoidable at night when everything is quiet and still.

God’s answer to inner turmoil is for us to bring this bag of wind and tossing to His word and to be still before it.  That is why there is so much right emphasis in Christian circles on having a disciplined daily quiet time with God – usually before we do anything else in a day.  The word of God is living and active, it will cast a light over all that is going on within you and separate out what is of God and what isn’t (Hebrews 4:12).  As we are still we can pray and the Holy Spirit will teach you about how to live (John 14:26).

Be still.  Jesus commanded the wind and waves.  He can do that for you also.