If the Holy Spirit Raised Jesus, You’re No Challenge for Him!

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 8:9-11 ESV)

Your body is dead—that old thing that caused you the sin problem is dead! Why are you serving a dead body? Why are you enslaved to a lifeless existence? Romans 8:5-8 is a description of your life before Christ. Look at it!

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. For 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. (Romans 8:5-8 ESV)

Did you know that Jesus did not even raise Himself from the grave! The Holy Spirit raised Christ from the grave! If Jesus depended on the Holy Spirit to raise Him from the grave, then you and I must depend on the Holy Spirit to raise us up to live an entirely new life!

Chuck Swindoll states,

We have been sold a bill of goods. The enemy has made us as a body, so conscious of sin that we are inoperative as a body of believers righteous before God, ready and equipped to move on.

We focus way too much on our lives before Christ–rather than focusing on the fact that we have been raised with Him. We need to live under the awesome power of God! The  result of that kind of living: So then brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh to live according to the flesh. We have an obligation, not to the flesh, but to the Spirit. We choose moment by moment whether or not we will respond to the Spirit or to the flesh.

Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. (Romans 6:13 ESV)

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5 ESV)

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24 ESV)

Your response to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is to put to death the sinful deeds of the body. It is a relationship of incredible balance—where the Holy Spirit constantly works to rid us of sin in our lives. Through His work, we are empowered to say “No” when sin presents itself. Notice also the outcome. You will either live or die. You cannot ride the fence, here. You will either live according to your old desires before you came to Christ–and die. Or you will live by the power of the Spirit who indwells you–and live.

Corn, Corn, Corn

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. For 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. (Romans 8:5-8 ESV)

I love the scene from the movie, Second Hand Lions. Two old men, retired from military service and very colorful careers, end up at their old farmhouse in the middle of Texas. A young boy is dumped off by his mother and lives with them. It is a story of endearing love, daringcorn tales, and living a legacy. The men are beyond frugal. Though very wealthy, they refuse to spend their money. As a matter of fact, every salesman who drives up is met by a pair of shotguns—that is, until the boy shows up. With his young spirit, he begins to tenderize their hearts. He convinces them to buy from these salesmen. They end up with all kinds of gadgets, some that work and some that don’t.

A salesman came by and they bought some seeds. They work tirelessly to dig up the ground, fertilize and finally plant the seeds. It’s hard work—especially under the hot Texas sun. They plant the seeds in nice, neat rows. Corn. Beans. Carrots. Row after row—they are all identified. But there’s a problem. When the plants start growing, they all look the same. And they all look like corn! And it was! They ate corn for breakfast. Corn for lunch. Corn for supper. They had a whole garden full of corn!

Why is that? You can’t plant corn and get beans. The most important aspect of their garden was not what you can see, but what you can’t.

You will never see the Holy Spirit. Never! He is invisible. Some wonder why you don’t do the right things. I’m not talking about occasionally sinning. I’m talking about those of you who repeatedly commit the same sin and feel no remorse, no conviction. I want to boldly suggest to you that you need to examine your life. Are you depending on outward actions to produce inward change? If so, you’ll plant and plant, but the only thing that will come up is corn. For you, the answer is on the inside. The glaring need in your life is invisible. You need to accept Jesus Christ by faith. Immediately the Holy Spirit will take up residence in you and you will want to please God. You will not always do it perfectly—but your desires will change.

And instead of corn, corn, corn.. will come upon the garden of your life.

Stop Pushing and Get in the Car!

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 8:9-11 ESV)

A young man named Sinner once received from his Father a beautiful, bright-red convertible. He named it Salvation—sparkling, new, clean, modern, powerful. It delighted the young man 1986_00005_02so much, especially because it was a gift. He could never have afforded it. So delighted, the boy even changed his name from Sinner to Saved. He polished his car every week. Took pictures of it. Sent it to friends. Looked it over—front, back, under, top, bottom, inside out. Never—never tired of telling others about the gift. “My Father gave it to me. It was free!”

Some days later Saved was seen out on the highway, pushing Salvation. An individual named Helper walked up and introduced himself and asked if he could assist.

“Oh, no thanks. Just out enjoying my new car,” as he wiped the sweat off his face. “Just had a little trouble because my bumper kept cutting my hands, especially on these hills. But then a nice man helped me. Showed me how to mount little rubber cushions right here, underneath the bumper, and now I can push this thing for hours without a blister. Also, I’ve been trying something new lately. They use it over in England. You put your back against the car, lift, and it works like a charm, especially on muddy roads.”

Helper asked, “Have you pushed the car very far?”

“Well, about 200 miles altogether. It’s been hard, but since it was a gift from my Father, that’s the least I can do in return to thank him.” Helper opened the door on the right side and said, “Get in.” After hesitation, he decided it was worth a try and he slid in on the passenger side and rested for the first time since he’d been given the car. Helper walked around, opened the door, slid behind the wheel, and started the car.

“What’s all that noise?” he said. Moments later they were moving down the highway quietly, at fifty, sixty miles an hour. He was taken aback. It all seemed to fall into place. It was even exciting! He knew he needed this Salvation Car to be admitted through the gate at the end of the highway. But somehow he felt that getting there was his responsibility.

From Tale of the Tardy Oxcart, Swindoll, 1998

Your Personal OnStar

I don’t own a vehicle with OnStar. I have just always thought that I wouldn’t get very lost in Western North Carolina. What I discovered totally caught me by surprise. Are you aware of what OnStar, the satellite system that you can have in your vehicle, provides? Here’s a brief list.

  • Online Concierge Services – for event tickets, dining reservations, gift recommendations and more.
  • Automatic Notification of Air Bag Deployment – if your front air bags deploy, we can call for help – even if you can’t call for it – to your location as quickly as possible.
  • Emergency Services – press the red OnStar Emergency Button and we’ll notify an emergency assistance provider of your location and your emergency need.
  • Roadside Assistance – is on the way once you call OnStar. We’ll locate and contact a nearby provider and request help to get you back on the road quickly.
  • Stolen-Vehicle Tracking – with OnStar, a stolen vehicle can be tracked without the thief’s knowledge and help guide authorities to its location.
  • Accident Assist – gives you step-by-step guidance about what to do in the event of an accident.
  • Remote Door Unlock / Lock – OnStar Advisors can unlock and lock your doors in case you locked your keys in the car, or forgot to lock the doors when you left. The Advisors can also flash your lights and honk the horn if you have trouble locating your vehicle, or to scare off unwanted individuals gathered around the vehicle.
  • Remote Diagnostics** – cover your vehicle’s vital systems. If your “Check Engine” light illuminates, an OnStar Advisor can provide you with information about the problem – then make recommendations. The Advisors can also help locate a dealer to schedule an appointment for service.

John DiPaola tells his story: His wife and 13-month-old daughter were at the Detroit Zoo recently. The little girl was quite upset when her mother packed up the car to leave, so to calm the little girl, Mrs. DiPaola gave her the keys to their new OnStar-equipped Pontiac Montana to play with.

Mrs. DiPaola placed the girl, holding the keys, in the car seat and then walked around the back of the van to put away the stroller. When she tried the handle on the hatch door of the van, it was locked. She looked around the corner just in time to see the power sliding door closing. The toddler had pushed the buttons on the remote control attached to the key ring and closed the power sliding door and locked the van.

Needless to say, Mrs. DiPaola got panicky and asked someone in the parking lot if she could use his cellular phone to call OnStar. The OnStar Advisor was able to send a signal to the Montana, opening the door. Says John DiPaola, “During this time my daughter sat laughing in her car seat at all the people looking in the windows. After several minutes the doors were unlocked and my wife was relieved to give our daughter a big hug.”

And like OnStar, this traveling companion has a list of credentials—His own personal job description. His guarantees never fail. He carries through every time. This week we’ll learn more about HIm–the Holy Spirit.

An Inside Job

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. (Romans 7:24-25 ESV)

Freedom is found in relationship, not rules. (7:24-25) “Who will set me free”, Notice that Paul does not ask, “What” will set me free. He is not espousing a new technique. He is not suggesting that the 12 steps will free someone from the abuse of alcohol. No! His very question reveals his beginning point: freedom comes from a relationship, not a set of rules. “Thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The one who can set us free is Jesus. He is not a program, He is a person. He is not a new technique, He is a new life giver.

Freedom is an inside job. Your environment does not determine your freedom. Circumstances do not bring you freedom, nor do they take freedom away. You can recite Bible verses, cut off every influence from the outside world possible, but unless Jesus comes and cuts the cords of sin away, you will stand there face to face with your own stinking sin nature and be a miserable wretch. The answer is found in a person, not a program.

In January, 2008, a story made the rounds about a 15-year-old girl in Australia named Demi-Lee Brennan. Brennan became the world’s first known transplant patient to change blood types from O negative to O positive, taking on the immune system of her organ donor. At first the doctors assumed someone had made a mistake, because it’s always been assumed that a change like that can’t happen. Now they say she’s a “one-in-six-billion miracle.”

The blood stem cells in Brennan’s new liver invaded her body’s bone marrow, taking over her entire immune system. She now has an entirely different kind of blood—blood that welcomes life, rather than carrying death. “It’s like my second chance at life,” Brennan says.

Jesus Christ is the second chance on life that will change your life. When you put your faith in Him, He will change you from the inside out!  In other words, it’s who you know, not what you know that counts. Freedom is found in relationship. Our Father-God is the creator of the universe. He made us. He knows our hearts better than we. And he longs for us to live lives of freedom. He longs for us to be free.

The Mind of Christ

All is not lost. There is hope. Look at Paul’s words:

I have the desire to do what is right (Romans 7:18)

I delight in the law of God in my inner being (Romans 7:22)

The law of my mind (Romans 7:23)

Here we see the opposite of the flesh, the archenemy of the enemy within. This is why the most miserable people on earth are not sinners, but believers who have chosen to live a life of sin. They are the most desperate, the most despairing of all. Why? Because inside them is a desire to do the right thing.  Look again at verse 18. The New American Standard renders it: the willing is present in me. The word present here literally means to lie near.

When we accept Jesus by faith, we have the desire to do the right thing. That’s why a man and woman can come to Christ and feel convicted about living together unmarried. That’s why an alcoholic feels badly when she takes another drink. That’s why a lust-filled man has a sense of satisfaction when he refuses to lust after another woman. The willing is present in them. That desire lies in wait for temptation. And when temptation presents itself, that desire says, “No.”

What is your ally? A renewed mind.

Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…so that you may prove what God’s will is, His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

What is the problem? Our minds aren’t renewed. We spend our time thinking about our failures, planning our next step into sin, anticipating the next direction we’re going to take. Our thinking processes have never changed from our sinful way of life. The problem is that we carry old patterns of thinking into our lives with Christ. There is a conflict between the old nature and the new nature, between the old way of thinking and the new way of thinking.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:14-16 ESV)

When you and I come to know Christ, we are given the Holy Spirit who lives inside of us. As He resides within you, He gives you the views, the feelings, the temperament of Christ. You are able to think like Jesus Christ. You are able to make decisions like Christ would make. You are able to respond to situations as Jesus Christ would.

What is the sin that continues to tangle you up? How does your thinking need to change? Change it today.

The Spirit Empowered Life

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. (Romans 7:7-13 ESV)

Paul asks a question: “Is the law sin?” “What a ghastly thought!” Of course not. The law showed him what sin was. He illustrates with coveting. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.” What happened when the law said, “Don’t covet.” He wanted to covet—as a matter of fact—coveting of every kind.

In verse 9, he says: “I was once alive apart from the Law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.”   In other words, before there was a law, I had no conscious awareness that coveting was a sin. But when the law came, I became aware and I began to sin. And that sin resulted in death for me.”

Notice the purpose of the law—its purpose was to bring life, not death. However, when sin got hold of the law, sin said, “The law says you can’t do this, but you really can and you will really enjoy it. As a matter of fact, the only reason the law says, “no” is because you will have so much fun doing it. So, go ahead. Have a great time. Covet your neighbor’s wife. After all, everybody else is doing it. And your neighbor doesn’t treat her wife quite right anyway.” What has happened? Sin has taken the commandment, “Do not covet,” and turned it into the most desirable thing to do.

Did that which is good then bring death to me? By no means!”   The law did not cause Paul to sin. What then, did the law do? The law simply pointed out what sin was. And not only that. The law made sin look exceedingly sinful.

I love the way Spurgeon explains this.

Paul here calls sin “sinful beyond measure.” Why didn’t he say. “exceedingly black,” or “exceedingly horrible,” or “exceedingly deadly”? Why, because there is nothing in the world so bad as sin. When he wanted to use the very worst word he could find, to call sin by, he called it by its own name, and reiterated it: “sin,” “sinful beyond measure.” For if you call sin black, there is no moral excellency or deformity in black or white. Black is as good as white, and white is as good as black, and you have expressed nothing. If you call sin “deadly,” yet death in itself has no evil in it compared with sin. For plants to die is not a dreadful thing; rather it may be a part of the organization of nature that successive generations of vegetables should spring up, and in due time should form the root-soil for other generations to follow. If you call it “deadly,” you have said but little. If you want a word, you must come home for it. Sin must be named after itself. If you want to describe it, you must call it “sinful.” Sin is “exceedingly sinful.”

That’s what Paul is talking about. The law says, “Do not touch.” We want to touch. And deep in us is a great desire for sin (called the flesh) and the flesh longs to be satisfied. The law simply pointed out sin. Sin used the law to make sin even more attractive. Look back at verse 6. There you see the new motivation. “new way of the Spirit.”

The law is an external, objective standard to which we conform. The Spirit is an internal, subjective Person to whom we relate.

Scandalous Grace

Do you know the most compelling evidence to me of who we are in Christ? He is unnamed. We’re not exactly sure the crime he committed. We just know that it wasn’t by accident that he was scheduled to be executed the same day Jesus was crucified. Most executions were not attended by such crowds. Most crucifixions didn’t cause such a stir. But for this unnamed criminal, his most embarrassing moment became his most exhilarating. His most confining moment became his most liberating. He was crucified…and rightly so. He was guilty of crimes.

Jesus was crucified right beside him…and for no good reason. He was falsely accused.photo(The criminal beside Jesus: Photo by Chandler Frisbee)

This unnamed criminal, hanging naked, bleeding, writhing in pain on the cross, saw something in Jesus that the Romans soldiers couldn’t see. He saw something in Jesus that the Jewish leaders couldn’t see. He saw something in Jesus that the other thief couldn’t see. He also saw his sinful self.

Do you know what happened? That day, the naked, destitute, friendless, guilty criminal became a saint. What grace from the cross when Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” He had no time to join the church, to time to mend the wrongs he had done, no time to make restitution. He didn’t have to. He was crucified with Jesus…literally…and he was crucified with Jesus spiritually. He had a new relationship.

From criminal to citizen. From outcast to in. From a thief to a saint. In just one moment.

If you have trusted Christ as your Savior, that’s what happened to you.

I know. It’s scandalous. Grace is.

Are you living like it?

That’s what happened to you. I know. It’s scandalous. Grace is. Are you living like it?

Guilt Replaced by Grace

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. (Romans 7:4-6 ESV)

So that you may belong to another, to Him who has been raised from the dead. It’s one thing to be freed, but now what do we do? Since the law no longer has its condemning grip on us, are we to wander aimlessly through life without any sense of direction? How are we to live if the law no longer dictates our day-to-day activities?

Focus on that word “belong” as translated by the ESV. The NAS translates it “joined to.” The NIV translates it “belong to” and the KJV “married.” Joined, belong to, married are relationship words. Compare those words to the description of the married woman found in 7:2, “the married woman is “bound.”

A question. If you had your choice, would you rather be “bound” or “joined”?

Notice that, just as death frees the married woman to marry another, death frees us to pursue a new relationship. When we come to know Christ, we belong to him, are joined to him, are “married” to him. We are called the “bride” of Christ.  Guilt moves out and grace moves in.

In a sentence: Jesus loves you. He didn’t die on a cross to give you a new system for living: he died on the cross to give you and became your groom, your Savior. He loves you.

Heaven on Earth

I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:19-23 ESV)

You have a choice. If you sin, you will sin more and more. One sin leads to another. When you present yourself to your old habits, you heighten the desire for more sin. And you can’t get enough. Before you know it, you are engaging in sin you thought you would never commit. You look back and wonder how you ended up where you are. If you do the right thing, you will do the right thing more and more.   One act of obedience leads to another…and another…and another. As you continually obey, the old habits begin to fade. You are no longer feeding your flesh. Your will sin less and less.

For when you were slaves to sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. In other words, before Christ, when you were enslaved to sin, you had no desire to please God—righteousness had no claim on your life.

But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. (Romans 6:21 ESV)  What fruit were you producing before you came to know Christ? What fruit came from your life—that life that you are now ashamed of? The outcome of those things is death. There is pleasure in sin for a while—but sin always leads to death.   “What kind of death?” you may ask. For the believer who engages in sin, sin leads to spiritual death. When a believer continually sins, his is a death-like existence. He dies a spiritual death. There is an inner turmoil that drains him emotionally and physically. His life is a living nightmare and he feels trapped between what he knows to be the right thing (that’s the Holy Spirit working on the inside) and the wrong thing he continually does.

There is good news. Look at verse 22. But now. Now—that’s today. That you have been set free from sin (you no longer have to report to the old master) and have become slaves of God (you have a new master), the fruit you get (there are great rewards from this new master), leads to sanctification (living the life that pleases God), and its end, eternal life.

And finally, Paul paints the picture in terms that we are able to understand. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. When the Christ-follower engages in sin, her paycheck is death. When the believer is enslaved to obedience, her paycheck is eternal quality of life. Her life on this earth will have an eternal nature that she thought before was impossible.

This is what I call Heaven on earth.