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“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who, do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”
– Romans 8:1
“Who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” – I once took this statement as a threat. Although I knew this verse contained words of encouragement and comfort, in the back of my mind I struggled to interpret it in that way. It was a fearful statement to me rather than being words of comfort as it was intended. My perception of this verse went something like this… “You better walk according to the spirit or there is condemnation! You better figure out how to not walk according to the flesh, or else!“
My feeling about this verse was that it was putting a burden on me to put forth effort and self exertion to be “spiritual,” or suffer the consequences. In other words, I saw “walking in the spirit” and “obedience” as burdensome requirements. Thank God for his Spirit who teaches us and reveals the truth of his word to us.
What God has taught me is that walking in the spirit is something God empowers and enables rather than demanding that we come up with the energy and ability to do it ourselves. By his own Spirit he turns our hearts toward himself so that we see things as he does. His Spirit illuminates and transforms the very way that we think so that our motivations and desires actually become conformed to God’s motivations and desires. I believe this is exactly what Paul is talking about in Colossians 2 when he says in verse 22…
“In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,”
God has “circumcised” our hearts to himself by the spirit. When it says that God has “circumcised” our hearts, essentially this means that God has changed our hearts so that our desire, loyalty and affections are bent toward him and away from sin and the world. For those in Christ, having hearts devoted to God is a gift that God himself gives us for free and apart from our own efforts. We as fallen sinners are incapable of making ourselves have a correct and righteous love for God. God knows that we are incapable of doing this ourselves, and so when we are joined to Christ by faith, he himself fills us with his Spirit and performs a “spiritual surgery” on us so that our nature is changed to reflect that of Jesus Christ. God himself has done the hard work of changing our hearts, and we don’t have to try to do it ourselves.
This doesn’t mean that we will constantly walk in the Spirit in a flawless way. But rather it means that the deepest part of our being is crying out for God’s will, even in the midst of our weakness and struggling. The innermost part of us wants his will over our flesh even in the midst of our flesh waging war against our souls (1 Peter 2:11). Sinful emotions and desires rise up and even get the best of us at times, but for those who are in Christ, there is the Spirit in us who longs for deliverance and longs to find God’s grace, strength and wisdom to walk in his ways rather than our own ways.
For those in Christ, having hearts devoted to God is a gift that God himself gives us for free and apart from our own efforts.
Our souls – minds, wills and emotions – still retain much of the influence of the flesh which still resists and dislikes God’s will. The good news though is that this is not the “true us” (Romans 7:17). Rather, that is the old man who has been crucified, yet still attempts to impose his own will in our lives. The good news is that this “old self” does not define who we are in God’s sight. We are new creations in Christ! Though our outer man is weak and “dead because of sin” (Romans 8:10), the spirit in us is at the same time LIFE because of JESUS!
Those who are in Christ don’t walk in the flesh but in the Spirit, and so there is no condemnation for them. Rather than this only being a fearful warning about what “we” must do, this is a glorious revelation of what “God” has done. The energy for obedience comes from God! We must simply embrace and receive that gracious work he is doing in us and then from that walk out righteousness. However, some form of “fear” of God does have a healthy and proper place in the lives of believers. Paul even specifically exhorted the Philippians to have fear as they pursued a life of walking by the Spirit.
“…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
The reality of who God is and the need for obedience and righteousness will produce in the wise person a healthy dose of fear and trembling. To tremble at God’s words and his call to obedience is not entirely bad. In fact, we should all carry with us a sense of fearfulness of God as we walk through this life. Proverbs 1:7 even goes as far as to say that the fear of the Lord is a foundational aspect of what it means to walk before God in a righteous way.
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.“
It is fear of the Lord that keeps a person humble and contrite before him and even restrains pride and sin. However, if we have a fear and dread of God that is overcoming us and weighing us down so that we cannot obey with any motivation other than fear, then this is unhealthy and God would desire to free us and shift our thinking. When we understand the reality of who God is and who he has made us to be in Christ, then fear is not the only emotional response we should have before the Lord. Love, joy, peace and a heart of worship are all “fruits” that should accompany our reverent fear of the Lord as we walk out our pursuit of holiness.
I believe Romans 8:1 at times strikes my heart with fear because it tells me that I must walk righteously in this life in order to avoid condemnation. It makes me conscious of my own sin, weakness and inability. But, as we saw from Philippians 2:12-13, fear and trembling as we work out our salvation is not all bad. In fact, it is good inasmuch as the fear and trembling is walked out in “faith” and leads to repentance and pursuit of God rather than leading to complete despair and unbelief.
Paul exhorts the Philippians to fear and tremble as they work out their salvation. And right next to this is a great encouragement and comfort… “for it is God who works in you…“
We can work out our salvation with BOTH fear and trembling AND peace and joy, because we know that God has supplied and will supply all that we need in order to walk in righteousness.
God is “working in us.” This is another way of saying that God has “circumcised” our hearts to himself. God himself supplies the very means and power to do what he requires. We can also find comfort in the fact that walking in the Spirit doesn’t mean walking in “perfection.” Rather it means walking by faith, with a heart that sincerely desires God and is moving toward him even though there is weakness and struggle. Walking in the Spirit means that though there is weakness, sinful habits and behaviors and possibly occasional stumbling, there is at the same time genuine repentance and agreement with God about our sin as well as a conscious effort to overcome no matter what it takes.
…for those who are in Christ, there is the Spirit in us who longs for deliverance and longs to find God’s grace, strength and wisdom to walk in his ways rather than our own ways.
Unbelievers do not walk in the spirit but instead willfully choose their own understanding, their own will and their own way. They choose darkness and unbelief as a regular and habitual habit rather than seeking God. Therefore, there is condemnation.
This is not so for the believer. The habitual pattern of the believer is faith and repentance. When they fall, they rise again (Micah 7:8).
God has put in them a new will which is bent toward walking in, pursuing and desiring the way of Gods Spirit and rejecting their own understanding and their own way. To walk according to the spirit and not the flesh is a work of grace. A gift of God. Something he dispenses into our inner man and then works in us to walk it out. It isn’t something for us to set out to attain by effort. Walking according to the Spirit is performed when we by faith simply acknowledge the truth of all God has already done for us in Jesus Christ.
God is consistently supplying his wisdom and his word to light up our path and empower our walk in righteousness. Along with this there should be a healthy fear of not obeying… of not pursuing… of not believing… A heart of wisdom will be aware and sensible of the reality of God and his holiness and the consequences involved when we do not rightly appropriate the grace he is working in us to empower obedience. So again, there should be a reverent fear, but if we rightly understand how God has fully provided for all that he requires, then there will be peace and joy accompanying our fear of the Lord.
As we consider God’s call on our lives to walk in the Spirit and to work out our salvation, we can find comfort knowing that God has already crucified our flesh.
“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.“
The hard work of having victory over sin and attaining righteousness has already been accomplished by Jesus. We may still experience the influence of the flesh as it wars against us with its passions and desires, but in our innermost being, our deepest desire is for righteousness and for God’s will to be done in us. And this is how God sees us and how he wants us to see ourselves.
It is only a persistent and willful refusal of God and an embracing of unbelief that brings condemnation upon any person. Don’t refuse him. Listen. Turn to him. In him alone will we find life and peace. And even though this walk is accompanied by a struggle with our own flesh, we can rest in knowing that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.
ARTICLE BY: Jordan Hatfield
In this sermon, Shem Hatfield explains that the Jehovah’s Witness doctrine about Jesus is wrong. He explains from scripture that Jesus Christ is truly God.
Matthew Penner (Disciple Nations) sat down with Jordan Hatfield (writer, director and editor of Metamorphosis) to talk about the film. Jordan discusses the difficulties of spending 2 years making this film as well as explains the heart and vision behind it.
"THE PEOPLE WALKING IN DARKNESS HAVE SEEN A GREAT LIGHT"
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