Romans 8:1-8 If we lose ourselves to follow Jesus, everything we do pleases Him

Romans 8:1-8 If we lose ourselves to follow Jesus, everything we do pleases Him

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Background

God banished Adam out of Eden not because he committed adultery or murder, but because he had intended to rule creation apart from God. Thus, Adam committed the original sin; which is arrogance. For he desired to be his own master. Subsequently, arrogance gave birth to murder, adultery, greed, lust, hate and anger. Ever since then, humanity was cursed with the bondage of arrogance; the law of sin and of death. Jesus came in the flesh and bore in His body the bondage of humanity. Indeed, where Adam failed, Jesus succeeded. Having received all power from the Father, Jesus did not want to rule the world apart from God (see John 13:3). Jesus submitted Himself under God’s rule saying, “Not my will but yours be done.” He defied the law of sin and death by handing Himself over to evil men to be tortured. In so doing, He destroyed the power of sin and arrogance on behalf of humanity. And all who follow Him are freed from the bondage of arrogance to rule creation with Christ. Having been freed from the bondage of sin, we begin to live a life that pleases Him. And God rewards those who seek to please Him (see Hebrews 11:6). Today’s devotion teaches us: If we lose ourselves to follow Jesus, everything we do pleases Him. 

Observation

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

“Condemnation” is not a feeling of guilt per se, but the state of eternal punishment. “Those who are in Christ” refers to those who have yielded their lives to Christ. And only those who are faithful to Christ, who obey His directives are exonerated from condemnation.

“The law” refers to the characteristic spirit manifested in a person’s attitude and aspirations. Hence, “the law of the Spirit of life” refers to the characteristic spirit of those who possess the life of the Spirit of God. For Jesus, His Law is, “Not my will but Yours be done.” Therefore, those who are under the “law of the Spirit of life” seek to conform to God’s ideals, ethos and plans. Their utmost desire is to love God, and love others by making the world a better place.

On the other hand, “the law of sin and of death” refers to the characteristic spirit of those who are self-centred and dead. For such, God’s will has no bearing on their life decisions. Their goal is to actualise their ideals, dreams and plans. Those who live under “the law of sin and of death” will stop at nothing to bring benefit to themselves.

What drove Adam to eat from the forbidden tree is arrogance; the law of sin and of death. What motivated Jesus to give up His ideals to go to the cross is the law of the Spirit of life. Indeed, Jesus’s obedience to the law of the Spirit has freed us from the law of sin.

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh,…

Here, “the Law” refers to the commandments. The Law’s inherent weakness is its inability to free man from the “the law of sin and of death”. His actions are hopelessly trapped in the cycle of arrogance, and lawlessness. Paul said,

For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. – Romans 7:22-23

The Law’s influence is limited to the mind of man and is powerless over his actions. But it is the man’s heart that controls his actions. Proverbs says, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” – Proverbs 4:23. Jesus said, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” – Matthew 12:34b. The fact is, man’s heart is dead, depraved, and incapable of embracing Christ’s ideals.

…God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin.

For man to revive his heart to follow God’s ways, God sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh. “Sinful flesh” refers to “the law of sin and of death” within man. Just like any human being, Jesus has to make choices when faced with temptations. And He carried in his body human inclinations of the original sin.

However, Jesus did what no man has done: He defied the law of sin and of death by giving Himself over to evil men to be executed. Jesus went against the grain of what it is to be human; to be selfish and ignorant of God’s will. By giving Himself over, Jesus destroyed the power of sinful flesh on behalf of humanity (He condemned sin in the flesh). By defying the law of sin and of death, Jesus frees us to walk in the ways of God (the law of the Spirit of life). For Jesus’s absolute obedience is demonstrated by His death on the cross. The Law cannot transform humanity because its influence is limited to the mind. But the Spirit has no such limitation. Jesus’s sacrifice paved the way for the Spirit to enter our hearts, freeing us from the law of sin to conform to the Law of the Spirit.

For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.

There are two kinds of people: those who belong to the flesh (according to the flesh), and those who belong to the Spirit (according to the Spirit). The people in these two categories are identified by their desires and inclinations, not by what they profess to be. Those who belong to the Spirit are inclined towards putting God’s plan and the interests of the community above themselves. Such do not seek salvation, reward or blessing. But instead, they seek to do God’s will despite inconvenience and hardship. Their vision is to bring peace and righteousness to the world.

But those who belong to the flesh are inclined to do things that benefit themselves. While some seek salvation and blessings, others overtly seek power, fame and wealth. Nevertheless, they all fall under the same category because their ultimate goal is the same; personal benefit. Paul unequivocally asserts that such is hostile towards God. Their desires and thoughts are opposed to God. Even as they appear pious, by their motives, they have rejected Him. Unless they are willing to lose themselves to serve God, nothing that they do is acceptable to Him.

Truth

If we lose ourselves to follow Jesus, everything we do pleases Him

The flip side is also true: If we do not lose ourselves to follow Jesus, nothing that we do will be acceptable to Him. God rejected Adam not because he committed adultery or murder, but because he was unwilling to lose himself to follow God. For he wanted to rule the world on his own. Thus, the law of sin and of death is at work from the day Adam was created. Therefore, the original sin (the law of sin and of death) is the desire to be one’s own master. Unless we repent from this dreadful and fleshly inclination, nothing that we do will please God. And nothing that we do will ever be of eternal value.

Many in the church seek to please God by participating in worship services, prayer meetings and bible studies. They served and contributed much to the ministry. Some practised strict discipline in reading the bible and keep themselves chaste from temptations. But their minds are made up concerning how they want to live. They have plans and are intent on fulfilling them. They kneel in servitude before God, but in their hearts, they have become the master and God, their servant. They “serve” God to exact His blessings and salvation. And if they do not get what they want, they will not hesitate to leave the church. Still, many asked God for guidance but with no intention of following Him. They prayed for a “good” job in hopes of gaining wealth and power. But when God gives them a position that will contribute to those in need, they reject it. Indeed, for those of impure motives, nothing that they do is pure. Titus 1:15-16 says,

To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed. – Titus 1:15-16

But for those who follow Jesus, everything they do pleases Him. God is not concerned about the scale of our works, but our heart’s posture. In the parable of the talents, both the one with the five talents and the one with the two talents received the exact same praise, “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” – (Matthew 25:21,23). Therefore, we must never compare ourselves with another.

Even in the exercise of spiritual gifts, a pure heart is needed if we want to be found pleasing to Him. Paul said,

“If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 13:2-3

How do we overcome the original sin?

In the beginning, there is only one commandment: Man must not eat from the forbidden tree. Failure to obey that single commandment resulted in the expulsion of humanity from paradise. To return to the place of bliss and blessing, man has to rise up from where he has fallen. He has to repent from the original sin that Adam has committed.

But that is not the case for many Christians. They focus on behavioural and ideological issues: of rights of gay and lesbians, of addiction to drugs, and gambling. Some who are more noble focus on moral issues: adultery, domestic violence and idolatry etc. That said, it remains that man must repent of Adam’s original sin; the desire to be one’s own master.

We must believe in Jesus by following Him. In other words, we have to deny our dreams and ideals to fulfil His plans for us. Jesus came to do just that: to undo the curse of the original sin by denying Himself of the right to live. Jesus said,

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it…” – Matthew 16:24-25

If Christians follow Jesus by denying themselves and take up the cross, we will overcome the darkness and addictions of the community.

Application

How much of your plans are conceived by you? Ask God to reveal to you your heart’s posture? 

We must discipline ourselves to hear what the Spirit is telling us to do for the day and the week. We must set our minds to accomplish what God has given us to do for our career, our family and our church. In so doing, we keep our eyes focused on the life of peace and fruitfulness that God has ordained for us.

Dear Lord, I lay down my plans and submit them to you. Guard my heart against all evil and cause me to be aware of Your lovingkindness. From morning till evening, cause my spirit to shine with Your heavenly light. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.


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