Ezek 37:11-14 KJV; Ps 119:129-136 KJV; Rom 8:5-11 KJV; Mark 10:46-52 KJV
According to Paul there is an infallible criterion for telling if a person is/is not a real Christian or not? “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” (Rom 8:9 KJV). He sidesteps question of ethical and religious practice to declare that Christians are people in whom the Holy Spirit lives.
People are not on some sort of spiritual scale with especially wicked people on one end and especially saintly on the other with one end headed for hell and the other headed for heaven. In Paul’s categorical language if you don’t have the Spirit you are “in the flesh”. By flesh he doesn’t mean “body” but the power of a sinful nature that opposes the will of God.
Jesus himself explained, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit….(John 3:6 KJV) It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is useless.” (John 6:63 KJV). You either have a wholly natural life shaped by this world or a supernatural life shaped in the Spirit of Christ. Life “in the flesh” means death life “in the Spirit” is eternal life.
v.5 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.
Fleshly people think fleshly thoughts without concern for the thoughts of God (cf. Prov 23:7 KJV).
Their outlook on life is never Christ-centred and they just don’t “get the vibe” of godly things (1 Cor 2:14 KJV). I’ve met so many people, often on planes, who seem to have resonance at all with spiritual realities. They’re not especially bad people in a moral sense but as people of the flesh they’re spiritually dead people. Unlike genuine believers there’s no struggle within them to lead a holy life, no evidence of the Holy Spirit fighting against their worldly desires (Gal 5:16-17 KJV).
People “in the flesh” simply obey their baser nature without a struggle.
Would that it were that simple. Paul was exasperated by immature Christians in Corinth, “brothers and sister… I could not talk to you as I would to spiritual people, but as I would to people of the flesh, as infants in Christ” (1 Cor 3:1 KJV).
Are you an “infant in Christ”?
If you are a young person who spends more time worrying about your image on social media than reflecting the image of God then you are a spiritual infant. If you are an older people obsessed with your health or your grandchildren rather than being zealous for the kingdom of God then you are a “pygmy” in Christ.
Most Christians spend too much time thinking about food, finances, coffee, gossip, television and so on.
The common refrain “I know I should spend more time praying and reading the Bible.” is a good intention but useless until your mind controlled submits to the Holy Spirit.
vs.6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. vs.7 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. vs.8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Those who “set their minds on the flesh” live as though this world contained the meaning of life. Paul’s says such a self-indulgent person “is dead even while she lives” (1 Tim 5:6 KJV). Looking back on his pleasure seeking days without Christ, St Augustine commented, “Such was my life – was that life?”
They are, to quote from Romans 1, vs.29 “filled with every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarrelling, deception, malicious behaviour, and gossip. vs.30 They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful….disobedient to parents. vs.31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” (29-31 cf. Col 1:21 KJV). Forget about the particular sins listed, the bottom line is that people of the flesh are self-centred.
In John Piper’s memorable words, they have a “suicidal love affair with independence from God.” only the Holy Spirit can turn our self-centred thinking into Christ-centred living.
“but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” we are told. Moses declared, “the Lord your God…he is your life” (Deut 30:20); Jesus proclaimed, ““I am the resurrection and the life.”” (John 11:25 KJV). Most Anglican churches each Sunday recite these words from the Nicene Creed, “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life”. On the walls of the catacombs under Rome some oppressed Christian had inscribed these Spirit-inspired words in Latin, vita vita vita, “life, life, life”. Hallelujah. (Can you sense His (Spirit’s) presence even now?) Everything that the Spirit touches is infused with life and harmony with God – something inexpressibly wonderful.
The gift of the Spirit is absolutely indispensible to a spiritual life because in Paul’s sober estimation those “in the flesh cannot….submit to God’s law (and) cannot please God”.
Apart from the grace of the Spirit of God lost people have no ability1)See Biblical References John 6:63 KJV; John 8:34 KJV; Rom 5:6 KJV; (to please the Father of Jesus because they have no desire to obey him)2)See Biblical References 1 Cor 2:14 KJV; Eph 2:1-3 KJV. Now our passage turns to the positive by turning to focus more pointedly on the Spirit.
vs.9 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.
It is by entering the realm and rule of the Holy Spirit that natural people are turned into supernatural people who know and love Jesus.
When Paul says “the Spirit of God dwells in you” this could be translated as “makes his home in you”; the Spirit is intimate and influential inside the Christian (John 14:17 KJV).
One of the things that sends me crazy is hearing people refer to the blessed Holy Spirit as an “it” when as personal as the Father and the Son. Anyone who talks about the Spirit as if he were simply some power needs to grow in love with the Spirit.
We love the Spirit by trusting him to work powerfully in our lives as he worked in the life of Jesus when he was on earth3)See Biblical References cf. John 7:37-39 KJV; 1 Cor 2:10 KJV. The Spirit’s great goal is to repeat in us what he did in Christ.
Christians stop growing into Christ-likeness when they resist the working of the Spirit.
Jesus was quite categorical about the ministry of the Spirit, “he will glorify me by telling you whatever he receives from me” (John 16:14 KJV). The test of whether we are trusting the Spirit is not some vague “spiritual” feeling but if Jesus is becoming greater and greater, constantly more glorious, in our estimation. I believe this is true for me, is this true for you?
vs.10 “But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness”
The “but” which begins this verse translates us out of uncertainty into the realm of sheer spiritual confidence. Born in the line of Adam we must still die bodily (Rom 5:12 KJV) but adopted into the line of Christ we will live forever – because it’s all about Jesus.
The “Spirit is life” not because we are good living people but because in justifying us, making us right with himself, God has shared with us the righteousness of Christ (1 Cor 1:30 KJV). Because we share in the scale of things as they are “in Christ” this is an utterly remarkable reality. Now comes the highest concentration point of the passage.
vs.11 And 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.
As the Holy Spirit gave eternal life to Jesus’ body by raising him from the dead so the same Spirit who lives in us will impart everlasting life to our weak mortal bodies.
The mighty power of the Spirit who breathed eternal life into the broken body in the tomb now indwells us (Eph 1:19-20 KJV) as a guarantee of sharing the eternal life he has given to Christ.
To appreciate, enjoy and be transformed by such a profound reality demands however a mind shaped by the Spirit.
If you focus on how you feel when you are sick and tired these spiritual truths will seem like fantasies, but if you believe that the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you he will give you immeasurable consolation, encouragement and empowerment – to live for Jesus (cf. 2 Cor 1:3-11 KJV).
By faith your “life in the Spirit” will stand out amongst those who “live in the flesh” and have no hope.
The only spirituality that counts is the spirituality of Jesus and only the Holy Spirit can teach and share such deep things with us (1 Cor 2:11-13 KJV).
The power of the Spirit was the secret of the right living of Jesus and the final explanation of how God raised him from the dead.
If we are “in Christ” the Spirit offers us nothing less than the quality of the presence and power of the resurrected life he gave to Jesus. Every believer and every congregation has a call of God on their life which can only be fulfilled through becoming more like Jesus which means constantly growing in the Spirit.
Let me try to explain something I sense in the Spirit but am finding difficult to explain.
How do you think Jesus felt when the Holy Spirit was outpoured into his mortal body in the tomb giving him new and indestructible life? He was overwhelmed with a sense of the goodness of the Spirit’s power.
Since the work of the Spirit was such great news for Jesus the Lord deeply wants to share with us the good news of the gift of the Spirit today5)See Biblical References Acts 2:38 KJV; Heb 2:3-4 KJV.
If you want to be free from habits and thought patterns you know shouldn’t be in your life the Holy Spirit has power for breakthrough.
If you want to speak to people about Jesus but get paralysed the Spirit will empower you. “In Christ” the Spirit offers us the quality of the presence and power of the resurrected life he gave to Jesus.
God gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask for him in Jesus’ name and for Jesus’ sake6)See Biblical References Luke 11:13 KJV; John 4:10 KJV; Acts 2:38 KJV.
Over the decades I’ve personally seen or heard countless testimonies from believers who were struggling in their Christian life and then called out to God and were encountered by a power to live for Jesus which made an enormous difference.
Some call this breakthrough the “second blessing” in the Spirit, some being “filled/baptised in the Spirit”.
Forget about the name for such an experience, all that matters is that the name of Jesus is exalted – which is the supreme passion of the life-giving Holy Spirit. Let us pray.
MESSAGE DELIVERED: 28th October, 2018 Location: St Mark’s
Author: Dr. John Yates
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References [ + ]
|1.||↑||See Biblical References John 6:63 KJV; John 8:34 KJV; Rom 5:6 KJV|
|2.||↑||See Biblical References 1 Cor 2:14 KJV; Eph 2:1-3 KJV|
|3.||↑||See Biblical References cf. John 7:37-39 KJV; 1 Cor 2:10 KJV|
|4.||↑||See Biblical References Matt 12:28 KJV; Luke 3:22 KJV; Luke 4:10, 18 KJV etc.|
|5.||↑||See Biblical References Acts 2:38 KJV; Heb 2:3-4 KJV|
|6.||↑||See Biblical References Luke 11:13 KJV; John 4:10 KJV; Acts 2:38 KJV|