Part 6: The Law Satisfied
Justice is Served
The very nature of Jesus’ death on the cross automatically brings about an assumption on our part that the power of sin has been totally crushed. We no longer need to be slaves to sin! We can still “offer” the parts of our bodies as instruments of wickedness, but it’s not necessary. And the way we can comprehend and fulfill the righteousness of God in our lives in a visible way (that Peter said even the pagans would see and praise God for) is to live by faith—to reckon ourselves dead to sin. To understand, appreciate and believe what Jesus has accomplished.
The nature of Calvary and God sending His Son into the world wasn’t so we would have a bunch of little bedtime stories to tell our children! Truly, something was legally accomplished when Jesus died, though He was innocent. Something LEGAL was accomplished at that point in time and is therefore permanently settled. A legal issue was resolved. According to God’s justice (a word Paul uses several times in chapter 3), something legal needed to happen. In God’s heavenly court, because of His righteousness, the wages of sin is death… the death penalty must be imposed on those who violate His Holiness.
Those who reject Him as God by choosing what their flesh wants rather than what the Creator of the Galaxies wants (!!!!)—deserve to die. Paul made that crystal clear in the earliest chapters to the Romans. You deserve death. Whether Jew or Gentile, law or no law, the same is true for everyone—we all deserve death. Justice says: you must die because you’ve made yourself a god, just like Adam did. You’ve made yourself a god, whether carelessly or intentionally, just as soon as you said….“God, I know better. I’m going to have it my way. I deserve to have this attitude. I deserve to have this judgment. I deserve to act on this fleshly impulse. I have a right to my opinion and I have a right to speak my mind.” As soon as any of that enters our hearts, we violate the entirety of the law, James said. “Oh, it was just a little white lie…” Tell that to Ananias and Sapphira! They twisted the truth only the tiniest bit to accommodate their situation, and they were struck DEAD for it (Acts 5). “The wages of sin is death.”
God is desperate to make us understand that there are no “little white lies.” There is no tiny sin. The entirety of the law is violated when the slightest jot or tittle is violated. Why? Because as soon as we “bend” anything to accommodate our flesh, we have made ourselves gods, knowing good and evil. We cannot eat from the Tree of Life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil at the same time. We’re shut off from the Tree of Life if we choose to be our own gods... “God is not God, I’m going to make myself a little god. I’m going to have it my way. I can say or do what I want because this isn’t faaaiiir! I have a right to be disrespectful to my parent. I have a right to this selfish attitude.” And God says, “No! The wages of sin is death. You deserve the death penalty.”
Well…. justice is served In the Person of Jesus Christ. He was without sin His entire lifetime—He never once bent anything. He didn’t manipulate or water down a single thing that the Father wanted for His life, His heart, His eyes, His attitude, or His tone of voice. Never ONCE did He mumble, complain or lash out at others (and even his brothers and sisters harassed Him from the time He was young, the gospel of Mark says). He never once responded out of anything other than a soft heart toward God.
The blameless Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, came into the world to satisfy justice—so we wouldn’t have to die. Death for sin… Even the tiniest white lie or raised eyebrow calls for death. That cold shoulder, edgy tone of voice, rolling of the eyes, the slightest shrinking back in times of stress or pain, withholding our hearts because of fear or selfishness—all those things instantly violate the entirety of God’s law just as much as anything Hitler or anyone else has ever done.
“Are you any better?”
“No way!” Paul said.
When we make ourselves gods by choosing something other than the current will of the Father—by an action we take, or a decision, or a thought we tolerate or in how we carry ourselves—we violate the whole law and we deserve death. PERIOD.
So out of God’s justice and out of His mercy, Jesus died. Those are two separate things. God’s justice said somebody had to die. God’s mercy said He would let his precious Son, who loved His Father desperately and obeyed Him implicitly, be the One to die—the One God loved with all His heart because of His obedience and devotion. In spite of the love affair that Jesus and the Father had always shared, the Father allowed His Son to die in order to fulfill justice. Imponderable thought!! Incredible!!! It goes beyond anything we could ever comprehend, but it’s true. That’s exactly what happened. Justice was served because out of mercy, someone died who didn’t deserve to. He died for your sake and mine, when what we did deserve was the entirety of every punishment God could ever conjure up for us. Wow!
5 Having a soft heart might mean violence at times and making whips and turning over tables, but it was zeal for the Father’s House that consumed Him, not a selfish anger. It wasn’t about His business, it was about His Father’s business. He was angry about what God was angry about, and that’s the distinction. Be angry, but don’t sin. (Eph. 4:26). Back
The fact that Jesus died for us doesn’t just mean we don’t have to die. It ALSO means that the curse that came on Adam when he sinned and was cut off from the Tree of Life—has been reversed! All that Adam had in the Father, in the garden, can be restored—from one degree of glory to another to another to another. It happens as we shed self-life, and continue to grow in fellowship with the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. We let Him make His home in us and we abide deeply in His Word. We continue now, by the power of the Holy Spirit living within, to “keep His commands and decrees”... We turn our face toward Him and let His Spirit melt our heart, and we shed the dead and meaningless cocoon of the old life. The fleshly life is just scraped off like a snake’s second skin as we continue to let the Life of God well up, well up, well up from within—the deposit that guarantees our inheritance.
So justice is served in that the penalty of sin is totally demolished and permanently fulfilled—we have faith in Jesus to be that for us. Not only that, but we also believe that the very Life that Jesus had with the Father and that Adam had with the Father prior to sin coming into the world, can be restored to us with ever-increasing measure from one degree of glory to another. Fellowship with God and eating from the Tree of Life—that’s also what Paul is talking about in chapter 6! This magnificent, unbelievable thing is happening…not only is justice being served, but even more than that, history is being turned back and turned back—and now, “how much more”? If sin came through the one man Adam…how much more does Resurrection Life come through the one man, Jesus Christ, for all who believe? “Christ dwells in your hearts through faith,” through believing (Eph. 3:17). “This is the victory that overcomes the world…even our faith!” (1 John 5)
Believe that what God said is true…the same God who said, “Let there be light. Let light shine out of darkness.” By BELIEVING His Word, a miracle as magnificent as light shining out of total chaos that was hovering in darkness—all the lights of the heavens and the earth coming into existence out of nothing—a miracle just that large is happening inside of us. We are “becoming a habitation of God by the Spirit.” We are “being transformed by the renewing of our minds.” We’re not just being saved, but we’re being drawn into the “family likeness of Jesus” (Romans 8), to the “full measure of the stature of Christ” (Ephesians 4). You have to believe that in order to secure it for your life.
“Reckon yourselves dead to sin.” Why? Because Jesus died! He overcame the power of sin and death and He rose and is seated at the Right Hand of the Father. Just shatter everything that’s held you back—all your feelings about your past and all your supposed weaknesses. Let Jesus not only be the standard of the measure for salvation, but let His Life be the only ceiling you ever put on yourself. Are you with me? Jesus must be your only ceiling, if you want to secure not just a salvation, but a Life in Him—an abundant life that “transcends understanding,” “the power of an indestructible life” in the inner man. That Life is ours to secure and live out in a real way! Truly being the Bride of Christ that’s an equal yoke for Jesus. We don’t want to be a pitiful, “also-ran” thing that barely survives until He comes back—holding down a little turf with some kind of theory about Jesus’ return. That would be “positional” truth alone, as opposed to deep FAITH in the Work of God that transforms our very personal lives.
Unless you believe, you’ll not find the Glory of God in this lifetime. You MUST believe that the only ceiling in your life is the Person, Character and Fullness of the stature of Jesus Christ. Nothing else is acceptable to you—aim for perfection! Nothing else is tolerable in your life, or in anyone else’s. You love others too much to let them settle for less than the Standard of the Life of Jesus Christ.
You Get What You Believe!
Why did Jesus come? Was it only for atonement? Was it only so we could be forgiven of our sins? If that was the case, He could have taken care of that in a number of ways, and with a lot less pain and trouble! He even could’ve taken care of it as a child if He wanted to. He obviously had something more that He was after.
He spent three and a half years, as a man, with temptations just like ours, so he could demonstrate what Life could be like. He showed us the Power of the Resurrection Life of a man in total fellowship with the Father. Born of a human mother, He was a man with weaknesses just like ours (Hebrews 2-5). He became a man like us, to show us how we can be like the Father in our character, in our walk, and in our fellowship. Our life with the Father can be just like His, where we’re no longer limited to the seeing of the eye and the hearing of the ear. You have to believe this, from the heart!
To believe any less is to call God a liar, to call three and a half years of Jesus’ life a farce, and to deny what the Scriptures say, again and again. God wants to manifest His Life in practice and reality again in His Body, in His People, in observable, touchable, tangible reality. Reality where hands can touch and eyes can see and ears can hear the very Life of God on planet earth. But why would He do that for people who are calling Him a liar all the time??? We fail and then we wrongly assume that’s the limit of where we can be. We’re calling God a liar! We look in the mirror and see certain character flaws, and assume, “That’s just who I am and it’s all I’ll ever be, but God bless everybody else. I know they can do it! Rah, rah, rah! But as for me, I’m just a sinner saved by grace, gettin’ along the best I can. Please save my soul on the last day, oh God.” That sort of pathetic attitude will cut you off from the riches of the inheritance that are in Christ—the full stature of Jesus that God intends for you personally.
If you call God a liar and accept any ceiling lower than the person of Jesus Christ in fellowship with His Father, then you will get EXACTLY what you believe. With weaknesses just like ours, Jesus lived out God’s will in His heart and life in flesh and blood, and if you accept a lower standard for yourself, personally, you will get exactly what you believe. That’s the nature of faith. You get what you believe. Whatever you’re willing to settle for in your heart is what you get. That’s the only reason some people surpass others in this lifetime, in spiritual maturity. Some seem to surpass others, but it’s only flesh and it doesn’t hold up. Others genuinely do surpass all their peers. Paul described some as, “You that are spiritual, restore such a one…” And to others he said, “I can’t call you spiritual, you are mere babes…” But it’s not because of some foreordained purpose of God that one person will always be weak and another person will be strong. That’s not the way it is. We are limited only by how much we believe God. No question about it! We are not limited by our talents, our willpower, our looks, or our eloquence. We are only limited by how much we believe God, and that’s all. That is really Good News! It means the only limitations I have are God’s power and my willingness to believe what He said.
God said, “Let the light shine out of darkness.”
And you say, “That’s right, I can believe that. That’s easy.”
Oh really? Don’t be so sure! If you had been there in that very dark world back at the beginning of time, you might have had a hard time with that one! “Let the light shine out of—Hey! What is light, anyway? I don’t even know what light is. I don’t know if I believe that or not. Maybe those words mean something else. Let’s cross-reference and study it out in the Greek. I’ve never seen light or experienced it so I’m not sure it could mean that because I don’t know what that is.” And so we second guess and rationalize ourselves into a hole.
God spoke it… “Let the light shine out of darkness,” and—BOOM—there was light! If you can believe that, then in the face of Jesus Christ you can also believe that He can transform your character “from one degree of glory to another”! As you behold Him, He can transform you into the “full measure of the stature of Christ.” You, personally, are only limited by how much you believe God and how much you’re willing to submit your heart to Him in total trust that what He said is true. And so now it isn’t willpower, it isn’t talent and it isn’t eloquence—it’s nothing but believing God.
“But it has to be more than that!”
That’s exactly the kind of thinking that gets people into trouble! It makes some in the periphery of Christendom imagine they’re saved because they “go to church.” And others, though saved, barely “escape as through the flames” because they built with wood, hay and stubble. They limit what God could have done in their lives by not abiding in Him—by not being saturated in His life, totally trusting His character and believing His will and His heart for them. Any limitations on your life are only limitations of your faith—your willingness to believe God. He desires the WHOLE thing for you. All you have to do is believe Him with all of your heart and keep asking Him about it. Keep talking to Him, keep beholding Him.
“Reckon yourself dead to sin, but alive to God…don’t offer the parts of your bodies as instruments of wickedness.” You don’t have to do that anymore!! That’s what Paul’s getting at in chapter 6. Jesus not only brings freedom from the penalty of sin, but He also restores fellowship with the Father! He brings power over sin and death, not just in the age to come, but in this present age.
You’re not a slave anymore, so sin does NOT have to control you. Your tongue doesn’t have to run wild, your attitudes don’t have to fire off at every inconvenience. Those things don’t have to happen anymore. And if it does, then turn to God… “God, it just happened again, but I believe You that it didn’t have to happen. Show me the way out. You promised a way out, so I know I had one. What was it? God, give me the grace to take that way out next time. Right now, I humble myself before You. I’m sorry for what I’ve done and I’ll apologize to the people I’ve hurt and together in faith, we’ll believe God for the future.” We trust Him together—it’s a together thing! “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Together as His Bride, we believe for each other, that all the laws of sin and death have been overcome in the person of Jesus Christ.
Jesus, the Lamb!! Slain before the foundations of the world. Raised in Glory. Seated at the Right Hand of God. Coming again!! It’s been completely satisfied and fulfilled. There’s no ceiling now for the Bride of Christ and how she can appear when Jesus comes back for her—the Bride that “has made herself ready.” And this is our readiness—our FAITH! “When I return, will I find faith on the earth?” Well, He’s not coming back for a Bride if He doesn’t! He WILL find faith. It’s a challenge! It’s hard. But God wants to transform us and teach us and bring us the gift of faith—the measure of faith God has given to each of us (Romans 12). God is totally involved in bringing His people not only to salvation, but into Glory. That’s His business and He desires it with all of His heart. We have to be soft and yielded and hungry for it… but glory to God, He’s going to do it! He shall do it.
You Must Die
“Do you not know brothers—for I am speaking to men who know the law—that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives? For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man. So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God”(Romans 7:1-4).
If you don’t read carefully, you might get the idea that Paul jumps from Romans 6 into a totally different subject in chapter 7. You might think he’s now talking about marriage, death and remarriage. But keep in mind that there were no chapter breaks in his letter with little numbers between each of the sentences. In the depth of his heart, Paul is still speaking of the same thing he was in chapter 6—“dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus!” Remember, Paul was talking to Christian men with a Jewish heritage, who were familiar with “the Law.” So in chapter 7, he uses an illustration he knew they could understand—the “law” of marriage.
He’s saying that it’s just like what happened with the body of sin in your life and Jesus! You “…died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.” In the context of the marriage analogy that Paul is giving, this little expression, “that we might bear fruit to God,” is speaking of “having babies.”
Are you willing to die to the law? Are you willing to quit striving to please God by the things you do in order to somehow justify yourself before Him? If you try to live that way, you’re under a curse. There’s no hope for you as long as you’re trying to reach God through your own good works, your striving, your willpower, your own personal holiness, and all your self-sacrifice—you, you, you—the innumerable good deeds you do for so many people. Do you know what Paul says about all that? He says, “SO WHAT?!” No one ever reached God that way and no one ever will.
If you’re an honest person and know what God requires of you, for every one “good thing” you’ve done, you know there are ten things you’ve been an utter failure in. Paul’s saying that as long as you try to approach God through willpower and striving, there’s no way you can marry Jesus. It’s impossible! You can’t have Jesus if you’re so intent on trying to please God through striving. The only thing you’ll accomplish is making yourself and everyone around you miserable with all this back and forth, back and forth, try-real-hard kind of stuff that happens with millions of people that “know the law.” As long as you try to approach God on that basis, you will be miserable and impotent…and you’ll NEVER find Jesus.
You’ve got to be DEAD to trying to please God through any means other than Jesus. You need to be dead to believing anything about yourself other than what God thinks about you, whether too much or too little. You need to be dead to all your ties to religion, self-justification, striving and all your fear about how baaaad you are. You’re not any worse than God says you are, and you’re not any better than God says you are either. If you think you’re something, you’re “dead even while you live.” On the other hand, if you think you’re a terrible, tragic mess, but you’re not able to turn to Jesus and find Him in spite of that, then that unbelief in your life will result in tragedy for you. Because if you don’t believe that “the light will shine out of darkness,” then you’ll get exactly what you ask for—darkness your whole life.
Believe what God says, that all who come to Him through FAITH in His Son will never be put to shame. “The work of God is to believe on the one whom He sent.” If you’ll believe that with all your heart, then you’ll find the working out of the power of God in Resurrection Living in this present age. That’s God’s promise for each of us—the stature of Christ in ever-increasing measure from one degree of glory to another.
“You died to the law through the body of Christ,” Paul said. In 1 Corinthians 15 he says, “The power of sin is the law.” Understanding all the “right things to do” is actually what empowers sin. That is not our salvation! The law is what makes us conscious of sin, and being conscious of sin is what makes us aware of our poverty. And when we’re aware of our poverty, “happy are the poor in spirit, because theirs is the kingdom.” We start at ground zero with no claims of our own. None. Not even a thought of being anything great or special…not comparing ourselves to others or to what we used to be. None of that stuff. We know how altogether worthless we are. We understand and fully believe from the heart with every fiber of our being that we are deep, deep, deep in sin (Rom. 3:12). And believing how true that is…we also believe that “the Lamb of God came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst.” We believe with all our hearts, “The Father loves the Son” and because I’m clothed with Him, the Father loves me! No questions asked. That in itself is what allows God not only to save our souls, but also to change us into the image and the likeness and the personality of Jesus.
The New Way of the Spirit
“You also died to the law through the body of Christ that you might belong to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.” Ohhhhh! We can belong now to Another! No longer must we remain married to ourselves—to our self-life, our self-love, our self-justification, our good deeds and our comparisons to others. We’ve been married to this wretched self-life since Adam left the Garden under duress. But if we die to all that, then according to the law, we’re free to marry Another—but not a minute before! That’s the point Paul’s making. You cannot marry Jesus until you’ve died to the first. You can’t have both. You can’t have Jesus, and belong to Him and “bear fruit unto God” (bringing many sons to glory from the very womb of God, as you are in union with Him) and at the same time be under all this wrestling and unbelief. It cannot happen because the two are incompatible. Paul is saying, “Hey guys, this is an example you should be able to relate to.” The law clearly says, you cannot marry another until the first one DIES. There’s no hope if you’re going to live by any self-justification or striving. If you really want to belong to Another and bear fruit unto God—have godly offspring for God—then you have to die to the unbelief and self-justification in your life.
“For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code” (Rom. 7:5,6). NOW, we live our lives by the new way of the Spirit—the same way Jesus did. He didn’t live by the written code, and He confused a lot of people because of it. Gathering grain on the Sabbath. Healing on the Sabbath. What was He doing? He didn’t even wash His hands before meals! All these things about the Lord of the Sabbath that constantly confused those who tried to live by the written code. But Jesus was above all those things…He was the fulfillment. It wasn’t that He disobeyed the law, not at all! It was that He encompassed it so fully that their finite minds couldn’t comprehend it.
God doesn’t want us to be bound by what we think He wants, and by our perceptions of this law and that law. “Doing this makes God happy,” and “Doing that makes God sad.” That’s pathetic. We don’t have to live that way any longer! When Jesus saw His dearly loved brothers gathering grain on the Sabbath, He didn’t panic because He looked at His Father. The Pharisees looked at the law and said, “Aha! You’re breaking the law. You’re harvesting on the Sabbath!” But Jesus looked at His Father. He served God in the new way by fellowshipping with His Father, and therefore He could comprehend the written code in a way that the Pharisees couldn’t. The Pharisees were relying on their minds and perceptions of the covenant of the written code. They were limited to that because they didn’t go through the written code to the Father who wrote the code in order to comprehend His heart and mind. So Jesus reminded them, “There was a time when David did things that you all would consider unlawful, and God smiled! Remember when he and his men went into the house of God and ate the consecrated bread that only the priests were allowed to eat? Do you remember that?” And the Pharisees were left scratching their heads. “What’s going on here? Yeah, I remember that, but I never thought about it that way.” He just fried their minds, because they were approaching God on the basis of some finite thought pattern about scriptures and law.
God wants us to come to Him the same way His Son Jesus did. He wants us to eat from the Tree of Life rather than from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And so now, by living out of that fellowship with God, we can serve in the new way of the Spirit, rather than the old way of the written code. It’s not that we cast away the jots and tittles of the law, but we fulfill the law out of fellowship with God. Hebrews 10 says the written code, the law, is a shadow of God, but it’s not the reality of God. It’s not that the written code misrepresents God; it’s simply a shadow. You need to understand that about the Scriptures, though it doesn’t at all minimize them. As Jesus said, “You diligently study the Scriptures, because you think that by them you possess eternal life…yet you refuse to come to me” of whom the Scriptures speak (John 5:39-40). The Scriptures are meant to take us from the shadow to the reality!
You see the same thing in Colossians. Paul talks about how men had tried in the past to approach God on the basis of externals. They were always trying to do the right things and avoid the wrong things through the law, the festivals, the Sabbaths. Now, these were things that God had clearly written about and even commanded, but Paul says, “It’s bigger than that. Go through the shadow and find the reality that’s in Christ Jesus” (Col. 2). And as you find God and fellowship with Him, and as you love, you will fulfill the law. “The written code, with its regulations” won’t kill you anymore. You won’t find the flesh rising up against you when you’re in love with the Father. The law in itself is meant to make us conscious of sin and in Galatians it’s called a “tutor.” It’s a schoolmaster that drives us to Christ as we realize our inability to obey even the little bit of what we do understand about God’s requirements of us. It’s all meant to drive us to “the new and living way.” It’s the way Adam had with the Father until he made himself a god, indulging his flesh “by the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh and the boastful pride of life.”
We come to Him in a new and living way! That’s God’s heart! Then His power is released into our hearts so we can reckon ourselves dead to sin. No longer in bondage, no longer slaves of wickedness with the members of our body. Instead we can now be willing bondservants of God, from the heart, because we’re in love with Him. The whole nature of the New Covenant is so radically different! It’s not just that some new laws and new traditions were added. No! The whole thing is radically different in that we can now approach the Father the same way Jesus did because we are now IN the Son. How else can we approach the Father? “Our life is hidden with Christ in God”—how else are we going to approach the Father? If you live in the old way, you can’t belong to the New Man. You can’t belong to the Second Adam as long as you’re living under the curse of the first Adam, approaching God through your head, through your deeds, and through your judgments.
The Law is Not the Problem
“What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘Do not covet.’ But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died” (Rom. 7:7-9).
Did you ever notice that if you approach God in some way other than by faith, the more you know the more miserable you are? It’s true! “I was alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came—when I came to understand what God required of me—death reigned in my mortal body.” Paul describes in great detail the torture of what it’s like to “know” what God wants, and at the same time try to attain it by our minds, our willpower, by self-justification, or by comparing ourselves to others. It’s miserable to live that way, rather than living in the Spirit, in total humiliation before God, submitting ourselves to His Spirit and marrying Jesus.
He says, “I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death” (Rom. 7:10,11). In other words, I thought I could reach God by keeping His laws. “Aha! Now I know God’s will, I will simply do it, and live.” But I was deceived by that. I found that my flesh is weaker than I ever imagined. My ability to reach God is far less than I’d ever dreamed. I thought I just needed to know a little more and do a little more and everything would be okay. But it was nothing like that! It deceived me and brought death to me. The more I knew about what God required of me, the more I realized how impoverished I was.
The law was given to make us “conscious of sin” (Rom. 3:20)…not to justify ourselves before God! The law came to make us realize how incredibly weak our flesh is and to put a spotlight on sin. It came to make us see how pitiful we are in ourselves so that we might finally fall on the Rock. Then He can bless us by turning us from our wickedness (Acts 3:26). He longs to lead us toward repentance by His kindness—not by our self-will or our self-righteousness, but out of His kindness. He graciously leads us with cords of love into His heart and will, and into an amazing love affair with Him. Everything else just drifts away, not by our self-will but just by humbly loving Him. We saturate ourselves with His love and His perfect love casts out our fear. His love casts out our appetite for trying to find some other way to satisfy ourselves, other than Him (which only heaps condemnation on our hearts anyway).
We were designed by God to find satisfaction only in Him. And we all have to learn that the hard way. Being created in His image is a tremendous blessing, but in a sense, it’s also a tremendous curse! Since we were created in His image, we have this impulse to think we can somehow, some way, justify ourselves. We justify ourselves with, “I’m better than they are,” or “At least I’m better than I used to be.” Or we’re ignorant enough about God’s will that we think we’ve fulfilled it to some tolerable extent—we think we’re justified! So God deceived us. He had to show us how far off we really were and how totally helpless and hopeless we are—“Apart from Me you can do nothing.” The sooner we fully comprehend that, the sooner we’ll find His Life flowing through us. As long as you hold on to the other, you can’t have Jesus—that’s the first part of Romans 7. If you continue to strive, to justify yourself, to compare, to judge, to stick out your chest and walk in all that stuff, then you can’t have Him. Paul said, “You know enough about the Law of Moses that you ought to know that.” You CANNOT have the new and living way as long as you hold tenaciously to the old way.
“So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12). Don’t fault the law—the law is RIGHT! So don’t think, “What’s the big deal? I don’t have to keep these commands because I’m in the New covenant.” If you think that way, you’re missing the boat. You need to believe exactly how true and righteous God’s requirements are, and how incredibly right He is in saying that you deserve death. Every last thing He ever said must be fulfilled by you. You need to understand that! And don’t soft sell and rationalize with, “I don’t have to do that, it’s not important.” Or, “Well, I’m better than I used to be. And I’m better than John or Fred or Sally.” As long as you rationalize God’s will for your life—His holiness, righteousness and blamelessness—and say, “Well, I don’t have to do that,” you will never find the power of God in your life. His commandments are holy, righteous, and true and we must keep them. There’s no question about that. Otherwise, we shall surely die!
Violating even the slightest commandment makes us guilty of violating the ENTIRE law. The instant we tell a white lie or don’t tell the whole truth when someone asks us a question, or when we have an attitude at work toward our boss, we’re just as guilty as Hitler or The Boston Strangler. In fact, we’re worse than they are, in the sense that we probably know more! Paul said, “Don’t get the wrong idea about the law when I say that it makes me conscious of sin and makes sin well up in my heart and accuses me all the more. Don’t get the wrong idea that the problem is with the law. God’s law is right. The problem is with you!” And you’ll never find God as long as you continue to approach Him on your own merit. It can’t be done.
Utterly Sinful…Utterly Miserable
“Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful” (Rom. 7:13).
We’ve got to see our utter sinfulness. “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom.” If you can snap at your spouse, your child, your roommate or a co-worker and not feel utterly sinful, you are self-deceived because you don’t understand God’s righteousness. If you can walk away from that without a conscience about it, then you don’t understand what God requires of you!
“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it” (Rom. 7:14-20). Grab on to what Paul’s saying here… “As long as I live in this old relationship of trying to approach God by the good things I do, I’m always going to be a slave.”
Some people say that Paul must have been writing about the time before he became a Christian, because he’s saying he sins all the time. Otherwise he wouldn’t be able to say to the Thessalonians, “See how holy and righteous and blameless I was when I was in your midst.” He would be contradicting himself, right? How can he be sinning all the time and be “blameless” at the same time? He must be talking about before he was a Christian. Others say, “Well, Paul was a sinner just like the rest of us, so why should we care about being holy when here’s this great man of God sinning like crazy, by his own testimony? Even Paul sinned, so it’s okay if I sin too.” If you take either one of those lines, you’re missing the whole point! Paul is describing the nature of trying to live by the law. If we try to justify ourselves, we will live in this terrible slavery of being made consciously aware of how utterly sinful we are, failing again and again, and being utterly miserable.
If you’re experiencing a life that’s obviously against God’s will—in your attitudes and priorities, the way you spend your time and money, the way you treat other people, and the lack of testimony of God in the workplace—if you’re just a Joe-blow-do-what-you-want kind of person, conforming to the patterns of the world, then you don’t understand the Righteousness of God and you’re selling short the Holiness of Jesus. In fact, the Scriptures say you’re “trampling underfoot the Blood of Christ.” That’s a very serious accusation that God holds against you. “If you deliberately continue to sin after receiving the knowledge of the truth, then no sacrifice for sins is left. All that remains is judgment and a raging fire that consumes the enemies of God” (Heb. 10:26,27). That’s how serious it is if you deliberately continue to sin.
In fact, if you can continue to sin without conscience, there’s very little chance you’re a Christian. The nature of the Spirit given to us is that He makes us aware of sin and righteousness and judgment to come. He teaches our conscience the ways of Jesus and testifies about the holiness and life of Jesus. So if you have no conscience again and again and again about things that are totally unlike Jesus’ character, there is a very high probability that you’ve never been born a second time. The letter of 1 John was written around 95 A.D. to the second and third generation Christians with many tests so they could see if they were really believers—born a second time from the very womb of God, and not just living on their parent’s faith. One of those tests of the seed of God truly living inside of you, was that you cannot deliberately continue to sin, because the Son of God was manifest to destroy the devil’s works (1 John 3:8,9). If it’s no big deal to you to live in sin, on and on and on…if you can continue to live in sin without a conscience and without power over sin, you’re not even a believer, says John.
So…back to what Paul is talking about in Romans 7… He’s not talking about an unbeliever with no conscience for sin. He’s talking about a man who DOES have a conscience about sin. “What I do I hate.” He despises it! What he wants to do, he can’t do. What he doesn’t want to do, he keeps falling into. Paul isn’t describing an unbeliever who’s without the Spirit. He’s talking about a believer, but one who is not living by faith. Paul’s describing a man who’s living by self-justification and by flesh, and who’s “trying to attain his goal by mere human effort.” “After beginning in the Spirit,” this man is now trying to justify himself and trying to accomplish God’s purposes by the flesh rather than by the new and living way of the Spirit. He’s approaching God like Adam would, through the tree of the knowledge of good and evil—“This is good. This is evil.” It’s approaching God in some way other than faith in the Son of God. True faith means you’re dying to the world and the world to you, with no regard for externals, or the fear of man or fear of failure. Faith is living your life totally in Christ. It’s believing that the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness” is able to make the Glory of God shine in your life with ever-increasing measure, through the face of Jesus Christ as you behold Him. God’s heart for you is to transform you into the image of His Son from one degree of glory to another. That’s His desire! That’s His manifest purpose. It’s His whole heart and purpose for planet earth, that the sons of God would be manifest (Romans 8)—a race of people who will believe on the One whom He sent. And they’d believe Him not only for salvation, but also for the demolishing of the strongholds of sin in their lives and the lives of their brothers and sisters. That is God’s will for you.
Saturate Your Life in the Son
If you’re exhibiting all these symptoms….misery—pain—anguish—then there’s a problem! Don’t settle for it! What you want to do, you can’t do, and what you shouldn’t do, you do. If there’s all this agony and failure, on and on and on…Paul says the real issue is this: you haven’t died to your first love, which is to justify yourself. As long as you’re still living in the flesh, you can’t marry Jesus. You can’t live by the new and living way, the Second Adam’s way of life that He had with the Father. “The prince of this world has come, but he has nothing in me.” You can’t live that way as long as you try to justify yourself outside of total, saturated faith in the Son of God. Total, saturated faith in Jesus, nothing more—that’s the power of God unto deliverance. It’s the Good News of Jesus Christ that we believe from the heart. The First and the Last, the Alpha and the Omega, the everything of God, the whole alphabet of God is in Jesus! “The spirit of prophecy is a testimony of Jesus.” Jesus, high and lifted up! “The glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Totally saturated in Him, believing in Him for every breath of air. “Apart from Him you can do nothing.” “If you’ll abide in Me and let My word abide in you, you’ll bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be supernatural to the world like I was.” There’s no other way! That’s God’s heart for each of us!
After “beginning in the Spirit,” you can then go on to live in misery if you want to, living by “mere human effort” by your flesh and by the law. You can still be “saved”… but what GOD wants, as Paul said… “I’m in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you”—THAT’S God’s heart for you! The Anointed One of God can be formed in you to the “full measure of the stature and fullness of Christ.” If you see the “symptoms” of perpetual failure in your life, then you’re not yet living by faith in the Son of God who loves you and gave Himself for you. You’re still living in another world. After “beginning in the Spirit”—believing God for salvation that you couldn’t attain yourself—now somehow you believe in yourself for sanctification. Somehow, someway, if you trace the roots back, either your conscience is seared because you don’t care what God thinks (in which case you’re in serious trouble), or you care deeply, but fail again and again. What you do you hate utterly. You hate that raised eyebrow, that rolling of the eyes, those pursed lips, that cold shoulder you give your spouse or roommate, or the lack of openness you have with others, and the judgment you feel as you scowl at someone because of the way they dress. If you’re truly born a second time, you’ll hate that stuff. What you do, you’ll hate. You cannot continue to live like that without a conscience.
The sheep know the Shepherd’s voice, but the goats don’t. So if someone speaks to you about sin in your life, you’ll find conviction in your heart about it, because the Spirit of God comes with deep conviction. Like Paul said, “we know you’re one of His, because the Gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction” (1Thess. 1:5). Paul knew there was something real going on because the Word of God and the Spirit of God came, and there was deep conviction. Remember the Corinthians’ response to a simple letter from a brother named Paul, who they didn’t even trust very much… “What indignation, what alarm, what desire to make every issue right.” (2 Cor. 7) That’s the kind of heart we need to have.
So Paul has been lifting up this glorious truth of beginning in faith by the Spirit, and also walking in faith by the Spirit. It’s JESUS who fulfills the requirements of God for salvation. And it’s JESUS who provides everything that pertains to life and godliness. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desire” (2 Peter 1:3-4). Great and precious promises! Promises that allow us to be partakers of the divine nature so we don’t have to be nearsighted, blind and unfruitful. God can now well up from within as we believe Him by faith to not only fulfill the requirements of God to justify us and free us from the death penalty… but also to bring us to Himself in the stature of Christ, with the personality and character and fullness of Jesus. That’s God’s heart and will for you and it’s accessible by believing Him (the God who said, “Let the light shine out of darkness!”), and by beholding the person of Jesus and trusting Him completely for that transformation.
That is really good news to me! It’s a whole lot better than having to “be somebody,” and “know” things and accomplish 10,000 things and avoid 10,000 others! I can saturate my heart and life with the Son of God. He will transform me from one degree of glory to another as I behold Him and trust Him, and lay down my appetites and no longer “offer the parts of my body as instruments of wickedness.” I offer myself to Him and call on the Name of the Lord, trusting Him and believing in Him with all my heart to transform me and change me. He’s able to create the galaxies so I believe He’s able to change my heart. No matter what has ever happened, or what anyone has ever said to me, no matter how bad I’ve ever felt about myself or how others have felt about me…I believe He can change my heart.
I start by acknowledging that His ways are right and true. I look at Romans 1 through 3 and say, “Apart from Him I can do nothing. It’s true! We’ve altogether become worthless. There’s nothing good in me…nothing good dwells in me. I acknowledge that. There’s no pride in my heart. I empty myself of pride.” And then I believe in Him as my only hope. I believe in Him for justification, and then believe in Him for character, growth and fullness. That’s the Good News that sustains us and draws us across a lifetime, that Jesus demonstrated for us in His 33 years, and that He desires for us and wants to fulfill in us. “When I return, will I find faith on earth?”
The Son Delights the Father
“So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin” (Romans 7:21-25).
Paul is aching with it… “Ohhhh, this is just terrible! Is there any answer for all this terrible pain I feel? Is there any answer? I am willing to acknowledge how pitiful my life is. I freely admit with no pride how many times I’ve failed. I acknowledge it. God is righteous and His decrees are TRUE and GOOD. He is Holy. I am pitiful. I acknowledge it all and make no defense for myself! I make no comparisons to others or to myself. I’m an utter, utter failure. Is there ANY hope for me!!??”
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1-8:4).
Can you see how all this is blossoming? Paul’s saying, “You need to understand that the righteous requirements of the law can be fulfilled in your mortal bodies, in your era, in the span of life God has given you.” If you live by the power of the Spirit, rather than by the power of the law in the members of your body—you can live in the kind of life God intended for you, that Jesus lived!! If you live by the Spirit, in fellowship and friendship with God, you won’t say anything you don’t hear the Father saying or do anything you don’t see the Father doing, because you trust nothing in yourself. It won’t be because you’re so “spiritual,” but because you’re so UNspiritual. You’ll have no choice but to face Him, and draw every word that you speak and every ounce of life from His heart. As the war rages in your flesh, you’ll become more and more convinced. From one degree of glory to another to another to another you’ll become more convinced that the law of sin and death is actually put aside IF you will simply live by His Spirit in fellowship with Him. Then and ONLY then can the righteous requirements of the law be fulfilled in our current lifetime in a way that satisfies the Father. It won’t be because of us. Only the Son living through us can ever satisfy the Father.
So we abandon trying to sacrifice anything “for Him,” or accomplish or do any good thing “for Him,” or justify ourselves in any way. We stop trying to maintain our reputation or compare ourselves to others. A dead man doesn’t think about all those things! And until you’re dead, you can’t find the power of God. You’re going to have a war raging inside of you until you’re DEAD to approaching the Father on any basis other than through JESUS, as a way of life. “I’ve been crucified with Christ; I no longer live. Yet I do live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” If that doesn’t describe you, you’re under a curse, as Paul said earlier. And this is the curse: Either your conscience is seared and you don’t know God’s will so you miss Him entirely; or you know the law, but you can’t keep the law. Your conscience has been enlightened by God’s requirements, which are holy and true. You can’t find fault with the law or the holiness of God, so you’re desperate to fulfill the law. But you find you just can’t, and you become more and more guilty. And then finally, somewhere in the middle of all that struggle…once in a rare moment amongst a whole generation of people…someone decides they want to believe Jesus, and lay down their life for Him and quit striving. They decide to find Him and only Him for their only justification and their only sanctification—with their whole heart and soul, and their whole mind and strength.
God wants not just a rare few, but a whole tribe of people like that! He wants a whole race born of the Second Adam—not just the “first Adam” trying to please the “Second Adam.” A race of people born from the very womb of God, living in the genetic life of Jesus, in the same way He lived—by the Spirit, in the new and living way.
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires” (Rom. 8:1-5a). Notice the tie between your mind and the Spirit of God. If you live according to the sinful nature, your mind and thoughts will be set on and consumed by what the earthly nature desires—justification, retaliation, judgment, bitterness, lust, fear of man, pride. Your mind will be set on these things. If the sinful nature is reigning in your mortal body, your mind is fixed on earthly issues.
“But those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” I’m not living for myself because I don’t live any longer. I live for what the Spirit desires. “Zeal for the Father’s House consumes me.” I don’t run after what pleases myself, my flesh and my glands—the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh and the boastful pride of life. I don’t want that anymore because I know it creates a raging war in me. I want to set my mind on what the Spirit desires—fellowship with the Godhead, the same as Jesus had.
“The mind of sinful man is death…” If you don’t believe that, then your conscience is totally seared. You’ve got to feel that “working in your members” (Rom. 7:23). Like Paul said, “The mind of sinful man is death. Ycch!! Oh wretched man that I am!” You are out of touch with God if it doesn’t drive you nuts when you live by the flesh and the sinful nature and try to justify yourself through externals—comparing yourself to others, or to how you used to be or to what you “think” you understand of the Word of God or some other sort of external thing.
Marks of the Spirit Living Within
“The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace” (Rom. 8:6). Here’s a mark of a man living by the Spirit: He senses life and peace in his heart and mind, and the acts of the sinful nature will be put to death. He’ll be blameless, righteous and holy in God’s sight. He’ll live in fellowship with God and lay down his life for his brothers in very obvious ways, like Jesus did. You say you love God? John said that your brothers can tell you whether you do or not. Because you don’t love God if your brothers don’t know how desperately you love them! How can you love a God you haven’t seen if you won’t love the measure of God that’s been granted to your brothers? John said, “You’re a liar and the truth is not in you” (1 John 4:20). “The life and the mind that’s controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.”
“The sinful mind is hostile to God” (Rom. 8:7). There’s enmity there… “Don’t bind me. Don’t make me do that. You’re a hard God. You’re a harsh master, reaping where you haven’t sown. You’re trying to take all my rights away from me. You’re trying to squeeze me in and make me do this or that. It’s just not fair. You did this for somebody else but you won’t do it for me.” “You made me this way!” the clay says to the Potter. God isn’t very amused by that kind of attitude.
“The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so” (Rom. 8:7). As hard as we might try, we have no power within us, living by externals, to obey God. It can’t happen! There’s a hostility and a resentment toward God, His people, and His Word. We don’t want any part of Him. We kick and push and resist and resent. “Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God” (Rom. 8:8). You cannot please God when you give your heart and mind over to the sinful nature and if you approach Him on the basis of externals.
“You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Rom. 8:9). It’s a conditional statement—an “if-then” statement. If the Spirit of God lives in you, then you won’t be living by the sinful nature. He gives the Holy Spirit as the deposit, or the down payment that guarantees that the House and the Inheritance are ours. And the Holy Spirit living inside looks a certain way. When the Creator—God Himself—lives inside of you, there are certain “marks,” John said and Jesus taught, and Paul is teaching here. There will be life reigning in you (Romans 5)! There will be power living inside of you. There’ll be life and peace in you, and the righteous requirements of the law will be fulfilled in you, with ever-increasing glory. The stature of Christ and fellowship with the Godhead will continue to well up, and well up, in a supernatural way, as you believe on the One whom He sent. These are marks of the Spirit of Christ living in you, if in fact He does live in you.
“But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (Rom. 8:10,11). You can have LIFE in your mortal body!! That’s God’s promise, if you live by His Spirit. As surely as God raised Jesus from the dead, so also YOU can have Resurrection Life living in you that is not under the law of sin and death, and that is not pushed around by the flesh. When your mind is controlled by the Spirit, life and peace will flow out of you, through you and into you. Your whole world will be filled with Jesus, rather than contention, striving, fear, comparison and judgment. In your mortal bodies, God means to fulfill in you the law of the Spirit of God, which is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost!
6 If Jesus doesn’t live in you…you’re not one of His yet. This is a call to those of you who are wrestling with all this. Maybe this isn’t where you are. Maybe you’re not wrestling or driving toward these things, or you don’t desire the things of God and aren’t desperate to find God. Maybe it’s, “I just don’t care, I don’t have any conscience for it. It doesn’t matter to me. It’s not that big a deal.” If that’s the case for you’you don’t hunger and thirst for righteousness, and you don’t long for it as a newborn baby longs for milk, as Peter said. For you, it’s not a matter of needing to learn how to live by the Spirit rather than by the flesh and the law. What you need is to get on your face and ask God to deliver you from the penalty of sin. That’s got to be the starting place before these other things apply. Back