5th Sunday of Lent (A) March 9, 2008
Live by the Spirit (Romans 8:5-11)
During Lent, the forty days before Easter, some people make a decision to abstain from certain foods, activities or pleasures in an effort to focus more intensely on the spiritual life. That can be very helpful, but what God desires even more is for our relationship with him to move beyond the season to a continuing lifestyle. He calls us to live “according to the Spirit” (v. 4).
Have you lost your mind? (vv. 5-7).
This text contrasts two kinds of people: “those who live according to the sinful nature” and “those who live in accordance with the Spirit” (v. 5). The difference is seen in what the individuals have “their minds set on.” One seeks the desires of sin; the other seeks the desires of the Spirit. So radical is the difference a person might ask, “Have you lost your mind?”A Christian can declare, “Yes, I now have the mind of Christ!”
The sinful nature leads the mind to be focused on what that nature desires. I once witnessed to a man and encouraged him to give his life to Christ. He resisted and blatantly stated why, “I like women, and don’t plan to change.”When we live by the Spirit our mind is focused on what the Spirit desires. Sin leads to death while the Spirit leads to life and peace (v. 6).
This section of Romans opened with the marvelous declaration, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (8:1). Those who are “in Christ Jesus” have been set free “from the law of sin and death” (8:2).
I’m grateful Christ set me free. With the mind of Christ I have discovered a relationship with my wife that is so much more than the man who rejected the Lord. I sometimes sadly wonder where his sensuous selfish mind took him. He needed to lose his mind and find the mind of Christ.
Who has control of your life? (vv. 8-9).
The two kinds of people are also characterized by the controlling center of life: “Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit” (vv. 8-9).
While in missionary service in the Philippines a U.S. Navy Lt. called and asked if our family wanted to take a ride from Manila Bay to Subic Bay on the admiral’s ship. I quickly secured someone to preach for me that day so I would not miss this once-in-a-lifetime experience. The chaplain conducted worship services; we shared lunch on deck and the Lt. took us on a tour that included a stop in the “command center.” Here was where the officers made decisions that fulfilled the ship’s mission and direction.
What is the command and control center for your life? Is it “the Spirit of God [who] lives in you” (v. 9)?
I can hear the objection. “Wait a minute! I don’t want any part of being controlled. I’m free!” The Holy Spirit accomplishes this in full respect of the freedom with which God made us. The fruit of the Spirit is “self-control” and “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Gal. 5:23-25). You’re free, but do you follow the direction of the Lord who set you free?
Are you experiencing God’s power? (vv. 10-11).
To live by the Spirit is connection to spiritual power; “your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness” (v. 10). Have any of us fully realized that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead abides in us (v. 11)? Wow! Easter is on the calendar each year, but Resurrection Day is available daily to the child of God. We have power to face the Devil and his temptations, power to comfort and strengthen us in illness and grief, power to cope on the job, power to use the gifts God has given us and work with Him to change our the world.
Live by the Spirit; any other way is a mindless, out-of-control, powerless existence.