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Thursday, December 15, 2016, 7:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Romans 8:1-17 (ESV).

According to the Spirit (vv. 1-8)

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 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. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 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. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

A lot of people quote these first few verses, while they ignore the rest. They assume they are no longer under condemnation because they recited a prayer to receive Christ; or since they were baptized, or they are members of, or they were raised in the institutional church. Yet, none of these are what save us, nor are they what deliver us from condemnation. The Word of God teaches that there is therefore no condemnation for those who are IN Christ Jesus. So, how do we get to be in Christ Jesus?

According to the Apostle Paul, who spoke as he was moved along by the Holy Spirit, the way in which we come to be “in Christ” is by God’s grace, via faith in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8-10). He also said, with regard to how we come to know Christ, that we are taught, with regard to our former way of life, to put off our old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of our minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:20-24).

If we are “in Christ,” by faith in him, we died to sin. Our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. If we are still slaves to sin, that leads to death. But, if we are slaves to obedience, that leads to righteousness (Ro. 6:2, 6-7, 16).

Paul reiterated the same message here in chapter 8 of Romans. If we are in Christ Jesus, by faith in him, we no longer conduct our lives (in lifestyle) according to our sinful nature, but according to (in agreement with) the Spirit of God. This does not mean we never sin (See: 1 Jn. 2:1), but it does mean that we do not consistently practice sinning as the normal course of our everyday lives, without regard for God and for his commandments. If we live according to the sinful nature, our minds are not on pleasing our Lord, but they are set on what our sinful nature desires. Those who are controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. This means God is NOT pleased with us no matter what we do. He does not delight in us when we willfully and consistently give way to our sinful nature, while claiming God’s grace.

If we want to experience life and peace in Christ Jesus, then our minds need to be controlled by the Spirit of God. This, again, is not saying we will live in sinless perfection, or that we will never have a straying thought. It is clear Paul is talking about lifestyle. Do we daily make it our practice to disobey our Lord and to do what we want to do without regard for his will for our lives? If we do, this ends in death. Or, do we make it our practice to follow our Lord in obedience, and in surrender to his will for our lives? If we do, this results in life and peace, in righteousness, and eternal life with God.

If in Fact (vv. 9-11)

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. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 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.

The usage of the word “if” raises doubt here. It brings into question whether some of those who may be claiming to be in Christ, and to be free from condemnation, may not actually be in Christ at all.

There are a lot of people here in America who claim to be Christians and believers in Jesus Christ, but whose lifestyles appear to speak just the opposite. Their lives give off the appearance of being not much different at all from those who make no claims to faith in Jesus Christ at all. Yet, our Lord, when he called us, called us to be holy, set apart from the world of sin because we are becoming like Jesus. He called us to separate ourselves from conformity to the ways of this world, and to walk in purity, righteousness, holiness, godliness and integrity – all in the power of the Spirit within us.

We are Debtors (vv. 12-17)

So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

What is a debtor? He or she is one who owes a debt to someone. And, a debt is an obligation, a duty and a responsibility. We, as followers of Jesus Christ, have an obligation to God, who saved us from sin, to not live according to the sinful nature but to live according to the Spirit. This flies in the face of those who are teaching that we owe God nothing, and that nothing at all is required of us – no repentance, no obedience, and no surrender or submission to God – but they say that God is obligated to us to give us his blessings and his heaven, because they say he promised.

So, is Paul wrong? Was he speaking blasphemy when he taught that if we live according to our sinful flesh that we will die (in our sins)? But, if by the Spirit, we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, that we will live (with Christ for eternity)? Was he confused in his mind as to what the truth is? NO! The problem we run into here is that so many people just ignore the words they don’t want to accept, because they don’t fit with their lifestyles, and so they embrace only the words which fit with their way of life. Yet, scripture is real clear on this subject. If we are led by the Spirit, we are children of God, but if we are being led by our flesh, then we are illegitimate children who will hear God one day say, “I never knew you.”

Yet, if we are being led by the Spirit, and not by the flesh, and if we are walking according to the Spirit, and not according to our sinful nature, then we are God’s true children, and we have nothing to fear. We can claim the promise of heaven and eternal life with God, because we are legitimate sons and daughters through genuine faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. We can rest on his everlasting arms because we truly know him, and his Spirit lives within us, and we are in relationship with Almighty God because of his grace to us, and because of our walks of obedience in accordance with his Spirit. And, so we truly have fellowship with our Lord, and our desire is to please him in all that we do, and to no longer live to please ourselves.

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms / Elisha A. Hoffman / A. J. Showalter

What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

Oh, how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
Oh, how bright the path grows from day to day,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
Leaning on the everlasting arms?
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.