Sermon: Setting Your Mind On the Spirit


Setting Your Mind on the Spirit
Romans 8:1-11 NRSV8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

8:3 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 to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,

8:4 so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

8:5 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.

8:6 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

8:7 For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law–indeed it cannot,

8:8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

8:9 But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

8:10 But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

8:11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

Dead Man Walking

Years ago, prisons in the South were notoriously corrupt and cruel institutions. Paul Newman’s movie’s Cool Hand Luke, showed the meanness of life in the county workcamp. Robert Redford starred in Brubaker, the story of a prison camp warden who tried to clean up the savagery, not of the prisoners, but of the guards themselves. Mississippi’s infamous prison camp, Parchman, was particularly known for its use of deadly force against prisoners. One prison’s death row delivered its charges to the electric chair by announcing the prison procession with these words — “Dead man walking, dead man walking here.”

That phrase, Dead Man Walking, became the title for Sister Helen Prejean’s book by the same name, recounting her experiences ministering on Louisiana’s death row. For the condemned who walked from death row to the electric chair, the announcement, Dead Man Walking, served only to confirm their ultimate fate.

Romans Contrasts Life and Death

We continue our journey through Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome this week. And, if you recall last week’s passage from Romans 7, Paul says that we’re struggling to live up to God’s law. As a matter of fact, we can’t do it. Paul said in Romans 7:24 –

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?

In other words, we’re dead men walking. But the good news it that Paul then answers his own question by saying –

Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

But, then Chapter 7 concludes with a less than optimistic statement –

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.

So,which is it? Am I a dead man walking — trapped in a body of death brought about by sin, to which I am a slave? Or Has Jesus the Messiah — the Christ — delivered me from the death sentence that I have been under? And that brings us to Chapter 8.

No Condemnation

Paul begins this chapter by saying –

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
So what changed in the space of one verse — from the end of chapter 7 to the beginning of chapter 8? Just this, and we find it in Romans 8:2. Paul gave us the punchline in verse one, and now here’s the explanation —
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

We are not condemned to “death” — we are no longer dead men walking — because a new law, another law, a higher law, the law of the spirit of life has set us free from the law of sin and death. So there it is — there’s a new sheriff in town, a new law as it were, that overrides, cancels out, precludes the old law. This new law is called the Law of the Spirit of Life.

What’s Up With This New Law of the Spirit of Life?

Okay, stay with me here for we have to cover a lot of territory quickly. Here’s the overview of the situation that God is dealing with:

  1. God gave The Law to Israel to distinguish Israel from all other people, as uniquely the people of God, so that Israel might be a blessing to the nations.
  2. Israel, due to the weakness of humanity, was not able to live up to God’s calling.
  3. Israel’s failure meant that God had to fix the problem.
  4. So, God sent Jesus, God in human form, to solve the problem. God did not outsource this work to someone else. God appeared, in the form of a man, in the flesh, as the Messiah of God to the nation of Israel.
  5. The Messiah not only was the hope of the Jews, but the Messiah actually took on the character of the nation of Israel before God. That’s why Jesus spoke of his body as The Temple. He became the Temple — the dwelling place of God. Jesus spoke of his ministry to gather the lost house of Israel as a hen gathers her chicks. Jesus spoke of the sacrifice of death that he would offer — the sin sacrifice — for the sins of the nation.
  6. The sin of the nation then was collected in the Messiah.
  7. God condemned that sin in Jesus’ flesh (remember the serpent in the wilderness — that which kills you saves you) and nailed sin to the cross.
  8. But God, after condemning sin, confirmed Jesus as Messiah by raising him from the dead, thus breaking sin’s only hold on humanity — death.
  9. But not only that, but the Spirit of God then comes to live in each of God’s people. And that Spirit is the new law — the law of life, not the law of sin and death.

A Look at the Spirit

Which now brings us to the notion of the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ghost, the indwelling presence of God whom Jesus said to the disciples…”is with you and shall be in you.” Meaning that Jesus as God was with them, but one day the Spirit of God would be in them. Previously, the Spirit of God had been thought to be only in The Temple, or on certain leaders or prophets. But now the mark of the new people of God is God’s indwelling Spirit.

When we think of the Holy Spirit, depending on what your tradition is, we come up with some pretty bizarre thoughts. We think of the ecstatic gifts of the Spirit — speaking in tongues, the gift of healing, the gift of prophecy, the gift of supernatural knowledge, and so forth. Paul talks about these in his letter to the Corinthians.

Or when we think about the Holy Spirit, we think of problems. The charismatic movement which divided churches into those who had the “baptism of the Spirit” and those who didn’t. Or the Pentecostal movement where worship services are more free-form that we as Baptists are used to.

But when Paul talks about the Law of the Spirit, or the Spirit dwelling in God’s people, here’s what he means. The Greek word for spirit is pneuma. It is the word from which we get our words pneumatic, pneumonia, and so on. Pneuma literally means breath or wind.

In the Hebrew Old Testament, the word for Spirit is ruach — which also means breath or wind. It is God who breathes into newly created mankind, the breath of life. Without that breath, that spirit, that wind of God, there is no life. And, part of the image of God in which man is created is the life-giving breath of God given by God himself.

When we get to the New Testament, we find Jesus breathing the Spirit onto the disciples in a new act of creation — the beginning of Christ making all things new.

It is this Spirit, this breath, this wind of which Paul speaks when he talks about the Law of the Spirit of Life.

God’s breath is now breathed into, not just the human race as a whole, but uniquely into every follower of Jesus, the Messiah. Why? Because we are the new people of God, the new Israel, we carry the gospel — the good news — that God keeps his promises.

The Spirit is Life, Sin is Death

In Romans, Paul has drawn several contrasts:

  • sin vs. righteousness
  • the old Adam vs. the new Adam
  • death vs. life
  • flesh vs Spirit
  • Law of Sin and Death vs Law of Spirit of life
  • those not in Christ vs those in Christ

All of these contrasts are saying the same thing — living according to God’s plan leads to life, living according to “flesh” (that which is corruptible, decaying) leads to death. So, the contrasts are clear — God has made a way by fulfilling the original law, to create life again, defeating the enemy called death.

How Do We Set Our Mind on the Spirit?

The Law of the Spirit is about life, first and foremost. It is about life as God originally intended it. It is about life that if abundant and at peace with God. It is about life that leads to the new heavens and the new earth in the eternal presence of God as God had always intended it.

So, how do we get there. Well, we only get there through the one who carried sin to the cross, Jesus. We only get there through the one whom God vindicated by raising him from the dead, Jesus. We only get there by recognizing that the sin offering of Christ on our behalf fulfilled the Law of God, condemned sin, and paid our penalty. Then, the resurrection of Christ, the Messiah, God’s anointed, broke the power which sin held over humanity. And, broke it decisively, once and for all time, future life guaranteed by God.

So, we choose life. Life in all its forms, life in all its expressions, life which uplifts, gives hope, helps others, is generative, life which transcends the time we have on this earth, and whose values are eternal values, not values of that which is failing and dying all around us. Life is a choice Jesus has placed before us and it’s ours for the choosing.

We have a cat. Actually, we don’t have a cat, but Jack and Jean Willis have a cat who spends lots of time visiting in the neighborhood. Debbie calls him Pretty Kitty, and he is a rather striking cat. We have taken to feeding him, and in the winter a couple of years ago, Debbie started letting Pretty Kitty come inside to get out of the cold. And, mostly he is well behaved, at least until recently.

Somehow, Pretty Kitty started scratching the furniture. You know how cats do that — put out their paws and work their claws back and forth in this little catch-and-release routine that eventually shreds the legs of your chairs and sofas. Pretty Kitty earns a trip back outside everytime he does that . Lately, he’s been spending lots of time outside.

Last night I felt sorry for him, so I brought his dish in from the back porch, put fresh water in his bowl, and let him in. As a signal to him to be on his best behavior, we put two scratching posts in the den — one in front of his favorite sofa leg, and another in front of a chair leg that he also favors.

So, in he comes, eats and drinks some in the kitchen, just like old times. Walking into the den, he paused to check out the scratching posts blocking his normal targets. He actually walked over to the sofa, sniffed around, and then walked to the other end of the den and began his grooming routine.

He sat on the rug for awhile, then went behind my chair and continued that combination of licking, biting fur, and licking some more that cats do to keep themselves tidy. But suddenly, without warning or provocation, he silently positioned himself behind the right rear leg of my chair, and began — you guessed it — to scratch on the chair. As if to say, “I see those scratching posts over there, but I’m still the Cat and I’ll do what I want to.”

Immediately, I yelled for Debbie (in the midst of making a phone call) and out the door Pretty Kitty went. Banished again. All because he made the wrong choice. He chose scratching over behaving. He can’t help it, he’s a cat.

But Paul says, we can help it. Or more accurately, God in Christ can help it for us. We can choose to live by our own whims, by our flesh, which leads to death. Or we can choose the road to life, the law of the Spirit of life. We no longer are dead men walking. There is now no condemnation, Paul says, to those who are in Christ Jesus. Sentence commuted, pardon granted, prison doors opened, prisoners set free, debt paid, life restored — all because Jesus took sin to the cross where God condemned it and not us, nailed it to that tree, and then beat Sin at its own game by defeating Death.

One thought on “Sermon: Setting Your Mind On the Spirit”

  1. Sad it is ;-( that the multitudes believe a heretical
    tradition regarding The One many, who say they are
    believers, seek to follow. He Who is “The Messiah,
    The Son of The Living GOD”.

    Seems there is undeniable proof that the traditional name
    of ‘jesus’ was not The Messiah’s GOD given birth Name
    in any language! And proof exists in not just one, but all
    New Testament Greek manuscripts from which catholic
    and christian translators created their version of the
    “bibles”!

    Yes, undeniable proof!

    First, the Greek word “Iesous” was used by those who
    translated the Greek Septuagint, which was the Hebrew
    to Greek translation of the Old Testimonies.

    In the Greek Septuagint, which was translated prior to
    the birth of The Messiah, the Greek word “Iesous” was
    used to represent “Je(o)shua, son of Nun, so named by
    Moses”. (Numbers 13:16)

    And so it was established that the Greek name “Iesous”
    represented the Hebrew name YeHoWsHuwa'(which
    should have been translated as Jeshua, rather than
    ‘joshua’ in the English language Old Testaments).

    Then in most all the New Testament translations, from
    the various Greek manuscripts, the word “Iesous” was
    translated correctly as Je(o)shua(YeHoWsHuwa’) in both
    Acts 7:45 and Heb 4:8 and then the same Greek word
    “Iesous” was traditionally(for the past 500, or so, years)
    translated as their “imag”ined ‘jesus’ in all other places
    of the English language New Testaments ;-(

    However, in the original kjv(aptly named as king james’
    version for it was of his church OF england) those who
    did the translating of the New Testament decided to
    rename Je(o)shua and declared the Je(o)shua of the
    Old Testament to be of the same name as their
    “imag”ined ‘jesus’ in both Acts 7:45 and Heb 4:8 ;-(

    At least the translators of the kjv were consistent, and
    in every place translated “Iesous” as ‘jesus’, yet the
    result of their consistency is confusion ;-(

    And so it was that a heretical tradition was established
    less than 500 years past ;-(

    Now if one wishes to take liberty and change the name
    of the Old Testament “Je(o)shua” to ‘jesus’, well that is
    their choice, yet a sad choice indeed and Truth ;-(

    And worse yet you could accept the traditional lie that
    the Greek word “Iesous” represents both “Jeshua” and
    the catholic and christian ‘jesus’. For those who seek
    The Light of Truth that is confusing at best! Another
    sad choice ;-( Simply, The Messiah, and Jeshua of
    The Old Testimonies were given the same name.

    I have been, and know that i will yet be accused of
    having my portion with the “sacred name folk” or some
    other similar religious group. And yet that is as far
    from Truth as one could be, for i believe that, “that
    which decayed and waxed old” did indeed and Truth
    “vanish away” with the destruction of the earthly,
    natural kingdom that was centered in old jerusalem.

    The Kingdom of GOD is now Spiritual and the body of a
    believer is the Temple for the indwelling Spirit, The Spirit
    that leads believers on The Way to The Truth of The Life.

    Sadly, many believe that a name is not important ;-( Now
    when a man makes such a statement to me i simply reply,
    “ok, if that’s what you believe Martha”, or if it be a woman,
    “ok, if that’s what you believe Matthew”. And the Name
    of The Messiah? Not important? Since when is Truth not
    important?

    Truth is important, for apart from Truth there is nothing
    but “confusion and every evil work” and Truth IS that the
    “imag”ined name of ‘jesus’ was not spoken for more than
    1500 years after The Only True GOD raised The Messiah
    from among the dead! Truth IS that The Messiah’s GOD
    given birth Name was YeHoWsHuwa'(Jeshua in modern
    day English)!

    Prior to the 16th century there was no ‘j’ sound in the
    English language and that is is verifiable in most any
    encyclopedia. And there never has been a ‘j’ sound in
    either Hebrew or Greek.

    Seems the vain “imag”inations of the “catholic” and
    “christian” systems of religion have caused “The Way
    of Truth to be evil spoken of”, so why continue to use
    their “imag”ined name for “The Son of Living GOD”?

    Those who yet cling to the “imag”ined name of ‘jesus’,
    after The Truth was presented unto them, have chosen
    to accept the traditional lies of pagan catholicism and
    her firstborn “christian” daughter, “the church OF england” ;-(

    I am sad for all yet held captive by the “strong delusion”
    that is their “imag”ined ‘jesus’ ;-(

    Yet there is hope!

    For Miracles do happen!

    Hope is there would be those who would experience
    The Miracle that is receiving “a love of The Truth”!

    Truth IS, Yeshua(Jeshua in modern day english) is
    The Messiah, Immanuel, The Son of The Living GOD!

    Peace, in spite of the dis-ease(no-peace) that is of
    this wicked world and it’s systems of religion, for
    “the WHOLE world is under the control of the evil
    one”(1Jn5:19) indeed and Truth……. francisco

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