Walking According to the Spirit

by Wayne Barber

Wayne BarberIn the next several articles we are going to be talking about "Walking According to the Spirit". Our text will be in Romans 8:5-8.

To begin, in answer to the question of Matthew 22:36 "Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus, in verses 37-40, said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."

These two commandments sum up the Ten Commandments which comprise God's moral law. It is this moral law which condemns every person born of woman on this earth. None of us can fulfill it because we are all born with the sinful nature of Adam with no capacity within us to fulfill His law as Paul tells us in Romans 5:12. "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned."

This sinful dilemma of man is what has separated us from God and why Jesus Christ came to this earth and became a man; the God-Man. He who gave the law which condemned all mankind to eternal death (which is eternal separation from God) came to fulfill the law as a man.

Romans 6:23 says, "The wages of sin is death" and that means for all mankind. But it also says "the gift of God is eternal life." So Christ came to pay a debt He didn't owe but one that we could not pay. He died our death upon a cruel cross so that we might believe in Him and have His eternal life and Divine nature in us. Therefore, when we become a believer in Christ Jesus, we are set free from the condemnation of God's moral law because He paid our penalty of death on the cross.

Even though we are God's children as believers, the requirement of the law is the still the character that God asks of us all. The beauty of this is that the requirement of the law can now be fulfilled in us by His Spirit who lives in us. Romans 8:1-4 says, "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit" (emphasis added).

This works in that as we choose to walk according to the Spirit, Jesus lives His life through us producing that which fulfills the whole law. Paul tells us in Galatians 5:14, "For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, You shall love your neighbor as yourself,'" and in 5:22 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love" If that fruit of His Spirit which is His love is not present in our lives, 1 Corinthians 13 tells us we are just an irritating noise when it comes to Christianity. You must see, no matter how hard we try, we still can't fulfill the character God demands apart from Christ. However, He lives in us to enable what He demands from us. He never said we could; but He can and always said He would.

This is what Paul is trying to show us in Romans 6-8. We don't seem to hear the desperation in his voice as He realizes the power and the wickedness of his flesh trying to drag him back to his old religious mindset.

I wonder how many people really understand the little prayer that is sung as a chorus in many places from time to time:

"Jesus, be Jesus in me,

No longer me but Thee,

Resurrection power,

Fill me this hour,

Jesus, be Jesus in me."

This is not just a pretty little song that sounds nice in a service; if it's understood, it is a desperate cry from the heart of a believer who understands that without Christ living His life through him, he is in desperate trouble. He knows that even though he is united together with Christ and that the power of sin has been disarmed as Paul says in Romans 6:5-6, when he tries to live the Christian life in his own power he suffers defeat immediately. He has to admit with Paul, "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not" (Rom. 7:18).

Jesus didn't come to renew our flesh but to replace it! Even to be disappointed in oneself is to have believed in oneself instead of having trusted Christ. We all have to agree with Paul that even when we want to do good we can't in our own strength. As he understood, "for the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want" (Rom. 7:19). And so we come face to face with the wickedness of our flesh and we cry out, "Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?" (Rom. 7:24). Suddenly, as if a storm of revelation floods our heart, we see why Christ came to live in us in the first place! And we say with Paul, "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Rom. 7:25a).

In an instant we see the peril of ever trying to do anything in our flesh even when we want to, because the flesh serves only the law of sin! So then, on the one hand, I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

We see that righteousness can only be produced through us by Christ alone! It is the Spirit who produces life in and through us.

We have finally come into an understanding that we don't have to walk according to the flesh but can now walk according to the Spirit. And so our prayer should be as that of the song, "Jesus, be Jesus in me."

We need to understand what our text tells us today in walking in accordance with the Spirit. And that is precisely what we will be studying together for the next several issues.

Wayne Barber is senior pastor of Hoffmantown Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico

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