By Martin Morrison.
It was all somewhat embarrassing.
Decimus ,the Roman unbeliever, loved teasing his Christian neighbour Numerius, this time whilst Numerius was pruning his orange trees in the back garden. They lived side-by-side on the Via Latina in the middle of Rome.
“So tell me, Numerius, if your Jesus has conquered death, which is what you told me, why did the senior elder at your church die two weeks back. I noticed that about a hundred people came over to your house for the funeral meal. Didn’t you tell me that your Jesus came to bring eternal life? Doesn’t seem to be working all that well. He, he, he!”. Numerius quietly kept pruning the orange trees, hoping Decimus would just go away.
“Oh yes, wait a minute Numerius! You seemed to really lose your temper last weekend when your kids broke your chariot wheel. Phew, never thought you even knew those words!! Didn’t you tell me that your Jesus had conquered sin? Well, it doesn’t seem to be working all that well!! Perhaps you need a top up. He, he, he!” It was all somewhat embarrassing!
You see, Decimus raises some very good questions. We have two great enemies, sin and death. If Jesus came to conquer sin, then why are Christians still struggling with temptation and sin? And why, if Christ conquered death, do Christians still die?
Paul answers those questions by writing Romans 8. In Romans 8, he tells us that God has given us the Holy Spirit; that as Jesus was physically raised from the dead, so we will be raised from the dead, but that in the meantime, we groan inwardly as we eagerly await final glory. Today, we will look at the first answer, given to us in Romans 8:9, “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”.
If you read Romans 8, you will notice that Paul uses different names when talking about the Spirit. He is called, “the Spirit”, “the Spirit of God”, “the Spirit of Christ”, “the Holy Spirit”. Now Paul is not trying to confuse or trick us. There aren’t three or four different Spirits. No, they are all one and the same Spirit. In fact, Paul is merely following the example of Jesus, who uses these names interchangeably when talking about the Holy Spirit in John 14 – 16. What is abundantly clear, is that the Spirit is not a power or an impersonal force, but he is a person. Just as the Father is a person, so the Son is a person and the Holy Spirit is a person.
The Trinity. Just by the way, did you know that all three persons of the Trinity were involved in your salvation? The Father planned your salvation before the beginning of time; the Son accomplished your salvation 2,000 years ago on the cross; and the Spirit applies salvation to you in the here and now. How extraordinary that your salvation took the work of all three members of the Trinity! But more of that for another day.
As we have already seen, in Romans 8 Paul is not describing two kinds of Christians: Those who have the Spirit and those who don’t. On the contrary, if you are a Christian, by definition you will have the Spirit living within you. You cannot be a Christian without the Spirit.
Now, it is quite true that there are younger Christians and older Christians, mature Christians and immature Christians, growing Christians and struggling Christians. That is perfectly true and perfectly possible. But there is no such thing as two categories of Christians. Once again Romans 8:9 makes it perfectly clear, “If, as indeed is the case, anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, then they do not belong to him”.
In Romans 8:1, Paul told us that in Christ, we receive a new verdict. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. Imagine when you stand in the dock on that awesome day of judgement, and God says, “Not guilty, No condemnation!”
In Romans 8:9, Paul tells us that in Christ we have a new status. “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit”. Before you were in Christ, your status, your condition, the realm in which you lived, was the sinful nature, the flesh. But now that you are in Christ, you have a new status, a new condition. Now you are in the Spirit, you are living in the realm of the Spirit. To put it another way, instead of being a citizen of the kingdom of darkness, you are now a citizen of the kingdom of light.
Some couples in our church have adopted one or more children. It is a most wonderful thing! Imagine the day they signed the adoption papers. After months of apprehension and anxiety this great day finally arrives. The adoptive parents nervously, breathlessly sign the papers. Before the black ink is dry, that precious child has a new status. Of course, the child still has to learn new values, the new ways of behaving in their new family, but no-one can take away their new status. No longer an orphan, nameless, parentless, defenceless. They have a new status, a new legal standing.
So it is with those who have come to faith in Christ. Before the blood-stained ink is dry, God’s precious child has a new status. The adopted child still needs to learn the new values, the new ways of behaving in their new family, but no-one can take away their new status in Christ. No longer living in the realm of the flesh, but living in the realm of the Spirit.
The question you may ask is this. How do I know that I am in Christ? How do I know that I have the Spirit? How do I know that I have a new status in Christ and live in the realm of the Spirit? Well, think of your conversion. Before you were converted you were blind and hardened to the Gospel. You thought Christians were boring, in fact you thought they were losers. You hated people talking about Jesus. In fact, you opposed the Gospel and vehemently attacked Christians whenever you had the chance.
Then something changed. You started reading the Bible. You started coming to church. You started enjoying listening to the Bible being explained. You wanted to know more. You started to enjoy the company of Christians. Some of your previous habits and language started to worry you. You cannot identify the exact moment or day, but you know that you changed. In fact everything changed. You started loving Jesus, loving the Bible, even loving this strange breed of Christians.
How did that happen? What changed? What brought about the transformation? You may think that it was your idea, that you suddenly started being interested in spiritual things. But behind the scenes, it was the Holy Spirit. It was the Holy Spirit who took away the blindness from your eyes. It was the Holy Spirit who took away the hardness from your heart. It was the Holy Spirit who started making you aware of your sin, your impure thoughts and motives. It was the Holy Spirit who started quickening your soul. It was the Holy Spirit who regenerated you. It was the Holy Spirit who converted you.
You see, what Paul is describing in Romans is authentic spirituality. There is nothing fake. No false promises. Though we still groan inwardly as we live in a broken world with broken bodies, we know that we will be resurrected from the dead, just as Jesus was. And in the meantime, we have the Spirit of God living within us, leading us, comforting us, convicting us. And most of all, assuring us that we are in fact God’s blood-bought children. We are so precious in his sight that no-one will be able to change the verdict or our status in Christ.
Authentic spirituality. Thank-you Jesus.