Flesh vs. Spirit
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 4, 2018
Today is the first Sunday of March, which means a new memory verse. Our memory verse for March is Romans 8:18. So let us begin by reading it together, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18).
And let me emphasize how important this verse is for each one of you. All of you in this room will experience future suffering. How are we to deal with that suffering? By reminding ourselves of God’s truth found in Romans 8:18, that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. The glory of being in the presence of our Father. This verse is a sword to fight back against the schemes of Satan on your darkest day. And of course, keep refreshing your memory on our past verses. In your bulletin, you should have an up-to-date sheet for all of our verses that we have memorized up to this point.
Today, we find ourselves in Romans 8:5-11. We are picking up, where Pastor Jeff left off. And before I move on, I just want to express publicly how good's Jeff's sermon was last week, and the reason it was so good was because he stuck to the text. That is the key to being a good preacher, stick to the text. The role of a Preacher is to teach the Word of God. It is not our roll to entertain you, it is to equip you with the living and active Word of God. So with that said, lets get to work doing just that. Please stand in honor of God’s Word, as we read our Scripture for this morning.
The Two Conditions of Man
In our text is is very apparent that Paul is contrasting to conditions, the condition of the flesh and the condition of the Spirit. Paul mentions the word flesh six times and the word Spirit nine times. As we begin, let us start by defining these two conditions.
First let us begin with the flesh. What does Paul mean by the flesh? By flesh, Paul does not mean your skin tissue, as when we refer to a flesh wound. Paul is also not talking about your physical body as a whole. What Paul means by the flesh is man's sin nature. Paul regularly uses the word flesh to refer to man's fallenness, our natural rebellion against our Maker. This is our nature that we have inherited from the fall of Adam.
In my studies I came across this definition that I thought defined the flesh well. “[The Flesh] is a compulsive inner force inherited from man’s fall, which expresses itself in general and specific rebellion against God and His righteousness.”
Against this idea of the flesh is the Spirit. What does Paul mean by the Spirit? Now, if you look at your Bible, you will notice that the word Spirit is capitalized. Why is that? It is because it a reference to the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. As Pastor Jeff mentioned last week, Romans 8 is substantially about the Holy Spirit. He is mentioned approximately 20 times in 39 verses.
The Holy Spirit is commonly referred to as the forgotten person of the Trinity, and to be honest, this is exactly how He desires it to be, for the favorite topic of the Holy Spirit is not himself but the glory of the Father as displayed in Son.
Having said that we do know something about the Spirit. Let's just take some time to mention a few of them this morning. First, the Holy Spirit is fully God. We see this most clearly in Acts 5:3-4 when Peter says to Ananias “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” In the same flow of thought, Peter rebukes Ananias for lieing to the Holy Spirit, which is equivalent to lying to God, for the Holy Spirit is God.
Second, the Holy Spirit is a person, specifically a masculine person. Masculine does not mean that the Holy Spirit has male anatomy, but it does mean that the Father and the Son view him as a Him. We know this from the lips of Jesus. In John 14:16 Jesus says, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” Jesus calls the Holy Spirit a him. He does not call the Holy Spirit a spiritual force, or a her, but reveals the Holy Spirit as a masculine person. Therefore, this is how we should refer to the Holy Spirit as well. To refer to him otherwise is to change the Word of God.
Third, and most pertinent to our discussion today, the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead, dwells inside every true follower of Jesus. You just heard me read that in John 14:16 where it says, “You know him, for he dwells with you and will beg in you.” When Jesus said this to his disciples, Jesus had not yet ascended to Heaven to send the Spirit, so the dwelling in them, would not take place until the day of Pentecost.
We also see it in our text for this morning. Look at verse 11, Paul says the same thing as Jesus did, just now after Pentecost, “through his Spirit who dwells in you.“ The “you” Paul is referring to are the Christians in Rome. But this truth is true for all believers. The Holy Spirit dwells in all Christians, no exception.
Look at verse 9, “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” Spirit of Christ is the same as the Holy Spirit. You cannot call yourself a Christian if the Holy Spirit does not indwell you. The Holy Spirit is the deposit or the seal upon your soul that marks you as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
And in these two categorical positions, the flesh and the Spirit, lie all of mankind. Everyone who has ever lived, or ever will live, fall in one of these two categories; you either live according to the flesh or live according to the Spirit. And this is the way that Paul is thinking in Chapter 8. He is thinking in the terms of two realms. He is not blurring these two categories. He is speaking as if they are mutually exclusive with one another.
You can see this in verse 9 when Paul says, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit.” Paul is writing to Christians, and they are not in the flesh because they are in the Spirit.; two different and separate realms. Therefore, you are either in the flesh, or you are in the Spirit. Everyone in this room is in one of these two categories, whether you know it or not. For your sake I hope it is the realm of the Spirit.
The Power of the Flesh
So let us first examine what it means to be in the flesh. Look at verse 5, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh.” These people who live according to the flesh are unbelievers. They are those who operate entirely in the realm of the flesh, total absence if the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Paul tells us that these people “set their minds on the things of the flesh.” What does that mean, to set you minds on the things of the flesh? First, the things of the flesh are things that are not for the glory of God, but instead are for the glory of self. The things of the flesh or things that are self-gratifying, not god glorifying. The things of the flesh are the things are against the will of God, they are things of sin. We are actually given a list of things of the flesh in Galatians 5:19, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies.”
And we are told in our text for today that a person of the flesh, an unbeliever, sets his mind upon these fleshly things. So what does it mean to set your mind on these things such as sensuality or enmity? The Greek word for to set your mind is phroneó. And this word phroneo means more than just using your brain, or thinking about these things. Phroneo is a description of a person's will. John Calvin said that to set you mind of these things involves, “all the faculties of the soul, reason, understanding, and affections.” This is what it means to phroneo, to set you mind, it involves your total self being bent towards the things of the flesh. It means your will is oriented towards godless, self-gratifying pleasures.
And this fleshly mind setting is the state of every man who is not a follower of Christ. All mankind is bent towards the flesh, towards sin. The core will of man is to rebel against God. We see this in verse 7 and 8, “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. 8Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. ”
Man, absent the work of the Holy Spirit, cannot submit to the will of God. It is impossible. Man is incapable of doing what God desires. Man's natural will is in direct opposition to God's will. This is what we call total depravity, it is one of the five points of Calvinism. It is the T of acronym TULIP. No matter how hard one tries, absent the work of the Holy Spirit in your life, you cannot please God. You are totally hostile.
Now, some of you may respond, wait a minute. I know a lot of people who do good things but they are not Christians, are you telling me that God is not pleased with them? Yes, that is exactly what I am saying, for that is exactly what the Bible clearly says, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” That is an absolute statement in God's infallible and inerrant Word.
And the fundamental reason for this is because if someone does something in life that is not ultimately for the Glory of God, then it does not please God. And a person who lives according to the flesh does not live for the glory of God. It doesn't matter how many schools or hospitals you build, it doesn't matter how many hungry mouths you feed, it doesn't matter how much money or time you give away. If you are not doing those things for the Glory of God, for His name's sake, then those activities do not please God.
The Bible tells us very clearly that the reason Almighty God created everything was for His glory. The reason you exist is for His glory. This is the chief end of man. This is why it says in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Therefore, it what you do in life does not glorify God then God is not pleased.
And remember back in Romans 1:23 where it said that we, “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” Instead of glorifying god, we glorify our selves. Our mind is set on the flesh.
And if our mind is set on the flesh, then we walk in the flesh. And our walking in the flesh is hostile to God's will and we not submit to God's law and we cannot please our Maker.
And if that is not enough, not only are those who live according to the flesh displeasing and hostile towards God, but they are also dead. They are spiritually dead, and will soon experience the second death. Those who walk in the flesh are dead men walking. Death is their present and future reality. Which is interesting, for many of those who live according to the flesh think they are living, but they are deceiving themselves. They are not truly living, for true living can only be found in Christ.
The Power of the Spirit
But this is not the case for one who has been born of God. Look at verse 9, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit.” Who is Paul talking about? He is talking about those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. Those who have repented of the works of the flesh, and placed their faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 1:13 says, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,” Upon hearing the gospel and then believing in the Gospel, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in your life. The third person of the Trinity lives inside of you. This is a supernatural event, a seismic and fundamental transformation takes place in your life at your conversion. Becoming a follower of Christ is not just a matter of a casual change in what you do on Sunday mornings, it changes everything.
As it says in verse 5, Christians do not live according to the flesh, we live according to the Spirit. To live according to the Spirit, is to be under the Spirit's power, His influence. Christians are governed by the Holy Spirit. We are no longer controlled by our flesh, we are controlled by God himself, from the inside out. So how does this occur? It occurs just like it does under the flesh, but in the opposite direction.
Those who live according to the Spirit, set their minds on the things of the Spirit. Remember what I said earlier, to set you mind is a reference to the will of man. It is “all the faculties of the soul, reason, understanding, and affections.” At the moment of being born again and manifesting faith in Jesus Christ, the will of a believer is now bent by God himself towards the things of God. Our will is changed.
We begin to see the World as God sees the World. We start to think through life's problems with the reason of God. We start to love what God loves. And because of this a believer goes from being hostile to God, to having peace with God. A believer goes from not submitting to God, to obeying God. A believer goes from not pleasing God, to pleasing God, and this is all because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.
This is why so often when people think of the Holy Spirit they think of a force or a power, for this is how the Spirit is in fact manifested in our lives. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to walk in the way of the Lord, to live life in accordance to God's will, to follow Jesus. And as I said, this power is a supernatural power.
Look at verse 11, ”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 miracle of the resurrection now abides inside of you. Inside of us resides resurrection power. A power that can overcome the flesh. A power that can overcome our sins. A power that enables us to truly live. Not just in the future, but now. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, eternity has broken into the present and shines though our lives.
To often, as Christians, we take the disposition of a Debby downer. Feeling sorry for ourselves, questioning our abilities, unsure, uncertain, weak, timid. DON'T YOU KNOW WHO LIVES IN YOU? The God who made the heavens. The God who parted the read sea. The God who shakes mountains. The God who walks on water. The God who raises the dead. The God who cleanses the Temple. This God of the Bible indwells you and empowers you.
It is time we start living as if this is true. In my son's bedroom there is a sign that hangs above his bed. It is the verse of Joshua 1:9. It says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
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