Tag Archives: romans 8

Fighting The Flesh

In the mid 1990’s, DC Talk had a song called “What if I Stumble”. At the beginning, they read a quote from Brennan Manning’s “Ragamuffin Gospel” that said, “The greatest single cause for atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” That quote has always spoken to me and has challenged me.

When we get close to Easter, the story of Peter denying Jesus three times usually gets brought up at some point. We give him a hard time because he denied Jesus with his lips, but we often don’t think twice about things we do that deny Jesus with our life. One of my favorite quotes has been, “Preach at all times, and use words when necessary.” It’s a challenge for me to try to live a life that points others to Jesus. The problem is that in our flesh, it’s impossible. There is a constant struggle in each one of us between our flesh and God’s spirit living in us.

Paul perfectly described our feelings in this struggle in Romans 7:24 when he said, “Oh what a miserable person I am!” (GNT) He went on about the struggle, and how to win it, in Romans 8. Verse 12 says, “Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do.” To win the battle more times than not, we have to learn to repeatedly tell our flesh a resounding, “No!” We are not obligated, as Paul said, to obey the flesh.

If you struggle telling your flesh, “No,” you’re not alone. It’s something we all struggle with. We can get better at it by learning to deny our flesh through fasting and prayer. We can do it by reading God’s Word instead of something else. If we want our lifestyle to match the words that come out of our mouth, it begins by listening to God’s Spirit within us and being led by Him. Jesus forgave and used Peter despite his vocal denial. God can forgive and use us too. Winning this battle within us and living a lifestyle that preaches God’s Word starts with one “No” to the flesh. Thanks to God who gives us that power by living in us.

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

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Trusting Grace


My six year old son has been asking me a lot of questions about sin lately. He asked me if I sin. When I told him that I do, he wanted to know why. I explained that I don’t want to, but sometimes I do. It’s just part of being human and having sin live inside us. Then he wanted to know if it upsets God when I sin. I told him that it does, but God is faithful to forgive us of our sins when we confess them to Him and are sorry for doing them. Then he wanted to know if he sins and the circle continued. 

I love that he’s already concerning himself with wanting to live a life that pleases God. I also want him to understand that sin is an ongoing problem in all of our lives. There is no one who is perfect and can keep from sinning. This problem is outlined perfectly in Romans 7. Verses 17-20 say, “I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; i decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway” (MSG). It’s the struggle we all face.

No matter how much anyone of us want to live a sinless life, we eventually fall short and sin. Paul is very clear in this chapter that the problem is not us, but the sin that is inside of us. We are all dependent on God’s grace instead of our ability to live sinless lives. I love how Romans 8:4 puts it. “The law always ended up being a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it.” Trying to live a sinless life doesn’t fix the problem; it only covers it up. Living a perfect life is not our goal. Learning to trust God’s grace is.

God’s grace and the Holy Spirit working in us is the remedy to our sin problem. When we try to put a Band-Aid on our sin and do things on our own, pride comes in. The answer is to quit trying to live a sinless life out of sheer will power because we can’t. God’s Spirit is living in us and working in us. We must learn to live Spirit led lives, trusting the Holy Spirit to guide us in the life that He wants us to live. The Spirit wants to lead us into a life of freedom instead of constant condemnation because we fail constantly. Rip off the Band-Aid and let God heal you from the inside out.

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The GPS Of The Flesh


In one of the episodes of “The Office”, Michael Scott and Dwight were out on sales calls together. Michael was using a GPS navigation system to get where they were going. The device said, “Turn right.” As Michael began to turn right, Dwight asked what he was doing. He said, “I’m turning right.” Dwight frantically said, “You can’t turn right! There’s a pond right there.” Michael said, “But it told me to turn right so I have to.” He then drove the car into the water.

I’m pretty sure almost all of us have used some sort of GPS navigation system by now, whether it’s in our phone or not. When you don’t obey it, the voice comes on, “Rerouting. Make the next legal U-Turn.” If you keep going, it keeps trying to get you to go back. I usually turn it off at that point because it starts to annoy me. I know a better way, but it doesn’t want to see it or give me directions to take it. That GPS system is a lot like our flesh. It wants to direct us and tell us where to go.

If we follow our flesh, we’ll end up in a lake like Michael Scott. Sadly, many of us think we have to do what it says. It leads us down the road of temptation away from God. We know there’s a pond there and we’re going to wreck, but we follow it because we feel we have to. Meanwhile, the Holy Spirit is frantically saying, “You can’t turn right! There’s a pond there.” Too many times we end up in the water of sin and have to pay the price, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Just like you don’t have to obey your GPS navigation, you don’t have to obey your flesh.

Romans 8:12 says, “Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do” (NLT). You are free to make your own decisions. The flesh will constantly try to re-rout you and get you to U-Turn, but you have the power to ignore it because you have God’s Holy Spirit in you. When we are Spirit minded, we no longer have to follow the GPS of the flesh, and that leads to an abundant life.

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Quit Being Self-Confident

  
In life, we tell people the way to be successful is to believe in yourself. We say. “Don’t doubt. Have confidence in yourself.” We’ve learned that when Henry Ford was right when he said, “Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.” A lot of success in life comes from being self confident. If you believe in yourself, others will too. Self- confidence is contagious and people want to be around others who are confident.

I looked up the definition of self- confident, and bing.com says, “Trusting in one’s ability, qualities, and judgement.” In many areas of life, that’s a good thing. In our Christian life, being self-confident is a bad thing. Salvation isn’t earned by what you do, it’s only through what Jesus has already done. Your abilities have no say on whether you get it or not. It’s only through humbly asking the One who paid the price for your sin to apply His grace to your life.

When it comes to living like a Christian, so many of us think it’s just a matter of will power. We think we can force ourselves to live right. Ben Franklin tried that. He kept a daily journal of his sins so he could focus on them and thereby not do them anymore. What he found was when he corrected one, he ended up doing another. He ended up getting frustrated trying to live a good life on his own.

In Romans 7, Paul wrote about trying to live the Christian life in your own ability. In verses 21 and 24, he summed it up this way, “I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?” (NLT) He couldn’t do it and neither can we. The life we are called to live can only be done through the power of the Holy Spirit.

In I Corinthians 10:12, Paul wrote, “Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence” (MSG). We can’t live the life we are called to live in our own abilities, qualities, and judgement. It’s only through God’s, that we can be successful. If we continue to try to live it in our own, we will be miserable like Paul was until we learn to live this life like he did through the Holy Spirit’s ability. Cultivate your God-confidence when it comes to living righteously and you will be successful.

I encourage you to read Romans 8 where Paul goes into more depth about living a Spirit-led life.

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Target Practice

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I spent some time recently with my family doing target practice. We were shooting at the target from about 30 yards away with a 9 mm. I aimed at the bullseye, squeezed the trigger and hit the bottom left of the target. I aimed at the bullseye again and got the same result. I adjusted my stance and aim, then lined up again and hit the bullseye. Out of ten shots, I was only able to hit it three times. I found that I was inconsistent at trying to hit the mark.

Living the Christian life is a lot like that. We aim for the perfect Christian life, but over and over again, we miss the mark. We adjust our approach, we change our stance and do what we can to hit the bullseye. We get it right some of the time, but a lot of times, we just don’t measure up. When that happens, we try harder. Sometimes that just messes things up worse. In the end, a lot of us get frustrated because we just can’t be consistent and live this life the way we wish we could.

Paul faced a similar struggle. In Romans 7, he described the struggle well. In verse 15 he said, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” He continues in verse 19, “I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.” Paul understood the frustrations of trying to live a perfect christian life. In fact, in verse 24, he said trying and failing just made him miserable. He knew that no matter what, He couldn’t do right all the time. Sound familiar?

We fail when we think that being a Christian is within our own power and abilities. We are not perfect and therefore cannot be perfect all the time. Besides, our salvation is not dependent on our actions, but rather on the work that Jesus did on the cross. Yes, we should try to live godly lives in response to what He did, but don’t get misled into thinking that living a perfect life is how you get into Heaven. Our lives should be controlled by the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:5-6 says, “Those who live as the Spirit tells them to, have their minds controlled by what the Spirit wants. To be controlled by human nature results in death; to be controlled by the Spirit results in life and peace.”

If your life looks like my target and you’re miserable because you can’t live up the the perfect expectations you’ve placed on yourself, spend some time in Romans 7 and 8. Paul found that the answer is not in our own abilities, but in His. Jesus” death on the cross makes up for all the times we miss the mark. We have to accept His grace and allow Him to apply it to our imperfect lives. It starts with admiring you can’t do it (Romans 7) and finding that the answer lies in Jesus (Romans 8). Don’t give up. Keep living for Him and learn to rely on His grace instead of your actions.

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Changing Your Roots

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One of the sayings I have when talking to people is, “Look past the fruit. Look for the root.” What I mean by that is that when we see a behavior in someone else or hear an excuse as to why they can’t do something, that’s not what’s really going on. That is a fruit that is being fed from a root somewhere else. I tell them to dig deeper beyond what lies on the surface if they really want to help them. What I mostly see is people dealing with fruit and they wonder why things keep happening over and over and they’re helpless to stop it.

When we only deal with the fruit, the behavior we see, we can affect change. We have to find the source of that behavior and deal with that if we really want to create change. When I think of sin in my life or in the life of others, it’s usually something we can see. We tell ourselves, “Don’t do that!” It’s a temporary fix, because eventually we go back to it. We took away the fruit, but we never did anything with the root. It just takes a little time and it grows right back. Ask yourself, “Why am I doing this? Where is this coming from?” Follow the trail to the root.

Hebrews 12:15 says, “Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.” The Message puts it this way, “A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time.” If we don’t deal with the roots of our sins, we will continue to struggle with them and possible corrupt others. If you’ve ever dug in your yard and came across a root, you know this is no easy task. You have to pull on that root. Follow where it goes and chop it off at the source. You have to get the whole thing out.

If we want to change the fruit in our lives, we have to change the roots. In Romans 8, Paul tells us that we have no obligation to do what the flesh wants to do. In verse 5 he tells us not to be dominated by our sinful nature, but to let the Holy Spirit control our thinking. When we’ve pulled up the roots of our sinful nature and let the Holy Spirit take roots in our lives, Galatians 5:22 says the Holy Spirit will produce this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. That is the fruit that we should be producing as Christians.

If you’re looking at the fruit of your life and want to change it, don’t keep dealing with the fruit. Look for the root and deal with that. Romans 8 has a lot of good stuff to say about the struggle we all face in wanting to do good, but having trouble with it. Take time to read that chapter today. See of you can relate to Paul’s struggle. I know I do. The way he tells us to change the fruit in our lives is to uproot the sinful nature that controls our mind and then to submit our minds to the Holy Spirit. Once we learn to do that, we can produce the fruit God wants us to show in our lives.

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