IF CHRIST IS IN YOU
God’s Invitation to Grace ❧ Part 39
Romans 8:1-17 ❧ Pastor, Dr. John Denney
Two explorers were on a jungle safari when suddenly a ferocious lion jumped in front of them. “Keep calm” the first explorer whispered. “Remember what we read in that book on wild animals? If you stand perfectly still and look the lion in the eye, he will turn and run.” “Sure,” replied his companion. “You’ve read the book, and I’ve read the book. But has the lion read the book?”
This morning we’re going read the book – God’s Word, the Bible. Hand’s down, it is the best-selling Book ever been written on fear. It holds the secret to overcoming our most terrifying fears. 2 Timothy tells us what this secret is: For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). This verse is saying God has not given us a spirit of fear. Instead, He’s given us the ability to overcome the fears of this world through His love, power, and sound mind. 1 John tells us why: greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world(1 John 4:4). The Spirit of God in us is greater than the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4). In other words, the secret to overcoming fear God’s Spirit in us.
If you are struggling with fear this morning, I want you to know – you’re not alone. All of us do. Fear is an equal opportunist. It doesn’t care who you are. It strikes at the heart of all of us regardless of how old or young you may be, or how rich or poor you may be. It is wholly unintimidated by how big or tough or strong you are. Fear attacks all of us. A lot of believers have read The Book on overcoming fear but are unsure how to apply God’s promises in addressing their fears. We know God is with us and even in us and therefore do not need to fear. But we do. We preach faith but practice fear.
Turn to Romans 8 with me. If you’ve been following along in our study of Romans, you’ll remember the Apostle Paul lamented in chapter 7: 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…Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 7:19, 24-25a, NLT). Paul’s transparent struggle with sin in Romans 7 leaves some people feeling very uncomfortable. How could the great Apostle Paul make such a personal and painful admission? This really bothers some. “Real Christians, that is truly godly Christians,” they say, “don’t struggle with sin at the level Paul was talking about.” Oh, but they do! The key to understanding Paul’s deep struggle is why he was struggling. His struggle came from trying to live a life that was pleasing to God in his own strength. The word Paul uses more than any other in chapter 7 is “I.” “I want to do good, but I don’t. Idon’t want to do what is wrong, but Ido it anyway.” He uses is 47 times! Chapter 7 is all about “me” “myself” and “I.” His life was filled with religion; a life filled with an endless litany of “do’s” and “don’ts” but empty of God. Paul’s problem is our problem as well. The Holy Spirit is not mentioned once. You cannot live the Christian life without God’s power in you.
Now, we turn to Romans 8. Paul tells us the answer to his struggle knowing the only way I can live the Christian life is by the power of God’s Spirit in me. The Holy Spirit is referred to 19 times in this chapter. One of Paul’s favorite descriptions of what it means to have the Holy Spirit is “in Christ.” He uses it three times in chapter 8 – the opening verses (Vv.1&2) and the closing verse (v. 39). In verses 1-17 Paul gives us three life-changing truths about what it means to have Christ in you. If Christ is in you… you no longer need to live: 1) In fear of judgment, 2) In fear of confusion, & 3) In fear of rejection.
- I. In fear of condemnation. Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus(Romans 8:1, NAS). We looked at this verse several weeks ago, but it is one that we need to be reminded of often. Is this verse saying all people are free from condemnation? No. Only believers. Only those who’ve realized without Christ there is no hope. No hope of forgiveness. No hope of real peace. No hope of freedom. No hope of eternal life. No hope of God’s favor. Without Christ, there is no hope period. The basis of our hope rests completely on the Person and finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. We realize and gratefully embrace the fact that God in His grace sent His Son Jesus Christ to suffer and die in our place on the cross. Paul is saying believers do not need to fear God’s punishment because Christ took all of God’s punishment we deserved for our sin on the cross. This is the cardinal doctrine of justification; God declares believing sinners to be right with Him based on their faith alone in Christ. Nothing more. Nothing less.
This verse does not say there is therefore no condemnation for those who make no mistakes, or those who don’t fail, or those that never sin. Christians do make mistakes. They do fail. They still sin. What this verse is saying is because Jesus died for ALL my sins, I no longer need to fear God’s punishment, His judgement. Christ died for ALL my sins, past, present, and future. This means on the day we stand before God we do not need to fear His condemnation. I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life (John 5:24, NLT).
Why is this such a big deal? Because a lot of believer’s fear God is going to bring His hammer of judgment down on them. They feel God is angry with them because they are consistently failing and therefore God must be disappointed with them. God has gone to tremendous lengths to assure us He loves us, and we are not under condemnation, but love. That’s living without fear of condemnation.
- II. In fear of confusion. We live in a very confused world! When I think of the world, the definition of insanity comes to mind. Doing the same things over and over while expecting a different result. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace (Romans 8:6). Paul is talking about two mind sets here. One set on the old nature and the other on the new. As a believer sin (confusion) no longer controls me. I no longer have to be anxious, distressed, uneasy, troubled. I can now have peace because I have the Spirit of God. Sin cannot control my life anymore – unless I choose to allow it, to give into it. People say, “I couldn’t help myself.” If you’re a Christian, that is not true. You have a Power in you that helps you overcome sin. Sin creates confusion, anxiety, turmoil. (James 1:8; Phil. 4:6-7). Why is that? Paul is saying here the unsaved person only lives for himself, for his own desires. The unsaved person is alive physically but he’s dead spiritually. In v. 7 he says that the unsaved person is in a constant state of hostility toward God. Because the sinful mind is hostile to God, it doesn’t submit to God’s Law, nor can it do so. Like the Frank Sinatra song, “I did it my way…” And we wonder why there is so much confusion in the world. There is no peace for the wicked, says the LORD (Isa. 48:22, NLT). The Spirit-filled life means I’m learning to live with increasing clarity, greater peace and less confusion and anxiety.
- III. In fear of rejection. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”(Romans 8:15). Received the Spirit of Sonship means we are adopted by God as His forever-children. We never have to fear God’s rejection. That’s security! What’s more, Paul says we can call God “Abba” Father. A tender expression of close personal relationship. Much like a small child voicing the words, “Daddy,” “Papa.” Paul’s words are nothing short of radical, jaw-dropping, overwhelming!
We’re so accustomed to hearing this we miss the amazing significance of this truth. In the whole OT, in the huge corpus of 39 books, God is called Father only 14 times. Of those 14 times, all of them are in reference to the nation of Israel and never to individuals. In other words, even David, a man after God’s own heart, didn’t call God “Papa.”
When Jesus came on the scene, the only way He spoke of God was this personal name “Father.” He used the term more than 60 times. And He didn’t use a formal term either. He used the common Aramaic term a child would call his or her father – Abba! He never used any other term except when He was on the cross. When He quoted: “My God, My God,” Θεέ μου θεέ μου (Matthew 27:46) from Psalm 22. No one in all the history of Israel ever spoke or prayed like Jesus.
Now Paul says, you received the Spirit of Sonship. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir(Gal. 4:6-7, NLT).
J.I. Packer considers our grasp of being God’s child as essential to living the Christian life: If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. For everything Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new, and better than the Old, everything that is distinctively Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God. “Father” is the Christian name for God.
One mother wrote: “I stayed with my parents for several days after the birth of my first child. One afternoon, I remarked to my mother that it was surprising our baby had dark hair, since both my husband and I are fair. She said, “Well, your daddy has black hair.” “But, Mama, that doesn’t matter because I’m adopted.” With an embarrassed smile, she said the most wonderful words I’ve ever heard, “I always forget.”
God says to you and me, “You’re my child. So much so, I forget you’re adopted.” The security of the Spirit-filled life means you never have to fear God rejecting you.
If Christ is in you, you no longer need to live: 1) In fear of judgment, 2) In fear of confusion, & 3) In fear of rejection.