Peninsula Community Church
April 29, 2018
Flesh VS Spirit
Romans 8:3-9 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 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. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 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.
Last week we talked about not being condemned by our past failures and issues. We discussed the fact that we are free from sin and from the past as a result of the work of Christ on the cross. This week we will continue to look at how this transpires and how we can be assured that we are no longer condemned. From our discussion last week, we found that Romans 8:1 tells us that we are free from the guilt of sin, while Romans 8:2 tells us that we are free from the power of sin.
As we will see today, our mindset makes all of the difference and our focus will determine where we go and what we do. Our focus will determine what we will achieve or not achieve in life. Notice that in our passage today, we find that the law was weak because of the flesh. Therefore, if our focus is on the flesh we will fail to be what God has called us to be. We will be guided by a law that is weakened by the very flesh that we focus on.
To understand this, we must recognize that the law was weakened by the flesh for two reasons. First, the law was weak as it is an outworking of the flesh that drives us to do things that we do not desire to do, and we do not do what we should do. It is the carnal nature that is the focus of Paul’s words in Romans 7. Let me explain what is meant by the flesh. The flesh is that part of us that recoils when we try to do what is right. It is that part of us that came alive when man sinned and disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. From that time until now, it is the part of us that is at war with God’s desires for us and the purpose of the Spirit within us.
As I was preparing for this message I came across this. We know the work of the flesh in us when, like the disciples, we should be watching and praying, our flesh really wants to sleep. When we should be sleeping, our flesh finds Facebook browsing and catching up on email fascinating. When we should be diligently teaching our children (Deuteronomy 6:7), our flesh would love to watch a relaxing, family-friendly movie. When we should be meditating on Scripture, our flesh becomes a fountain of ideas for reorganizing the room, improving the yard, or critiquing political candidates. When we should be focusing on our work, our flesh brings up that focus-dominating fear and what we could be doing for fun. When we should be cutting our calories, our flesh demands a sugar-laced snack. When we should be eating because we have become undernourished due to believing the lies about how our weight relates to our value, our flesh screams shame-filled things to stop us. When we should be relishing the joy and freedom of sexual purity and fidelity, our flesh desires to imagine or view defiling, lewd images. When we should be humbly resisting premature conclusions regarding a potentially offensive concern or comment, our flesh immediately turns defensive and suspicious, proposing fantasy scenarios that will indulge sinful anger with a feeling of righteous indignation. Have you ever experienced that? Do you know how that feels? That is the struggle of the flesh.
The second reason the law was weakened by the flesh is that the law had no power to bring change. It could guide us, it could teach us, and it could point out sin, but it could not give life. It was powerless to bring peace, and it was powerless to help us please God. The law could tell us what is wrong, but it could not bring change. Have you ever had that person in your life that loved to point the wrong in your life and uncover your failures, but were unwilling to aide in changing or overcoming those issues? That was the problem with the law. It pointed out sin, but it did nothing to relieve it.
The one positive thing that came from the law is that it taught us we need a Savior. It taught us that following the rules alone is not good enough. We need a Savior. It taught us that towing the line is not productive, because we fear failing and coming up short, which happens when we try to follow the legalism of the law. We can do all of the right things and still fall short of what was intended. We need a Savior.
That is why Paul’s next statement is so powerful. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Notice that Christ came in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin in order to accomplish what the law could not do. The law required righteousness. The law required us to tow the line. The law required us to keep in step.
The law had a requirement for righteousness which could not be fulfilled any way but through Jesus Christ. That is why He who knew no sin took on all of our sin past, present, and future. He fulfilled the righteous requirements of the law. What the law could not do, God did by sending His Son. At first glance, we might miss the depth of this statement. God sent His Son. This meant that He existed before. He is eternal and came to earth to save that which was lost.
What we know is that the righteous requirement of the law was fulfilled in Christ. We are now empowered to follow Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. The law could not defeat sin; it could only detect it. Only Jesus can defeat sin, and He did just that through His work on the cross. The question then is is where will we focus our attention? What will we set our minds on? Will we focus on the spirit or will we focus on the flesh? By focusing on the flesh we become obsessed with the rules and the dos and don’ts and we miss living life. We will be focused on just getting by, rather than living life to the fullest. By focusing on the flesh, we miss the opportunity to walk in freedom. On the other hand, if we focus on the spirit, we live in freedom and power.
Why is this? 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. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. As Paul noted, the flesh is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law because it cannot. In the flesh it is impossible to please God. That was the plight of Paul in Romans 7, but it is his victory in Romans 8.
With that in mind let me make an observation or two. We must remember that the fruit of the Spirit is not produced through legislation but by what the vine is connected to. That is why we must be in Christ. That is why we cannot legislate morality, but we must live a spirituality that comes by living a life fully connected to Christ. How many have ever passed a fruit tree and have heard it groaning and moaning to produce fruit? That is not the case at all. That is because fruit is produced from the connection it has to the vine. It does not worry about its fruit, it just stays connected. So are you connected? How do we connect?
For the guys who were at the men’s retreat this year you might remember Garret Barbush’s message. At the close of his message, he gave us some perspective into how we can set our minds on the spirit and stay connected which leads to bearing the fruit of the spirit. First, we must be confident of our position in Christ. In John 10:10 we find that a full life is a contented life. It is a life of balance. Jesus came to be our life, so you can make a difference as a believer. If we do not remain in Him, we will not be fruitful and we will not make a difference. Instead, we will be tempted to live by the flesh and not the spirit. As believers, we are in Him and we should rest in that.
Second, be aware of God’s desire to be in constant fellowship with you. We will abide in Him only as we are aware that He wants to abide with us. We know this because He chose us. In John 15:16 we find that “He chose us to bear fruit in us.” He chose us to bear fruit and we do that best when we are in fellowship with Him. The result is that we keep our minds set on Christ.
Third, be intentional about spending time with God. In Matthew 22:36-37 the question is asked about what is the greatest commandment? How do we love God with all of our heart and soul? If we were loving God the way He wants, we will be changing culture. We will be bearing fruit because it is the defining mark of a believer. We must spend time together. We do this through prayer and solitude.
Fourth, be in God’s word so we get to know Him. We are ineffective without His word. Without His word, we fail to understand what He wants for us. Without His word, we are left to our own demise. Without His word, we become disconnected and discontented.
My challenge today us to take the next 30 days and focus fully on the Spirit. Spend time in the Bible and in prayer so that we become more connected to Christ. At the end of the thirty days report back and let me know how you are doing. My guess is that you will find that you are doing much better than you hoped or thought.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom