Commentary by Walter Albritton


April 3, 2005


The Holy Spirit Gives Us Power for Living


Romans 8:1-16


Key Verse: All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.  – Romans 8:14


My neighbor’s children gave him a new riding lawn mower on his 80th birthday. Proudly this good friend showed me that his mower has an 18.5 hp engine. We chatted about how lawn mowers have changed from the days when we supplied the muscle power to operate our “push” mowers.

Suppose one day this spring I see my friend pushing his new mower across his lawn, trying to make it cut his grass. Instantly I would think him a foolish man for failing to use the powerful engine that is available to him.

Yet that is precisely how many Christians live. We “try” very hard to be genuine disciples of Jesus in our own strength while ignoring the Holy Spirit power that is available to us.

Ask many Christians, “Are you a Christian?” and the answer will be: “I am trying to be a Christian but you know I am only human.”

Others will go on to explain, “I am only a poor sinner saved by grace.” The answer implies this sad attitude: “You should not expect me to behave like Jesus because no one can; He alone was perfect and we are all sinners who need mercy.”

Christians who think like this do not yet understand why God raised Jesus from the dead nor do they have a clue what Paul is saying in Romans, chapter 8. God raised Jesus so that he could send the Holy Spirit to us. The primary purpose of the resurrection was not to get us all to heaven but to allow the Holy Spirit to set us free from the power of sin and to put our lives under the control of the Holy Spirit.

Take a fresh look at Romans 8. Use a highlighter to mark key phrases. Then look carefully how Paul describes us who are Christians:

We “belong to Christ Jesus.”

The power of the Spirit has “freed” us “from the power of sin.”

“God destroyed sin’s control over us.”

We “no longer follow our sinful nature by instead follow the Spirit.”

We are “controlled by the Holy Spirit” and “think about things that please the Spirit.”

We are “not controlled by our sinful nature.”

The Spirit of Christ is “living within us.”

“The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in” us.

We are “led by the Spirit of God.”

We should “behave like God’s very own children.”

All of these phrases come from Romans 8 in the New Living Translation of the Bible. It offers a delightful, fresh clarity to the Scriptures.

Now, take a deep breath and think long about what a Christian is to Paul. All this being true, and it is, how can we dare describe ourselves as “only poor sinners saved by grace”? Of course we are sinners! All have sinned. We are saved by grace. But there is so much more to be said about a sinner who, saved by grace, is now a child of God!

God does expect sinners saved by grace to behave like Jesus! He expects us to live under the control of the Holy Spirit so that we are no longer dogged daily by our sinful nature. We are indeed sinners, but by the power of God we are free from the control of sin. We can choose not to sin.

As God’s children we are controlled by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s influence produces in us the character of Christ. Though imperfectly, we do begin to do what Jesus did, and to treat people like Jesus treated people. Because the Spirit lives within us, we are no longer slaves to sin. We have power, the Spirit’s power, to stay out of the gutter and fix our minds on spiritual things.

We are free to surrender our guilt, exchanging it for the sweet assurance that by the grace of God we are forgiven, reconciled to God. We are no longer servants of fleshly desires; we are now servants of Jesus Christ.

Refuse to make this matter more complicated than it is. Think more simply.  Repeatedly Paul speaks of Christians living “in Christ.” It is a key New Testament concept. The New Living Bible changes it slightly so that Romans 8:1 reads, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” Focus on that phrase, “belong to Christ Jesus.”

That is a powerful idea – We belong to Christ!  As an unrepentant sinner, I did not belong to Christ. I belonged to Satan. I was a child of the devil.  I was blind, lost in the darkness of my self-will, consumed by the desire to have my own way.

Then I met Christ. I was saved by grace. He set me free from my past, breaking the chains that shackled me. Satan controls me no longer. I have a new Master because I am a new person with new loves, new desires, and new ambitions. Now there is no constant struggle to be a Christian for the Spirit gives me the blessed assurance of my salvation and affirms my new identity as a child of God!

Every day I remind myself that I belong to Christ. I belong to Him by faith through grace. Belonging to Christ means daily I surrender to his control. Yielded to him, the Spirit gives me power to overcome the pull of my sinful nature and to walk where the Spirit directs me.

It all comes finally down to this: Does the Holy Spirit have the power to break the hold of sin in our lives and set us free to live as redeemed children of God? I believe He does. The key is our relationship to Christ. When we truly belong to Christ, the Holy Spirit will give us all the power we need for holy living.  Until then, the enormous power of the Holy Spirit will remain available but unreleased in our lives. God forbid that we should neglect the greatest resource available to us.

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