GOD WANTS US TO BEAR THE FRUIT OF HIS SPIRIT

Since being freed from the law to now serve in the newness of the spirit we are no longer in the oldness of the letter. After the Apostle Paul tells us about the wife/us being joined to Christ by way of being co-crucified with Him, he then proceeds to describe for us what life looked like when we/the wife attempted to please the first husband/the law in her/our own power.

Essentially the first six verses of Romans seven gives us a parable to describe us “believers” as a wife who has died with Christ in order to deliver us from the first husband represented by the Law. From verse seven through the rest of chapter Paul illustrates how the wife/we attempt to please the husband/the law and how the enemy/sin takes advantage of us by the very Law we are attempting to fulfill. He says the Law is holy, just and good therefore the problem isn’t with the law rather it’s us. We, the wife, even though having the best intentions, simply cannot live a life that is pleasing by way of the law.

The Apostle Paul’s struggle, and ours, is really about him not seeing himself as having been crucified, buried and raised back in Christ. He says, “The thing I want to do I can’t do, and the very thing I don’t want to do I keep on doing.” You see as long as we see ourselves as independent beings trying to obey the law we will be destined to sin and misery and this is how God wants it. What you say? Surely God doesn’t want me to sin does He?

Look with me at Romans 5:20 “The law entered, that the offence/sin might abound, or increase. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” The truth is without the law we would still have sin but God’s plan is that the law would expose the sin He already sees to us. Essentially the law is given so we would see ourselves as we really are and we might cry out for deliverance which is exactly what the Apostle Paul finally did at the end of Romans seven. He cried “O wretched man that I am who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

When it comes right down to it God’s plan is for us to finally be exposed to our true state and discover we have believed a lie our whole lives. Yes, we have lived our lives as if we, independent of God, can produce righteousness “for” God apart from God. This is what the parable of the wife is all about. We have absolutely no ability to produce what God is after in and of ourselves. The lesson then of Romans seven is really telling us we need a deliverer. We need someone besides ourselves to free us from the trap of seeing ourselves as independent, trying to keep the law, failing, trying and failing again. This would be the equivalent of a woman determining to get pregnant on her own. I can see her now; she goes to the pharmacy, gets a home pregnancy tests, goes into the bathroom to only come out minutes later saddened because it’s negative again. Well, I guess there’s always tomorrow she says as she gives herself a pep talk essentially saying I guess I just have to buckle down next time.

Thankfully the scriptures don’t leave us there. No, after the Apostle Paul cried out for deliverance at the end of Romans seven, he begins to describe how God’s plan is to live in and through us rather than having us perform for Him. The Spirit of God will produce all that He requires of us in our lives but first we have to come to the realization we can’t.  He wants to produce love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance in us but it is the fruit of the Spirit not the work of the flesh.

Louie

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FIRST ADAM–LAST ADAM

Romans six teaches us: those of us who have placed our faith in Christ, and his work on the cross, are to reckon ourselves dead to sin. You see, just as all were originally born in Adam and are therefore  sinners, those of us who have been born again have been born into Christ and made righteous. In other words, the cross is the means by which God transfers us from the first Adam to the last.

Human beings have never been independent we have always been in union with another spirit. For instance we are either a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness. Notice we are always a slave and never our own master. The good news is in Christ our old boss is out and our new one is in. This is what Paul means with his frequent use of the term “Christ in you” and “In Christ.”

As we move from Romans six into Romans seven we read about a wife who simply cannot please her husband and needs to be separated from him, but the law won’t allow it. You see unless he dies, she has to remain married to him and the truth is he simply will not die. This is a picture of our relationship with the Law/sin meaning the Law isn’t going to die, and it is the means by which sin gets its power, so she/we are in a quandary. How will she/we get away from her old husband if he won’t die? God has a solution.

You see God has always known the husband wouldn’t die, but His plan involves the wife/us dying instead. If God crucifies us with Christ and raised us back up with him there would be legal grounds for divorce from the old husband, and we could then be joined to a new one, namely Christ himself. That’s exactly what He did.

The reason Paul uses a wife here as an illustration is because God is looking to produce fruit through His people but like a wife we have to have Him to do it. Just as a wife needs a husband to produce children we too have to have God in order to produce fruit for God. This analogy is teaching us that there is absolutely no way for us to produce fruit for God by way of the Law. Us attempting to produce fruit for God by the Law is the same as a wife trying to have a baby without her husband. It just simply cannot happen. The fruit bearing process requires the husband. Just as a wife has to become one flesh with her husband we must be one spirit with the Lord.

Essentially Romans six and the first part of seven is telling us we have died to sin by being severed from our union in Adam. Through the cross, and our being co-crucified, dead, buried and risen with Christ we walk in newness of life. Now that we are in union with Christ He can produce His fruit through our lives.

Louie

AN UNEXPECTED VISITOR IN JAIL

I had quite the shock at the last small group Bible study in jail. The guys walked in, and I noticed there were a few more than usual. One of the new guys sat down right next to me and we looked at each other and pretty quickly realized we were old classmates. We stood up, shook hands and hugged each other. While we were both glad to see one another obviously this wasn’t the way we would have chosen. We had a few minutes of small talk and jumped right into the lesson.

We have been working our way through Romans and this night we found ourselves in chapter seven. For those of you that know your Bible’s you probably know this is quite the chapter. This is the chapter in which Paul walks us through what it looks like when someone attempts to please God in the flesh. When it comes to the term flesh there are many various ideas and definitions among great Bible teachers and scholars which generally leads to disagreements  about this chapter. For me I have come to the conclusion the word “flesh”, as used here, is simply defined as “humanity operating as if independent of the Spirit of God.”

With this definition in place we can begin to see what the Apostle Paul is really trying to tell us here. While some Bible translations use the term “sinful nature” in place of the word “flesh.” I have come to believe that is not a good translation. If you look in Ephesians 2 you will read we “were by nature (by birth) the children of wrath.”  We were indeed born a sinner, with a sinful nature, only because we were born with the wrong spirit within us. This of course is the reason Christ tells us we “must be born again.” In other words, we need to be born of God’s Spirit which will give us a new nature. We cannot have two nature’s at the same time. We are either a child of the devil or a child of God we can’t be both.

Romans seven starts with an illustration of a man and woman in marriage. We read where the only way the woman could get out of her union, or marriage, to her husband, is if he died but we also discover he simply will not die, so she’s in a quandary. The good news is God has provided a way for the woman, who is actually us in this illustration, to be removed from the old union by having her (we) to die by being co-crucified with Christ. Now that we, by faith, have died with Christ our old marriage union is severed, and we are free to be joined to our new husband Christ. Now whereas we, in our old union, could only produce fruit unto death we are now joined to Christ in order to produce fruit for God.

Essentially Romans seven is Paul showing us what it’s like for the wife attempting to bear fruit for God through her own so-called independent, flesh efforts. It would be like a woman deciding to get pregnant and claiming all along she can and she doesn’t have any need of a man to do it. Paul says, “The thing I want to do I don’t do and the very thing I don’t want to do I keep doing.” The reason is because he has been deceived, like all the rest of us, into thinking God’s law is something we can keep rather than something God gave us to show us we can’t. This would be the equivalent God saying to the woman “produce fruit for me” as a commandment. The woman hears the command and sets out to get pregnant. She tries and tries saying, “I want to get pregnant. There’s the desire in me to produce fruit for God but for some reason there seems to be no way for me to do it.” Who will deliver me from this endless cycle of trying and failing? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. I know! I’ll trust in him to produce the fruit God is looking for through me. After all apart from him I can do nothing.

While my old classmate and I didn’t expect to see one another, and especially in jail, I know he heard the truth that night. The truth of how human beings were designed, or created, to be a vessel, temple, wife and branch in which God’s Spirit lives. As a vessel and temple we learn how we are meant to be the container rather than the contents. As a vessel and temple we understand we are distinct from God’s Spirit within; but as a wife and branch we start to see there is a union between our spirit and His. While the illustration of us being a temple teaches us we never become like the deity housed within, the wife and branch, on the other hand, tells us there is a joining of our spirit with God’s that makes us one with him. Just as a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife to become one flesh with her “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.”

The pathway to understanding our union, or oneness with Christ, only comes through our own Romans seven experience. Once we truly see ourselves as dead to sin in Romans six we must move on to seeing ourselves as dead to the Law in Romans seven before moving on into life in the Spirit which we read in Romans eight but let’s not get ahead of ourselves that’s for next week.

Louie

JESUS FULFILLS THE LAW IN US

We’ve been reading through Matthew in our Sunday School class the last few weeks and this week we were in chapter five. Many of you Bible readers out there know this is the beginning of what is commonly known as Jesus’ sermon on the mount. It starts with what is usually called the Beatitudes such as “Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst, the merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, those who have been persecuted for righteousness sake” and all that are called many mean and nasty things. Okay so that last part was mine. The point is only the ones who recognize they are in a position of need will be open to receive from God.

Jesus then moves on to tell us he didn’t come to abolish or do away with the Law rather he came to fulfill it. He says, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Now that’s some pretty stout words don’t you think? If you were one of those standing there hearing this from Jesus’ own mouth that day you would probably be thinking to yourself “Who possibly stands a chance then?” The religious leaders were looked up to by the common man as the standard for God’s holiness and they were a step above the average guy. Jesus was making what seemed to be an impossible demand but was it?

If you jump ahead for a second and look at the last verse of Matthew five you will read where Jesus summed up this part of the sermon with “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” After he walked them through the “You have heard it was said”…statements of “Do not commit murder but I say, everyone who is angry with his brother is guilty.” Followed by you’ve heard “Do not commit adultery, but I say don’t lust in your heart.” Then on to the severity of keeping the union of marriage intact and keeping your word. He also told us not to resist an evil person, love not only your neighbor but your enemy too.”

The main point of this sermon was for Jesus to show them and us that we absolutely have no ability in our selves to keep the law of God. The scribes and pharisees thought they were doing a pretty good job but Jesus was showing us not only what the Law said but the Spirit in which it was intended. Ultimately the Law of God tells us perfection is demanded of us and rightly so. After all we are talking about a perfect God aren’t we?

Forgive me for jumping out of Matthew for a moment to look at what the Apostle Paul told us in Romans seven but I think it applies here. In Romans seven Paul recorded for us his very own struggle with covetousness. He says, “I wouldn’t have known what coveting was if the Law hadn’t said, “Do not covet.” He then goes on to tell us the more he tried not to covet the more he coveted. At first it seems like the Law is the problem then but Paul quickly says that isn’t the case. He says, “The Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” Once he reminds himself the Law isn’t his problem he moves on to see that there is something wrong in him. Although the commandment is good there is something within him that isn’t allowing him to obey it. He finally cries out saying “Who will deliver me?” Then we read “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord?” Paul walked us through his struggle with his efforts to be perfect as God and his Law demands in order to show us Jesus Christ is the only perfect one, and if the Law is going to be fulfilled in him, and us, Christ in us is our only hope!

So, when Jesus preaches in Matthew five, making what sounds like impossible demands, it is his attempt to get his audience, and we the reader, to see that in and of ourselves or in our flesh we cannot please God. Jesus is preaching the fullness of what the Law is really telling us so we might be driven to cry out just as the Apostle Paul did at the end of Romans seven. If we could ever really see that God is perfect, he demands perfection, and we have no hope of achieving it on our own we just might come to understand the mystery Paul so frequently shared which is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

“What the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:3-4 NASB

Louie

NOT I BUT…

In Romans six we discover all people are slaves. We are either a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness but either way we are still a slave. This means we are never acting independently as if we are just ourselves operating from our own supply or power source. Jesus said, “you are the branches.” Being a branch means we can’t live or produce fruit of any kind without another. In this case it’s Jesus who said he was the true vine. Could this imply the presence of a false one?

In the first few verses of Romans seven we discover we are likened unto a wife. Paul uses a wife and husband to illustrate this same thing. The wife can never produce children apart from her husband. Without a man a woman will not be able to become pregnant and give birth. Chapter seven is revealing to us that the first husband is impossible to please and this marriage will only bear fruit unto death. The problem is much deeper than that though because the only way for her to be removed from the marriage is if the husband dies. Guess what? He won’t die. The good news is God’s plan provided a way for the woman (we) to die with Christ, but thank God death didn’t have the final word. We rose again and now we are joined to our new husband, Jesus, and he will produce fruit for God through us. You see without Christ himself producing the life he wants from us it can never happen. Apart from him we can do nothing.

As we look a little further in Romans seven we read “But if I am doing the very thing I do not want , I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.” Here we discover “sin” is the real culprit not me. Of course this doesn’t mean we aren’t responsible if we commit sin, but it means once again we are a slave, branch and wife and not the originator. This works in the opposite way too. In Galatians two we read, “…it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…” So the truth is we are not the originator of sin or righteousness rather we are a slave, branch or wife of the one who is. Either we are a slave to sin (Satan) or a slave to righteousness (Christ). Either way we do not and cannot produce the fruit of either of them on our own.

Louie