Monday, February 28, 2011

In Search Of Truth, Romans 8:1-6

Before diving back into the text, a quick look at some key words:

Christian- One who places their trust in the identity and work of Jesus Christ.

Sarx- The Greek word often translated as “sinful nature” or “flesh”, which refers to the earthly, mundane elements of people and the world that are disconnected from God. For non-Christians, it is their core nature. For Christians, it is a frustrating remnant of what their core nature was before Christ gave them a new nature.

Law- The Greek word Paul uses is “nomos”. Like the English word, it is context sensitive. It can refer to: 1. Any law established. (Traffic laws) 2. A law established by God. 3. A basic principle. (The “law” of gravity.) 4. A governing authority or force (He was in trouble with “the law”) 5. The Old Testament Law (10 commandments, dietary laws, etc.)

Death- In these first few verses of chapter 8, the word Thanatos is used. It can refer to physical death, but more broadly refers to a separation from God and all of the good things he has created and allows us to enjoy. This “death” can be experienced temporarily now, or for eternity in hell.

Beginning with verse 1, we see that the “governing power” of God’s Spirit brings about life (meaning here a purposeful, fulfilling existence devoted to God) and freedom in a Christian. Specifically, freedom from the controlling power of sin and death (see “Death” and “Thanatos” above). (v.1-2)

In verse 3, Paul refers specifically to the Old Testament Law, which depended on human willpower and obedience to be fulfilled. Because of the presence of “sarx”(the flesh) in humanity, the Old Testament Law was powerless as a cure for the human disease of corruption and selfishness the Bible calls “sin”.

Many people reach a point in their lives when they feel the need for moral structure. On the surface, many religions seem the same because of similarities in moral teaching. (This can be attributed to the fact that God built a basic moral understanding into everyone, which we saw in Chapter 2.) But what we all need to realize (whether Christians or not) is that aspiring to a moral standard will not cure us of our corruption and selfishness, nor will it be enough to counter-balance the acts of selfishness we’ve committed.

God’s solution was to send his son (who was himself also God) in human form, cursed with the same temptations to sin that we all deal with. Jesus “volunteered” for this and became the spokesperson and representative to God for humanity. In order to deal with sin justly, God condemned the human representative, Jesus, who willingly offered himself for this purpose.

Jesus’ record of perfect obedience was transferred to us, along with the record of his punishment for our sins. And because our sin is dealt with and Jesus’ perfect record of obedience is transferred to us if we trust in him as our representative, our lives are able to fulfill the end purpose of God’s law more and more as we allow his Spirit to control us. (v.3-4)

As Christians, the choice is constantly in front of us. We can prioritize our lives and fix our minds on the mundane, disconnecting our existence from God. This is what it means to live and think “according to the flesh (sarx)”. Our other option is to prioritize our lives and set our minds on what God’s Spirit desires.

Living “according to the Spirit” is not a religious checklist of activities. It’s a life in which God is omni-present in our minds and un-compartmentalized in our routine. That said, we can assume that knowing and reading God’s words will help us understand what his Spirit desires.

The choice of how we live is always present on a case-by-case, moment-by-moment basis. And the natural consequences are present as well. The choice prioritizing “sarx” will cut us off from God and his blessings on some level. The choice following God’s Spirit will result in fulfillment and contentment on some level and an absence of burden from guilt. (These are the ideas behind “death”, “life” and “peace” in verse 6.)

Next Week- More on the contrasting effects of “sarx” and God’s Spirit on our lives.

Coffee House Question- Think of a time in which God’s Spirit seemed to be giving you a sense of fulfillment or contentment. What kinds of thoughts or actions were you involved in that allowed God’s Spirit to be in control, resulting in your contentment or fulfillment?

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