Living In The Victory of Christ: In The Spirit
Romans 8 tells us how we live in the victory of Christ. Not in the victory of our own efforts. Not in the victory of our own know how and smarts. We live in the victory of Christ. It says at the end of Romans 8 that “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
I am preaching through this chapter to put some wind in our sails because it is easy to live in defeat. Sin and life and circumstances and suffering just gets the best of us and we think we are losing. But that is not what God says to us in Romans 8.
As Christians I think we all want to be better. We want to be closer to God. We want to do his will, be more loving, more prayerful, have more faith. But we find it can be a battle. The Apostle Paul who wrote the letter to the Christians in Rome told them about his own struggle. In chapter 7, right before this, he says,
“I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”
Even Paul found the Christian life to be a battle?
The good news is that we don’t have to fight the battle. Because first of all, Christ has lived the life we all should live, died our death and has risen. And what he is has been given to us. There is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. We are considered righteous before God. Right there we have a win.
But that doesn’t mean we will be perfect and not struggle with things that go against God. That is where the Spirit comes in. We live in the victory of Christ through the Spirit.
The Spirit is mentioned 21 times in Romans 8. This is the Holy Spirit, sometimes called the Spirit of Christ because they are equal in the Godhead of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Father is the source of all grace; the Son is the channel; the Spirit comes from both the Father and the Son, and he is the agent. The Father is the source, the Son is the channel and the Spirit is the agent.
In Romans 8 Paul writes that it isn’t we who become more Christian by pulling ourselves up by our spiritual bootstraps. It is the Spirit who gives life and makes us children of the living God. When we hand the rights of our life over to the Lord Jesus Christ the Spirit takes up residence in us. He is the presence of God in us. The Spirit lives in the believer.
The message here is that there is a living and personal presence from outside of us,
...a greater power and force who actually lives in us,
...who is God,
...who takes up residence inside of us,
...and stirs a new life in us.
He moves and changes us from the inside out.
One of the reasons the message of Jesus is so staggering and absolutely different from all others religious and spiritual messages is that it says the God of the universe – who holds the mountains and the seas in his hand, who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and eternal, without beginning or end – moves into our lives - into your heart and my heart - and helps us to live and experience life on God’s terms.
In another letter that Paul wrote to followers of Christ in Corinth Paul says that those who follow Christ are “being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
God is personally present in us through the Holy Spirit and our lives gradually become brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him. There is a transformation taking place.
I know sometimes it comes slow. Sometimes it seems to come painfully slow. I sometimes wonder why I continue to be such a louse sometimes. But the Spirit of the Lord – the Spirit of Christ – is doing a transforming work in those of us who have turned our lives over to him.
Maybe you have heard churchy words like “conversion” or “sanctification”. What these mean is this process of being changed. Growing in the Christian life sees many ups and downs. But in this process of change - conversion, sanctification - we are not left alone. We have the Holy Spirit living and working inside of us.
According to Paul there are two ways to live. We can live according to the flesh or what is our sinful nature. It is those desires that are selfish, impatient, unloving, divisive, greedy, arrogant, and stuff like that. Or, we can live according to the Spirit and what the Spirit desires. What the Spirit desires is love, self-sacrifice, patience, peace, gentleness, humility, and stuff like that.
To live by the flesh or sinful nature is to live for self, to be hostile to God. Paul writes that this mindset can’t do what God wants and can’t please God. But to live according to the Spirit is to live for God, the result of which is life and peace.
Living according to the Spirit is setting our minds on what the Spirit desires. The Spirit has desires. The Spirit wants certain things. The Holy Spirit has personality. He has a will. The Spirit desires what is of God.
We also have desires and our own wills. We are prone toward selfishness, pride, jealousy and failure. If our mind is controlled by that self-centered, sinful nature the result is death, not wanting to submit to God, becoming hostile to God, and we are unable to please God. The key is to allow the Spirit to lead us.
Paul makes this amazing statement in verse 6 that “…the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” That’s what I want; life and peace.
When our minds are controlled by the Holy Spirit something begins to happen. We begin to change. We allow God to determine the direction of our life. Our outlook, assumptions, values and desires become increasingly in line with Jesus.He will gently, or sometimes not so gently, nudge us when we are missing the mark with God, and he will move us to seek what God desires. We are able to be patient with that annoying person at work. We have peace when everything around us is one big storm. We can be gentle with others who treat us harshly.
It is the Holy Spirit working in us who does this. But the Holy Spirit needs our cooperation. He is the flame. One of the images of the Spirit in the Bible is a fire. But like all flames, they need fuel and oxygen to keep going.
If you have an older model furnace or water heater you probably know that at the bottom there is a small flame called the pilot light. That light is always on. The purpose of the pilot light is to provide the flame needed to light the gas coming out of the main burner and create the necessary heat. When the furnace or water heater “turns on”, a valve releases gas into the burner and the pilot light ignites the gas. Without the fuel coming in, the pilot light can’t do much.
Like a pilot light, the Holy Spirit is constantly burning in the life of the person who belongs to Jesus Christ. Our part is to provide the fuel to blaze for God. Reading Scripture, worship, prayer, Communion, loving and serving others are the things the Spirit can use to ignite the life of Jesus in our lives creating the heat and energy of God.
The Spirit lives in every Christian. The question is not how much of the Holy Spirit do you have. The question is how much does the Holy Spirit have of you?
The more we has our mind, our heart, our will, and our obedience, the more we will be who God wants us to be. The more room and control we give him, the more he will have of us. We were never meant or asked to live the life of Christ alone or on our own. The Spirit lives in us.
The second thing about the Spirit is that he makes us children of God. Paul writes,
“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.”
Let me breakdown this standing we have as children of God. It can be easy to imagine God is our boss. Or we picture him as some harsh taskmaster towering above who expects us to be good all the time, and if we slip up he is ready to bring down the hammer on us. That is a defeatist relationship. It is driven by fear. Paul says the Spirit doesn’t lead us into a relationship of slavery or fear. The Holy Spirit testifies with our spirits that we are God’s children. And you know what? Parents love their children.
Yes, parents teach their children through discipline. Parents set boundaries. Sometimes we say “yes” and sometimes we say “no.” But we do this through nurture, love, and wanting the best for our children.
We are children of God. Now, everyone on planet earth is a child of God in that we are all created by God. But when the Bible speaks of our being children of God it speaks of a special relationship for those who recognize God as our Father. Children of God have a reconciled relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
In John’s gospel we read,
“For all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.”
The Holy Spirit makes us children of our Father. We cry “Abba” which was an intimate term children used, and still use, of their fathers. It’s like saying, “Daddy” or “Papa.”
Sin makes us slaves, provokes fear and puts us in a hostile relationship with God. Slaves relate to their superiors through fear. Don’t fulfill the conditions of the master, don’t meet the regulations and we stand condemned.
The Spirit speaks to our hearts and says, “you don’t have that kind of relationship with God. You stand in a relationship of love.” The Spirit puts us in a childlike, trusting relationship where we cry to God as our “Abba,” our Father.
Our loving Father gives grace, and grace cancels condemnation. Grace is unconditional. It is given to us not on the basis of what we do or don’t do, but on the basis of God’s faithful love for us. And out of this love God adopts us into his family as children. This is where our victory lies. We are adopted as sons and daughters of God.
In the Roman world of the first century an adopted son was a son deliberately chosen by his adoptive father to perpetuate his name and inherit his estate. It was a dominantly patriarchal society so it was a son. The adopted son was in no way inferior to a son who was biologically born to that father. The adopted son was seen as, treated as, and accepted as a son with all the rights of a biological child.
The illustration refers to sons but spiritually Paul applies it to all men and woman who belong to God.
This is the image Paul uses in Romans to speak of our adoption as sons and daughters of the living God. There are no limits to our standing with God. He sees us like he sees Jesus. We don’t know God as our judge. We know and approach him as our loving Father.
How do you relate to God? Fearfully as a judge waiting to condemn you? Or as a Father who loves you, wants to be in relationship with you, and is waiting to share his life you?
That adopted son in first century Rome was chosen to receive an inheritance. As God’s children, we have an inheritance of love, joy, peace, eternal life.
Yet, I so often live under my circumstances instead of my inheritance. I am prone to live out of my resources instead of what the Spirit wants to do in me. I live based on my place in this world instead of as a child of my God. I fight way too much instead of surrendering to the Spirit.
Things go wrong and I get angry. Things don’t happen fast enough and I get impatient. I don’t have what I want and I don’t realize what I already have. I let what goes on in Washington and the rest of the world infringe on my joy.
Let’s allow the Spirit to control our minds and remind us that we are loved, reconciled, forgiven, redeemed, adopted and known by the God of heaven and earth, for gosh sakes. God sees us as his children who belong to him.
It can be hard to comprehend this because the Spirit is just that: spirit, invisible. I can’t necessarily see, touch or sense him. Jesus said himself the Holy Spirit is like the wind “which blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.” In other words the Spirit is right there but we aren’t aware of him.
Let me ask you: are you breathing? Yes. But you weren’t thinking about breathing until I brought it up. Is your blood flowing? Yes, but we don’t walk around and wonder “Gee, I wonder if my blood is flowing today?” In fact, you can’t feel blood flowing but we know it is happening.
So, we mostly don’t feel or think about the Spirit. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t there. He is right here. As we grow in Christ we learn the movement of the Spirit. We learn when he is leading us, when he is speaking to us, when he is moving in circumstances.
With the Spirit of Christ we have inside of us a presence encouraging us in the Christian life. The Spirit speaks to our hearts that we are children, loved by our heavenly Father. We don’t have to fear but can always know that we are loved.
Here’s is what I want you to do this week: pray to the Spirit. When you need guidance ask the Spirit to lead you. When you need patience ask the Spirit to give that.
Give him room and God’s life and peace will become more powerful in our lives. Feed that pilot light and the Spirit will burn stronger.
Prayer: Spirit of the living God, thank you that you have made us children of our heavenly Father. Thank you that we are not slaves who have to live in fear of you. Remind us of our standing as loved children. Take our minds so that we will desire what God desires in our lives.
 7:15  The New Bible Commentary, p.1030  2 Corinthians 3:18  See The Message, 2 Corinthians 3:18  Vv.14-15  John 1:12-13  James Edwards, Romans, pp.207-208  John Stott, Romans, p.232  John 3:8