In the Bible, the eighth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans contains some verses often quoted as favorites. For example, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose”(Romans 8:28, NASB). This is a wonderful reminder of God’s sovereign provision and protection for all those whose hearts are fully committed to following God and his ways.
I share a few thoughts here that struck me recently while digging into Romans 8 afresh. This chapter is a description of how to resove the classic struggle of the previous 3 chapters. It follows Paul discussing the tension of living in a sinful, earthly body with a personal spirit that has been awakened to the nature and power of God Almighty. “For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! …” (Romans 7:22-24, NASB). So how do we free our imprisoned inner person from this wretched condition?
The answer is sanctification. That is, a process of allowing God’s Holy Spirit to overtake our personal spirit, so that our inner being takes on the nature of how God originally designed it to be. More of God and less of me. God’s will, not mine be done. God’s plans put ahead of my agenda. God’s desires, ways, and outcomes sought regardless of whether it looks “good” for me or not. Trusting Romans 8:28 quoted above to be absolute truth. Embracing inner life change so I can believe the Truth without reservation. Focusing on being, ahead of doing.
LIfe is breathed into our spirit by God’s Spirit. Believing in Jesus invites the process to begin. “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11, NASB). A born again experience initiates the new life. We become more and more alive to our purpose and destiny as we choose to yield more and more of our inner thoughts and feelings to God. The transformation and sanctification of our soul is necessary for increased growth and satisfaction in life. God’s Holy Spirit ilving in our personal spirit overtakes more and more of our flesh as we grow with Christ. This is a progressive thing.
As our spirit grows, it has more control over our being, and satisfies the dilema of chapter 7 (torn between doing what’s right and dealing with the limitations of flesh). Romans 8 continues, “… for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Again, “putting” to death speaks of an ongoing process of progressive change.
Our being becomes more and more alive, as the Holy Spirit takes control of us by expanding the function of our personal spirit to bring our body into submission and alignment with God. We get rid of things opposed to God, and take on new thoughts, actions, and habits pleasing to him.
Romans 8 continues, ““For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”(Romans 8:14-15, NASB). Paul ties transformation and sanctification into sonship. Our identity is wrapped up in how willing we are to change from the inside out (not outside in). It’s not about behavioral rules, but being “led by the Spirit” as sons, is about personal relationship with Father God. We are adopted into a family relationship. We are not only legally adopted as sons, we are receiving (and must continue to receive) the “spirit” that goes with it. Our changing condition inside brings the peace, rest, and freedom from the fear of slavery.
Again, this all hinges on our willingness to change. Do we hold on to the familiar belief systems, patterns, habits, etc., or do we let God show us what freedom is really like?
Romans 8 continues, “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” (Romans 8:16-17, NASB). All that comes through our freedom in Christ (our adoption, identity change, character change, sanctification, etc.) comes at a price. You’ve probably heard it said, “Freedom is never free.” The word “suffering”” implles struggle. It requires giving up something (things), to gain something else. But whatever we are holding on to is really not worth much anyway. Without God we are broken, and the sooner we can admit it, the better off we’ll be. There is no “quick fix” or “magic solution. It’s a long haul commitment. The good news is that Jesus Christ has done the work for us. It’s not about doing the work of salvation, but cooperating with God to allow Christ’s finished work to be worked out in our inner being.
Sanctification is the process of putting the pieces back together. Sanctification is how “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God” (quoted above from Romans 8:28). Sanctification is the way back to the original design of our Creator. I discuss the “what” and “how” of sanctification in many previous articles. For example, click the link to read how it can be compared to:
Taking Out The Trash (see http://authoredhersh.blogspot.com/2015/03/taking-out-trash.html ).
Trash Leads to Crash (see http://authoredhersh.blogspot.com/2015/04/trash-leads-to-crash.html ),
Trash Turned to Treasure (see http://authoredhersh.blogspot.com/2015/05/trash-turned-to-treasure.html ).
It can be viewed as a way for safely navigating across a bustling stream:
Sanctifying Life: 5 Stepping Stones (see http://authoredhersh.blogspot.com/2018/02/sanctifying-life-5-stepping-stones.html ,
Sanctifying Life: 6 More Stepping Stones (see http://authoredhersh.blogspot.com/2018/03/sanctifying-life-6-more-stepping-stones.html ).
Sometimes we run into barriers (see http://authoredhersh.blogspot.com/2017/07/four-barriers-to-better-living.html , and http://authoredhersh.blogspot.com/2017/08/religious-barriers.html ). Sometimes we need help to make a breakthrough.
If it seems like you are stuck somewhere, I encourage you to seek help. Seek help from someone who himself or herself understands and practices inner transformation and sanctification. Some counselors focus on merely managing symptoms rather than rooting out the problems. Anyone who tries to tell you that healing and character growth is painless is not qualified to help others. Seven easy steps and four guaranteed principles are vain promises. Methodology is NOT the way to wholeness and lasting results. A counselor with a changed inner life through the power of the Holy Spirit is the best choice for help with typical life issues.
I encourage you to read Romans 8 repeatedly over the next few weeks. Listen for God’s voice speaking to you personally as how to apply the truth and wisdom found in these verses. If you find it a challenge to “hear” God and wish to receive help, please contact me.
by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry