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28. 8:1-2

Meditation No. 28

Meditation Title: No More Sinning

   

No Condemnation

 

Rom 8:1,2 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

 

At the end of what we now have as chapter 7 (remember Paul did not write it in chapters!) we find Paul apparently concluding his previous teaching: So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” (7:25b) The start of chapter 8 is, I suggest, one of the most taken for granted bits of this book and taken wrongly for granted.

When most of us think about there being no condemnation we would give as the reason for that the fact that Jesus died on the Cross and took all our sins and our guilt and our punishment. It's all been dealt with so now there is no condemnation – but that is NOT what Paul says and there is a reason for what he says.

 

Remember, the point that he was making so forcefully in chapter 7 is that in his mind he was committed to God's law because he knew it was right and holy, but he was also aware that because of that old inherent self-centred, godless and sinful nature that was lurking there deep within him, he was utterly stuck with that, a slave to it even. He has been writing, therefore, about practical daily living, the way life works when you are stuck with this old sinful nature; that is where he's reached.

 

Now this is vitally important because it goes to the heart of the Christian Faith which separates it out from every other world faith. With every other world faith you might come to a place of commitment to the beliefs of that faith and determine to follow the practices and rites of that faith, but that is all down to your self effort. Paul is introducing us to something completely different.

 

He isn't at this point reiterating the fundamentals of justification; he's done that in earlier chapters. What he's talking about now is how that works out in practice in daily living and what he's about to say is nothing less than revolutionary, and if we see it as anything less than this, it simply means that we have become over familiar with it.

 

Remember, he's got to the point of saying, I am stuck with this sinful nature and it won't let me become the person I am sure God wants of me. So now he turns to what has happened once he came to Christ. This isn't about coming to the conversion experience; this is about what follows it. He speaks about those of us who are “in Christ Jesus.” The words “in Christ” or “in Christ Jesus” (in the Christ or Messiah who is Jesus) is used often by Paul in the New Testament and simply refers to the fact that when we were converted we were implanted in the ‘body of Christ', the Church and had become one with Christ and one with all believers. We are ‘in Christ' because Christ is in us by his Holy Spirit.

 

Just in case there is any new believer reading this who is not quite sure of this, Paul teaches a number of times in his letters that the Holy Spirit now lives in us, literally God living within my body. (see 1 Cor 3:16, 6:16, 2 Cor 6:16 etc.) If Jesus dying on the Christ to deal with our sins and open the door for us to receive God's forgiveness had been all that there was, that would have been wonderful enough in itself, but it is only half of it. The other half is that the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, was imparted to us and now lives within us and that is what happened when we were ‘born again' (Jn 3:3-8) and God's Spirit came into us and united us with God and with the rest of the body. But there is more to it than that, which is what Paul now goes on to speak about. Because He now lives in us, that means there are specific outworkings of that which impact and change our daily living.

 

Paul puts it in his own language: “ through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” That's his way of paralleling and countering what he said before about being “ in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” The sinful nature made him a slave to sin so that was all he was stuck with in life, but now through the work of Jesus on the Cross and his Spirit being released into Paul (and all believers) there was a new ‘law' at work and that set him free from the way sin worked to bring spiritual death in him.

 

When he says ‘the law of' it is his way of saying, “the way this thing works and ensures things flow from it.” So when he referred to the ‘law of sin' he meant the way sin works and dominates and forces itself into our existence. Remember we said that ‘Sin' is the predisposition to be self-centred and godless resulting in wrong living and that predisposition at work in us is what he often refers to as the ‘sinful nature'. That is what had dominated our lives up until the point we came to Christ and we were ‘slaves' to it, stuck with it.

 

Now he uses this new phrase, ‘the law of the Spirit of life'. He of course means the Holy Spirit, God's Spirit who always brings life wherever He is. Similarly as before, when he uses the word ‘law' he means this is how He works, this is how He always expresses Himself and this is always what He does and brings about.

 

His power, the power of God, now lives within us and it is His power that overcomes the power of the old nature. The key to it starting was us making an act of will to surrender to God and give up our old lives, and the moment God saw that we had genuinely done that, He placed His Holy Spirit within us, so that from now on it was His power, His presence that was dominating and filling our lives, and that set us free to enter into a completely new experience of life, a life no longer dominated by sin but a life where we are free NOT to have to respond to selfish, godless whims and fancies, but instead embark on a new course with God, receiving all the wonder of what He has on His heart for us.

 

But there is another point we haven't yet covered which was there at the beginning, that question of condemnation. We are condemned by our consciences and by others and by Satan and by God, when we fail. There, you're a sinner! That's condemnation. When we came to the Cross and were saved, our past was dealt with so no longer could the enemy point at us and accuse and condemn us. (Our response is now simply, well, yes, that is what I was but Jesus died to deal with all that.)

 

But Satan stands there waiting to condemn us every day for failure and THAT is what Paul is now dealing with. He is saying that because we have received the Holy Spirit, we have embarked on a new life that is God-powered and we are going to find that although we may on occasion trip up, sin is no longer the motivating force in our lives and so no longer is Satan able to condemn us. Our daily lives have changed. No condemnation therefore! More to come as we move into this chapter.

 

    

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 29

  

Meditation Title: A Sin Offering

       

Rom 8:3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.

 

Just in case you felt that the previous meditation played down the Cross – reflecting where Paul had got to admittedly - the Cross is always at the forefront of Paul's thinking and so is applied here. He may have been just considering the practical outworking in life, but the spiritual outworking that brings the change to us, is rooted and grounded in the Cross, in the finished work of Jesus for us at Calvary .

 

His opening words here link with all that has just gone before: For what the law was powerless to do ….” (v.3a) That is the problem he has previously confronted, that the Law didn't help us overcome sin, it just highlighted sin in us. The Law couldn't set us free from sin, it was powerless to do that, and Paul goes on to reiterate why it was like that: “in that it was weakened by the sinful nature .” (v.3b) If we hadn't been sinners to start with, we might have had a chance of obeying the law but instead, all our good intentions to keep the rules God gives, showing how to conform to the way He has designed us as human beings, fall at the first hurdle and we simple fail to keep them and, indeed, we find something inside rising up against them – that's the sinful nature that Paul keeps referring to and of which we have spoken a number of times.

 

To be logical it might be helpful to jump to verse 4 at this point to see the end objective on God's heart, the thing He wants for us that the Law in itself was incapable of doing: “ in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us.” (v.4a) We may not be able to keep it, but that doesn't annul the Law, it is still there with its legitimate demands. The Law laid down the requirements of behaviour – both towards God and towards our fellow man – but it also laid down penalties for when we failed to do those things. Justice demands that wrongs are punished, that law-breakers are stopped and are dealt with equitably – what should happen to this person who has disregarded these requirements so that others are harmed? Even disregarding God can harm others for it may lead them astray as well and bring their destruction.

 

No, the Law demanded justice and while we failed to keep it, we were unrighteous and subject to it and its demands for justice. It is at this point we can see Paul's answer, God's answer, to this problem. This “God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.” (v.3c) Now there are two things to note about that part of the verse. The first is to observe what God did in the first phrase – “sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man”. Jesus came in the ‘likeness' of sinful humanity. He had the form of a human but was both human and divine, and in that form he never sinned (Heb 4:15). In that he differed from us. Of course he also differed in that he was also the divine Son of God who had existed in heaven before he came to earth in the form of a baby (see Jn 6:33,35,38,51). Jesus came as the Son of God from heaven and identified with us by living a human life for some thirty three years.

 

But then there is the latter part of this part of the verse which the NIV, which we use in these studies, has as “to be a sin offering.” Now I believe that is true and the true intent of the verse, but we might note the original and that which appears in various other versions as simply, “and for sin ” meaning he came in human flesh, for sin or to deal with the sin in us. Hence the intent of ‘sin offering' is one who comes to carry our sin and deal with it, paying for it and taking it away. That is what the sin offering in the Old Testament did.

 

Now Paul finishes verse 3 with a strange phrase: “And so he condemned sin in sinful man.” (v.3d) The fact that God had to send His own Son to come and deal with sin, condemned that sin or, if you like, showed that that sin was so bad that it HAD to be dealt with. We might excuse sin and make little of it – as modern man does – but God knew that Sin separates us from Him, spoils our lives and leads to destruction. Loving us as He does, He knew that sin HAD to be dealt with. There was no way that He could get to the end of time and look back and see the presence in sin in mankind as a festering sore that was unresolved. Justice demanded that sin be punished. There was no way that He could be true to His own perfect nature and allow it to remain unresolved, with justice still crying out for it to be dealt with. Satan would have demanded, rightly, that the whole human race simply be destroyed. The whole experience of creating this world and with human beings on it, would have been a total waste of time, a ghastly mistake. No, Sin had to be dealt with, and Jesus was the Godhead's solution, agreed before the beginning of time.

 

The end result of all this is that the work of Christ on the Cross at Calvary , now applies to all those who have turned to him and now, “who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (v.4b) His work, covering their sin, applies not just at the point of their conversion, but it goes on and on throughout their lives as they are now living Spirit-led lives. Just as the Law recognized failure in God's people and provided a means for that to be dealt with, so now in this ongoing way, the Gospel recognizes that although we are made right in God's sight at the point we are justified, in reality there are times in life where we get it wrong and therefore we still need the work of Christ on the Cross to apply on those occasions as well. In fact, it applies right the way throughout our remaining time here on earth.

 

A final note. This work of Christ, delivering us and bring forgiveness for us, is for those who do NOT live according to the sinful nature. If you are still living a self-centred, essentially godless life, then this does not apply to you. That may sound hard but true conversion means true giving over of our lives to God, and anything less is not true conversion, and anything less, therefore, does not receive the work of Christ on the Cross. If you need to go to God and remedy that situation in your own life, make sure you do it – now!

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 30

Meditation Title:   Two Lives

   

Rom 8:5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

 

There are times when the truth is revealed in the Bible with breath taking clarity and this, I believe, is one of those occasions. There is really no room left for doubt about what Paul is saying in this and the following four verses: there are two sorts of people in the world and who they are and what they do is patently obvious – but maybe in ways that many of us would not have thought!

 

In the verse above there are two totally different and mutually exclusive ways of going about life. Don't try and dodge it, don't try and hide it, don't try and make excuses and don't try and twist it, it is uncontrovertibly clear.

 

The first group of people are, “Those who live according to the sinful nature.” (v.5a). The ‘sinful nature', we have established in previous meditations here, applies to those who are self-centred and godless. Again those two things go together because ‘self-centred' and ‘godly' are mutually exclusive. A godless person is one who has not got God at the centre of their lives. If you are self-centred, you cannot have God at the centre of your life. It is that simple! That IS the truth.

 

A Christian, in the New Testament sense is one who has come to a place of surrendering their self-centredness and giving their lives over for God to lead. When we talk about Jesus being Lord, we mean we hand the sovereignty of our lives over to him. He becomes the one who rules over our lives and decides what we will do and where we should go. That's how it should work when you are a Christian. If you call yourself a Christian, but actually rarely refer your life to him but guide and direct all you do without reference to him, then there may be a question mark over whether he is truly Lord and whether it is still you and your old life that is leading the way.

 

In case we aren't clear about it Paul describes what these people who live “according to the sinful nature” do. They “have their minds set on what that nature desires.” (v.5b) Such a person wants to get their own way. They focus on their own personal peace, comfort and pleasure and give no thought to the will of God and what God desires for them and how He wants to bless the rest of the world through them. A little later Paul says, “The mind of sinful man is death.” (v.6a) i.e. this self-centred and godless thinking does not bring life but brings spiritual death, there is little or no evidence of God's presence and as He is the bringer of life, this is absent. These people wonder what the fuss is about and have no spiritual understanding.

 

Moreover, says Paul, “the sinful mind is hostile to God.” (v.7a). When you talk to this sort of person and talk about what God wants, they bluster and stammer and make excuses and question and challenge. Some are blatantly hostile (e.g. the crusading atheists of the early 21 st century) but ‘nice' people, ‘respectable' people, ‘religious' people cover it up by fine talk and excuses with talk about not being extreme and so on, anything to cover up the truth that actually they rule their lives and not God. They are actually hostile to talk about the Lordship of Jesus Christ and of letting him lead, guide and use your life. Their mind is set on social niceties or on business or culture or whatever panders to their ego – but they ARE hostile to God! Indeed Paul goes further: “It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” (v.7b,8a) If the basis of your life is ‘self' then you will not like being told what to do (by the Law of God), but you should realise that in this, there is no way that you can think that you please God – because you are hostile to Him while you let self rule and reject Him!

 

Now this first lifestyle is contrasted with the lifestyle that is supposed to characterize the Christian's life, any Christian's life. They, says Paul are “those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” (v.5c) Spirit-led Christians is what this is all about and, in Paul's mind, there is no other sort of Christian. You are either led by the Holy Spirit and are a Christian – or you are not! These people focus on what the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of God, wants. It's about what God wants, not what I want. Those who are hostile to God and have never surrendered to Him have never realised that because He is a God of love, He wants the very best for us, and that means in every area of our lives, and He is there to help bring that to us – as we let Him. That is the crucial difference between these two groups of people. This latter group lets God do what He wants to do with them and so as a result they are blessed.

 

So, Paul goes on, “the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” (v.6b) If you control your life, your mind will be in a whirl, full of worries and concerns and so full is it of all this debris, there is no room to sense God and it's like it's all darkness and gloom and there is no room for ‘life'. Life is that experience in the spiritual dimension where God is active and bringing all His love and goodness into being in us, through us and around us.

 

Paul sums it up, directly addressing the Christians in Rome : “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.” (v.9a) As we said earlier, his assumption is that if you are genuinely a Christian, this is the sort of person you are – one controlled by the Spirit of God living in you to whom you have submitted your life. And then he drives in a final nail to the coffin of unbelief: “And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” (v.9b) If you have never submitted your life to God, never asked Jesus to come into your life to be Lord, have never invited the Holy Spirit to come and control and lead and guide and teach you, whatever you may call yourself, you are NOT a Christian. Paul said it and this is God's word. If you need to remedy that in your life, do it now!

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 31

Meditation Title: Dead & Alive

  

Rom 8:10,11 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

 

Remember from the previous meditation, Paul has just declared, “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ,” and we noted that, in our conclusion of the thought that there are two sorts of people in the world, as Paul's teaching at the beginning of this chapter makes it abundantly clear. But that is not to say that sometimes his phraseology doesn't sometimes lack clarity as we'll see in a moment.

 

He speaks to Christians in Rome : “if Christ is in you.” That is the amazing claim of Christianity, that the Spirit of the founder lives within each one of us. This doesn't mean ‘spirit' as it is sometimes used, to mean the moral or mental attitude, but means The Holy Spirit referred to throughout Scripture as the living third person of the Trinity, part of the Godhead, the Spirit sometimes referred to as the' Spirit of God' or the ‘Spirit of Christ'. This Spirit is ‘He'. Thus Christ by his Spirit literally lives within each believer and communicates with each believer, whether they are aware of it or not. This, assumes Paul, is a given.

So he continues, “if Christ is in you, your body is dead.” Now we'll stop it there to take it in small steps. Now of course we know that he cannot mean that physically and literally, so what does he mean? He must mean, surely, that our body does not contribute spiritual life. If it's not physical, then it must be spiritual, so your body is spiritually dead, or as we just said, it contributes nothing to our spiritual life. Now realise that he is referring here to how we were before we came to Christ. He is comparing past with present.

 

Now let's add to it: “ if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin.” i.e. your body contributes nothing towards your spirituality, towards your relationship with the Lord, because of the indwelling presence of sin lurking there, as we've seen in Paul's examples in chapter 7.

 

But that's not the end of it now, he continues, because “your spirit is alive because of righteousness.” That's the difficult phraseology bit we referred to earlier. How many of us just read the words and don't bother to think through what they mean? It means that now your spirit is alive because God has made you righteous at the point you turned to Christ and were born again. At that moment you were justified by faith, as we saw in earlier chapters in Romans, and at that moment it means God declared you righteous because you no longer have the issue of your past sins to be dealt with by justice, because Jesus has fully dealt with them by taking the punishment for them. That means you are left, in God's sight, clean and pure – and righteous! Because you were that new person who was clean, pure and righteous at that moment of conversion, He then put His Holy Spirit in you to continue the work of change in you, to help you work out this new righteousness in a practical day to day way.

 

So your body was dead because of the prevailing Sin, but when you came to Christ you were made alive by the Spirit of God in you, and He is going to continue to being changes in you for the rest of your mortal life. In fact Paul has a dynamic way of putting it: “if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” (v.11) i.e. we've just spoken of the Holy Spirit coming to dwell in you but this is the same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus' dead body. It's the same power and so if He was able to literally raise Jesus from the dead, He will be able to bring new life and energy to your physical body as well.

 

So, whereas previously you were only able to use this body for self-centred, godless and unrighteous activity, now He's come you're going to use that body to bring about the will of God on the earth. So whereas you had no power to overcome smoking, excessive alcohol use, excessive eating or whatever else it was that dominated your body, now you have a power within you that is stronger than the power that used to make you do those things and so He will set you free from those things so you will no longer do them. That is the power you have within you today. All we need to do, is believe it! If you struggle with believing it, ask the Holy Spirit to show you the reality of this so it will impact you and you can walk free. Hallelujah!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 32

Meditation Title: The Obligation

           

Rom 8:12-14 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation--but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

 

Oh look, there's a ‘therefore' which means that what follows flows on from the logic of what has just been said, so let's pick out the positive bits of what Paul has just said: You, however, are controlled … by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And …. your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And ….he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” So, the Spirit lives in us because of what Jesus has done and the way we responded to him, and He will bring life to us in a new way.

 

But we need to remember that the Christian life is a combination of what God has done for us and is doing for us AND what we do. We cannot save ourselves but we do contribute to who and what we are and how we end up. So there are some Christians who simply totter into the kingdom and hardly move on. Yes, they are saved but there is little more. But then there are others who get saved and go on and mature and become glorious servants of God who achieve great things and the world is changed by God through them.

 

This is why Paul now starts this next paragraph, “Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation….” When you have an obligation or duty, it is to DO something, to take part in something, to be a player. He is saying, because God has put His Holy Spirit in our lives, He looks for our co-operation because He did not take away our free will when we came to Him. Yes, He wants us to submit it to Him but He still wants us to choose and He still wants us to act of our own volition (as led and guided as it may be by Him).

 

So what is he saying we are to do? Well first he takes the negative, what we are NOT to do. “it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it.” It is still there, lurking in the background but it has been overcome by the power and presence of God and we could, if we wanted, still live according to it (and some do) but actually when we came to Christ we rejected the old life and the old ways and died to them, so they neither have the power to break through again, nor the inclination to do so. We gave it up for something infinitely better so why ever would we go back to it? Some do but you wonder whether they ever truly came right through will full conviction, full repentance and full understanding.

 

Some do fall away undoubtedly but that is a choice, and act of the will and Paul warns against that. Indeed he takes his warning a step further: “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die.” If you go back to that old life with its old ways, you will die, not physically maybe, but certainly spiritually. God does not relate to that old nature and, indeed, cannot, because it is self-centred and godless. It's like we turned our back on Him and do not, therefore, relate to Him. If we do not relate to Him and He does not relate to us, His life will not flow to us and in us and spiritual death will prevail. It is no wonder that some unbelievers say, ‘well I never have any sense of God; if He does exists He must be a million miles away.' Of course that is how it seems for they are spiritually dead because they have never come alive by the Holy Spirit.

 

So, Paul continues, “but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” The Holy Spirit is in us as new Christians, we said, and He is working within us to bring God's will into being in and through us. But, we also said, it is a partnership and we have a part to play, to use our will to conform to what the Holy Spirit is prompting. So Satan and the world – and the old nature – will say, ‘Stand up for yourself, don't let them treat you like that, you tell them what you think,' but the Holy Spirit prompts and says, “No, you respond with grace. Be Jesus to them, surprise them.” At that point we have a choice to make: will we stand up for self or will we put to death the misdeeds of the body?

 

Then, just to really encourage us, Paul reminds us of what has happened and who we really are now, these people who have the Spirit within and are led by Him: “because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” Do you remember John declared, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.” (Jn 1:12,13) We are children of God because of the work of the Spirit within us, sons of God as Paul describes us.

 

Sons have a particularly special place in the Old Testament because they carried on the father's business, they inherited and carried on the father's business and thus all of us who are Christians, male or female, are called sons of God by Paul because we have inherited a new life from the Father and He wants to lead us in His business – the business of saving people, changing people and transforming the world. How amazing! How wonderful! Hallelujah!

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 33

Meditation Title:  Sonship

    

Rom 8:14-15 those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."

 

I am aware that, looking back over the ‘meditations' that I have written over the years that they vary a great deal in length in terms of what they cover. Sometimes we may cover ten or fifteen verses while at other times we only cover two or three. These present ones fall into that latter grouping and you may be excused for muttering, “Oh, not again. Why doesn't he move on?” and the answer has to be, because Paul doesn't. We have commented before that Paul is a good teacher and good teachers know that their pupils need to hear the same thing over and over again, often from different angles, before what they are teaching really sinks in.

 

So yes, we did conclude the previous meditation with starting to mention sonship but as Paul goes on and explains it, so we must stick with it and consider it. Now writing as a man I often wonder how women think about this subject of ‘sonship'. If the feminist lobby took notice of this they would no doubt want to shout, “What about daughter-ship?” Well, my answer to this has to be that the language being used is being used to convey certain truths and they are not gender based, even though they come out of gender illustrations. This is also true in respect of the fact that I am a man, but I am part of the ‘ bride of Christ'.

 

So previously we concluded with Paul saying, those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (v.14) and we suggested that whenever ‘sons' are being referred to in New Testament language, it is using the imagery of the Old Testament where in daily life, so often the son followed in the father's footsteps and so if there was reference to ‘sons' if was reminding us that we follow on in the Father's steps, learning the Father's business and becoming more and more like the eldest son in the family, Jesus. It's all about family likeness and family inheritance and family business.

 

So then Paul makes another of his ‘contrasting statements, where he sets one thing of against another. He starts with a negative and then balances it with the positive to add to what he has already been saying. First the negative: “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear.” (v.15a) We've just be noting him talking about the Holy Spirit coming in to us as new believers and so he now says, but there is nothing about this that creates fear. God isn't doing all this to make us craven slaves, groveling before Him in fear. No, he says, it quite the contrary: “but you received the Spirit of sonship.” (v.15b) In whatever language and with however little knowledge we may have of the Old Testament, this must come over to anyone quite simply as, “He didn't make you a slave but a family member.” Bear in mind all we said earlier about the implications of sonship, do that by all means, but just grab the simple concept of being a member of God's family, a close member, not a distant cousin, but a son!

 

You may observe the note in your Bible that says an alternative to ‘sonship' could be the word ‘adoption'. That conveys something even more strongly. When a child is adopted, they are taken into the family and become a real and genuine part of it. They were not born in it but now they have legally been made part of it. Legally they are now related to the parent and that by the wishes and intent of the parents. How else can it say it? You are now directly related to God, part of His family and you are not a slave or anything like it. It seeks to convey a sense of warmth, a sense of unity and oneness. God is for us!

 

But then the reality of this new relationship is revealed for we find ourselves, as the Holy Spirit within is urges us, crying out and addressing God as ‘Daddy!' (which is what the Aramaic ‘Abba' conveys): “And by him we cry, "Abba, Father .” (v.15c) and we don't need to wonder about this for Paul adds, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children .” (v.16) So often when I pray, I find myself praying, “Father….” In fact I invariably pray that. I don't ask the Holy Spirit and I rarely ask Jesus, even though he is seated at the Father's right hand. I pray, “Father….” because that speaks of family relationship, but Paul tells us that this is how the Holy Spirit prompts us.

 

For those of us who have not had good relationships with fathers, counselors warn that we might feel negative about God being a Father, and yet I find that in God I find one who makes up for all the deficiencies I might have found in my own father, and who my children might find in me. When we consider human fathers, our own or our own role as a father, we will always find deficiencies. There may be many good things (and a good exercise is to sit and think what they are) but there will always be things where they do not live up to our hopes and expectations, or we find we cannot live up to the hopes and expectations of our children. That's just how it is being part of the fallen human race. God will help us, but we still come from a position where we start with deficiencies. But when I turn to God, I do not find that. If there are deficiencies, I have found, they are deficiencies in my understanding of Him. When I can see through or past my own confusions and misunderstandings, I find a Father who is perfect in every way. If only I did not have those confusions and misunderstandings! But that is how it will be this side of heaven, and that requires me to open myself to the Holy Spirit to enable Him to allow me to catch and see the wonder of the One who has done everything that is possible to bring us to Himself, and to show us the wonder of who He is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 34

Meditation Title:  Heirs of God

   

Rom 8:16,17 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

 

I largely find, as I look around and listen to what I hear in church, an absence of the awareness of being God's children. Indeed I believe some Christians would almost feel it presumptuous to call themselves children of God, but that is the clear teaching of Scripture and, even more, in the verse we finished on in the previous meditation, Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit Himself testifies or confirms with our own spirit that that is what we are, so if we deny it, we deny what the Spirit within is trying to tell us – You are God's child! We covered that already when we noted the words, you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father.” (8:15) Every time we feel inclined to turn to God in prayer, it is the Holy Spirit reminding us of the relationship we have with the Father.

 

Now this is important to follow through because of where Paul next takes us: “Now if we are children…” He's not saying ‘if' in any derogatory, challenging way; he's saying, “Now because we are children of God…” Accept it: you ARE a child of God if you are a Christian. The apostle John was strong on this: “to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,” (Jn 1:12) and, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)

 

So, OK, let's move on, “Because we are children of God…. we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.” An heir is simply someone who has received an ‘estate' (however extensive or small that may be). The ‘estate' is simply whatever is being left by the deceased. We receive the property or rights or whatever, being left to us by the person who has died. It wasn't ours beforehand, but it is now. It has been left to us and it now belongs to us. Now there is something significant in the words of this verse. Note: heirs OF God, co-heirs WITH Christ. God has left this to us and we share the ‘this' with Christ. This is where most of us come unstuck, because we've heard the teaching – you are an heir – but we are left wondering, “What is it I've been left?”

 

Well, let's take a step back again: we are now children of God, “sons of God” (8:14) and we said previously that whenever in the New Testament there is this sort of wording, it harps back to the Old Testament concept of the eldest son who took over the father's business and carried it on. What have we inherited? The Father's business! What is the Father's ‘business'? Is it not to love the world and draw it back to Himself? I am sure that God, being the Almighty Being that He is, does billions of things in the rest of Creation, but as far as this planet is concerned, the Bible reveals to us that God is always at work (Jn 5:17) and Jesus did what he saw his Father doing (Jn 5:19) and now draws us into doing the same things (Jn 14:12). How can we do that, we ask in panic, and the answer is, by the Spirit he has put within us – HE is the one who does it using us as the vessels through which to move.

 

But then Paul has a further thought and it is as if he then says, “Look, you've got to be whole hearted in all this. I mean when you came to Christ you totally surrendered yourself and gave up your will to God's will, and that means to all of it. So when it comes to sharing in the Father's ‘business' it means taking all that that involves, the bad as well as the good or, if you like, the bad to ensure we get the good as well.” Hence he writes, “if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” i.e. if we want to share in God's business, sharing in Jesus' ministry, we have got to realise that because we live in a fallen world and contend with an enemy, and have to cope with others who are not where we are, it is sometimes going to get rough!

 

This is not saying anything surprising. It's a fact of spiritual life. Because we live in a sin-filled world and there is an enemy in the form of Satan, his demons and powers and principalities of darkness (Eph 6:12), there will be people who are against us just as there were people who were against Jesus and his disciples. This, unfortunately, (and we would prefer it was otherwise) is how it is living and ministering in a fallen world. Sometimes it gets difficult (to say the least!).

 

The apostle Paul was possibly the ultimate example of this. Listen to his testimony: “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.” (2 Cor 11:23-27)

 

Now of course most of us are not called to do what he did but we may still suffer opposition at work or college or school or from neighbours, but whatever it is, the apostle Paul could go on a declare, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (8:18) As his argument goes on, it does, we suggest, indicate that this glory to “ be revealed in us” is actually in this lifetime but we will have to wait for the next meditation to consider that.

In the meantime, hold on to the thrust of verses 16 and 17: we ARE children of God and so we have inherited God's ‘business' which we share with Jesus, bringing His love and goodness into this fallen world to draw back to Him whoever will hear and respond. The wonder of it all is that we don't do it on our own but we do it by Jesus' leading and by the empowering of his Holy Spirit who he has put within us. Hallelujah!

  

 

 

 

 

 

     

 

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Meditation No. 35

Meditation Title: Sons of God Revealed

                 

Rom 8:19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.

 

This is a tantalizing verse! I suspect most of us arrive at it, glance at it with an air of puzzlement and pass on rapidly to easier verses. Now there are immediately two ways of thinking of what this verse means: 1. It means the world is watching for us Christians to be revealed as we grow in Christ on this earth, or 2. It means that when we go to glory we will be transformed into something even more glorious (which Scripture does suggest). Perhaps we should add a third possibility: 3. The world is watching to see our transformation as we grow in Christ which will happen in large measure as we allow the Spirit to lead and teach us, but the fullness of the transformation will only come when we pass from this earth into heaven. This third option is what we believe the following verses show us.

 

But we must remind ourselves that back in verse 17 we read, we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Now when we think of Christ's life on earth it did comprise both suffering and glory. It was only partial glory and Jesus himself indicated it as such, but the fact was that some saw his glory as he ministered and worshipped him. The fullness of his glory is not yet complete because although he was glorified through his death and resurrection, there is a greater glory to be revealed a) when we see him in heaven and b) when he returns and every knee will bow before him. This receiving glory is thus a partial and gradual thing but, as we said previously, as we enter into the ‘Father's business' and share with Jesus in it, we will experience both suffering and glory.

 

But what an amazing picture: the creation, the world, all of what we would otherwise call ‘nature' waits expectantly for us to be changed and enter into a greater measure of our sonship. Do you remember at the Creation, the Lord gave this mandate to man: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Gen 1:28) Man's first act of ‘ruling' or presiding over as God's agents, was to name all the creatures: “So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.” (Gen 2:20).

 

However this was followed by the Fall and with that came upset. Man and woman became self-conscious (Gen 3:7), fearful of God (Gen 3:10) and self-justifying and blaming of others (Gen 3:12,13). Further consequences were enmity between mankind, Satan and God on the earth (Gen 3:15), increased difficulty in childbirth and a dominating husband role (Gen 3:16), and the earth running wild to make food producing more difficult (Gen 3:17-19). Previously all creatures had been vegetarian but from then on the ‘food-chain' that we observe among creatures prevailed. Some suggest that spiritual forces were released that meant shifting of tectonic plates, earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, tornadoes and floods as well as disease and sickness and plague. All of these things came about as a result of the Fall.

 

The primary reason for what is referred to as the ‘curse' is that God stepped back and left the earth to mankind to rule. The withdrawal of His presence meant the withdrawal of His life and blessing and yet, the Bible tells us, God was aware of and took account of all these things even before making the world, because giving man free will was essential for him to be fully human, with all that that meant. From before the creation itself, the plan of redemption was there in God's planning and that was necessary because of the Fall and its effects. So with the Fall we have disruption to the way the earth works and the way mankind work; both are not how they were originally designed to be.

 

But then comes Jesus and the possibility of salvation, of redemption, and suddenly the earth is starting to be populated by men inhabited by God. The process is dramatic (new birth) but also slow, steady and continuous throughout the human life (sanctification). Suddenly it is a new day with these new God-empowered, God-directed ‘sons of God', men and women energised by the Holy Spirit, coming to bring something new to the earth. Where they shed light, darkness falls back.

 

But it is never without resistance for Satan and his minions and the powers and principalities of darkness, press in on those sinful men and men who have not heard of a new way, or who have heard and refuse it. And so a battle ensues and change is slow, but down through church history these men and women inhabited by God have been slowly revealed for what they are – saints. Twisters, connivers, cheats, thieves, prostitutes, murderers, traitors, abusers, all hear the words of the Christ and are transformed and another ‘son' is revealed, another light bearer walks on the earth. They struggle to understand who they are, they are slow to understand the wonder of being ‘a son', and they cannot comprehend the wonder and the potential of who and what God has made them to be. But the world looks on and wonders at every new birth. How will this one develop? What will they contribute to this world to bring light that dispels darkness, what will they say and do that actually changes the world?

 

Yes we, you and me, are being revealed. Gradually bit by bit we are changing and the likeness of Christ is being seen through us: “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor 3:18) Hallelujah!

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 36

Meditation Title: A Groaning World

     

Rom 8:20,21 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

 

If we suggested in the previous meditation that verse 19 was tantalizing, then these verses are equally so. We, in fact, laid down the foundation for this meditation in the previous one as we considered the Fall and the results that flowed from it. Yet these verses above seem to say more than we have covered so far.

 

The picture Paul paints is of a world (the earth and everything on it – except human beings) that is in waiting. Verse 19 started, The creation waits” suggesting an anticipation of something yet to come. But it also spoke of it waiting “in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.” This suggests that the world senses that there is something better yet to come. We may have settled in to life as it is but, Paul says, the whole of the rest of the world has a sense of something better to come.

 

But then Paul explains why this is: “For the creation was subjected to frustration.” (v.20a) i.e. it sensed that there was something better but it couldn't do anything about it itself and so felt frustrated. You get frustrated when you are stopped in some course you really want to pursue. The world senses that there is something better to come but can't get to it on its own.

 

But then he explains in general terms how this came about. It was left in this frustrated position, “not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope.” (v.20b) An alternative outcome to the Fall in the Garden of Eden could have been that God destroyed Adam, Eve and the serpent and let the world continue on unaffected. It would have thus continued in its perfect state as He had made it and sin would have been eradicated immediately. No frustration but a blossoming world full of creatures living in peace and harmony in God's presence. So why didn't He do that?

 

The answer had to be that for human beings to truly live up to their potential, they had to be free to exercise their wills as they wished, for good or bad, to love or to hate, to create or destroy. This is the wonder of the human race we have such incredible potential to be creative, caring and even heroic. We create great works of art or music or literature, we invent and design, we think, we reason and we conclude. And in all this we have the capacity to be incredibly generous or caring. We can be sacrificial, even giving our lives for one another. These are the possibilities. But then there is the other side: we are capable of sinning and doing the most terrible of things. And then beyond that, there is the capability of turning from all that to God and being redeemed and being born again and being made into new creatures who love the Creator by choice.

 

So God imposed the curse on the earth (the absence of His blessing of life) but note the last two words: “in hope”. It isn't always going to be like this. There is the hope – the firm assurance – that one day it will be different. Now we tread on the difficult ground: “that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” At the present the world suffers decay. Disease etc. causes death of creatures and death of plant life. Animals kills animals, bacteria kill off living creatures, and life is ended. But one day – not yet it seems – it will be set free from this cycle of death and new life, set free from decay and destruction and will be alive with the same freedom to live eternally that the children of God now have. There are little glimmers around the Bible that hint at this new day: “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” (Isa 11:6-9) What an amazing picture of peace, tranquility and harmony. And of course there is, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.” (Rev 21:1) Somehow – and the Bible doesn't try to explain it – there will be a replacement earth with one land mass, nothing to hinder communication between peoples. That is for the future.

 

In the meantime, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (v.22). Another of Paul's pictures about expectation and anticipation! This ‘groaning' isn't the groaning that precedes a painful death; this groaning is that of a woman in childbirth. Childbirth means something new is about to be born. The message from Paul is that this world as we know it at the present isn't all that there is in God's plan. He plans for something new to come forth, something that exhibits the same new life as the sons of God do now. What takes place in us now, this dramatic but gradual transformation, portrays what will yet happen to the world eventually.

 

But a further thought: every now and then there are stories of God blessing the land of His people in different places in the world and amazing fruitfulness ensues. Should we be surprised at this? Should we perhaps be expecting something amazingly more when the people of God are truly living as the faith-full and Spirit-filled people of God? Bear in mind God's promises to Israel which we will finish with and ask, if that was true of them, what about us? Observe: “The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock--the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed. You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out…… The LORD will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The LORD your God will bless you in the land he is giving you. Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they will fear you. The LORD will grant you abundant prosperity--in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your ground--in the land he swore to your forefathers to give you. The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands.” (Deut 28:4-6,8, 10-12) The condition? “The LORD will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the LORD your God and walk in his ways.” (Deut 28:9)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 37

Meditation Title: Groaning Saints

             

Rom 8:22 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

 

We have seen Paul describing this world as being in a groaning state, in anticipation of something better to come and now he turns to us Christians and says the same is true of us, this is also true of “we ourselves”. When we became a Christian we may have thought that we had ‘arrived' but actually we just arrived at the starting post. The rest of our life was in front of us and it is a life of continual change, which is partial while we remain on this earth and then complete when we see Him face to face.

 

He describes us Christians as having “the first fruits of the Spirit”. By definition, first implies others to follow. Thus he is saying that we now enter into a life of experience with the Spirit but whatever we experience here on this earth, is only the first part of a much bigger experience of Him which we will enter into when we go to Him. So, he goes on, in the same way as the world senses that it waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.” (v.20) so the same thing happens with us. We “groan inwardly as we wait.” Note that it is an inward groaning not an outward groaning. If I may put it like this, it is like a rumbling stomach, except it is in the spirit. Deep inside me something tells me that I have not ‘arrived', that there is something more than this.

 

Often we may say of church life, “there must be something more than this.” (Well those of us alert to God at least, do). We look at our own lives with dissatisfaction when we are being honest, yearning for something more than we have at the moment. It is a strange thing but two opposites exist within us at any one time. On one side we are called to be contented and on the other side there is this holy dissatisfaction. We are to be contented with the life God has led us into and the material provision we have (which doesn't stop us working for more) but in the realm of the Spirit we will always be wanting something more, because this is only a partial experience of Him, this side of glory.

 

We catch a sense of this same idea with Abram: “By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Heb 11:9,10) Abram had received a promise of family, a land, and a blessing to bless the world (Gen 12:1-3). So, says the writer to the Hebrews, in his travels he was following God's leading and looking for whatever it was that God had on His heart for him, a city, he sensed, that God would build – and so he looked for something that never came while he was on the earth. That writer explains it: “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Heb 11:13-16). These ‘people of faith' in the ‘faith gallery' of Hebrews 11 all sensed there was something better than they had at the moment – and that helped them live out their time on earth.

 

Job, struggling with his terrible infirmities, came to this awareness: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes--I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25,27) At that stage it was simply that One would come and even though he died he would see Him. There was this hope!

 

We find this same sense of ‘looking forward' in the apostle Paul himself: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:12-14) He expresses this sense of incompleteness in himself – not yet perfect – yet Jesus took hold of him for a purpose and an end goal and so he will press on for both. He presses on to become the man and ministry Jesus called him to be, and he presses on so that he will do nothing to hinder Jesus bringing him to glory, the ultimate goal in God's purposes for him.

 

The writer to the Hebrews conveys the same idea about Jesus: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2) Jesus knew the ultimate goal, the joy of being seated next to his Father in heaven, reigning in the midst of his enemies, and it was this that sustained him when he faced the Cross. Jesus looked beyond the immediate present and looked to the ultimate goal – and so do we.

 

Yet there is more: “we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” This is interesting and it reminds us that they are various ways of fulfillment, because we have been adopted as sons when we came to Christ, yet there is a fuller expression of it yet to come. Now, as we've said before, part of that is in our time here on earth. As every year passes so we learn and experience more and more of what it means to be an adopted son of God. Yet, the fullness of being a son does not come until we see Him face to face and at that time our entire beings are redeemed and made perfect. For now we struggle with aging and decaying bodies, but when we pass on from this existence we will receive new bodies that will never suffer sickness, or weariness or illness. As we age, that is the hope we have – new bodies! Hallelujah!

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 38

Meditation Title: Living in Hope

              

Rom 8:24,25 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

 

Hope is all about the future and hope is one of those concepts that is so often misunderstood. We use the word in everyday life in respect of thing we would like to happen, for example, I hope the sun will shine today. Now certainly today the sophisticated weather forecasting can give us a good idea of what is likely to happen, but it still uncertain and is still just something we would really like to happen. Some thing we can contribute to as far as outcome is concerned. For example a student might say, “I am hoping to take my exams in the summer,” but that is dependent on them working hard and being allowed to take those exams.

 

When it comes to Biblical hope it means something of which we are assured, and the reason we are far more certain about it, is that God has said it will be so, and if He said it, we can be sure of it. These verses start, in this hope”. What hope? That refers to the previous verses (not just the previous one). What future things has Paul been speaking about? He spoke of i) sharing Christ's glory (v.17,18), of us ii) being revealed in the full wonder of God's sons (v.19) and now iii) the redemption of our bodies, a glorious future existence (v.23). This is all future promise.

 

But this isn't just Paul. For instance Jesus prayed, “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one:” (Jn 17:22) i.e. i) sharing in Christ's glory. Just before that he had prayed, “May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (Jn 17:21) i.e. ii) may they be revealed as your sons so that the world will see. Although he did not speak specifically about our bodies, Jesus did tell his disciples, “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (Jn 14:3) i.e. iii) a future existence with Jesus.

 

Paul speaks of the resurrected body elsewhere, for example, “the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (Phil 3:21) The apostle John also wrote, “we know that when he appears, we shall be like him.” (1 Jn 3:2). That is the amazing idea that is conveyed, that one day, when we leave this earth at the end of our lives on it, we are going to be changed and given a new body, that is part of the Gospel message or as Paul says it here, “For in this hope we were saved.”

 

But Paul is very down to earth and so he reminds us that this teaching is about the future and so it is something to be received by faith, and because it is still in the future it is therefore ‘hope' but, he goes on, “hope that is seen is no hope at all”. It is not something we can see, something that is visible, something clearly visible on the horizon. No, what we are talking about is something in the mists beyond this life and we only know about it because we have been told about it in the New Testament.

 

So what point is he making? Why is this important? What practical relevance does this have for us? This is an area where modern Christians tend to be weak. We are very much ‘in the present' people, people living for now and the future will just happen, it's not very significant is it! But that is not the New Testament thrust. The New Testament again and again brings hope of something better in the future to help sustain us in the present. It may be that life then was not so certain, not so secure and therefore there were greater causes to worry, but when we start looking at the uncertainties of living today, although we are so much more prosperous and have so much technology and modern medicines to rely upon, many people are still worrying about how they will get by tomorrow. Worry about tomorrow is still a very real feature of living in this Fallen World.

 

The thing about uncertainty and insecurity is that it can produce unstable thinking, unstable beliefs and such a person becomes very vulnerable to Satan's attacks. The temptation is to give up holding to Christian ethics and become just like the rest with their dubious and questionable ethics and ways of living. That has always been the temptation and it is still the same today.

 

The New Testament answer to this is to remind us a) of the God to whom we are related, and b) what He has done for us, and c) what He has made us (hence all the talk about sons of God) AND d) the future aspects of our life that we are yet to receive, which we have not yet received, hence, “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” This is Paul's gentle way of saying, in the face of all the pressures of the world, and all the difficulties you face, and the temptations put before you by the enemy – be patient! When he says, ‘be patient' he is saying, remain steady in your beliefs and in who you are because this is only part of it, there is more to come and it comes to those who remain faithful and true – so hang on in there!

 

This is why there is all this talk about hope and the future because it is to be one of the elements that God has provided to hold us secure. Thus we are to be people who are secure in the faith and in the Spirit today and who also have an eye to the future for those elements of our salvation that are yet to come. This takes us back to what he said a little earlier: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Rom 8:18) Whatever struggles we have today, don't let them pull us down because the best is yet to come! Hallelujah!

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Series Theme: Meditations in Romans 4-8

Meditation No. 39

Meditation Title: Groaning Spirit

       

Rom 8:26,27 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.

 

There is a sense, I feel, that as we work our way through these verses it is like entering more and more deeper into a dark wood of revelation. When we came to verse 19 we spoke of it as a tantalizing verse, but then had to repeat that with verses 20 and 21. When we speak of a ‘dark wood' we don't mean dark spiritually but dark in as far as it is difficult to see what Paul is saying. We are moving in areas that most Christians rarely think about. Our danger in these two verses is that we go along with what we have heard others say about them and not with what they actually say. Now I say this because often people interpret what is here as meaning that we groan with the Spirit's help, but that is not what these verses say. We may not fully understand it at first sight, but these verses explicitly speak of the Holy Spirit groaning. Let's examine what they say.

 

Paul starts these verses with this simple phrase: In the same way”. He's just been speaking about how hope helps us in our sufferings. Now he moves on to speak of how “the Spirit helps us in our weakness.” In what way are we weak? Oh, that is simple, he implies, “We do not know what we ought to pray for.” This goes to the fundamental root of prayer. What is prayer if it is not us Christians speaking to our Father in heaven and often that speaking involves asking, and when we ask we are requesting Him to intervene on earth and bring about things which we believe are His will. But there is the problem; although we may have ideas of what to pray for generally, sometimes we come to a place where we don't know what to pray in detail.

 

Now normally when I would be teaching about corporate prayer I would be suggesting that we need to ask the Lord and then listen to the Lord for the sense of the direction He wants us to pray and in a corporate setting that is right and proper, but Paul is speaking more generally about prayer here. Now I am also aware of what I think about ‘speaking in tongues'. I believe this is another of those joint man-plus-Spirit activities and when I have pondered why God has given it to us, my conclusion is that He has given us a tool to overcome our frustration. Sometimes when you are filled with the Spirit you have such a sense of praise and thanks giving that you just want to go on and on and on. The trouble is that you have this yearning to do so because the presence of God is so wonderful but you start running out of words. At this point you switch into tongues and still have the sense of wonderful praise and thanksgiving but it bypasses the mind and enables you to just carry on without having to struggle for words.

 

But now Paul focuses on the “the Spirit himself”. Note that clear emphasis; this is the work of the Spirit, this is what He is doing, not what we do. So he continues, “the Spirit himself intercedes for us.” It is the Holy Spirit who speaks up for us. Now the apostle John said something similar: “if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense--Jesus Christ.” (1 Jn 2:1) When we get it wrong, the Son turns to the Father and speaks up for us, on the basis of what he has done on the Cross. Now, in the present context Paul continues later in verse 27, “the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.” The Holy Spirit who dwells within us, and who feels and knows every thought and therefore everything about us, translates His knowledge and, linking it with what He knows is the will of God for us, communicates it to the Godhead in what Paul describes as “groans that words cannot express.” He avoids the frustration He might otherwise feel in trying to communicate with words which are limited. His groans are perfectly understood by the Father and the Son.

 

Let's try and communicate this another way. Sometimes when we want to share what we feel with another, we know that words are inadequate. We want to tell our partner we love them and words seem inadequate, so we smile and they see in our eyes the wonder of our love. We hug them and they feel in the strength of our hug the wonder of our love for them. We do something for them which is clearly sacrificial and they understand and catch the depth of our love for them – all without words.

 

God “searches our hearts” and wanting to understand as fully as possible what we feel, He catches what the Spirit (His Spirit) within us is feeling. Being inside us, knitted with our spirit He feels and understands perfectly all that is going on inside us – more than we ourselves realise. We sense something in our spirit, aided by His Spirit, but we aren't sure of what it is, although He knows and so rather than leave it hanging in the air, so to speak, the Holy Spirit within communicates it to the Godhead by these wordless groanings, communicating back to heaven the perfect understanding of God on earth, because (and this is the marvel of this) the Holy Spirit IS God.

 

In these verses we are really treading on holy ground, all to do with communication within the Godhead. Sometimes in prayer it is just us speaking to the Father. Sometimes, especially in corporate prayer but it can also be in individual prayer, the Father reveals the things on His heart He wants us to pray out. (It seems almost as if there is something about the will of God being spoken out that adds to its value). At other times, in praise and thanksgiving, the Spirit enables us to speak in tongues so we carry on praying without intellectual knowledge of the meaning. At other times Jesus speaks to the Father on our behalf. On other occasions the Spirit communicates the will of the Father through our Spirit to heaven but through HIS groanings. What a variety of communication means to heaven!

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Series Theme: Meditations in Romans 4-8

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Part 3

28. 8:1-2