Updated: Sep 12, 2020
Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 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 8:10-11
Whenever I study Romans 8 I can't help feeling that Paul is trying to build a chain - an unbreakable logic that will link us to Christ forever. This section definitely feels like a series of logical links:
If you have Christ, you have the Spirit.
If you have the Spirit, you have life (righteousness = spiritual life)
If you have life now, you'll have life later (resurrection = physical life)
So far all my comments on Romans 8 have dealt with the spiritual problem - slavery to sin - and how God moves into our spirits and takes control.
But you and I both know that isn't enough. It's great, and it's powerful, but I get the feeling, after living inside my own rotting shack for 45 years now, that this whole sin thing isn't really ever going to let up. Two steps forward...and the inevitable step back.
But the ultimate good news is that the process that is going on inside you now - the Spirit taking control and causing spiritual growth - is guaranteed and intended to lead to physical newness and resurrection. Total restoration. Total release from bondage. Not just in the sense that you won't have your flesh to worry about. No - you will have a body, strong, healthy, and youthful. More in the sense that you won't have to worry about your flesh. Once raised to eternal life, once perfected to "live according to the Spirit" like your spirit already does, it will want what your spirit wants every single time.
Sometimes when I'm daydreaming about life in that body (yeah, I do that) I take a situation I'm in now - something where I'm tempted to use my "members" in a sinful way - and I think, what would my new body do here? What would it want to do? And I realize, it would want to do what is right! When I'm in that body, I won't be sitting here, tempted, tortured. I'll be free and on my way. Over it. That new body will be smart. It won't want to nibble on decay, maggots, and poison.
That actually helps me in the moment of temptation. Why not just do it that way right now? Okay so this body is decaying, wretched. All the more reason not to put it in charge in the moment I'm facing sin. All the more reason to believe it's weak, enslaved, and headed nowhere fast - so I take over. I "parent" my own body. I say, "Stop it right now. You're not in charge." And then I make it do what I want to do. My hands. My mouth. My members.
Sometimes it actually works. :)
The point is, the life God has promised us later (resurrection) is the same life he is now living out in us, with us. We still desperately need him to daily rescue us from our sin and from the screaming flesh that carries us into sin. We're not out of the woods by any stretch. But the good news is that he is doing that - now, and later.
Obviously he's not going for perfection right this minute, or we'd be perfect. He could, if he wanted to, give us total resurrection now.
But he's not. He's left us imperfect. For some reason, he thinks it's better this way for now, spiritual life as an organic process and not a mechanical or magical product. Here's my theory.
I think his willingness and commitment to live in us now while we're still a mess is supposed to convince us of his love for us.
I think that, being convinced of his love, our sense of security will enable us to love others.
I think that when our love for others grows, so does our desire to be better people. Loving others helps us resist our own sin. Having someone to love makes you want to be a better person. (I love the movie As Good As It Gets for this. But - language warning!)
I think that this battle is increasing the love that God wants to fill his new creation with. Not just a place full of perfect people, but a place full of perfect people who know th beauty and wonder of self-giving love.
I said before that God fights sin with love. But guess what - he also builds our love by allowing us to fight sin. This imperfect process puts the horse before the cart, love before righteousness. Love takes priority. Righteousness without love is empty (1 Cor 13). So in this life, as we learn righteousness in less-than-perfect conditions, the imperfections provide the perfect platform for love to develop fully, in the self-giving way of God.
When our bodies are made new, they won't just be glorious scientific specimens of undying perfection. They will be, in every cell, the product of a lifetime of love - the love of God who did not condemn us, the love of Christ who died for us, the love of the Spirit who lived and worked intimately in us and on us, the love of others who walked with us, the holiness we have labored to build in ourselves in order to love others.
Remember, real love works. God is teaching us love now, and he's using the imperfections to do so. Love now, obey out of that love, and let the guarantee of the unbreakable logic of the gospel give you the confidence to keep working. Keep loving. Keep changing for love.
So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:11-14)
Claim it: Keep rehearsing:
NO CONDEMNATION! YOU ARE FREE! (FIGHT SIN WITH LOVE) DIG ME UP AND PLANT YOUR SEED
At some point you'll probably have an objection to all this good news. God's love and grace can be baffling and offensive to us; I understand. If that happens, write it down and share it with someone who is loved by God. Don't let it undermine everything God's word is telling you. God's word is true. Expose your doubt and let it work to build your faith.