Summary: Walking according to the Spirit is a matter of setting our minds on the things of the Spirit.
Recently the gym where Mary and I have been working out for the last several years decided to close down at the close of business next Sunday, which meant that we had to look for a new gym. We found that there were really three options available to us.
One of those options is a gym whose business model is to charge a reasonable initiation fee and then a very low monthly rate. Their motto is “No gymtimidation” and they cater to those who might feel uncomfortable in a more traditional gym. So they don’t have a lot of heavy weights available and even have a “Lunk Alarm” that sounds if anyone drops their weights or makes loud noises while they are weightlifting. Since their monthly rate is low, they figure that even if the people rarely use the gym they probably won’t cancel their membership since it is so cheap and they will keep on paying their monthly fees. But they need lots of members to make that model work.
The other two gyms, while they are somewhat different, both employ a similar business model. They feature much heavier weights and a large variety of equipment designed for the more serious weightlifters in particular. These gyms tend to sell memberships more like used cars, so you have to negotiate the best deal you can. But in general you’re going to pay a much higher monthly rate than the first gym I described. So they don’t need nearly as many members as the first gym in order to be profitable, but they do need people who are really committed to working out so they will continue to pay their monthly dues.
Those two models paint a pretty good picture of the two kinds of Christianity that are being peddled in our culture today. On one hand there is what I would call “Christianity light”. That’s the kind of religion that really doesn’t require a lot. Just pay your dues by uttering a quick prayer and then just dabble in a little Christianity here and there when it’s convenient.
But the other kind of Christianity is much more costly. It requires a serious commitment to Jesus in which I make Him the Lord of my life and I commit to live my life according to His purposes, plans and ways. Jesus certainly taught that idea with these familiar words:
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
(Matthew 7:13-14 ESV)
So it’s not really surprising that when it comes to the Holy Spirit, those who claim to be Christians have two very different approaches to His work in their lives. Sadly, there are a lot of people who I think really believe they are Christians and yet, who just want a little bit of the Holy Spirit in their lives. You know, just enough to alleviate their feelings of guilt over their sin, but really not enough to make a radical difference in the way that they live their lives. And, as Jesus pointed out, there are large numbers of those who choose that way that He described as “easy.”
But fortunately, there are some, but not a lot, who choose the narrower, more difficult way in which they constantly seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit and keep in step with His leading in their lives. And as a result, their lives are radically different from most of the other people around them.
This morning, as we wrap up our nine week series on the Holy Spirit, we’ll see how Paul describes those two different ways of life in Romans chapter 8, and, even more importantly, we’ll see how we can make sure that we’re part of that second group of people whose lives are radically transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
So go ahead and turn to Romans chapter 8 in your Bibles and follow along as I start reading in verse 1. I’m going to read the first 17 verses of that chapter. Obviously we can’t look at that entire passage in any kind of detail at all, but I do want us to have the proper context as we develop some practical applications from this passage.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.