Summary: #2 in my Romans 8 - What a Way to Live! series, this focuses on walking according to the flesh or the Spirit, essentially, selfishness or obedience.
Romans 8:5-9 – Walking with God is No Leisurely Stroll
I read a true story that happened some time ago at a hospital in Montreal. Apparently, there was a 73-year-old hospital patient who insisted on lighting a cigarette while hooked to an oxygen supply, causing a small explosion. The woman, who suffered minor burns in the blast, had been told not to light up but she ignored the warnings. Luc Perreault, the spokesperson for LaSalle Hospital Centre, said, “She’s lucid and independent. She’d been told. She read the directives about not smoking.”
Now, the flames were put out quickly after the blast occurred, and damage was minor. One hospital worker suffered hand burns, and several patients were moved to another area of the hospital. The smoker was put in intensive care, minus her cigarettes and lighter. Perreault said that under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the hospital did not have the right to remove the patient’s lighter before the accident occurred. “We can’t take away personal belongings. It’s not a prison.’’
Now, I read that story and I laughed. Not in a funny way but in the sense that, people do stupid things. Because the woman demanded her rights, disobeyed the rules set before her, and chose to indulge her desires, she ended up in a worse situation. Wanting her own way got the best of her.
Today, as we continue to sort through an encouraging but deep passage of scripture, Romans 8, we will look at the issue of obedience, and how it fits into the walk of a believer. We’ll look at the issues that the 73-year-old Montrealer wrestled with: rights, rules, desires, and the insatiable need to please self. Let’s read v5-9. (Page 800 in pew bible)
This section is a comparison, or rather, a contrast between living according the sinful nature and living according to the Spirit – v5. Let’s just go over those basic terms again. In Paul’s writings, “the flesh” or “the sinful nature” means self. It means living to make yourself happy. It means doing whatever makes you satisfied and pleased. But “the Sprit” is the opposite. Living according to the spirit means living to please God. It means taking a selfless approach. It means being more concerned with God’s approval than with other people’s approval or your own approval. It means obedience.
Obedience, in essence, means to be under God’s influence. What He says, you do. Where He leads, you go. Someone once said, “If a man is filled with anger, than anger controls his life. If a man is filled with greed, then greed dominates his life. If a man is filled with lust, then lust governs his life. If a man is filled with love, then love influences all he does. And if a man is filled with the Holy Spirit, he is controlled by the Spirit – it is, if you will, control by consent.”
And this “control by consent” seems to be the intention of Paul’s writings here. To be controlled by God. Not forced, but rather, to choose to be obedient. To have our minds set on what the Spirit, what God, wants. Tell me, when you decide what to do in the run of the day, is your decision based on what you want, or do you consider what it is that the Sprit wants. When you decide what to put in the offering plate, is your gift based on God’s leading, as in, at least 10%, or is it based on what you feel you want? Do you come to church looking to feel good, to feel affirmed, or do you come looking for ways to please God more? Every person starts out looking for something to improve their lives, but for believers, the motives have to change. The motives have to become, “What would make God happy?” instead of, “What makes me happy?”
Paul gives at least 2 reasons that a believer must live according to the Spirit, according to what God desires. They aren’t overly deep and theological. They are simply plain-jane reasoning why a believer needs to be obedient.
#1 – A person needs to live according to the Spirit because obedience is better. Watch how Paul continues the contrast between living in the flesh and living in the Spirit in v6-8. V6 says that the mind of sinful man or the mind set on the flesh, set on pleasing self above all things, is death. The NLT translates this verse as: “If your sinful nature controls your mind, there is death.” However you put it, this isn’t a pleasant condition. It was sin that got us booted out of the Garden in the first place, bringing death into the world. It was sin that led each of us to go our own way, and what we earned from that is death. Listen: if all you think about is yourself, you will suffer for it. Your relationship with God will simply be a matter of ritual, and all vitality in your prayers will wither away. The joy of serving God will fade away. You will be like a zombie, the undead, a resurrected corpse. You may claim to be alive, but it will be merely existence.