12 “Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it.
13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.
15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to son ship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
17 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.” Romans 8:12-17
This passage in Romans addresses what it means to be Holy. First of all what does Paul mean by “the flesh”? Throughout, the New Testament he associates flesh with the sinful nature. So, Paul is telling us in the above quoted verses that if we allow our sinful natures to control our lives we will be out of harmony with God’s will for us and we will die.
How do we escape this problem of having our sinful natures control our lives that brings us into destruction? It is through the leading of the Spirit (v. 13, 14) that we are directed away from our selfishness and self-centered pursuits and pointed to the unfailing love of God. I love verse fourteen’s straightforward promise, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” (italics mine)
The work of the Spirit in our lives is to free us from slavery and bondage to our sinful natures and deliver us from living in fear of Satan, sin and death. The reason we no longer have to live in fear is because we are adopted into son ship; we become, spiritually speaking, children of God.
Holiness is not something you work or strive for but a condition of the heart. When we focus on the unconditional love of Jesus that brought Him to the torture and pain of the cross that He might pay the penalty for our sins and release us from bondage to sin and death, something changes in us. God’s love penetrates into our heart and we long to be right with Jesus. Our self-centered strivings seem to melt away in contemplation of the selfless sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf. Holiness is a change of heart that puts us in harmony with God’s will and love for us.
It is no wonder that as Christians we can cry, “Abba! Father.” Abba is often thought of as meaning “Daddy” a term that denotes a personal relationship between a child and their father, but it really goes much further than that. It has the meaning of “Da, Da,” often the first words a baby learns to say. This concept of Da, Da, relates to us how personal a relationship we might have with God our Father. He is not distant, uncaring, unmoving, but is as close as a loving father with a little baby who drools out his first words, Da, Da.
It is the Holy Spirit that touches our spirit and whispers into our ear we are children of God, loved and cared for just as a responsible and loving earthly father loves his child. Now if you are a parent, think about how much you love your child and multiply that love a hundred million times over and you still can’t begin to understand the amount of love God has for you.
See why we cheapen holiness if we reduce it to a bunch of actions on our part that try to show God how much we love Him and how much we can do for Him. We can never impress God or put Him in our debt through our striving for anything, especially holiness and perfection. What He wants from us is love. He longs for us to accept His love for us and let His Spirit guide and direct our spiritual journey so that we may walk in peace, security and knowledge of His grace.
Do you know why God brought the children of Israel out of bondage? It was so they could go to the Promised Land and fulfill the promise He made to Abraham. He would bring the children of Israel out of Egypt so they could freely worship and be a light to the nations concerning the love of God.
Here is what I believe. If we honestly wish to be holy we can only discover what that means through worship. Why do so many people find church a drag? It’s because we don’t worship and focus on the Holiness and magnificence and grace, and wonder, and love of God. Instead we sing a few songs, take up an offering, listen to a sermon and go home. Is that really worship? Jesus said, “my house is to be a house of prayer,” and I think He was simply saying His church should be a place of worship.
Last week at one of our Bible study groups we were about to open the Bible and study when my friend Mark was impressed to share with us that we needed to understand more of the holiness of God. As we opened our hearts to God in prayer and worship, the presence of the Holy Spirit became very close to us and when we opened the Bible to study there was a new reverence and understanding that poured out of the pages.
That is entering into holiness and it’s a long ways away from patting ourselves on the back because we have finally controlled some impulse in our life. When we worship, and I mean worship, those impulses and sinful actions in our lives will become less interesting and have less of a hold on us because our focus is on Jesus.
Let me close with drawing our attention to verse 17. We are only heirs of God “provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.” When we worship God all our suffering doesn’t go away. We don’t gain instant release from our sinful thoughts, actions and deeds. Sin remains, it just doesn’t rule over us like it use to.
When we worship grace flows inward and outward through our hearts, but you will still find yourself struggling with the pressure to “live according to the flesh,” and you will fall, but never give up in despair.
Allow Jesus to pick you up, dust you off and continue to walk with you. Holiness is not about perfection, it is about worship and developing a personal relationship with Jesus, and as Paul says, that only comes through our sufferings and struggles.
* Folks, the persecution of Christians has not stopped. If anything it’s increased. The main stream media doesn’t talk about it much anymore but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Pray and stay informed and inform others. Please take the time to read some of their stories at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet…