Romans 8 – Impossible Expectations

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. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

As I read this passage, the question that comes to mind is: If the sinful mind, that is the non-Christian mind, is unable to submit to God’s law or please God why do we who (presumably) have the mind of the Spirit expect them to?

Here is what I mean: No one can become a Christian or follow Christ unless the Sprit first gives them the revelation of who Jesus is (John 6:37). So to be a Christian and to have the mind of the Spirit, which is the mind to do good and God-pleasing things, God must first enable a man who is in sin to have an exchange of heart and mind. Until that time, not only do these men not please God and do not want to please God but are unable to please God.

So why do Christians try to make sinful man follow rules that we recognize that we ourselves cannot follow, even with the Spirit? Why do we try to legislate morality on the macro level, and expect personal interactions with sinful man to follow morals that stem from the Spirit, such as loving our neighbors as ourselves?

Should we simply pray for God to intercede in a friend’s life who is not a follower of God instead of trying to get them to change their actions? Is it a fruitless endeavor to try to change the actions of someone who is an unbeliever so that they act like something that they are not? Can that even work? Is it our job to get people to act like they are Christians?

What do you think?

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Romans 7 – The Dual Natures of Christians

But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.
-Romans 7:21-25 The Message

So then, with my mind I myself am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh, to the law of sin.
-Romans 7:25b HCSB

We are dual natures. Christians are supposed to be slaves to Christ – following His will all the time because we have given ourselves over to Him. But we, at the same time, are also still slaves to sin. This is the duality that Paul speaks of in Romans 6 and 7. It explains how Christians, who are supposed to be full of love and righteousness, continue to live lives of sinfulness.

In reality the hypocrite may not be one, even though they look like one. They may be someone with the best intentions and the greatest desire to follow Christ but find that they are completely and utterly failures at doing so. And those of us who jump on them for failing are showing just how we also suffer from this dual nature.

This is not to say that Christians should remain in the same state of duality as they were from the time they first gave their lives to, that is became slaves of, Christ. At that time, that small spark of righteousness and right thinking that rebelled against their sinful nature at the behest of the Spirit left Christians with a nature that may be best understood to be 99% sinful and only 1% righteous. Over time those percentages should change in favor of righteousness.

That is called conforming to the likeness of Christ, or becoming more Christilike. Hence the name Christian.

The real question then is where are we at? Are we, after years and years, still only 20% righteous and 80% sinful? If our move towards holiness is stunted even after time maybe we need to look at what we have done with that time. Have we spent it actively pursuing holiness? Reading the Word? Praying for help from the Spirit? Worshiping with believers? Studying and discussing the Word with others?

Where are you at?

Romans 6 – Are We Really Slaves to Christ?

Don’t you know that when you say to someone, “Take my life, I will follow you,” you are promising to obey that person as slaves do to their masters? You are slaves to the one whom you obey, who you follow — whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness.

Thank God that though you used to be slaves to sin, you gave your life to Jesus Christ instead of your old sinful way of life. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

…Just like you used to offer yourself to sinful lusts, actions and thoughts, which lead to an ever-increasing spiral of wickedness, now decide to offer yourself in slavery to righteousness, which leads to holiness… What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? None! Those things result in death!

But now that you have been set free from sin and have decided to become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

-Romans 6:16-23 (my paraphrase)

I know a lot of people know that last part by heart about wages of sin being death. We memorize it to evangelize people, to tell them about their sins. The question I have is whether or not we understand the parts of the Word that come before it.

Do we really understand that we are supposed to be slaves to Christ’s will? That we have no choice but to do what He wants us to?

Judging only myself, I would say that I do not understand what it means to be a slave to Christ. I am very much still a slave to my sinful nature.

The question is, what does that mean for my Christianity? Can I be a Christian – a follower of Christ – and still be a slave to my sins?

What do you think?