Instruments for Righteousness.

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 6:12-14 ESV

It seems quite obvious that Paul knew the power and reality of indwelling sin. He would not have told his readers “let now sin therefore reign in your mortal body” if the possibility for it to happen had not existed. In verse 16 he writes, “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16 ESV). Each and every day, Christ-followers have the choice to give in to and be enslaved yet again by sin or to live in obedience to their God-given, Spirit-empowered new nature. The temptation to give in to sin is an ever-present reality. That’s why Paul warned his readers, “Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desire” (Romans 6:12 NLT). There is a conscious choice to be made. We can present our bodies to sin as instruments for unrighteousness or to God as instruments for righteousness. We can allow our sin nature to dictate the behavior of our bodies and determine our actions, or we can, through the power of the Holy Spirit, use our bodies as instruments or tools for God’s will. These physical bodies in which we live are the means by which we can accomplish God’s work in this world. With these bodies we can love one another or we can lust after one another. We can use these bodies to accomplish God’s will or to selfishly fulfill our own. The natural inclination of our sinful nature is to produce some very damaging and destructive fruit. Paul describes the outcome of a life in which sin is allowed to reign. “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these” (Galatians 5:19-21 NLT). If you allow sin to reign in your physical body, you will end up obeying its passions and desires. That’s why Paul said, “I discipline my body and keep it under control” ( 1 Corinthians 9:27 ESV).

Paul wants us to know that, as believers in Jesus Christ, we have died to sin. It was as if we were crucified alongside Christ. “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there” (Galatians 5:24 NLT). Those things are no longer to have control over us. And yet, our physical bodies are constantly tempting us to satisfy its passions and desires. We have to fight constant cravings and desires that are opposed to God’s will for us. Paul puts it this way: “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other” (Galatians 5:17 NLT). But Paul also gives us the key to resisting the urges of our flesh: “let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves” (Galatians 5:16 NLT). We can choose to live under the control and influence of the Spirit or we can allow our sin nature, working through our physical bodies, to dictate our behavior. That is why Paul so strongly encourages us to “put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world” (Colossians 3:5 NLT). He warns us, “Run from sexual sin!” (1 Corinthians 6:18 NLT). He encourages us to “throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy” (Ephesians 4:22-24 NLT).

We belong to God. We have been purchased by the blood of His Son. And while these earthly bodies are temporary and will one day be replaced with new, redeemed bodies, we are obligated to use them for God’s service as long as we live on this earth. At one time, Paul had used his earthly body to persecute Christians, throwing them into prison and attempting to eliminate them altogether. But once he was redeemed from his old way of life by faith in Jesus Christ, he did everything in his power to make his body his slave and to use it for the glory of God and the good of His Kingdom. Rather than live as a captive to his body’s desires, he made his body his slave, using it to accomplish God’s will. His sin-prone flesh became an instrument for righteousness. And that is God’s call to us. He has not yet redeemed our bodies. But He wants to use them for our good and His glory. Paul describes our current condition in these terms: “We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves” (2 Corinthians 4:7 NLT). Sin’s dominion or control over us takes place primarily through our physical bodies. It is with our bodies that we fulfill our sinful passions. We use our tongues to lie and deceive. We use our eyes to lust and covet. We use our entire bodies to commit acts of immorality. We use our hands to steal. We use our feet to take us places that are against God’s will for us. We use our brains to think inappropriate thoughts and plan unrighteous acts. But because of Christ, we have the capacity to use these fallen bodies as instruments of righteousness. We can use our hands to serve others. We can use our eyes to see needs and meet them. We can use our bodies to accomplish God’s will. We can use our tongues to encourage. We can use our feet to take the gospel across the street and around the world.

 

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From One Degree of Glory to Another.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 ESV

Paul continues his use of Moses as a comparison. Moses, as a result of his exposure to the glory of God during his time on top of Mount Sinai, actually glowed when he came back down the mountain. God’s glory rubbed off on him, so to speak. And when the people saw Moses’ face, they were terrified. They had never seen anything like it before in their lives. So Moses covered it up with a veil. But in time, the glory or glow began to fade. But rather than let the people in on the secret, he continued to wear the veil and hide the fact that his glorification was impermanent.

But Paul’s point is that Moses’ temporary glory was symbolic of the temporary nature of the Old Covenant. It too, would come to an end. It would be replaced with something far better. The glory Moses received was external in nature. His skin glowed. But like a bad sunburn, over time it began to fade. The New Covenant, made possible by the shed blood of Jesus Christ, provides us with a different kind of glory. Because of the work of the Spirit in our lives, we have had the veil removed. And that act has accomplished two very important things. It has freed us up from having to pretend as if we are something we are not. For Moses, the veil became a cover-up, a means of hiding reality. At one time, we too were stuck trying to act as if we were spiritual through external acts that led those around us to believe we were something we were not. We veiled our lostness with self-righteousness. But then the Spirit opened our eyes. And that’s the second significant thing that happened when the veil was removed. We were able to see Christ in all His glory. For the first time we were capable of recognizing Jesus for who He is and able to accept what He had done for us. The removed veil signifies our acknowledgement of our own sinfulness and the Spirit-endowed ability to see the freedom made available to us through Jesus.

Paul says, “the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”. We have the Spirit of Christ present within us. This does not mean that the Spirit and Jesus are one in the same. It simply means that they share their divinity and to have one is to have the other. The Spirit allows us to have the mind of Christ, the wisdom of Christ, the love of Christ, and the nature of Christ. And His presence within us frees us up from having to try to earn favor with God through acts of self-righteousness. We now depend solely upon the righteousness of Christ that was imputed to us by God. We share in Christ’s righteousness, so when God looks at us, He sees us as perfectly righteous, just as His Son was.

But Paul’s main point in these closing verses seems to be that we are able to see the glory of the Lord in the lives of one another. It is an internal, eternal glory that emanates not from the outside, but from the inside. It begins in the heart and flows out of us so that others can see it and experience it. It shows up as the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It manifests itself in the gifts of the Spirit, resulting in the building up the body of Christ. We can see each other being transformed into the same image, the image of Christ, from one degree of glory to another – progressively and proactively – by the Spirit within us. “For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

We are to reflect the glory of the Lord. We are to literally glow with His glory. In the very next chapter, Paul writes, “For God, who said, ‘Let there be light in the darkness,’ has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6 NLT). We have the light of Christ shining in our lives in the form of the Holy Spirit. We have the capacity to see the glory of Christ because we have had the veil removed from our eyes. We can see Him when we read the Word. We can see Him working in the lives of those around us. And Paul goes on to say, “We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves” (2 Corinthians 4:7-8 NLT). That light within us is to shine out of us. Others should be able to see the glory of Christ reflected in our actions, attitudes, speech and conduct. Our changed lives are to be living proof of the transformative power of Christ’s work on the cross and the Spirit’s presence within us. We are being transformed into the image of Christ from one degree of glory to another. And one day, we will be like Him – glorified, perfectly righteous, completely sinless, and enjoying the unbroken pleasure of His presence.

Romans 15:14-22

You Have What It Takes.

Romans 15:14-22

But I myself am fully convinced about you, my brothers and sisters,that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another. – Romans 15:14 NET

While Paul has spent a great deal of time critiquing the behavior of the Christians in Rome, he begins to close out his letter with some words of encouragement. He wants them to know that they not only have within them the power to live lives that are different and distinct from those around them, they are actually pulling it off. His letter was not meant to depress and demoralize them. He was simply doing what God had called him to do as a minister of the Gospel. And that sometimes included having to say and write difficult things. But his goal was always the same: “that the Gentiles may become an acceptable offering, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:16 NET). Paul wanted them to live lives that were set apart, different and distinct from the way they used to live. He wanted their lives to be marked by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit – who alone can make a life of holiness possible. Paul knew that they had what it takes to live holy, set apart lives because he knew they had the Holy Spirit residing within them. As a result they were “full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another” (Romans 15:14 NLT).

Paul uses the term “goodness.” It is the Greek word, agathōsynē and it means “uprightness of heart and life.” It is the goodness that comes from God and reveals itself in spiritual, moral excellence. In other words, it is an inner quality that shows up in our character and our interactions with others. Paul uses the word in three other places in his letters and it is always associated with the work of the Holy Spirit. In other words, it is not of human origin, but is divine. In Galatians 5, Paul includes it in the list of the fruit of the Spirit. In Ephesians 5, Paul tells the believers in Ephesus that they are full of light and, as a result, they should live as people of light. For the light that resides within them only produces “goodness” – spiritual and moral excellence. In 1 Thessalonians 1:9, Paul prayed that they would be make them worthy of His calling and fulfill for them every desire they had for “goodness” and every act that was prompted by their faith. Paul wanted to see the power of the Holy Spirit “fleshed out” in their lives by the way they lived their lives and interacted with one another. They had it in them, but they had to live it out.

The key for Paul was dependence upon and obedience to the Holy Spirit. His life was marked by a constant reliance upon the Holy Spirit’s direction. He did what he was told to do. He went where he was told to go. He preached what he was told to say. In spite of opposition, difficulty, set backs, his own apprehensions, fear, physical illness or any feelings of inadequacy or inability. Again, Paul was simply doing what the Holy Spirit had directed and empowered him to do. “I bring you the Good News so that I might present you as an acceptable offering to God, made holy by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:16 NLT). Anything he had accomplished through his life had been done by the Spirit, not him. His life had been marked by “goodness” – spiritual, moral excellence. By allowing himself to be used by the Spirit, Paul had been able to see lives changed, and the message of the Gospel spread throughout the Roman Empire. The power of God had been “fleshed out” in Paul’s life, making a difference in not only his own life, but the lives of thousands of others. The goodness of God had done a good work in and through Paul. And Paul wanted to see that same thing happen in the lives of the believers in Rome. Having the Spirit of God living within us is great. But the key to living the Christian life is learning to let the Holy Spirit reveal His power through us. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes, “We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves” (2 Corinthians 4:5 NLT). Our darkness has been penetrated by the light of the Gospel and the presence of the power of God in the form of the Holy Spirit. Now we need to let that light shine. He describes us as fragile clay jars. We are weak and worthless, and yet God has placed His Spirit within us, so that His power might flow from us – revealing and testifying to His life-changing presence in our lives. But if the Spirit’s power never shows up, if the “goodness” of God never reveals itself in spiritual, moral excellence in our lives – God doesn’t get the glory and the darkness around us remains unchanged. We have what it takes. Now we have to take what we have and let it out.

Father, too often we live in our own power and fail to reveal Your power that resides within us. Show us how to let the power of the Spirit within us out of us. May His light shine through us, proving that we truly are Your sons and daughters. May Your goodness flow from us in acts of kindness, works of faith, and the fruit of the Spirit. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org