The famous evangelist Billy Graham often reminded his huge crowds of listeners of what we read about today in Romans 8:5-11: No one can live the Christian life through their own power and efforts. Try as they might, people who have not been born again by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit cannot please God. The preacher knew his audiences. Many of the tens of thousands who filled football stadiums across America to hear his sermons were religious and moral people. They had a good sense of right and wrong. They knew something about the Bible, Jesus, and church. But without a personal relationship with Jesus, they were still slaves to their old sinful natures. Their minds were not filled with and led by the Spirit of God. But praise God, many left those meetings having met the Lord! Before salvation they had only the “form” or appearance of godliness, but they left with the power of God inside them to enable them to do what Jesus said and live as He commanded. Hopefully, you have experienced that same power by repenting of your sin and trusting in Christ as Lord and Savior.
People without Christ have minds and hearts led by sinful desires, or what the Bible calls “the flesh,” but born-again Christians are led by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:5). Those without Christ are already experiencing the signs of death now, such as worry, guilt, conflict, fear, and many other bitter consequences of sin, while believers led by the Spirit experience “life and peace” (Romans 8:6). Unsaved people are at war with God because they are not willing to submit to His authority over their lives (Romans 8:7). No matter what good words or acts of kindness they might do, people who have not been reconciled or made right with God through faith in the blood of Jesus “cannot please God,” meaning they cannot satisfy God’s holy demands for their thoughts and actions (Romans 8:8). They are dead in their sins.
But if you are a born-again Christian, you are not in that awful state anymore because now the “Spirit of God dwells [lives] in you”(Romans 8:9). The ongoing work of the Holy Spirit inside you, slowly making you more holy like the Jesus who died and rose again for you, is the great proof that you belong to God. You now count yourself dead to sin but alive to the righteousness of God, the holy way that He wants you to live (Romans 8:10). The same Spirit that gave Jesus the power to rise from the dead now gives you the strength to live a new life filled with the fruits of godliness: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control (Romans 8:11; Galatians 5:22-23). If you are in Christ today, the power to live the Christian life that you want to live is in you through the Spirit. As you read the Bible and commune with God in prayer, as you learn to hear God’s voice in your conscience and respond to His Word with obedience, you will do what the Bible calls “walking in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25) and enjoy the new life in Christ. If you find that you are not in Christ today, then may you find salvation and peace by turning from your sin and trusting in what Christ has done for you on the cross. May you stop the painfulness of trying to run your own life and instead discover the blessedness of letting Jesus be in control.
The Text (Romans 8:5-11)
5 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, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. 10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
Questions to Think About
- What would you say to a person who describes themself as a “holiday Christian” (a Christmas and Easter celebrator) who “generally tries to live by the Sermon on the Mount” but doesn’t want to get “too serious” about following Christ?
- Why do you think that many famous actors and athletes like to do good works projects in their communities and countries? If they are not Christians, does their service to their fellow men and women please God? Why or why not?
- What are some specific ways that you have experienced new life in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit inside you?