living by the Spirit (Rom. 8:12-17)

Kramskoy, “Christ in the Desert”
1872. Oil on canvas. The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia
This final passage for Trinity Sunday reveals how we are to live once the Spirit of God has come into our lives.

The context is extremely important as it always is. As one of my mentors, Stuart Briscoe, puts it, “A text without a context is a pretext.” He has another variation as well: “A text taken out of its context leaves behind a con.” The context here is the emotional crisis of chapter 7 in which Paul writes, “Wretched man that I am.” Then comes the glorious resolution of Romans 8:1: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” NO CONDEMNATION! Man, that’s good news for me… 🙂

Verses 12-17 build on this theme. We have a sinful nature (the flesh) as well as the Spirit. We have a responsibility to say “yes” to the Spirit but “no” to the flesh. Who are God’s true children? Those who never sin? No, but rather those who are in the process of learning to say “no” to sin. Look inside your own soul: is there something there crying out “Abba (Daddy) Father”? This is the Spirit testifying with your spirit that you are a child of God. Now, if we are children, then here is more great news – we are heirs as well. The Hilton sisters have nothing on the children of Heaven.

Now comes the kicker. “… If indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Just as Jesus put his earthly frame to death on the cross so we need to put our earthly frames to death in how we live. Just as his path to glory was marked with suffering, so may ours be. This suffering is not unbearable, nor is it an indication that God has left us. Rather, it is an indication that we are journeying into glory with him. What a joyous and victorious way to live!

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