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The Big Picture

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Sometimes we get so cluttered up by details that we fail to get the big picture about the gospel. In this article we shall do a lightning tour of Romans chapters 6-8 and the truths therein. Its going to be a fairly multi-colored mess. The propositions are in dark green, the explanations in blue and the bible verses are in lighter green.

1.When we become a Christian we become a new creation. The old self dies, it is crucified with Christ, and a new eternal self is born.

We see this in statements like:

(Romans 6:6 NIV) For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin--
and Paul's famous celebration of his death in Christ.

(Galatians 2:20 NIV) I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

This is no minor transformation it is a very radical change indeed.(2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

The new self is in some sense hidden(Colossians 3:3-4 NIV) {3} For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. {4} When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

2.This new person has died to sin (Romans 6:2,11 1 John 3;9) and is alive to God to do His will. (Romans 6:11-23)

This is not an easy truth to absorb. I am not teaching sinless perfection of the present self. The person you see in the mirror sins. But the real eternal self inside you wants nothing to do with sin. The real eternal self inside every born again Christian is a creation of heaven and quite unable to sin.
(1 John 3:9 NKJV) Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.
The new eternal self that God creates inside us in fact dead to sin and has nothing to do with it.

(Romans 6:2,11 NKJV) Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?.....Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The new self is in fact only responsive to the will of God. It is"alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord". The new self has a fervent love of righteousness and is "enslaved to righteousness" and finds itself compelled to do good. It is good by habit.
(Romans 6:17-18 NKJV) But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. {18} And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

3.This new person is in fact the real me (Romans 7:17,20) and loves righteousness (Romans 7:18,22). Just as the flesh heard the law and rebelled (Romans 7: 1-11) so the inner man hears the Spirit and rejoices (Romans 7:6, 22-25). The "inner man" is the "real man".

The easiest way for me to understand it is to think of the person I will be in heaven in ten thousand years time. Then I will be free from the flesh and its desires and I will not want to sin in any way. My true eternal self will not want to sin and sin will have no place in it whatsoever. That person is in me now. I do not really want to sin. I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man. Paul indicates this when he says...

(Romans 7:17 NIV) As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.

(Romans 7:20 NIV) Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

For Paul the inner man was the real man and the flesh was a hindrance that was to pass away. The real Paul did not want to sin. The born again Christian does not want to sin and would gladly be rid of their sin if they could be. The mind and will of the born again believer is renewed so that they do not want to be in bondage to sin.

(Romans 7:24-25 NKJV) O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? {25} I thank God; through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

4. The struggle with sin that we experience is due to the battle between flesh and Spirit. Romans 7:19-21, Galatians 5:16-18

The struggle with sin is due to the fact that when God made our inner natures new He did not press the delete button on our memories, habits and personality. These were well trained in the ways of sin and need to be retrained. Our bodies which were originally designed to accumulate wisdom, truth and righteous habits have become multi-megabyte archives of anger, rage, and selfishness. Our memories are physically stored in our brain along with their associations. Our appetites and reflexes are trained into certain patterns that are often hard to break. This sin indwelt prison is known as the flesh.

(Romans 7:18-21 NKJV) For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. {19} For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. {20} Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. {21} I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.

The flesh is in deadly opposition to our renewed inner natures which are governed by the Holy Spirit of God.

(Galatians 5:16-18 NKJV) I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. {17} For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. {18} But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
The good news is that ultimately the Spirit is more powerful than the flesh and that if we consistently walk in the Spirit we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. The Greek says "cannot in any way fulfill" the lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:16). The lust are there and they are tempting but they are not fulfilled. The Spirit stops us going all the way with the flesh.

5.Therefore our real eternal selves, which are righteous, are not under any condemnation from God.

(Romans 8:1-4 NKJV) There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. {2} For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. {3} For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, {4} that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
There is no condemnation for the real us. The "real me" that will be in heaven has been justified. I don't have to justify myself or make up excuses. The cross of Jesus Christ has dealt with all that. God justifies me, God Himself now defends me from any and every accusation.

(Romans 8:33-34 NIV) Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. {34} Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died--more than that, who was raised to life--is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

6. To win the battle with sin and experience God's peace we need to set our minds on the things of the Spirit. (Romans 8:5-14, Colossians 3:1-4, Romans 12:1,2)

(Romans 8:5-11 NKJV) 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.

The mind is like a switch that can be set in a certain direction. If it is set on the Spirit then life and peace flow into us. If the mind is switched on to the flesh then we experience death. The choice for the Christian is what they are going to do with their mind and where they are going to let it dwell. This is a choice that will win or lose the battle for holiness. The mind of the Christian is not "in the flesh" by nature. It has been transformed. The Christian has the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). We can easily set our minds on the things of God and receive instruction from the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10-16, John 14:26, 1 John 2:20,27). Yet we are exhorted to set our minds on things above where Christ is because that is where our new eternal selves are and they are the only fit thoughts for who we truly are.
(Colossians 3:1-4 NKJV) If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. {2} Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. {3} For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. {4} When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

There seems to be an element of choice or decision in this. We need to set our minds like a compass set on a bearing. We need to point them in a certain heavenly direction and maintain them there. Our daily mindset should be Spirit-led. As we do this we are energized by the Spirit, experience God's peace and increase our victory over the flesh.

7. We have moved from being fear-filled slaves under the law to much loved sons of God with a truly glorious level of freedom. We must strive to walk continuously in this freedom. (Romans 8:15-25)

(Romans 8:15-17 NKJV) For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father." {16} The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, {17} and if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

Slaves know the rules and live in fear, sons know the Father and live in love. Because the world around us is so full of rules and regulations we think that the heavenly realm will also be like this. It is easy for us to slip back into bondage and to treat God as a harsh taskmaster instead of a loving Father. The ever present awareness of our sins and the accusations of the Devil convince us that we are in trouble with God all the time - when in fact we are justified and free. We go around convinced that God is angry with us or that He ought to be angry at us. In fact He wants us to come to Him and cry out "Abba, Father". God does not treat us as slaves deserving a wage who must work in order to eat and who have no future, no inheritance, no rights and no privileges. . He treats us as sons, who He freely provides for, who will inherit a kingdom, and on whom He has bestowed every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 1:3).

(Romans 8:32 NKJV) He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

For sons of God everything in the Kingdom is free. God freely gives them to us His children. We need to maintain this perspective and develop a mentality that expects an abundant and wonderful life as a gracious gift from God - not because we are good or dutiful slaves but because He is our gracious loving Father.

8. Confident Christian living comes from knowing what God intends to do with our life. He loves us, will never abandon us, works all things together for our good, and is making us like Jesus. (Romans 8:26-39)

Confidence comes from knowing that we will be treated well and that our future is secure, happy and prosperous. If you knew for sure that tomorrow you would be given 5 million dollars then you would be happy and confident today. If you knew that tomorrow you would have to walk across a treacherous minefield then you would probably not feel happy and confident today. Confident Christian living comes from knowing two things a) God's plans for us are good and will stay that way. b) God's plans cannot be thwarted in any way.

(Romans 8:28-31 NKJV) And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. {29} For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. {30} Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. {31} What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

God's plans for us are good in every way. They involve a Christ-like character, a clear slate in Heaven and a glorious new being in an imperishable and glorious resurrection body. For overcoming Christians there is a crown, a throne, a scepter and a kingdom. God is not waiting to pounce. He has planned to bless you beyond anything you can imagine.

(1 Corinthians 2:9 NKJV) But as it is written: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him."

Your sin cannot separate you from God's blessings if you love Jesus because the cross has taken care of it. God's plans for you are unwavering and blessed. Nothing can stop them or get in their way"If God is for us, who can be against us?". God is absolutely determined to bless you and He has even sent His Son to show this clearly.

(Romans 8:32-35 NKJV) He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? {33} Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. {34} Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. {35} Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

The blessings involve "all things", are freely given with Jesus, cannot be prevented by Satan accusing us to God, and transcend the circumstances of life even for the bitterly persecuted Christians of Paul's day. Some may object that Satan and his demons can keep us from the blessings of God but that simply is not so.
(Romans 8:37-39 NKJV) Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. {38} For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, {39} nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Our future is safe and our future is good therefore we can live confidently in Christ. We are loved with a love that will not let us go by an Almighty God who is working all things together for our good.

PRAISE BE TO GOD FOR HIS INDESCRIBABLE GRACE!

© Copyright GlobalChristians.Org 1997

This article may be freely reproduced for non-profit ministry purposes but may not be sold in any way. For permission to use articles in your ministry, e-mail the editor, John Edmiston at johned@aibi.ph.