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October 7, 2018 The Law of Life

 

Scripture reading: Romans 8:1-6; Galatians 2:20

 

[I. Introduction] The word “law” is used in two main ways in the Bible. One is representing a code, usually the code that God has given to man in his word. In other words, the totality of God’s commandments. The other meaning is a principle. That is,  something that compels us. For example, we are familiar with the law of gravity. The reason that objects fall down is not because that it is written somewhere, “All objects must fall to the earth.” If you jump out of the second floor window of a building, you do not have to think, “It is written that all objects must fall to the earth; therefore, I must fall down.” No, you just fall down. You are compelled by force to fall down. It is the law of gravity, the principle of gravitational attraction.

 

In Romans 8:2 we read: “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”[1]

 

Both uses of the word, “law,” in verse 2 have to do with the compelling and irresistible forces of life and death respectively. Like gravity, these forces are powerful.. If you have enough energy you can overcome the pull of gravity. You can get on an airplane or a helicopter or use a jet pack and you can fly…until your fuel runs out. But there is no amount of energy that can overcome the laws of life and death. They are irresistible. Once they apply their power you will receive life or death.

 

Paul calls them “the law of the Spirit of life” and “the law of sin and death.” We will call them the law of life and the law of death just for brevity’s sake.

 

Before we trusted in our Lord and Savior for salvation there was only one law operating in us: the law of death. It compelled us to sin and the results were spiritual death. We were born with this law operating within us. No person is exempt, except the Lord Jesus Himself. He was the only person born without a sinful nature.

 

When we are born again and give our lives to the Lord, we are regenerated. We received a new life and this life is nothing less than God Himself coming into us. Because we have the life of God within us, the divine life, we have a way to live by the law of life. A follower of Christ has a choice to live by the law of life or the law of death. Before we had no choice. Now, we have a choice.

 

In verse 12 of Romans 8 Paul makes it clear that, as believers, we have a choice:

 

 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. [2]

 

The death that he speaks of here is not eternal death and life, but spiritual death or life here and now. Notice in verse 13 he writes “if you,” the “you” are the “brothers” of verse 12, “…live according to the flesh,” that is, according to our sinful nature, “…you will die.” This is a choice that we have as Christians. We can live according to the flesh or we can live according to the Spirit.

 

As followers of the Lord Jesus we want to live for Him. We desire to overcome sin and overcome the world. The only way that we can do this is living by the law of life. In order to live by this wonderful law we must see two essential matters.

 

[II.] We must accept God’s valuation of us. In Galatians 2:20 we read of Paul’s experience which must become our experience.

 

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. [3]

 

There is a magnificent expression in this verse. It is the second sentence. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” This is the law of life being lived in Paul because the life that we need is nothing less than Christ Himself. These words mean an overcoming life!

 

If we can have this experience, the experience of “no longer I, but Christ,” then we will have victory over every problem and every temptation. But how can a Christian have this experience? Paul had it and we need it. We have to see Paul’s starting point. We have to pass through what Paul passed through and follow the way that he took. Then we will have the way to live by the law of life, which is just Christ living through us.

 

Paul began 2:20 with “I have been crucified with Christ.” We, too, must be crucified with Christ. Now, many of us know this verse and many have even memorized it. Yet, we are still not living it. Many have the experience that they, along with desires that are not according to God but according to sin, are still alive. Some find themselves failing the Lord, failing their families, and failing their brothers and sisters in the Lord, failing themselves!

 

The way to be crucified with Christ, that is, to have our old nature put to death, is to accept God’s valuation of us.

 

Two men broke the law. One robbed a store. He was caught, convicted, and received two years in prison besides having to pay back his victim. The other murdered someone. He received the death penalty and was executed via the electric chair. One was deemed redeemable and the other was not. There was hope for the robber but none for the murderer, as far as this life is concerned. (There is hope for all sinners who repent no matter what the crime, as far as the next life is concerned.)

 

God has no hope in us as far as our flesh is concerned – our natural life which is full of sin. We must be put to death. Christ died in our place, but our old man must die with him. The flesh is corrupt to the uttermost, and there is no other way for it except death.

 

There is no hope for the flesh. Bible reading and prayer won’t help. Nothing helps. It must be put to death.

 

We had two baptisms last week. Praise the Lord for those two baptisms! We must see and we must remember that baptism is God’s declaration and our acknowledgement of our death. It is saying “amen” to God’s valuation of us. God says that we deserve to die and we declare this true by being buried in the waters of baptism.[4] If you were sprinkled you did not make this declaration and you will have trouble with your flesh since it was never buried.

 

But do we accept this fact? Some know this but are still full of hope for themselves. On the one hand, we feel that we are not able, yet on the other hand, we hope that we can become able. We keep failing, yet we hope to overcome.

 

There was a woman in China who put the coffin of her dead husband in front of her door for thirty years. She would not allow him to be buried. She said that her husband was only sleeping and she was waiting for him to resurrect. Christians are that way. Their “old man” (their natural life) is worthy of death, and has actually died in Christ, and should be buried. But they keep thinking that it can do things for God.

 

We have failed God so many times, yet we think that we will get better. Many have not truly learned that the flesh profits nothing.

 

We have a responsibility that we must fulfill. We must accept God’s valuation of us. That valuation is that there is no hope in ourselves nor our abilities. We deserve death. We must get to where Paul was: “I have been crucified with Christ.” And, “it is no longer I.”

18 And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’ ” 21 And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 23 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. 24 Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27 But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”[5]

 

This is a very precious portion of God’s word. This ruler did not realize his own condition. When he asked the Lord Jesus what he could do to inherit eternal life the Lord gave him the law. Actually he only gave him half of the law – five commandments. The rich ruler thinks and says that he has kept them. Do you think that he had kept them? Has anyone kept them? According to the young ruler, he had not broken any of these commandments even once. It’s as if he were saying, “I’ve done that already, anything else?”

 

Jesus says to him, “One thing you still lack.” Thos of you who still have hope in your own abilities, do you realize you still lack one thing?

 

The Lord was proving to the young ruler that salvation is impossible with man, but the young man would not admit that it was impossible with man. It is the same with overcoming after we receive salvation!

 

If you try to overcome in yourself God will often put “one thing” in front of you. This is the principle of Luke 18, the principle of still lacking one thing. God is proving to us that we are not able. The “one thing” can be anything. It can be:

 

  • your temper,
  • your jealousy,
  • your pride,
  • your talkativeness,
  • your unclean thoughts,
  • your lack of faithfulness in attending church.

 

You lack one thing. Some of us lack several things! God is showing you that you are not able and you need to be buried! When we fully accept this then we are on our way to victory!

 

[III.] We must live by the divine life that is within us. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” We must live by Christ who is the Spirit in our spirit. How do we do that?

 

It is significant that Luke 18 is followed by Luke 19.

 

He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. [6]

 

Zacchaeus was an older man. The ruler in chapter 18 was a young man. They were both rich. Young men are usually more generous and older people are more frugal. But when Zacchaeus came down from the tree, he amazingly volunteered to restore four times as much as he had taken from others and to give half of his possessions to the poor, even though the Lord had not asked him to give away his money. The Lord Jesus did ask the young ruler to give away his and he could not do it. The old man was never asked but he did it. What was the difference?

 

The difference was that salvation came to Zacchaeus. When salvation comes, God comes. Zacchaeus received the divine life and this life spontaneously wants to do the right thing.

 

It is the same way with the law of life after we come to Christ. The divine life, which is Christ as the Spirit, spontaneously lives Christ in any circumstance.

 

Look again at our primary passage in Romans 8, verse 5 and 6:

 

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 set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. [7]

 

We must set our minds on the Spirit. This means to consider ourselves dead and buried and to turn inwardly to the Spirit who dwells in our human spirit.

 

There was a sister that had a temper. The more she tried to control her temper the more she failed. She was trying to control it by sheer will power. Sometimes she would succeed in the sense that she wouldn’t say things that she would regret later. But even during those times she was still angry within. She finally realized that there was no way she could control it. She gave up . Instead, as soon as she felt her temper rising she inwardly called on the Lord Jesus and touched the spirit. A sense of his presence with life and peace came over her and her anger disappeared.

 

What is true of this sister’s temper can be true for every failing that we have. Our flesh needs to be buried and we can turn our minds to our spirit where the Spirit of Christ dwells.

 

[IV. Application and Conclusion] We receive the overcoming supply of life the same way we received the initial life by faith, that is, by believing and trusting in what God has said. God has said that Christ is in us. God has said that Christ lives through us (Phil 1:21).  When we believe this and set our mind upon it then it is actualized – we receive the power and the life!

 

How did we receive our initial salvation? By trusting in what God has said. Paul put it this way when he wrote to the Galatians:

 

Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? [8]

 

We received both the forgiveness of our sins and the indwelling Spirit by faith – by trusting in what God has said. Our victory over sin is obtained the same way. We believe that Christ’s Spirit is in us and we simply set our mind on this Spirit – we turn to him. Then the life of Christ flows through us and overcomes. It is not “I,” but Christ who overcomes sin and gives the victory!

 

Stop trying to improve yourself. You are dead and buried. Christ now lives through you! Believe it and experience it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 8:2). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 8:12–13). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ga 2:20). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[4] This  marvelous insight was gleaned from the book, The Overcoming Life, by Watchman Nee.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Lk 18:18–27). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Lk 19:1–9). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 8:5–6). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ga 3:2–3). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.