The Spirit of Christ In Us - Part 1

Romans 8:5-13

Tom Pennington  •  March 11, 2018
Audio   •  PDF
  • Share:

Well, I invite you to turn again to Romans 8. We have begun our study of the eighth chapter of Paul's letter to the Romans. The theme of this eighth chapter is the security of the believer in Jesus Christ. I think it is important to realize that God truly wants His people both to know and to enjoy the reality that they have truly been saved from their sins and that they are eternally secure. In 1 John 5, we learned that the reason John wrote his first epistle was to this end. First John 5:13, he writes, "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that [Here was my purpose.] you may know that you have eternal life."

Listen, it is not God's purpose or plan to hide this from any true believer. In fact, in Scripture, God intentionally has provided us with a number of legitimate ways to gain real and lasting confidence that we truly belong to Christ and that our sins have been forgiven for His sake. Sadly, however, while there are those legitimate biblical ways to gain that sense of assurance and security, there are also some common but terribly wrong ways to gain that sense of assurance. This is absolutely crucial for us to understand.

And so, before I get to our text this morning, I want to take just a few minutes to identify for you those common but wrong approaches to the believer's security that permeate today's Christian culture. If you want to gain assurance and a sense of your security in Christ, these are not the places to go, and yet they are all too common. Check yourself. See if you've been influenced in these ways.

First of all, many will tell you to base your confidence in a one-time profession of faith. One of the most popular and frankly most dangerous places that people place their confidence and security is in the fact that at some point in their past lives, they made a profession of faith in Christ. In the sort of cultural Christianity that we live in and sort of as the air we breathe, this usually happens when someone's a young child. Sometimes that experience is accompanied by a profound emotion and you marry the two, this experience charged with emotion as a young child, a profession of faith, and people go back and put their confidence in that even though they have never truly followed Jesus Christ as Lord. Although they've never lived in obedience to His Word, they still cling to that childhood profession as their confidence that they're right with God. Jesus warned that a sort of emotional experience in which you think you make a profession of faith, that's not a place to put your confidence. In fact, in Matthew 13, Jesus describes two temporary emotional responses to His gospel that Jesus Himself said were not true saving faith. They looked like it for a time, but they weren't. So that's not a place to put your confidence or your assurance.

Others put their confidence in a prayer. This is closely related to the first one, but in this case the person's misplaced confidence is specifically in the fact that at some point in their lives, they prayed the "sinners prayer." They were led to follow a specific prayer; they recited it behind someone, and that's where their confidence lies. As they seek security, that's where it is. And it is true that part of genuine conversion, that is the expression of true repentance and faith, part of that is calling on the name of the Lord in prayer. We're going to get Romans 10:13 where Paul says it, "WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED." But the fact that at some point in the past, you prayed a prayer should never be the basis of your assurance and security. Why? Because there are many biblical examples of people who prayed to God, even some kind of confession, but were not totally changed and never truly belonged to God.

Still others find assurance in their baptism. Now, I'm not talking about those who believe that baptism in some way contributes to our salvation. That is clearly contrary to Scripture. We've talked about that at other times. Instead, here, I'm talking about those who base their assurance or confidence that they have been saved by grace through faith; they base their assurance of that on the reality that at some point they were baptized. When they think about assuring themselves that they're truly in Christ, they think back to their baptism, and you know I was baptized. I professed Christ in the waters of baptism. Well, that's wonderful, but understand baptism doesn't mean that your heart was changed. In Acts 8 there was a man by the name of Simon Magnus who was baptized, professed Christ, was baptized. Later, the Apostle Peter said to Simon in 8:21 in the book of Acts, "You have no part or portion in this manner, for your heart is not right before God … you are in the … bondage of iniquity." His baptism was not an assurance that he truly belonged to God.

Other professing Christians find security, and this is a little odd, but it's very common; they find their security in their own confidence. Now this wrong approach typically expresses itself in a couple of ways. One way is this: they will tell themselves, even if they don't think of it exactly this way, they will tell themselves something like this, "Because I'm confident I'm a Christian, I must be a Christian." I talk to people; I remember the most graphic example of this in my own life and ministry is, many years ago now, when I was pastoring at Grace Church, there was a phone call I received from a wife who had discovered in her husband's briefcase his little black book filled with details of sexual encounters, and I went and confronted him that afternoon at his place of business. And for six months, I challenged him to examine his faith, and he simply was very confident. "No, I know I'm a Christian." He lived a double life for years, confident he was a Christian. Why? Because he was confident, "No, I know I am!"

There's another form this takes, and that is: because someone I trust told me that I was a Christian. Someone I trust spiritually told me I was a Christian, then I'm confident I'm a Christian. It usually happens like this: a parent or a pastor or a friend shared the gospel with you, and you prayed to receive Christ; and then when you finished praying, that parent or that friend, with the best of intentions, said something like this to you, "You are absolutely now a Christian." And as you look back and you try to assure yourself that you're truly in Christ, your confidence is really not even in a prayer or profession; it's in what that person that you trusted told you. "Well, if they think I'm a Christian, I must be a Christian." Folks, those are all wrong places to look for a sense of assurance and as the Biblical basis for your ultimate spiritual security.

Jesus warned us about this. Go back to, keep your finger here in Romans; turn back to Matthew 7, the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned us explicitly. He says in verse 21, Matthew 7:21, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven…."

He said, "Look, the fact that you profess to know Me as Lord doesn't mean you're getting into my kingdom. In fact, not everyone who does that will." That's pretty explicit. But rather, here's the one who gets in, "… he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter." That doesn't mean salvation is by works. No, He's saying the evidence of a genuine faith in Me is borne out by obedience.

Then he fast-forwards to the Day of Judgment. Jesus, who knows all things, says, "Let me tell you what's going to happen on the Day of Judgment," verse 22:

Many will say to Me on that day, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?" [We ministered for You.] And then I will declare to them, "I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME…."

Now, people read that and become concerned, "Am I going to be one of those who shows up at the judgment and that happens to me?" Well, Jesus tells us exactly who this is in the rest of the verse. Look at verse 23, "DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS." Those are the ones to whom He'll say this. Those who make a profession of Christ but whose lives are not accompanied by obedience to Christ. In fact, in Luke's gospel in a similar setting, Jesus put it this way, he said, "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things which I say?" It doesn't even make sense. Don't call me your master and disregard what I say. But if you do, He says, "Show up on the day of judgment and say, 'Here I am Lord,' and I'm going to say, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE [That's the word.] PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'"

Now, make sure that you think clearly about this issue of assurance and confidence and security. You can turn back to Romans 8. There is a huge difference between an internal sense of assurance that you're saved, and the external fact of the believer's security. Those are two different things, an internal sense and external fact. You can have a rock solid internal confidence of your salvation and not be a Christian at all.

On the other hand, you can really struggle with doubts and uncertainty in your own heart, and in fact, be absolutely secure because you truly do belong to Christ. So, the two are related, but not directly tied. So, the question is: which of those is the focus of Romans 8? Is it an internal sense of security or the external objective fact of the believer's security? And the answer is both! Because our internal sense of assurance is best based on the objective facts of the true believer's security in Christ as outlined in the Scripture and especially here in this eighth chapter of Romans.

The theme again of this chapter is the absolute security of the Christian, the certainty of the final perseverance of all true believers, the ultimate salvation of everyone who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ. And everything in this eighth chapter is here to prove that to us and to encourage us with it. There's not one command, not one imperative in this entire chapter. Instead it's here to teach us about the reality of our security in Christ. In fact, here Paul teaches us in this eighth chapter that the salvation of the genuine Christian is secure for a number of reasons. We've so far considered just the first reason: we can be confident of the security of the Christian because, as we've learned over the last couple of weeks, God has delivered us from condemnation. We saw that in verses 1 - 4, there is "Therefore … now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus."

This morning I want to discover a second great reason for our security; it's found in verses 5 - 13 and it's this: God has changed and empowered us by His Spirit. Here's how you can be confident, here's where our security comes from. As you look at your own life, you see this reality that God has changed you and empowered you by His Spirit. Let's read it together, Romans 8, beginning in verse 5:

For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh–for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

This amazing text makes one essential point for us: true believers find internal assurance of their real security in Christ in the way that God has changed and empowered them by His Spirit. If you look at your life, and you see a change, a marked change in the person that you used to be, and you see that new power that enables you to obey God, then it provides a great sense of security and assurance.

Now as we begin, we first have to ask what is the logical connection between this paragraph we've just read and the first paragraph in verses 1 to 4? You'll notice that verse 5 begins with that word "For" or because. This entire section provides a supporting argument for something Paul has already said; specifically, to Paul's statement at the end of verse 4. Notice what he says in verse 4, "so that," he has just said that Christ was condemned by God on the cross to purchase our forgiveness; but in addition, "so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us." That is in us who are no longer under God's condemnation. The law is going to be fulfilled in us and then he describes this this way, "who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." That introduces us to the idea he's going to develop in the following verses. In verses 5 to 13, Paul explains why the requirement of God's Law is only fulfilled in those who walk after the Spirit.

Now what I want you to see at the end of verse 4 is: there are two groups of people; there are two groups. In fact, Paul is going to make it clear that every person here this morning fits into one of these two groups; you are in one of these two groups and so am I. So, what are these groups and to which of them do you belong?

Well, we have to start by making sure that we understand who Paul is not talking about here. These two groups, listen carefully, are not two different kinds of Christians. Some people interpret this passage that way. They say there are those Christians who walk according to the flesh, and there are those Christians who walk according the Spirit. That's absolutely not what Paul is teaching here. How do we know that? Because Paul defines for us these two groups. Go down to verse 8, he says:

and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

However, you [believers] are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.

So, Paul here defines the two groups. Group number one: those in the flesh who don't have the Spirit of God, who are not believers. Group number two: those who are in the Spirit, those who have the Spirit of God, who know Christ.

Those are the two groups. So, in this text, Paul is not contrasting two kinds of Christians; he's showing the difference between true Christians and unbelievers.

Now that makes this passage extremely helpful for us because when Paul is done, you personally won't have to wonder whether or not you're a Christian because here under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, Paul is going to help us understand which group we belong to. Now let me give you the structure of this entire paragraph, although we're only going to start the first section of it today. The entire paragraph is assuring us of our security because God has changed and empowered us by His Spirit, verses 5 - 13. But here's the structure of it; first of all, in verses 5 – 8: Paul teaches us that believers are radically different from unbelievers. That's the point of verses 5 - 8. Believers are radically different from unbelievers.

Secondly, as he develops his thought here in verses 9 – 11: he teaches us that believers were fundamentally changed by the Spirit. The reason we're different is because of this fundamental change that occurred.

And then in verses 12 and 13, the third part of his development of his thought here: believers are practically empowered by the indwelling Spirit, verses 12 and 13.

So, that's the structure, but this morning we're just going to consider verses 5 - 8 and this basic fact, believers are radically different from unbelievers. You probably noticed as I read this paragraph that in every single verse, in the first part of it, verses 5 - 8, there is this radical contrast that is either explicitly stated or is implied. Paul uses these contrasts to identify the radical differences that exist between true believers and unbelievers. In fact, specifically within these four verses, verses 5 - 8, we discover five radical differences between believers and unbelievers. Let's look at them together. And again the goal here is to do a little self-examination; which group are you in?
 First of all, the first radical difference between believers and unbelievers is that they have different natures. They have different natures, verse 5. Notice first of all the nature of unbelievers, "For those who are [Mark that word 'are': that's describing a state or condition.] those who are according to the flesh." Now in using that expression, it's essentially the same as the expression he uses down in verse 8, "those who are in the flesh." Those are synonymous expressions, those who are according to the flesh, those who are in the flesh. And it's key that you recognize he's not describing behavior here. He's describing nature. This is a state or a condition. This word "flesh" is a keyword for us to understand. The New Testament uses it, "sarx" is the Greek word, uses it in a variety of ways. One of them is the muscle and skin that surrounds your skeleton. It's used of a human body in total. It's used in a number of ways, but in this context, and we've already seen it used this way in chapters 6 and 7, it refers, the word "flesh" refers to mankind's fallenness: the sinful nature with which each of us was born. That's what he means by the "flesh" here. To be in the flesh (listen carefully), to be in the flesh or to be according to the flesh, you don't have to do anything, just be born, and you are in the flesh as Paul means it here. That's exactly how all of us were born.

So, what exactly characterizes then, a person who is "according to the flesh," or "who is in the flesh?" Well, there are many different symptoms, many different expressions, but the real issue is this: I like the way one author, Cranfield puts it. He says:

Fallen man's fierce hostility to God, [Listen to this.] is the response of his egotism to God's claim to his allegiance. Determined to assert himself, to assert his independence, to be the center of his own life, to be his own god, he cannot help but hate the real God whose very existence gives the lie to all of his self-assertion.

This is what we're talking about. This is the flesh; this is the condition, the state into which we were all born. He goes on to describe it as, "our fallen egocentric human nature, our fallen egocentric human nature."

Another writer called the flesh:

an idolatrous bent towards self-gratification. The person, who is preoccupied with his or her success in business at the expense of others and of God, is just as much dominated by the flesh as the person who commits adultery. Both are manifesting in different ways that destructive, self-centered rebellion against God and His Law.

There is a great definition of what Paul means by the flesh. If you're in the flesh (and we all were born this way), it means that destructive, self-centered rebellion against God and His Law. That is the nature of those who are according to the flesh.

Now, notice how he describes the nature of believers in verse 5. He describes them as "those who are according to the Spirit." Paul explains what that expression means down in verse 9, "However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him." So, in other words, to be in the Spirit, to be in group two, means that you have been changed by the Spirit and the Spirit now dwells within you. So, group one, just like they were born, nothing really has changed. They're the same people they were when they were born, the same self-centered gratification, the same destructive, self-centered rebellion against God and His law.

Group two are those who have been changed by the Spirit and are now indwelt by the Spirit.

Now I want you to think for a moment about yourself. This is a self-examination. Either you are still in the flesh; that is as you sit here this morning, you are still exactly as you were when you were born into this world. Or (by the way) in which case you're in group one), or you have experienced a radical change in your nature produced by the Holy Spirit, and you are now in the Spirit and the Holy Spirit is in you. So, my question for you is: which nature is yours? How can we know which of these distinct natures is ours? Well, Paul is going to make that very clear in the next few verses and in the next four differences or contrasts that he highlights here.

The second contrast between believers and unbelievers is that: they have different mindsets, different mindsets. Why is that? Because your nature, whether you're in the flesh or in the Spirit, your nature ultimately determines your mindset. You see, people think like they think because they are what they are. The key word here in verse 5 is that Greek word translated "set your mind." It comes from a Greek word which describes the seat of all the mental faculties; it's not one thing; it's a complex. It's your intellect, your will, and your affections; your intellect, your will, and your affections. So, this word then "to set your mind" describes what a person constantly thinks about with his intellect, what he loves and desires with his affections, and what he pursues with his will. One author describes it like this:

It's a question of what pre-occupies us, of the ambitions which drive us and the concerns which engross us, of how we spend our time and our energies, of what we concentrate on and give ourselves up to, all this is determined by who we are, whether we're still in the flesh or now, by new birth, in the Spirit.

So, what then, understanding that word "mindset", what is the mindset of unbelievers? Notice verse 5, "For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh." Now, the "things of the flesh" is not merely describing sensual or sexual things; sometimes we use that expression in an antiquated way to describe that, but it's not isolated to that. It's much broader. In fact, notice what it's contrasted with here; the things of the flesh are contrasted with, (What?) the things of the Spirit. So, what that means is: the things of the flesh speaks of everything that doesn't belong to the category of the Spirit. It's everything else. The unbeliever, this is Paul's point, the unbeliever thinks about, delights in and loves and pursues all kinds of things, just not the things of God.

What's the mindset of believers? Verse 5 goes on to say, "but those who are according to the Spirit, [set their minds on] the things of the Spirit." What are the things of the Spirit? Well, there are a number of biblical concepts that we could talk about, but I think we can reduce it to this. The primary answer to that question, "what are the things of the Spirit" is the Scripture which the Spirit inspired because all of those things are talked about here in this Book, the Book you hold in your lap. Again and again, Scripture underscores that true believers delight in God's Word. You love, you set your mind on, you pursue the things of the Spirit and that is, most of all, the Word of God. That's why, look back in 7:22, Paul, speaking as someone who left group one and who is now in group two, who's in the Spirit, who has the Spirit: he says in verse 22, "I joyfully concur," literally, "I delight in the law of God in the inner man. This is how true believers respond.

Take Psalm 1: you remember in Psalm 1 the psalmist is describing the righteous person. Do you realize Psalm 1 only makes one explicit description of a righteous person? Here it is. Do you want to know what a righteous person is like? He delights in God's Law, and "he meditates (in it) day and night." That's a righteous person. If that's not true of you, you're not a righteous person. You're not in group two. Or, 1 Peter 2:2, Peter says, if you're a Christian, you're like a newborn infant. And just like that newborn infant longs for and pursues his mother's milk, you, Christian, pursue the Scripture; you pursue the Word of God. This is what it means that there's a pursuit of and a mindset set on the things of the Spirit. Unbelievers and believers are completely different when it comes to their priorities, when it comes to their mindset, the things they think about, the things they love, and the things they pursue.

Thirdly: they have different patterns of conduct, different patterns of conduct. At this point, I want to step out of the text we're working through and go back for a moment to verse 4. And I want to do this because this is where what Paul says in verse 4, fits logically because nature determines mindset; who you are determines how you think. And mindset determines behavior; how you think shapes what you do. You see, Christians are saved by the work of Christ alone and are justified by grace alone through faith alone. We believe that with all of our hearts; but as we discovered last week, true Christians go on to fulfill God's moral law by living righteous lives of obedience in the power of the Spirit. That's the point of verse 4.

But then, at the end of verse 4, Paul adds almost as a kind of a side, this statement. Look at what he says in verse 4, "that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us." That is only in those (and here's how he describes Christians), "who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." Now again there, we see this contrast between these two groups. But here the difference is not based on their nature nor is it based on their mindset, but it's based, notice what he says, "on their walk." "Walk" is Paul's favorite word for our daily moral behavior. He's not talking about one thought or one attitude or one action; instead by "walk", he's talking about the consistent pattern of a person's life. Every person, every person here this morning, you are walking in one of these two different ways; either according to the flesh, that is your walking just like you were born, unchanged the same way; or you're walking according to the Spirit because you experienced this radical change.

You say, "What does that look like?" Well Paul tells us, turn over to Galatians 5. Galatians 5:19, he says, "Now the deeds of the flesh," [so we're talking now about patterns of behavior, same thing he was talking about back in Romans 8:4, he says it in verse 19, Galatians 5,] "Now the deeds of the flesh," here's how the flesh, here's how fallenness, here's how that center of selfish self-gratification, self-centeredness, expresses itself, "the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are." He said, let's start with sexual sin, three words: "immorality, impurity, sensuality." Those words have to do with external acts of sexual sin and with internal lust. That's how the flesh acts. That's what it does. That's how our fallenness behaves. And you don't have to be a scholar to figure that one out. It's all over our world. It's all over the internet. It's everywhere. He says that's how people, unchanged, that's how they live.

Verse 20, "idolatry," they worship something other than the true God. "Sorcery," that's involvement in the magic arts. Then we get into relational sins: "enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions." Here's how the flesh, the fallenness of man and his self-centeredness expresses itself. It destroys every relationship, "envying." And then he gets into substances: "drunkenness," he says the works of the flesh are to constantly live as a pattern under the influence of some substance, alcohol or drugs. You say, "Well, how do I know if I'm under the influence?" Well just ask yourself how often you are legally under the influence in the state of Texas? That's just man's standard. "Drunkenness," this is how the flesh acts. "Carousing," this is partying and all that goes with it.

And Paul says, "Look, this is not an exhaustive list; this is just a representative list," because he says, "and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you," now watch what he says at the end of verse 21, "that those who" [notice his word] "practice" [walk, whose patterns of conduct as a habit of life] "who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." Listen, if your life (not talking about a sin, a struggle with sin, a temptation to sin, something you're fighting in your life), I'm talking about if your life is marked by a practice and pattern of these things, Paul says, "You are not getting into the kingdom of God," because that's how the flesh acts.

What about the Spirit, how does the Spirit walk? Well look at verse 22,

But the fruit of the Spirit. [If you're in group two, there's] … "love, [and] joy, [and] peace, [and] patience, [and] kindness, [and] goodness, [this word probably means "generosity,"] faithfulness, gentleness, [that word "gentleness" is the opposite of self-assertion,] self-control, against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus [listen to this categorical statement,] those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit, [he comes back to that again.]

He's not saying again that Christians don't struggle with sin. We just saw that in the second half of Romans 7. We're talking about the pattern and practice of your life. If you're in the first few verses we looked at there in Galatians 5, you are in the flesh. If that's what marks your life and that's who you are, you're in the flesh. If instead what marks your life is the growth in the fruit of the Spirit, those other things, then you're in the Spirit because He's in your life, and that's the fruit He produces.

Number four, we've seen this remarkable difference, these remarkable differences in our nature, in our mindsets and our patterns of conduct. Number four: unbelievers and believers have different spiritual conditions and eternal destinies, different current spiritual conditions or states and different eternal destinies.

First of all, unbelievers, look at verse 6, "For the mind set on the flesh," the person whose mind is set, whose thinking and wills and loves are all engaged in the stuff we just looked at, that's "death." It's all those things that are not from the Spirit, if that's where your life is focused, then it brings death; and death as we've seen before here in Romans means spiritual death. It means, right now, you have no access to God; there is no true relationship with God your Creator. It is the absence and opposite of Spiritual life. But this also refers to the future, to future eternal death, what John the apostle calls "the second death". It's the eternal punishment that God assigns those who refuse to believe in and obey His Son. So, death then is both the current spiritual condition and the future eternal destiny of every unbeliever.

What about believers? Again, notice the second half of verse 6, "but the mind set on the Spirit," if your life and thinking and desires and loves and will are set on pursuing the things that matter to the Spirit, then you enjoy "life and peace." A person whose mind is preoccupied with the things of the Spirit, currently enjoys spiritual life; you're "alive to God," as Paul put it back in 6: 11. And you will enjoy eternal life, chapter 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is (What?) eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Paul adds for those who are in the Spirit, those who are in group two, there's also "peace". What is this peace? You remember he often opens his epistles with this saying "Grace and peace to you?" I think he's talking about both kinds of peace; I think he's talking about both the external objective peace with God; the war is over, you've been reconciled to God; and I think he's also talking about that internal subjective peace of the heart where he says, "You'll have the peace of God that will guard your hearts."

Now, why are there these two distinct destinies for these two groups? Paul answers that in his next and final point, number 5: believers and unbelievers have different relationships with God, verses 7 and 8. Here's why the mindset of the flesh always leads to spiritual and eternal death; it's because that mindset is hostile to God and His will.

In fact, I want you to see here, Paul defines for us the unbeliever's relationship to God in four ways; I want you to see them. These are crucial to get, four ways, and this is where he really spends his time. Then I'll come back at the very end, and we'll talk about the believer's relationship to God very briefly. But I want you to see the unbeliever's relationship to God defined in four ways.

Number one: Paul says, he's hostile toward God, verse 7, "because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God." Here's the reason that the mind set on the flesh, that life lived that way is death. It's because, by its very nature, it is hostile toward God. The word "hostile," the Greek word, refers to this "deep-seated antagonism, animosity, enmity"; "the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God," in what way? Well, just think about this for moment. People who are in group one, people who are just like they were born, are hostile toward God's name. They use it constantly in vain; they're hostile toward God's name. They're hostile toward God's kingdom. They don't care about advancing God's purpose in the world; it's only their own purpose that matters. They're hostile toward God's Word. They don't read it. They don't love it. They don't try to do it. They're hostile toward God's commands. They simply don't keep them. They're hostile toward God's people. Unbelievers, they don't really like believers.

In fact, if you're here this morning, and you're an unbeliever, I can promise you this, you want to get out of here pretty soon because these aren't your people. That's because you're hostile toward God. They're hostile toward His Son. They don't bow the knee to His Son. They don't follow and worship His Son. They're hostile to God's glory. They're not interested in God's glory. They're only interested in their own. Hostile!

You say, "I'm not hostile toward God; I'm not a believer in Jesus Christ, but I'm not hostile toward God." Okay, well let me ask you a question. I want you to answer this genuinely. Can you honestly say, if God himself were standing right here on this platform, and I asked you point-blank, "Do you love God?" Can you honestly say, in God's presence, "Yes, I love God?" If not, then you hate Him; you hate Him."

You say, "Wait, wait a minute, Tom, things got out of hand here pretty quickly. I can't honestly say I love God, but I certainly don't hate Him." Well, that may be how you see it, but let me tell you in all seriousness that is not how God sees it. You see, God, again and again in the Bible, says He's got two categories and only two categories. There are those who love Him, and there are those who hate Him. I could give you countless examples; let me give you one, Deuteronomy 7:9 and 10. He says,

"Know therefore that the LORD … He is God … [and He] keeps His covenant and His … [steadfast love] to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments; but [he] repays those who hate him to their faces to destroy them."

You see, in God's mind, there's not like this continuum where there are those on one end who really love God; there are those on the other end who really hate God, and you see yourself somewhere in the middle. No, God says, "You either love me, or if you don't love Me, you hate me." Most unbelievers don't think of themselves as hostile toward God. Why would God then think of them as being hostile toward Him, of hating Him?

Why would God think like that? Well the answer is back in Romans 8, because of a second way that Paul defines their relationship to God. Not only are they hostile toward God, but secondly: they are unwilling to submit to God's commands. Verse 7, "for" [this is because, here's the reason the unbeliever's mindset is hostile toward God because] "it does not subject itself to the law of God…." The Greek word here that's translated "subject itself" is a word that literally means "to submit." In fact, it's the very word that is used in Ephesians 5 of wives submitting their husbands. So, all it's saying here is that the unbeliever's attitude toward God is an unwillingness to submit to God's commands. You see, all you have to do to be hostile toward God is just don't obey Him. In the mind of God, that is a total lack of submission to rightful authority, and you are hostile toward Him. Hostility against God is rarely open defiance. There aren't many people on this planet who would dare to lift their fist toward God and say, "Do what you want. Come at me." No, that's not what happens. Hostility toward God is far more commonly the simple refusal to obey God's Word or His Law.

You say, "Well, why is that hostility toward God?" Because God's Law reflects His nature; and so, when you refuse to do what God has said, you are attacking the very nature and character of God. It's His right to tell you what to do and me what to do. Therefore, to reject God's Law is to reject God. To disobey God's Word is to disobey God.

A third way that Paul defines the unbeliever's relationship to God, not only is he unwilling to submit to God's commands, but thirdly: unable to submit to God's commands. Verse 7 goes on to say, "for it," that is the flesh, this fleshly mindset, a person who is in the flesh, "is not even able to" submit to God's Word, God's Law. The unbeliever lacks the power, the capacity to submit to God, to obey God's commands. Why? Because of this inborn hostility against God, this inborn self-gratification and self-centeredness: it really is all about me. This is what theologians refer to as total depravity. It doesn't mean every sinner is as bad as he could be; none of them are because God has put curbs in the world on our depravity. All it means is that every part of our being has been touched and permeated by sin, by this radical flesh that he's describing here.

Notice the last way Paul describes the unbeliever's relationship to God. He is unable to please God. Notice verse 8, "and those who are in the flesh cannot please God." Those who are in the flesh are simply those who have not been changed by the Spirit. In other words, there are those who are just like they were when they came out of the womb. That's those who are in the flesh; those who remain as they were from birth with no spiritual transformation, no renewal, no radical change in their lives; they "cannot please God." The Greek word here for "cannot" is the word "dunama". It's a word that literally means "to lack the power or ability". I've mentioned to you before that when I was growing up, it wasn't uncommon in my household if I said something like, "Mom, can I have a cookie," to be corrected and be reminded that "can" is ability, "may" is permission. So, if you want cookie restate it as, "May I have a cookie? Can you have a cookie? Yes, you have the physical ability and capacity to have a cookie, but may you? No, two different things!" This Greek word is "power or ability", that's what he is talking about.

Unbelievers completely lack the power and ability to please God! That is a shocking statement. You know what Paul is saying? "Nothing an unbeliever ever does ever pleases God!" Why not? Well, retrace Paul's argument. They cannot please God because they're unwilling to submit to God's commands, and their refusal to submit to God's commands shows their hostility toward God.

You say, "Now, wait a minute, I have some neighbors who are unbelievers, and I have some family who are unbelievers, and they do good things. What about those good things they do? God doesn't see any of those as good? No, He doesn't. Why? Because they are good things done in a state of rebellion against Him, and that makes them unacceptable to Him.

It's is just like: take a gang down in downtown Dallas. Do those gang members ever do anything good in their relationships with each other? Of course they do. Sometimes they watch each other's back; they do other things; they display at some degree of loyalty, etc., etc. But can the government ever look on those gang members and say, "They're good, and that's a good thing?" No, because their entire existence is in a state of rebellion against the government. They're breaking the laws left and right. It's the same thing with God. No good from an unbeliever.

Now, what about the believer's relationship to God? Paul doesn't state the contrast as he did with his other points, but he still intends for us to see that contrast because notice how he begins verse 9, "However, you." That implies that the relationship believers have with God is exactly the opposite of unbelievers. So, if we reverse what was said about unbeliever's relationship in verses 7 and 8, we have a description of the believer's relationship to God. Here it is. Let's just take those four, and turn them on their head.

The believer's relationship to God is like this: he has peace with God; he's been reconciled to God. Secondly, he is submissive to God and to His Word. Thirdly, he is able to obey God. And number four, he is able to please God.

Believer, when you seek to obey God through the Spirit and do what's right before Him, it pleases Him. Now, I don't want you to miss the main point of verses 5 - 8; it's a really important point. It's what distinguishes Christianity, true Christianity, from all its false forms. You see, what Paul is telling us here is that Christianity is fundamentally not about giving some mental assent to this set of facts about Jesus and the gospel. It's not about a decision for Jesus. The demons believe the facts of Christianity. The Christian faith addresses a deeper, much more profound problem that we have. Our problem is not a surface one that we can fix. What Paul is saying here is that what every human being needs is a radical, fundamental change in who we are, in our nature, because that's the problem. That's at the root of it all. But we completely lack the power or ability to change our nature; totally unable. Total inability means not only that we cannot please God right now, but that we have no way of changing that in the future. We'll never be able to please Him. As long as we are in the flesh, we are totally unable to please God, and we have no hope.

Now, look at those two groups, those in the flesh and those in the Spirit, and let me ask you honestly to search your heart. This is a crucial question for us all. Which group are you in? Are you in group one, those who are in the flesh, those who are still just like they were when they came out of the womb, unchanged, still living in those patterns of behavior we saw, still manifesting the same mindset as the rest of the people around you in the world, still having the same relationship with God, simply unwilling to take seriously His commands in your life? Listen, if you're in the flesh, you are spiritually dead now, and you are headed toward spiritual death and eternal death forever. You are not a Christian.

Back to where I started, it doesn't matter if you made a profession of faith sometime in the past; doesn't matter if you prayed a prayer; it doesn't matter if you were baptized; doesn't matter if you're confident you're a Christian. Paul tells you the difference here. What do you do? What do you do if you're in group one? You do what Christ said to do, "You believe in His gospel, the Good News; that although you're in group one with no hope of changing yourself, He came in order to redeem you. He came in order to offer His life as a ransom, to live the perfect life you should have lived, that I should've lived, and then to die on the cross to satisfy the justice of God against every sin of every sinner who would ever believe in Jesus, and then God raised Him from the dead to show that He approved and accepted His sacrifice, and He's coming back someday for His own. And your only hope is to cry out to God to change you through the work of Jesus Christ. Only He can change you. Only He can take you from group one and give you His Spirit and produce a radical change in your nature. And I would plead with you to do that even today.

What if you've taken the little test, and you've ended up in group two? You look at yourself, and you said, "Look, I'm not perfect, but boy those things do characterize me. I do see the work of the Spirit in my life. My mindset is toward the things of the Spirit. I love the Scripture. I want to know it. I want to obey it. I want to live in a way that honors God. I want the patterns of my life and behavior to manifest the fruit of the Spirit and not the deeds of the flesh. I believe I have that spiritual life where I relate to God. I know God, and I'm headed toward a wonderful eternal future." Then take confidence and acknowledge that you enjoy security in Jesus Christ; that's the point. Because the very presence of that change and that work in your soul is evidence of the work of God, and you are secure because, "He who began a good work in you will (What?) be faithful to complete it until the day of Jesus Christ."

Let's pray together.

Father, thank you for the clarity of Your Word; thank you for this point of self-examination today. Lord, I pray for those who honestly are still in group one; unchanged, still just like they were when they were born, still living the way that has been described in this text. Lord, I pray that today You would draw them to Yourself through the gospel to the Good News that they've heard, through the reality that You are a Savior, that You change people. You changed the apostle Paul. You changed the brothers of Christ. You changed so many that we read about in the New Testament, and You've changed people throughout church history, and You've changed many of us here today. We're not, by Your grace, what we used to be. Father, may today be the day that those who honestly have to say they're in group one, seek Your mercy and Your grace in Jesus Christ and find You to be a Savior. Change them, as they call on You.

Father, I pray as well for those who find themselves in group two. I pray that You would use this text is as You gave it to us to encourage them, to strengthen them, to give them hope for the future, to give them that absolute security that belongs to the person who has the Spirit, who's in the Spirit and who is empowered for change. We thank you, Father, that while we're not what we want to be, by Your grace, we are not what we used to be. We have been changed. Help us to love You, to serve You, to live as those who've been changed.

We pray in Jesus' name, Amen.