Message: Suffering… the price of Intimacy
Suffering… the price of Intimacy
Turn with me to Romans 8.
We’ve been talking about our pursuit of knowing Jesus relationally in true intimacy through experiencing Him.
The payoff is becoming like Him.
We can only become like the Jesus we see.
Or said another way. We will only become like Jesus to the degree that we have come to know Him.
Paul said in one of his most well known statements, found in Php. 3:8-11,
“(8) More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ (9) and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ–the righteousness from God based on faith. (10) My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, (11) assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.”
Knowing Him is epignosis. To know Him in relational intimacy via experience.
The power of His resurrection. [See Rom. 6:1-12]
To know Jesus intimately in the power of His resurrection is to know Him in the power of a new and changed life!
Paul explains this to Timothy from the negative perspective…
2 Timothy 3:1-5,
“(1) But know this: difficult times will come in the last days. (2) For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, (3) unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, (4) traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, people (5) holding to the form of religion but denying its power. Avoid these people!”
If you don’t die with Him you cannot rise with Him. There can be no Resurrection without a death.
Without participating in His Resurrection Christ will not be formed in you.
The cross is only half the work God is accomplishing in you. You are to be raised to the power of a new life IN HIM!
The glory which results from a tireless pursuit of knowing Jesus in true intimacy through experience… THAT pursuit comes at a cost and the cost is suffering!
Which leads us to Romans 8.
Romans 8 is a GREAT passage about suffering death to the desires of the flesh in preference to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
As we go I will interject some deeper meaning to the words we encounter so that we can better understand what the Spirit was saying though Paul.
NO CONDEMNATION – “IF-AND-AND”
“(1) Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, (2) because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”
Now I know that the KJV and others include the words, “who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.” Most modern translations do NOT include those words and for very good reasons. In the earliest copies of the book of Romans those words are never there – they were clearly added. Now, don’t loose your mind over that. If you were going by the “letter of the law” yes, technically that is adding to the word of God. If however you are going by the “spirit of the law” (which Jesus did) it isn’t. Later scribes added those words to keep the gospel from appearing like a license to sin and it isn’t like they created those words out of nowhere – they took them from verse 4 which contains the exact same idea. So those who have a problem with the words either NOT appearing (which is in agreement with the earliest manuscripts) and those who take exception with them being added – honestly only reveal their lack of understanding of the text. Take them out or add them – if read in context, they present the exact same truth.
Condemnation DOES come to ANYONE who denies Christ and you don’t just deny Christ by doing what Peter did and saying you have no affiliation with Him. It is by living as if you have no affiliation with Him – which is all but taught in modern churches.
Titus tells us in chapter 1:15 & 16
“(15) To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. (16) They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.”
You know as well as I do that the Gospel teaches justification apart from works and that is 100% true. You do not receive justification by your deeds, but AFTER HAVING BEEN justified, there MUST be proof of your union with Christ in that you are bearing fruit consistent with His character.
You are becoming like Him.
So Paul clarifies here in Romans that there is no condemnation IF you are in Christ AND walk in the Spirit AND not after the flesh.
It really is that SIMPLE. IF – AND – AND
Now the word Condemnation here only appears three times in the entire New Testament. It is the Greek word Katakrima – and it is the result of judgment not judgment itself. We know this because of the suffix –ma. It is a decision against someone. A passage where that is used which clarifies the meaning is Romans 5:18…
“Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.”
Not for us, but in us… ‘IF’
“(3) What the law could not do since it was limited by the flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending His Own Son in flesh like ours under sin’s domain, and as a sin offering, (4) in order that the law’s righteous requirement would be accomplished in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
Now there’s a lot here so let’s look at it.
First it is important – especially in today’s world where there is a kickback against ANYTHING that requires ANYTHING out of you.
This has crept into the church and has led thousands into misunderstandings of scripture like we just talked about.
People honestly believe the Old Testament is categorically the same as the Old Covenant and that simply is not true. But because they believe that they reject anything they think comes from the Old Testament.
They misunderstand the words of Paul who said, we are no longer UNDER the law.
In absolutely EVERY context where Paul said something like that he was talking about attempting to gain righteousness, justification or the Holy Spiritby works of the law rather than by faith.
Here in Romans 8 we also see the flipside of that truth and that is that the righteousness which is in the Old Testament law is a REQUIREMENT with God and that righteousness is NOT fulfilled FOR US but rather, it is fulfilled IN US and that ONLY IF AND WHEN we walk according to the Spirit and not after the dictates of our flesh.
As Tozer would put it, only when we insist that the veil of our flesh be torn away. I would say until our desire has swollen into a 100% requirement, when we are willing to look God in the eye and maintain His gaze – long enough for the discomfort to pass and to see our sin as He sees it.
Well that makes sense because John, again in 1John, tells us that,
“… all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the pride of life are NOT of the Father but are of the world and the world is leading down a path towards destruction, but whoever does the will of the Father will abide forever.”
The grammar of the Greek is important here as it so often is.
The word “does” is in the continuous present, therefore this verse SHOULD read, “…the one who keeps on habitually doing the will of God abides forever.”
Setting the mind – obsessed
“(5) For those whose lives ARE according to the flesh think about the things of the flesh, but those whose lives are according to the Spirit, about the things of the Spirit.”
Again the words “ARE according to” either the flesh or the Spirit – mean – the direction of their entire lives. What this person does habitually and consistently. Though these truths are true and can stand alone – Paul here is particularly focusing on habitual behavior.
Obviously, if we sin it is because we succumb to desires which are already in us, in our bodies which process begins with us giving those desires our attention. But these verses are saying more than that.
The words here are “set their minds” and they really carry the idea of a developed mind set.
We are not talking about someone who is living their Christian life with devotion and honesty before God, but who from time to time gets tripped up due to the weakness of the flesh. The Bible DOES address this, but that is NOT the focus of Paul’s words here.
“(6) For the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set of the Spirit is life and peace.”
Here we are talking about a person who sets their mind on the things of the flesh. One might even call this person obsessed with fleshly things.
This is a real a very present danger for many Christians today. It is a genuine struggle against the expectations of our loved ones, our society, our careers, sometimes even our church and pastors. It is the state of being preoccupied with SO MANY things that God Himself frankly gets little to none of our attention.
Let me say that none of these things are inherently bad in and of themselves necessarily, but neither are ANY of them what is truly necessary.
Mary heart Martha world
Remember the lesson of having a Mary heart in a Martha world? [It is a wonderful title of a book which I have NOT read and therefore cannot endorse but it is a GREAT title!]
Both of these women were loved by Jesus and were precious to Him, but Martha was preoccupied with the demands of hosting what amounted to a bible study in their home. Her preoccupation was so great that she actually interrupted Jesus’ teaching to ask Him to persuade Mary to get up, leave the room where Jesus was teaching and go help her in preparations for food and hospitalities following the teaching.
Jesus, with love and compassion looks Martha in the eye and says to her, “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. (42) One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it–it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.” ~ Luke 10:41-42
You know a great treatment of these words here in Romans 8:5-6 is given to us by Wuest who translates it like this:
“For those who are habitually dominated by the flesh, put their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are habitually dominated by the Spirit, put their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to have the mind dominated by the flesh, is death, but to have the mind dominated by the Spirit, is life and peace; because the mind dominated by the flesh is hostile to God, for it docs not marshall itself under the command of the law of God, neither is it able to. Moreover, those who are in the sphere of the flesh are not able to please God.”
Soma vs. Sarx
“(7) For the mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit itself to God’s law, for it is unable to do so.”
At this point it seems wise to define what is meant by “flesh’. I mean it seems obvious enough, but I want to be careful since SO MANY weird and unbiblical doctrines are out there and we need to be diligent to know the truth.
There are two words in the New Testament often translated by the one word “flesh”. Those are Somaand Sarx.
Sarx is probably best described as specifically our current mortal (fallen) human state- that is the human body and its physical needs and desires that (if not controlled) leads toward selfish acts and motives.
Soma should be distinguished from this in that it simply means a body.
Thankfully in many translations, this chapter in Romans 8 often clarifies the difference by using the word BODY for Somaand Flesh for Sarx.
So here in Romans 8 the term flesh implies sinfulness, a proneness to sin, the carnal nature, the seat of carnal appetites and desires, sinful passions and affections – and these can be either physical desires, emotional desires, social desires, moral desires all of which are grounded in and fixated on this natural world and life.
Jesus indirectly addressed this when He said in Luke 14:26, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, and even his own life–he cannot be My disciple.”
Of course we know that Jesus doesn’t want us to hate anyone – this is a comparative statement. Our love and devotion to other things and people – even our own earthly desires, life and pleasures should not in any way compete with my devotion and love to Him.
When they do, such desires are connected with sarx – those desires which are still in our bodies and souls which tether us to this live.
“(8) Those whose lives are in the flesh are unable to please God.
(9) You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God lives in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.
(10) Now if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is life because of righteousness.”
Thus the inner tension all Christians are eminently aware of – the inner struggle – what Paul illustrated like a tug-of-war between the flesh and the spirit in Galatians 5:17.
“For the flesh has desires that are opposed to the Spirit, and the Spirit has desires that are opposed to the flesh, for these are in opposition to each other, so that you cannot do what you want.”
The idea that you cannot do what you want really means, you cannot simply do what your heart desires without opposition. That is one of the things Paul meant when he called this earthly life “this present distress”.
Jesus offered Himself by the Spirit and so do we
“(11) And if the Spirit of Him Who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then He who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through His Spirit Who lives in you.
(12) So then, brothers, we are not obligated to the flesh to live according to the flesh, (13) for if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
Understand that the Bible does not have differing representations of life and death based upon the passage, but only upon the context.
Throughout the Bible – beginning in Genesis, DEATH has always contained the idea of separation from God either entirely or in terms of fellowship (like in 1Jn where it says that light cannot fellowship with darkness). Death is not set forth as simply the end of physical existence.
Consider what God said in the Garden. “…for in the DAY that you eat of it you will SURELY DIE.” Did God lie? NO! They did die the instant they ate of the fruit – they died spiritually which also caused death in their souls and bodies. Medical science tells us that from the moment we breathe in life’s first breath we begin the slow process of dying. But in that garden mankind died spiritually and such is the meaning here.
God is not saying, if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body your body will live eternally. It is saying that if you, by the Holy Spirit, put to death the deeds of the body you will live in intimacy of knowing God and being known by Him!
“(14) All those [habitually] led by God’s Spirit are God’s [mature] sons. (15) For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by Whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!”
Huios when used as it is here speaks to the maturity of a son.
The terms nepios, paidion, teknonand huiosare all Greek words used to describe the four stages of spiritual maturity.
As God’s offspring we begin our journey with Him as brephosor nepios(infants), then paidion(young child), then teknon(spiritual teenagers) and then huios(mature sons).
These words are not hard categories and there is some overlap, but the idea is still scriptural and sound.
- Peter talks about newborn babes desire the milk of the word that they might grow.
- Paul told the Corinthians that he had to write them babes and not mature.
- Paul spoke about once being a child but that when he became a man he put away childish things.
- John says in 1Jn 2:13, “I am writing to you, fathers, because you have come to know the One Who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have had victory over the evil one. I write to you, little children, because you have known the Father.”
This word Huios when used this way speaks of a mature son – one who has become like His father.
It is the ONLY word ever used in reference to Jesus in His relationship to the Father God. He was a mature Son of God!
So this verse is saying that a true sign of maturity is when a child of God’s habit of life is to be continually led by the Spirit of God rather than the dictates of their flesh.
Suffering brings glory
“(16) The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, (17) and if children, also heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ– if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified together with Him.
(18) For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.”
This is what we came here for!
As I said when we began today. We’ve been talking about our pursuit of knowing Jesus in true intimacy through experiencing Him in relationship.
The glory which results from a tireless pursuit of knowing Jesus in true intimacy through experience… THAT pursuit comes at a cost and the cost is suffering and Romans 8 isn’t the only place we see this… and we will show other instances of this beginning next week.