Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE PARADOX OF LIVING AND DYING”

Romans 8.12-13 

Have you ever wondered why certain crazy things in our culture seem to gain traction despite all common sense to the contrary? I mean things that are absolutely nuts.

Let me illustrate. Why would the citizens of the city of Los Angeles elect as mayor a man dedicated to the breaking up of the United States of America and the return of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas to Mexico? Especially so, since the treaty that transferred those regions from Mexico to the USA after the Mexican War also guaranteed legal rights and privileges to everyone living in these regions, and since everyone then living in these regions was happy to remain in what became U. S. territory, though they easily could have sold their land and relocated.[1] As well, not only did Mexicans not leave the newly acquired U. S. territory in the 170 years since then, but Mexicans from South of the border have in the main continually demonstrated their preferences by moving from there to here. My wife’s father and two uncles did precisely that. Therefore, to elect a mayor who seeks to reverse a 170-year old treaty arrangement those affected by it have peacefully lived with seems to make little sense.

Here is another one. You have to have a picture identification card to drive a car, to cash a check, to use a credit card, to buy liquor and tobacco products (not saying you should buy such things), and to buy certain over the counter nonprescription drugs. Certain politicians insist that requiring picture identification to vote in an election as a means of verifying that you are eligible to vote is somehow racist, despite the well-known fact that the late Nelson Mandela insisted on picture identification to vote in South Africa to prevent voter fraud after he was elected president. Was Mandela a racist? I don’t think so.

Here is a third one. Planned Parenthood was founded by a racist white woman named Margaret Sanger, for the stated purpose of reducing the birthrates of ethnic minority groups she referred to as “human weeds” using abortion.[2] Planned Parenthood’s primary tactic is to promote abortion under the propaganda cover of women’s reproductive rights, and by pretending to offer a wide range of services from prenatal care, to health screening, to mammograms. The easily verifiable reality, however, is that Planned Parenthood is and has always been an organization devoted to murdering unborn babies, with its primary targets being unborn babies of color. One person who objected to me posting a picture of Planned Parenthood at Clifton Middle School on Facebook and objecting to them being on campus last week wrote, “I know Planned Parenthood is involved in aborting babies, but they do a lot of good.” What? Others agreed with the comment. What? What kind of disjointed thinking allows for the taking of human lives as long as you do accompanying good deeds. “I know Hitler killed a lot of Jews, but he funded rocket research.” “I know Chairman Mao killed 50 million of his people, but he got rid of opium dens.” “I know Che Guevara was a psychopath who liked to shoot kids in the head with a pistol, but Cuba has free health care. Besides, he looks cool on my tee-shirt.”

Is it not obvious that those who occupy positions of leadership and influence, and others like them in every walk of life, pull off the ludicrous stunts they do because they know that too many Americans nowadays are an extremely illogical group of people who don’t much pay attention to what’s going on around them? As a nation, most simply do not think or observe. We are oblivious to apparent inconsistencies.

I greatly fear we are seeing the consequences of a people turned by God over to a reprobate mind, Romans 1.28. And it is even worse in Europe. But for the grace of Almighty God, our country would have suffered the consequences of these spiritually darkened thought processes long ago, instead of only now in every area of society and life.

Most are agreed that individuals can’t go generations with this kind of disjointed thinking in the spiritual realm without suffering the consequences. No. At the personal level, what’s payable comes due in the spiritual realm at the end of each person’s physical lifetime. What is true at a personal level is also true at a national level. That’s why it is imperative for each and every one of us to realize that in the Christian life there does not exist the same type of anomaly and inconsistency that we’ve grown so used to seeing in our surrounding culture.

We have to realize that when a person comes to know Jesus Christ as his or her Savior, and when the Holy Spirit of God simultaneously begins to indwell that believer, that same Holy Spirit delivers the one He indwells from sin. And the Holy Spirit doesn’t produce inconsistent results either, for He both delivers from sin presently and ultimately.

Today’s text, Romans 8.12-13, is Paul’s concluding declarations about the Holy Spirit’s deliverance of the believer from sin. If you are a believer, you’ll like what these two verses say. If you are not a believer, you may not. I invite you to stand for the reading of God’s Word: 

12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.

13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 

Two declarations: 

IN VERSE 12 PAUL MAKES A DECLARATION ABOUT DEBT 

What kind of moral obligation, what kind of spiritual debt, does the person indwelt by the Holy Spirit have, since the claim is made that the Holy Spirit delivers from sin? 

“Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.” 

Notice how Paul addresses this matter:

First, notice the description of Paul’s audience. The word “brethren” has as wide a range of meanings in Greek as it does in English. “Brother,” for example, can refer to someone who is a blood relative born of the same mother, or it can refer to someone who is of the same racial stock, or it can refer to an acquaintance, or just about anyone in between. In this context, it seems quite clear that Paul is referring to those who are his brothers in Christ, fellow believers. That means he is not addressing unbelievers here. He is not addressing the lost. He is not addressing the unsaved.

Now, notice the duty of his audience of believers. About debt, what is the duty of those who are genuinely born again Christians? Paul doesn’t tell us. He tells us what isn’t our duty, but he does not tell us what is our duty, at least not in this verse. Why, particularly, Paul states this negatively, I am not sure. But he declares to us that we have no obligation, no indebtedness, if you will, to the flesh. And what does that mean? It means that we, therefore, have no legitimate reason “to live after the flesh.” To make sure we are all on the same page, what does Paul mean when he uses the term “flesh?” “Flesh” is understood to refer to “all that is characteristic of this life in its rebellion against God.”[3] And though we are so used to living in spiritual debt, since most of us spend so many years of our life in financial debt, we need to understand that this is not pleasing to God. What does it mean “to live after the flesh?” It means to live like you are lost, to live like you are unsaved, to live like the Holy Spirit is not in your life, to live like sin is in charge. That means, Christian, you have no obligation to drink liquor. You have no obligation to gamble. You have no obligation to use profanity. You have no obligation to show up late for work. You have no obligation to be slothful. You have no obligation to “run with the boys.” You see, sin is not your master anymore. You have no ethical, moral, legal, spiritual, or any other kind of debt or obligation to obey sin anymore. The only debt believers have is the debt to which Paul referred in Romans 1.14-15: 

14  I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.

15  So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. 

I know that Paul’s statement here seems to conflict with our feelings, and with our desires, and with our perceived loyalties, and even with our aspirations at times. But remember, this is not the way it feels, this is the way it is in the life of the Christian. 

IN VERSE 13 PAUL MAKES A DECLARATION ABOUT DESTINY 

“For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” 

Perhaps you noticed as I read that this declaration comes in two parts. In these two parts, Paul draws a stark contrast between the behavior of the person who is on his way to Hell and the person who is on his way to heaven. Please take note. Though 21st century Americans tend not to think regarding consistency and patterns, please note that the clear declaration of God’s Word is that there is a discernible pattern of behavior that corresponds with every person’s particular destiny. To put it sweet and simple, how you act does not determine where you will go, but it sure does indicate where you will go.

The first part of this declaration speaks of the behavior of the damned: 

“For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die.” 

Take note of the conduct that is mentioned here. There is a general type of conduct that people exhibit which is termed in Romans to “live after the flesh.” It is the type of conduct that is displayed by those who do not know Jesus Christ. It may be exhibited by those who say they know Jesus Christ, but not by those who know Jesus Christ. And what specific behavior would fall under this category? Let me read three passages: 

Galatians 5.19-21:

19  Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,

20  Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,

21  Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 

First Corinthians 6.9-10:     

9  Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 

Romans 1.18-32:     

18  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

19  Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

20  For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

21  Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

22  Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

23  And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

24  Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:

25  Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

26  For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:

27  And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

28  And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

29  Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,

30  Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,

31  Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:

32  Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. 

And what is the certain conclusion regarding those who “live after the flesh?” “He shall die.” Not, “You will eventually die.” Not, “You will someday die.” The Greek word translated “shall” refers to that which must happen, that which is about to happen, that which is impending, that which is imminent.[4] You who are here today and you “live after the flesh.” Consider what Paul is getting at in this sentence. You may be young, and you may think you are going to live forever. But young or old, Paul is telling you that you are going to die, and it could happen momentarily. It is not physical death he is talking about here. This is “die” as in go to Hell. My goodness, the number of people who attend Churches everywhere and who claim to be Christians who “live after the flesh” but who are in imminent danger of Hellfire is astonishing. And characteristic of the spiritual blindness and lack of perception that lost people have, usually those who are in this situation are totally unconcerned about it.

The second part of this declaration speaks of the behavior of the delivered: 

“But if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” 

In the first half of the verse, Paul spoke to believers about the behavior of unbelievers. In this half of the verse, he speaks to believers about the behavior of believers. Paul here subscribes to the notion the Savior referred to when He said, “by their fruits ye shall know them,” Matthew 7.20. Of real importance to us is this word “mortify.” “Mortify” means “to put to death” and describes the believer’s responsibility about being delivered from the power of sin in your life. Obviously, Paul does not have in mind here the putting to death of bodily functions such as respiration and elimination, such as eating and drinking, such as waking and sleeping. No. What he is referring to are those “deeds of the body” which are sinful. And this mortification process is essential conduct for the believer since we still can sin after we are saved. And through the Spirit believers do just this, we “mortify the deeds of the body,” we put to death the sinful deeds. This is the lifelong struggle to stop doing wrong and to instead do right, by the grace of God and the enablement of the Holy Spirit. And the conclusion of such a lifestyle? “Ye shall live.” Think about this for a moment. The unsaved person “lives” after the flesh and ends up dying. The saved person “puts to death” the deeds of the body and ends up living. Is this not what the Lord Jesus Christ spoke of in Matthew 10.39 when He said, “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it”? 

It is obvious that the Bible does not teach that the way to inherit eternal life is to say “I think I’ll mortify the deeds of the body,” or to think “I will work really hard to do right.” Though in the past this is exactly what many people did attempt to do. Monasteries and convents used to be full of such misguided people. This cannot really happen apart from the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God. No one has the power to curb sinning without the Holy Spirit. And you are not indwelt by the Holy Spirit until you have come to Christ by simple, childlike faith. So, the unsaved person can only live after the flesh. The Holy Spirit is not in his life. But the saved person can mortify the deeds of the body. And he can do so because the Holy Spirit is in his bosom.

But you might say, “Pastor, it’s the Spirit-indwelt person who is delivered from the power of sin in this life as he mortifies the deeds of the body. And it’s the Spirit-indwelt person who is delivered from the presence of sin in this life that’s talked about when Paul writes ‘ye shall live.’” That’s correct. “If the Holy Spirit is the only way a person can have deliverance from the power of sin in this life and deliverance from the presence of sin in the next life, how do you get the Holy Spirit?”

You don’t get the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Lord Jesus Christ’s love gift to those who have come to Him for salvation by faith. Having placed their confidence in Him and Him alone, the Lord Jesus gives to us the Holy Spirit to accomplish in our lives what He has promised. So, if you are here and you want ongoing deliverance from the power of sin and eventual deliverance from the presence of sin, don’t try to mortify the deeds of the body yourself. You have not the power. And don’t seek the Holy Spirit to come into your life so that He will do it for you. You have not the persuasion.

God’s plan is for you to come to Jesus Christ, the Author, and Finisher of our faith. Do that, and He will take care of your salvation for you, both your justification and subsequently your sanctification because when He saves sinners, He gives them the Holy Spirit to work in our lives and to give us victory in our struggles against sin.

__________

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Guadalupe_Hidalgo 3/31/2018

[2] Intecon, Abortion! Pros and Cons: Arguments, Views, Facts & Information, (Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2004), pages 258-260.

[3] John D. Harvey, Romans - EGGNT, (Nashville: B & H Academic, 2017), page 196.

[4] C. E. B. Cranfield, The Epistle To The Romans, Volume I (ICC), (Edinburgh: T & T Clark Limited, 1975), page 394.

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