25-27But now you have arrived at your destination: By faith in Christ you are in direct relationship with God. Your baptism in Christ was not just washing you up for a fresh start. It also involved dressing you in an adult faith wardrobe—Christ's life, the fulfillment of God's original promise.
Direct relationship with God - made possible by the blood sacrifice of Christ - is ours today. We can really "live" in his presence - have a life rich in every worthwhile experience, driven by the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul has just finished telling his readers that they are no longer to spend all their time and energies gratifying the works of the flesh, but to live according to the Spirit of God that energizes them within. To gratify is to give pleasure to - give satisfaction to through indulging in - to give into sin's pull and the mind's lusts. Paul says we are free of that now that we are Christ's.
A man's nature is defined as everything that makes up our inner man - our temperament (how we respond) and our character (why we respond). Apart from relationship with Christ, it is contrary to the things of the Spirit - incompatible with, on an opposing course, and moving in a direct opposite direction from all that God would have for us. When we come to Christ, there are many times when we feel like our lives are in conflict - the old nature in direct conflict with the new. It is as though they are in competition - each with their opposing needs, drives, wishes and demands. The scripture goes so far as to tell us that these two natures are "irreconcilable".
We have been studying for a few days what it means to "belong" to another - to belong to Christ. Those who are the property of Christ have become attached to him by new birth - their allegiance to their sinful nature being broken as a result. Now we find our dependency in Christ. Romans 8:5-7 tells us that those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires - yet, those who live in accordance with the Spirit of God have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. In other words, there is an exchange of "allegiance".
Allegiance is described as that which we dedicate ourselves to - every attitude, every motivation all directed to that particular thing or person. Because of that dedication, there is a desire to be obedient to the wishes of that individual. We find ourselves deferring to that individual - adhering to the wishes expressed. Paul reminds us that if we have crucified the old man and been raised to newness of life in the Spirit of God, the flesh and its passions have also been put off (we no longer give allegiance to them). Yet, many of us struggle with "fleshly" thoughts, actions, and compulsions everyday! Why?
Three questions might help us to answer this question:
- What is our mindset? It is a little appreciated fact that where the mind goes, the spirit follows. If it is set on things that are opposed to the Spirit of God - it will follow. If it is set on things that truly promise satisfaction and fulfillment - that is what we will experience.
- What controls us? That which controls us either holds us in restraint - keeping us from responding a certain way - or allows us the freedom to pursue that which we desire. It is easy to see that if we have the wrong thing in control of our lives (like our sinful nature), we will not have much restraint when it comes to not pursuing sin. If we have the Spirit of God in control of our lives (moment-by-moment authority and direction over), we will be less likely to respond to the sin nature - we will respond to the new nature being worked into us.
- What do our emotions reveal about us? Although we are told not to rely upon our emotions as 'good' judges of what to do or not to do, they do provide us some measure of why we do what we do. If our emotions are up one day, down the next, we often feel like we are riding a roller-coaster with our obedience, too. We tend to be "emotionally" driven individuals - if it feels good, we do it, if not, we refrain. It is the Spirit of the living God that wants to have the control over our lives - if we are relying on our emotions to tell us something is good or bad, we will be disappointed.
Our passage today reminds us that we are not just "washed up" for a fresh start - we are also clothed in some pretty snazzy "adult wardrobe" that adorns us in some pretty awesome fashion. We are not talking clothing here - we are talking an exchange of mindset, emotional response, and spiritual 'will-power'. With our death to sin and resurrection into newness of life comes an exchanged mind - not all at first, as you may well have realized - but it comes. Our minds find other things to dwell upon that once were less appealing to us - like meditating upon the scriptures and allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal truth to us daily. Our emotions become more "even-keeled", with less ups and downs, and even less pull on us to respond when they are in a state of changeability. The biggest thing we see is our battle of the will - we almost talk ourselves out of responding to the old ways of life because we know they are in opposition to the things of the spirit. We call this a battle of the wills.
The problem of "will" is addressed in the issue of control - who is in control? We make a choice of our allegiance. Today's choice may be stronger than yesterday's - each day bringing new challenges for our allegiance. The more we align our allegiance (responding in obedience to Christ), the stronger the pull of that allegiance will be. Our desires begin to take a backseat to those of the Spirit indwelling us. It is a matter of choice - what will we align with today?