Who’s in Charge? – we usually ask when things aren’t working. No service, no progress, no satisfaction. Who’s in Charge? Last week, we looked at Romans 7, talking about the struggle within, knowing what we ought to do and want to do, but not always doing it. This week, on to Romans 8:1-11
“there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”Romans 8:1
That has to be good news. Nobody likes being put down, and being judgmental is a sure way to unpopularity. But what does that mean? not everybody escapes, so who? The rest of our reading explains.
“Those who live as their human nature tells them to, have their minds controlled by what human nature wants.” Good News Bible, may be clearer thanRomans 8:5
NIV “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires”
This is what we might call selfishness – but might not always recognise. It can be like the child “I want this, I won’t do that, tantrum..” But it can also be the clever executive who plans their way to the top, by fair means or foul, stopping for no one, or even the charming and subtle person, who will never put themselves in a position they don’t want to be in, for anybody.
What does it mean to “live according to human nature” (other translations have “sinful nature” or “the flesh”)? It means:
- “Who’s in Charge?” – I am!
- “What are you going to do?” What I want to
- “What’s life all about?” ME.
[Some years ago, Jane Williams surprised a Conference in Oxford. She was talking about Spirituality, and reminded us how popular it is, how every personality has their diet, their routine and personal space carefully designed. But it is all about their fulfillment, their career, their choices & ambitions. Christians shouldn’t have that, but a different thing, called discipleship, about following God, not our own choices.]
“To be controlled by human nature results in death;” or
NIV “The mind governed by the flesh is death”
“to be controlled by the Spirit results in life and peace.” orRomans 8:6
NIV “the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace”
God doesn’t leave us to do our own thing, and suffer other people doing theirs. His love finds a better way –
“For the law of the Spirit, which brings us life in union with Christ Jesus, has set me free from the law of sin and death. What the Law could not do, because human nature was weak, God did. He condemned sin in human nature by sending his own Son, who came with a nature like our sinful nature, to do away with sin. God did this so that the righteous demands of the Law might be fully satisfied in us who live according to the Spirit, and not according to human nature.”Romans 8:2-4 GNB
This is where we find what it means to “live in union with Christ Jesus”. We accept, not only that Jesus lived and died for us, but that our lives need now to be directed by his Spirit. This is what we ought to know as Christian life, or discipleship – but we don’t always recognise it. It is not being a doormat, trampled by everyone else. It is not failing to enjoy good and beautiful things. It is not letting our talents and abilities go to waste. Nor is it being very religious. But it is a new set of answers to those questions:
- Who’s in Charge? God is, both of the big plan, and the details in my life
- “What are you going to do?” What God wants
- “What’s life all about?” God’s plan, which includes me, and the people I love, and much, much more.
Too often we try to fudge the issue with comments like “I’m not doing any harm”. This passage is much blunter:
“And so people become enemies of God when they are controlled by their human nature; for they do not obey God’s law, and in fact they cannot obey it. Those who obey their human nature cannot please God.”Romans 8:7-8 and 9-10a GNB
while for Christians it works differently
“But you do not live as your human nature tells you to; instead, you live as the Spirit tells you to—if, in fact, God’s Spirit lives in you. Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ lives in you, the Spirit is life for you because you have been put right with God.”
The challenge for us is not to understand, it’s very simple: Who’s in charge? God, or your human nature. The challenge is to trust God, and let him control, and go on with that, so that he has more and more control, and we get more confidence to let him drive faster.