FREE TO OBEY
Because of God’s incredible love and the wonderful salvation he has provided through Jesus Christ, Paul urges a “voluntary and enthusiastic response.” “Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship” (Rom. 12:1).
We have read of the universal sinfulness of mankind, and of the
universal grace of God; of his infinite love in sending his Son to
die for our sins, and of the free justification by faith alone which,
in his mercy, he offers. We have read of the power of the Spirit
of God to bring life out of death; of predestination, and God’s eternal
purpose for his creatures.
“Because God is what he is, and has done what he has done, certain things follow; or rather ought to follow.”
Paul is strongly encouraging believers to respond with wholehearted commitment to the God that has provided such an incredible gift of salvation. “What God has done for us is the basis and stimulus for what we need to do for God.”
The gospel of Jesus Christ is meant to “transform a person’s life.” There should be a complete transformation of a believer’s attitude toward God once she has a glimpse of the unfathomable love of her Heavenly Father. “Christians need to display the reality of God in a new way of living.” She should be willing to offer herself freely as a living sacrifice to the Lord as an expression of true worship.
Too many post-modern Christians have a jaded concept of sacrifice. Many see giving up chocolate for Lent as a real sacrifice. Gonzalez cautions Christians not to see sacrifice as just a way to “reform our carnal behaviors or curb our worldly appetites.” Because the Roman Christians would have been familiar with the offering of sacrifices, they would have had no problem understanding the significance of true sacrifice. Becoming a living sacrifice will require complete surrender. “A sacrificial victim is brought to the flaming altar bare naked, with nothing in hand.”
Sacrifice will mean pain. To think otherwise is to live in a fantasy. Tozer refers to those religious groups who paint the Christian life as easy as “false as the sheen on the wings of the angel of darkness when he for a moment transforms himself into an angel of light.” Sacrifice may require coming under “God’s divine scalpel.” He wants to strip away those sins and flaws in a believer’s life that are hindering her from being conformed into the image of Jesus Christ.
God may even strip us of whatever security blanket we think
we can’t live without. When we understand fully that our security
is in God through Christ, we hold on to everything else tentatively.
Surrendering one’s will to the will of God is more than just consent to God’s will. “It is rather to choose God’s will with positive determination.” “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom. 12:2). “Paul does not envisage a mindless emotionalism, but a deeply intelligent approach to life, as characteristic of the Christian who has been renewed by the Holy Spirit.”
“Appropriate behavior for believers is, for Paul, the natural expression of their trust in God and their experience of his indwelling Spirit.” As Morris points out, Paul teaches a “continuing process of renewal.” As stated by Luther, this renewing of the mind “takes place from day to day and progresses farther and farther.” “The inward man is renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16).
"Praise be to God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who
has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual
blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation
of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he
predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ,
in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his
glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves"
Too many Christians try to live the Christian life within their own human efforts. Many are guilty of living by a list of dos and don’ts; while others are guilty of living just like the world. A believer today must begin to turn her back on the world’s philosophies and turn her heart and mind toward the Lord. “The true Christian ideal is not to be happy but to be holy.” (That is a very difficult truth for most of us to hear today.) A believer will begin to walk in freedom from defeat when she recognizes that she is free from condemnation, free to live by the Spirit, and free to obey with complete surrender. “The moral behavior of the believer is to reveal something of the character of the new life given by God.”
As Bruce points out, “It is by the power of the indwelling Spirit, the pledge of their inheritance in the world to come, that they can resist the tendency to live according to the standards of ‘this world’.” “All of our life is to be a continuous worship of God who created and redeemed us.” Making the commitment to live holy is like “weeding a garden.”
“The work of the Holy Spirit is, among other things, to rescue the redeemed man’s emotions, to restring his harp, and to open again the wells of sacred joy that have been stopped up by sin.”
The believer has started to realize that before the Creator of the Universe ever spoke the worlds into existence, he had already carried unfathomable love for her. He had already developed a plan for her before she was ever conceived in the womb (Eph. 1:5-6). There are times when she tries to describe to others this indescribable God she serves, but her limited language cannot begin to describe the indescribable. “No man has ever entertained a thought that can be said to describe God in any but the vaguest and most imperfect sense.”
To sum up the matter in a single sentence, every possible
statement that can be made about God expresses some
possession or virtue of God, rather than God himself. What
words or thoughts are worthy of him, who is above all language
and all thought? The conception of God as he is can only be
grasped in one way, and even that is impossible for us, beyond
our grasp and understanding; by thinking of him as a Being whose
attributes and greatness are beyond our powers of understanding,
or even of thought.
This is the God she serves; this is the God to whom she has surrendered. The pregnant cloud of depression has been burned away by the power of the Holy Spirit. Her life is not easy, but she knows God never promised it would be. He just promised her that he would never leave or forsake her. She walks today in freedom to love and obey her Heavenly Father.
 Michael Parsons, “Being Precedes Act: Indicative and Imperative in Paul’s Writing” The Evangelical Quarterly 88 (1988), 114.
 Parsons, Being, 115.
 Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 432.
 Moo, Romans, 199.
 Moo, Romans, 393.
 Moo, Romans, 393.
 Rudy Gonzalez, Ph.D., D.D. Acceptable! Transforming Flawed Lives, into Living Sacrifices Through the Word (Bloomington, IN: CrossBooks, 2011), 78.
 Morris, Romans, 433.
 Gonzalez, Acceptable!, 8.
Tozer, Divine Conquest, 146.
 Gonzalez, Acceptable!, 78.
 Ibid., 8.
 Tozer, Divine Conquest,120.
 Morris, Romans, 435.
 Westerholm, Understanding Paul, 124.
 Morris, Romans, 435.
 Martin Luther, translated by J. Theodore Mueller, Commentary on Romans (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1954), 168.
 Tozer, Divine Conquest, 114.
 Parsons, Being, 127.
 Bruce, Romans, 224.
 Moo, Romans, 398.
 Ryrie, Balancing, 81.
 Tozer, Divine Conquest, 124.
 Tozer, Divine Conquest, 108.
 Ibid., 109.
Bond, Lee S. “Renewing the Mind.” Tyndale Bulletin. 58:2 (NA 2007).
Bruce, F. F. Romans, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 2008.
Calvin, John and Owens, John. Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Romans. Kessinger,1849.
Comb, William W. “Romans 12:1-2 and the Doctrine of Sanctification.” Detroit Baptist
Seminary Journal, DBSJ 1:1 (Fall 2006).
Essex, Keith H. “Sanctification: the Biblically Identifiable Fruit.” The Master’s Seminary
Journal. MSJ 21/2 (Fall 2010) 193-213.
Fee, Gordon D. Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996.
Gonzalez, Rudy, Ph.D., D.D. Acceptable! Transforming Flawed Lives, into Living Sacrifices,
Through the Word. Bloomington, IN: CrossBooks, 2011.
Luther, Martin. Translated by Mueller, J. Theodore. Commentary on Romans. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1954.
Moo, Douglas J. Romans, The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000.
Morris, Leon. The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988.
Parsons, Michael, “Being Precedes Act: Indicative and Imperative in Paul’s Writing.”
Evangelical Quarterly, 88 (1988), 99-127.
Rufus, Ryan. Sanctification by Grace. New Nature, 2008.
Ryrie, Charles. Balancing the Christian Life. Chicago: Moody, 1994.
Stott, John R. W. The Message of Romans. Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.
Tozer, A. W. The Divine Conquest. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1950.
Towns, Elmer L. Theology for Today. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning, 2008.
Walvoord, John F. Walvoord and Zuck, Roy B. Zuck. The Bible Knowledge Commentary,
New Testament. Colorado Springs: David Cook, 1983.
Westerholm, Stephen. Understanding Paul, The Early Christian Worldview of the Letter to the Romans. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997.
Westfall, Cynthia. “On Developing A Consistent Hermeneutical Approach To The Application Of General Scriptures.” Priscilla Papers, 24:3, (Summer 2010).
Wiersbe, Warren W. The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament. Colorado Springs:
David C. Cook, 2007.
FREEDOM IN CHRIST (Part 1 of 2)
When a new believer in Jesus Christ makes a commitment to “live for the Lord,” she may be shocked to realize that some of her old sinful habits did not magically disappear when she became a Christian. She may begin to read her Bible, pray, and fellowship regularly at her local church. However, there seems to be an underlying uneasiness in her soul that causes her to question whether she may in fact really be a believer. She grows discouraged when she seems to struggle day after day with some of the same sins. A cloud, pregnant with depression, has started to greet her every morning she wakes. She is ashamed to admit to her pastor or church counselor that this Christian life is not turning out to be as joyful as she had been led to believe. She is now living a life of quiet desperation, hoping that maybe today will be the day she stumbles across the secret of living that seemingly illusive victorious Christian life.
Mercifully, there is hope for every believer who may be struggling with this same level of frustration. The tools for living a victorious Christian life are not a secret. Paul teaches throughout the letter to the Romans that victory over sin is actually a lifelong process lived each day fully surrendered to the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. A believer will begin to walk in freedom from defeat when she recognizes that she is free from condemnation, free to live by the Spirit, and free to obey with complete surrender.
FREE FROM CONDEMNATION
While many Christians may recognize that salvation is by grace alone, they still possess a warped view of God’s grace. His grace was sufficient to save, but maybe it is not enough to carry them through the day-to-day struggles. While most believers know they will be escaping the future condemnation of hell, they have failed to grasp the reality of freedom from present condemnation. Paul makes clear that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). In an incredible display of grace, God has freed us from all condemnation, both present and future. “In a sort of divine time warp, the future condemnation that we all richly deserve has been transferred from the future into the past, having been borne by Christ (Rom. 8:1-3). Thus we ‘have been saved.’”
Some believe that God expects sinless perfection, and anything less will evoke the heavy hand of damnation. Some may experience an underlying sense of uneasiness in every area of their lives because nothing they undertake will ever be good enough to measure up to God’s standards. Too many forget that “God’s Son gave his life for people when they were at their very worst: when they were still “weak,” “ungodly,” “sinners,” God’s “enemies.” They have forgotten that they have been made righteous through Jesus Christ (Romans 3:21-23).
Believers must recognize that God wants his children to serve him out of love and devotion, not out of fear. “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba Father” (Rom. 8:15). Christians are not only saved from hell, they are saved from the condemnation of living a life full of fear.
Every believer is fully equipped with the Holy Spirit that empowers a believer to conquer sin (Romans 8:37). Being conquerors means living in freedom. Paul reminds every believer that “it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1).
However, living in freedom does not give a Christian the right to live a life of willful sin. While a believer is free from condemnation, she is not free to live however she pleases. “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” (Rom. 6:18). When an individual becomes a believer, she is given a new master, Jesus Christ. She no longer has an obligation to follow sin. Yet, Paul warns a believer that she can become a slave to sin again when she offers herself to it (Romans 6:16). As Moo points out, “Lack of concern for sin is incompatible with true faith.” God will discipline those he loves. If a believer continues in willful habitual sin and receives no discipline, she may need to examine her heart as to whether she really is a believer. (Hebrews 12:4-11). “When faith becomes obedience, it is true faith indeed.”
“The moment we receive the Lord as Savior, God sets us apart for Himself, instantaneously, certainly and forever.” The theological word for “being set apart” is sanctification. God’s goal of sanctification is to mold us into the image of his son (Romans 8:29-30). “The Holy Spirit produces in the believer the very attributes which characterize Jesus Christ, the Son, and God the Father.” “It is by the Spirit that the indwelling presence of the risen Christ is conveyed and maintained.”
FREE TO LIVE BY THE SPIRIT
“All real beauty of character, all real Christlikeness in us, is the Holy Spirit’s work. He is to the Christian what the sap is to the tree--the source of productive life and power.”
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there
is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s
glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory,
which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:17-18).
Recognizing the Holy Spirit as God is essential to understanding the power within a believer’s life. The Holy Spirit brings to the believer the actual presence of God. The gift of the Holy Spirit is not a reward to only a select few believers. The Holy Spirit is a gift for all who believe. The Spirit is infused into every believer, not just those who appear to be more holy.
The Spirit-indwelt life is not a special deluxe edition of Christianity to
be enjoyed by a certain rare and privileged few who happen to be made
of finer and more sensitive stuff than the rest. Rather, it is the normal
state for every redeemed man and woman the world over.
Regrettably, there are many Christians with a skewed view of the Holy Spirit. Some may imagine him to be “a nebulous substance like a wisp of invisible smoke that is said to be present in churches and to hover over good people when they are dying.” Others place too much emphasis on the Holy Spirit to the exclusion of the Father and the Son.
For the Holy Spirit is not a luxury, not something added now and again
to produce a deluxe type of Christian once in a generation. No, he is for
every child of God a vital necessity, and that he fill and indwell his people
is more than a languid hope. It is rather an inescapable imperative.
A believer’s mindset can only be changed by the power of the Holy Spirit. “If the world controls your thinking, you are a conformer; if God controls your thinking, you are a transformer.” “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18). “Only the inworking of the Spirit’s power can enable us to discover the solemn majesty and the heart-ravishing mystery of the triune God.”
The difficulty we modern Christians face is not misunderstanding the Bible,
but persuading our untamed hearts to accept its plain instructions. Our
problem is to get the consent of our world-loving minds to make Jesus Lord
in fact as well as in word.
As noted by Ryrie, there must be a healthy balance between a believer’s role and that of the Holy Spirit. However, the Spirit is essential for the believer to live out the salvation that God has brought about through Jesus Christ. “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live” (Rom. 8:13). “It is ‘you’ not the Spirit that is putting to death the deeds of the body.” “God’s working is not suspended because I work; neither is God’s working always apart from my working. Again the human and divine are joined in the matter of walking in the Spirit.” As Moo points out:
Paul does not call on people to wage a war against sin with the hope
that God will take their side and win the war for them. Throughout his
teaching—and, indeed, throughout the Bible—God takes the initiative.
In grace, he acts to help his people, and he asks them to respond.
(Next week, I will post Part 2 of 2).
 Gordon D. Fee, Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), 52.
 Stephen Westerholm, Understanding Paul, The Early Christian Worldview of the Letter to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997), 93.
 Douglas J. Moo, Romans, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 80.
 A. W. Tozer, The Divine Conquest (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1950), 132.
 Charles Ryrie, Balancing the Christian Life (Chicago: Moody, 1994), 64.
 Keith H. Essex, “Sanctification: the Biblically Identifiable Fruit.” The Master’s Seminary Journal. MSJ 21/2 (Fall 2010), 210.
 Bruce, F. F. Romans, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 2008), 165.
 Elmer Towns, Theology Today (Mason, OH: Cengage, 2008), 306.
 Tozer, Divine Conquest,151.
 Ibid., 67-68.
 Ibid., 118.
 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament (Colorado Springs: Cook, 2007), 442.
 Tozer, Divine Conquest, 104.
 Ibid., 131.
 Ryrie, Balancing the Christian Life (Chicago: Moody, 1994), 66-67.
 Fee, Paul, 7.
 Ryrie, Balancing, 67.
 Moo, Romans, 214.