Last week Bernie Sanders questioned Russell Vought regarding his suitability to be the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget.
His line of questioning focused on Vought’s theological views. Vought is a Christian who takes the gospel and the Scriptures seriously.
Sanders asked the following…
“I don’t know how many Muslims there are in America. I really don’t know, probably a couple million. Are you suggesting that all of those people stand condemned? What about Jews? Do they stand condemned too? (Sanders is a secular or cultural Jew). I understand that Christianity is the majority religion. But there are other people who have different religions in this country and around the world. In your judgment, do you think that people who are not Christians are going to be condemned?”
He was not asked if he would treat people fairly, regardless of their views (which he said he would).
But rather do you believe in the exclusivity of Christ?
Implicit in the question is the idea that if he does in fact believe that Christ is the only way to have relationship with God then he is unfit to hold public office.
The fundamental issue of our time is not “what is true or real” but how do we know what is real/true?
The fundamental issue of our time is “epistemology”
“The theory of knowledge, ‘how do we know.'”
What distinguishes justified belief from opinion?
“Logos”: study of, or logical discourse
How do we know what is real, true, right, wrong.
There are limited options.
- We can’t
- Human reason
- God has to tell us (and human reason, and experience)
For Bernie Sanders I presume from his questions that human reason (his own) informs what is real, true about the world.
So he cannot conceive of how someone could hold office who believes that truth is based on what God has revealed rather than on what we (he) can figure out on our own.
His critique of Mr. Vought is based on his self-confidence regarding his ability to know the truth about ultimate things…such as who can and can’t be acceptable to God.
When it comes to what is real, the most important thing is always to try and discover it, then align ourselves with it.
Its not important whether we “like” what is real…its important that we discover it and abide by it.
Everyone is an exclusivist, if you believe anything is true then you believe the opposite is not.
Bernie Sander is an exclusivist…he has said he will not vote for Vought’s confirmation, he is excluding him because he has decided his own view is true…all rational thought and real world actions require being exclusivists.
It doesn’t mean we must exclude people with opposing ideas…historically Christians have loved those who disagree with them…even those whose disagreement led them to murder Christians.
Paul wrote to a group of Jewish and non-Jewish background believers living in Rome in the first century.
He told them that they do not stand condemned but it is only because they have believed the gospel of Jesus and have received the Holy Spirit as a result of their faith.
Paul was exclusive in his beliefs and his belief compelled his behavior…he gave his life to make the liberty of Christ known.
Rom. 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. 5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. 9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. 12 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation — but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
One of the great doctrines of the Christian church-the Trinity-is not explicitly taught in the Bible.
The closest we get are in passages such as Matt. 28:19 where Jesus commands his disciples to baptize in the “name” (singular) of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
But throughout the Scriptures we see that there is “one God” but we also see that Jesus is God, the Holy Spirit is God.
Only the doctrine of the Trinity can account for these facts.
You also see the reality of the Trinity in this passage…Paul shows that Father, Son, and Spirit are involved in the work of redemption (v.2-3)
God the Father sends the Son to condemn sin and the Holy Spirit applies the benefits of that action to release us from sin and death.
Also in verses 9,10 you see that “The Spirit of God” and then the “Spirit of Christ” and finally, “Christ” dwell in us bringing us new life.
This doesn’t mean the names are interchangeable but they are descriptions of the reality of the same God at work in our lives…so Paul can shift back and forth without error or confusion.
Muslims(and others) struggle with the concept of Trinity.
-It appears on the surface to be a contradiction.
They believe that God cannot be three and one without there being a logical contradiction…but of course he is, and there is no contradiction.
The Bible teaches that the one God exists, a unique being, exists as three persons.
Person is not the same as being.
Your being is the quality that makes you what you are.
Your person is the quality that makes you who you are.
I am a human, that is what I am…so you would be accurate to call me a human being.
But that is not who I am.
When I was asked on Friday by a stranger “Now, tell me who you are.”
I did not say “A human being”…I said “I’m Terry.”
God is one being in three persons…humans exist as one person, God does not have that limitation.
He is absolutely unique.
In this chapter where the Trinity is seen engaging us with new life, the Holy Spirit takes center stage…which is unusual since he has been called the “shy” member of the Trinity.
This is not meant to be disrespectful but rather to highlight the fact that He shines the light on the Lord Jesus not on himself.
But Paul is going to focus on the Spirit in this chapter to make a powerful contrast…between life in the “flesh” and life in the “Spirit.”
So, remember, Spirit is not an impersonal force here, or “our Spirit” but God, the Holy Spirit.
In chapter 7 the law was mentioned 31 times but the Holy Spirit 1 time.
In chapter 8 Paul refers to the Holy Spirit 19 times
He is painting a contrast between the weakness of the law and the power of the Spirit.
The overarching theme of this chapter is “security”…if we are in Christ…we are not now condemned and will not be condemned…we live in the realm and power of the Holy Spirit.
1-4: We have New life through the Spirit’s liberating work
-Chapters 6,7 were slight detours from his main point that he began in chapters 1-5…our security in Christ…we are not condemned.
-He detoured in those chapters to deal with two key threats to the security of our new life, sin and law…we are not slaves to sin and we are not under the law.
Now he resumes his main point…liberty and security.
- Therefore…We no longer need fear that our sins will ever condemn us.
- Through Christ the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law(power) of sin and death.
3,4. What the law could not do (because of our impotence)
-God in Christ has done for us
-Christ came in the “likeness” of sinful man.
He was fully human but he did not take on fallen human nature…that’s why he uses “likeness” here.
-He did not, like every other person since Adam, fall under the tyranny of the sin nature, because he did not have one.
-Likewise he did not inherit the penalty of sin, death…so he was able to be our sin offering.
Why was he made this sin offering?
4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.
We are no longer condemned…the reason is that we have, in Christ, effectively fulfilled God’s demands expressed in the law.
We fulfill the law by living in the power of the Spirit or in the realm of the Spirit.
Next Paul gives us a comparison and contrast between the living under the control of the Spirit and living under the control of the flesh. (8:5-8)
The Greek word translated “sin nature” is a word that literally means “flesh”
But sinful nature is how it is translated here because when people read “flesh” they tend to think “meat or skin”.
But the idea behind flesh is that part of us that is sinful, broken…the “us” in opposition to the will and ways of God.
In this section his intention is to show that life in the flesh brings death, life in the Spirit brings life.
He uses the word translated “Mind” here several times.
Rom. 8:5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.
The word literally means “mindset”…our internal orientation…the vector of our lives, and the engine driving us.
It refers to the basic direction of a person’s will.
When the engine that drives our existence is under the control of the sin nature then we are driven in our lives in the opposite direction from God.
Thus, this mindset (life orientation) cannot please God because it is moving in the opposite direction from God.
You love your child, but if they are running in the opposite direction from you and from what you know to be good…then of course they are not pleasing to you.
So the one under the control of the flesh is not able to please to God, but this is not the path of those who have been liberated.
Life in the Spirit: 8:-9-11
There is a shift in direction starting in verse 9…so far Paul has been describing “those”…now he turns directly to his readers (and to us)…and says “you”
“Those who are under the control of the flesh cannot please God.”
“You are not controlled by the sinful nature but by the Spirit.”
Bernie Sanders disagrees with Paul, and with Jesus on this…Paul speaks of two distinct paths with distinct destinies.
Again what matters most is…what is real, what is true about this?
Because what is being laid out here is the difference between a life of liberty and a life of slavery.
Life in the Spirit is freedom, that begins now and extends past death.
Life in the flesh is bondage, that extends through this life and beyond.
So what animated the old life was “flesh” and what animates the new life is “Spirit”
In fact, Paul, said…if anyone does not have the Holy Spirit they do not belong to Christ at all.
They are not a Christian…because all Christians have the Holy Spirit indwelling them.
This can be a confusing topic.
-Baptism of the Holy Spirit, 2nd Blessing, Receiving the Holy Spirit?…terms used to describe an experience that is supposed to happen after conversion.
Truth is that a person receives all of the Holy Spirit at the moment of conversion or Salvation.
What can be confusing is that often Christians will have a subsequent experience where they more fully give themselves to the Lord in surrender.
As a result there is new power for living life, new joy, new perspective, maybe new experience or expression of Spiritual gifts.
So it looks like this is something other than what it is…it looks like they got what they didn’t have…but in fact they gave what they had not fully given.
The realm of the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives is inside the realm of the Spirit’s will for our lives…his will is surrender to God.
So when we give more of our lives over to God…we experience increased power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Not because we are “earning” something because we are walking in the realm of his power…to walk in the realm of his power is to walk in the realm of his will for our lives.
The take away is not that we should seek an experience where we “get more of the Spirit” but rather pursue a mindset, a life direction where the Holy Spirit “gets more of us.”
We have all of him from the moment of conversion…but as time goes on we discover that he did not have all of us.
The more of us he gets, the more of him we experience and express.
Spiritual power in our lives flows through the pathway of Spiritual surrender.
So…often God uses difficulty to show us our need for him.
It is why the most spiritually powerful and impactful experiences of our lives are often parallel with the most physical, emotionally, and personally difficult experiences of our lives.
It doesn’t have to be this way…it just often is.
We could and should learn that we are dependent on him even when circumstances are not making this clear.
Paul said he had learned the secret of being content in Christ whether living in plenty or want….he didn’t wait for tough times to live a surrendered life.
It is ironic that when trouble comes into our lives…people will sometimes take this opportunity to question God’s goodness.
In fact, God’s goodness should be questioned if he simply allowed us to go our own ways, living spiritually impoverished but trouble free lives…that would not be love.
Look at the balance here…the control of the Holy Spirit is a fact of our new nature but yet we remain in these physical bodies…susceptible to the control and power of the sin nature.
10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.
In this chapter “Spirit” refers throughout to the Holy Spirit and there is no “your” before “spirit” in the Greek.
So the ESV translates this “the Spirit is life because of righteousness”
The idea is that our bodies may be doomed to die because of sin, but the Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us and guarantees that we will not end up finally in the grave…God will raise our bodies as he did Jesus.
Our Obligation: 8:12-13
Rom. 8:12 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation — but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live,
The indicative (what is) and the imperative (what must be) come to a head here.
Indicative: What is factually true
Imperative: What we must do
The Holy Spirit makes the indicative actual, and the imperative possible.
Indicative: What is factually true.
“I am married to Christy, I have committed to her in covenant relationship, I have chosen her and she has chosen me for life above all others.”
Imperative: What must be actually true in practice.
“I must stay married to Christy, I must nurture my commitment to her, I must keep choosing her and putting her first.”
This is the balance we see regarding our own salvation:
-Indicative: you have been justified, not by any effort of your own.
-Imperative: you are being sanctified…you must keep pursuing Christ, you must keep choosing and deciding and giving effort.
We have been given new life in Christ…we must live a life in line with this new life.
- We must put into effect the new life God give us. Our response is not optional is it necessary.
- This response is empowered by the Holy Spirit.
- There is no suggestion of sinless perfection in this life but there is an expectation of a settled direction. Long-term movement in becoming less like the flesh and more like Christ.
See the balance? We have an obligation…”By the Spirit, you put to death the flesh.”
Which is it “Spirit” or “Me”…Yes!
This chapter focused our attention on two things: The Holy Spirit, our Mind-set…our chosen direction.
The reality of God’s power in us and the importance of our ongoing choices to live in that power.
These are subsets of the larger topic of “liberty”…we are not condemned.
If you feel condemned…or worthy of condemnation Romans 8:1 is an exciting, motivating verse.
But to read it, is not the same as living it.
We can be heirs of this liberty without living in the reality of liberty.
Paul indicates here (as elsewhere) that we are responsible to set the direction of our minds, our wills…the basic orientation of our lives.
“Set your minds on things above”
“Love God with all of your mind”
“Take thoughts captive, make them obey Christ”
The “Mind-set” of the Spirit is the power cord that connects the indicative and the imperative.
Example of electric device (with batteries).
Sin does unplug us…we can still go on our own ways.
God will not empower rebellion to his will and ways…would you?
If we are serious about closing the gap between what is and what could be we have to become serious about staying plugged into the power available to us.
So it is not about earning his love…it is about more fully experiencing and expressing his life and power in us.
Obedience matters…not in order to earn but in order to enjoy.
Married couple: Covenant Vows open a window and build wall.
-Window allows influence to flow…unique relationship (Jesus is first) “Yes”
-Wall protects the uniqueness of the relationship. (Jesus is first) “No”
-The window is the one big “yes” and the many “yes’s” that allow the relationship to thrive
-The wall is the one big “no” and the many “no’s” that protect the relationship and allow it to thrive.
Believers often live beneath their potential because they do not protect the uniqueness of the relationship…they open windows to other priorities and do not exert the effort to keep the wall intact.
So its important…its not do, and do and do…and don’t and don’t and don’t…or God will smash you…go to church, read your Bible, obey the rules, share your faith…or you will be cursed…do this and you will be blessed.
It is say “yes” to God and so “no” to all threats to this unique relationship so you can thrive in the liberty of a life in the Spirit.
Did you notice what seems to be contradiction in this passage? v. 1,13
v.1 There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
v. 13 If you live according to the sinful nature, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body you will live.
There is no contradiction, but there is a tension.
There is a careful balance between what God gives us in Christ and what we must do in response to that gift.
“Security without responsibility breeds passivity, responsibility without security leads to anxiety.” (Moo)
Balance: The reality of our liberty and escape from condemnation does not free us from the necessity of putting away sin and pursuing a transformed mind…it makes it possible.
By the Spirit…we must and we can put to death the deeds of the flesh and we can live in the liberty of Christ.
What is true about us if fact, we must take continual steps of action towards in experience.
*Like the husband, married many years to his wife was asked why he doesn’t tell her that he loves her.
“I told you when I married you that I loved you, if I change my mind I’ll let you know.”
Doesn’t work that way…it is a fact that he entered into this covenant relationship, that relationship must be nurtured with choices all along the way.
He may stay married…but he will not thrive in the liberty and joy of what that marriage could be.
This liberty Paul says involves fully engaged minds…good thinking, choosing what beliefs you will allow to set your behavior…a certain mindset…a mind set on what the Spirit desires.
How do you view the actions that keep the window open and the wall strong?
The disciplines and choices of the spirit-filled life are how we stay plugged into the power available to us.
The disciplines of a married life empower the liberty of that unique love relationship.
-Time, talking, sacrifice…not allowing others to threaten the priority of the relationship.
The disciplines of the Christian life empower the liberty of that unique relationship as well.
-They are not rules to follow to appease God
-They are choices made to stay plugged into the power available…power to thrive in the liberty of the Spirit rather than live in bondage to our own flesh.