Week of May 31

Living Life in the Spirit

Read: Proverbs 4-6; Romans 8

“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
Romans 8:3-4, ESV

[Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash]


The Spirit-directed life flows from the choice to embrace it, then apply it. Henry Blackaby has said, “God speaks through a variety of means. In the present God primarily speaks by the Holy Spirit, through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church.” We have all of these means at our disposal, so none of us should believe that living in the Spirit is out of reach. Paul reminds us today that such a life begins when we reach toward it by setting our minds on the things of the Spirit.

A Biblical Lens

Quick overview: Paul’s dramatic opening to chapter 8 follows the conclusion that he draws in chapter 7. Simply stated, God gives life to our earthly bodies through his indwelling Spirit. If we have been justified by God, then we have been freed from the law of sin and death (7:25; 8:1). Jesus satisfied through his death the just penalty that was the result of the sins of the human race, and the death verdict has been removed. There is no condemnation because the Holy Spirit has brought “pardon and power” for God’s children (8:2). The new law is the law of the Spirit (NAC).

The proverbial camel inside of the tent! You wonder how it can be that the old way of sin and death and the new life in the Spirit reside in the same body. The Christian life teaches us that we need the empowering presence of the Spirit to overcome the defeat that the temporal life guarantees. We will not be able to lead successful Christian lives without the aid of the Holy Spirit (8:5; cf. John 15:5). Paul wants believers to live life in the Spirit! (8:6).

He elsewhere compares and contrasts the way of the flesh with life that is nourished by the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:19-23). The former leads to hostility toward God and death, while the latter to life and peace (8:7; cf. Galatians 6:8). OK. You get the idea, so what is the point? I am glad that you asked!

The Spirit-led lifestyle: Paul will shift his focus fully to ethical application in the upcoming chapters, but he lays the foundation here. Guidance by the Spirit is not some hocus-pocus magical process. A. W. Tozer once said, “The Spirit-filled life is not a special, deluxe-edition of Christianity. It is part and parcel of the total plan of God for His people.” Hmm. Let me illustrate how we may embody this life in the Spirit. I sometimes take a tram between airport terminals. That method of transportation works as long as the carriage remains in contact with the rail that supplies the power. Friends, I choose to take the tram! It is a choice that leads to action.

You and I demonstrate that we are living life in contact with Spirit by the fruit that is evident in our lives (Romans 8:5, “set their minds”; Galatians 5:22-23). Robert Mounce states it this way: “Moral choice precedes and determines intellectual orientation. People do not think themselves into the way they act but act themselves into the way they think. Ethical decision, more often than misguided reason, lies at the heart of error” (NAC, 177). You and I make the daily moral choice to live in the Spirit and the lifestyle follows.

A Moral Pathway

We often use challenging complex cases in ethics to reason morally. The Ahmaud Arbery case comes to my mind because a third person in the tragic and senseless killing of the young man was charged with murder in recent days. The man had denied having anything to do with the incident—other than videoing it!

A more recent reconstructed timeline, however, shows that he actually stalked Ahmaud and cornered him with his truck for four minutes prior to the shooting. He had denied involvement, but his actions show that he was complicit. His actions revealed his thoughts.

I do not know if this person is a believer, but you and I are Christ-followers. Our new life commands new leadership; specifically, leadership of the Spirit. Paul describes the works of the flesh and they include “enmity, strife, and fits of anger.” Christian actions that are evident of love, peace, goodness, kindness, and self-control, for example, will be the fruit of the choice to live the Spirit life. We may never be placed in a similar situation, but it begs the question of how we intend to live the Spirit life in our own spheres of influence.

For Your Journaling

1. Recall a recent situation where you said something hateful to a person or behaved inappropriately. How may you act according to the Spirit in a future similar circumstance? (You may use the Moral Pathway from the May 26, 2020 devotional as a guide).

2. Consider yourself as a newly appointed “Disciple-maker” of your children and/or grandchildren (Truly, you are already appointed—Matthew 28:19, “Make disciples”). How will you decorate your “classroom” (home) and life (all family relationships) to model the Spirit life as taught in Romans 8?

May all your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock