He condemned sin in sinful man, 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. — Romans 8:3-4 (NIV)
What Jesus did for us was powerful. By His life, death, resurrection, and ascension, He so utterly defeated sin that its power over us was broken. He condemned it. What these verses say is so amazing that some Bible translators seem afraid to write it, and some commentators seem afraid to believe it. But the Greek is clear: the requirements of the law are fulfilled in us who walk after the Spirit and not after the flesh. The words specifically say “in us”. Some want to translate it “for us”, because they rightly understand the substitutionary nature of Jesus’ death: He died that we might live.
The point of contention is the kind of life that we might live. Many people believe that it is impossible for us to live righteous lives, so the best we can hope for is that Jesus will take our place. I’ve heard pastors teach that when the Father looks at us He sees Jesus. I don’t think this is true. The Father is not confused. He sees us just fine. He can put up with our failings, because we are his dearly loved children. But God intended better for us than being caught in sin the rest of our days on earth. He intended for us to be able to live righteously as we live according to the Spirit.
Certainly we are not saved because we CAN live righteously or even because we DO (or don’t) live righteously. We are saved because we believe Jesus died for us, and by grace we believe it. The truth is that we can live righteously, if and only if we live and walk according to the Spirit. That means we walk with the Holy Spirit, growing daily in love, desiring to please Him more than we please ourselves, because we know no greater love than the love of God for us.
It seems to me that one of the greatest shortcomings of the Church today is that it fails to teach us practically how to not live according to the flesh, but live according to the Spirit. We often have teachings on external things we are to avoid, but to live according to the Spirit involves a changed inner perspective and new habits of being attentive to inner promptings. It involves training out hearts to turn away from the attractions of the world, and to the greater reality of the Spirit.
Let us become the new creations that God intended, by turning away from the attractions of the world that appeal to the flesh, and instead turn to the indwelling Holy Spirit, our Friend, our Comforter, and our Counselor.
Originally posted May 10, 2010