Life in the Spirit

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

That is the first stanza of a villanelle by Dylan Thomas as he was confronted with the death of his father.  Despite his dissipated life style, Thomas’ poem reflects something of the Biblical contrast between life and death.  Death is abnormal, not simply, as we are sometimes told, a part of life.  Paul understands that contrast and in our text, Romans 8:9-11, connects it with the contrast between the flesh and the Spirit.

Your default position as a son or daughter of Adam is life “according to the flesh.” “Flesh” here, as John Murray reminds you, is “human nature as corrupted, directed, and controlled by sin.”  But, by God’s grace, because of the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, you now are in the Spirit.  Paul’s contrast between flesh and Spirit is not between parts of the human nature (body versus soul or spirit), but between sinful flesh and the Holy Spirit.  Not only are you in the Spirit, but he is in you.  You are under his influence and control.  He, God himself, makes you his dwelling, his home.  Think about that as you make the little decisions that add up to the way your life is lived.

The presence of the Spirit is essential to your life in Christ.  If you don’t have the Spirit of Christ, you do not belong to Christ.  The connection between Christ and his Spirit does away with any form of the teaching that the Spirit is a so-called second blessing, received at some point after coming to faith in Christ.  If you are in Christ you are in the Spirit.  And if Christ is in you, the Spirit is in you as well.  They are inseparable in their work.

Life in the Spirit has a past, a present, and a future.  The Spirit who lives in you is the Spirit who was active in raising Christ from the dead.  That means that, if you trust in him, you have been raised with him.

Your life today is in the Spirit.  He is fulfilling in your life the righteousness of the law (see v. 4).  No longer may you live as though your default position were operative.  A new default position has replaced the old.  The Spirit enlivens and changes you so that obedience to God is now the direction of your life.  Imagine the change in your life as you are guided more and more by that indwelling Spirit!

You look forward to the fullness of the work of the Spirit.  Just as he was active in raising Christ from the dead, he is the one who gives life to your mortal body.  Your hope is not only your immediate presence with Christ at death, true though that is, but even more the glory of the resurrection and the fullness of Spirit filled life in the new heavens and earth.  That gives you a hope that goes far beyond Thomas’ raging against the dying of the light.

In preparation for the message on October 24, 2010

About jwm

I serve as pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Newberg, Oregon.
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