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Core Christianity: Tough Questions Answered

What God Gives You to Fight Sin

by Michael Horton posted May 9, 2019

Pharaoh told the Hebrews to make their own bricks without straw, but God calls us to obedience, by giving us His Holy Spirit, so that we really want to do these things. Romans 8:12-13, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation–but it is not to the flesh to live according to it. 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.” The first thing to notice is that he says “if by the Spirit, you put to death the misdeeds of the body.”

We really do run after the Holy Spirit to try to keep up with him, as Paul talks about in Galatians. But the picture that Paul paints here in Romans 8:12-13 is to kill sin or it will kill you.

Sin is not something that you coddle. It's not: “you know I have a few pet sins that I tolerate,” no, they're like lions. You might try to raise a bear from a cub and think, “oh, well I can train it, I can keep it in its pen,” but at a point it's going to mature and it's going to eat you alive. Do not tolerate any sin in your life. Now, that doesn't mean that you're not going to sin, but don't tolerate it. Don't say, “This is something that I have a right to. This is just a little sin.”

Little sins grow into big sins. And that's why earlier in Romans, Paul had said this in Romans 6. “What shall we say then are we to continue in sin that grace may abound. By no means, how can we, who died to sin, still live in it. Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death.” We're forgiven our sins. We’re justified. And our sinful nature was drowned, was buried with Christ in the tomb.

“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. “Therefore,” he goes on to say, “don't let sin reign in your mortal body to make you obey its passions, don't offer up the parts of your body to send his instruments for unrighteous but present yourselves to God as those who've been brought from death to life.” And the parts of your body, bring them to God is instruments for righteousness, why he says,“For sin will have no dominion over you. Since you are not under law, but under grace” (Rom 8:14).

Now that can be counterintuitive, but his whole argument is just as I told you it, you're not under law you're under grace. Because we're out from under the laws condemnation and dominion and under God's grace and mercy in Christ, sin cannot reign over you. It's not just that you can't be condemned. You also can't be alive to sin and dead toward God anymore. Believers are not dead in trespasses and sins. We're still sinful but we're not dead. This morning I was encouraging my kids because they had done pretty well on their report cards. And one of my son's said, “You know, Dad, it feels really good to get good grades.”

And you know they were really down last year, when they weren't doing so well and the grades weren't so good. Getting a good report card just really puts wind in your sails.

That's I think the logic that Paul has throughout his letter to the Romans look. You may think that the more you turn to the law, the more liberation and freedom from sin, you'll have but it's actually the opposite. The wind is taken out of your sails. When you look at your report card.

What you really need to know is that, yes, you need the law to give you the report card, an honest evaluation of your work, and then you need to run from the report card that you have of your merits and flee to Christ, and his 4.0 GPA gets credited to you. That puts wind in your sails. Now, what do you want to do, do you want to flunk? No, you want to run the race. You go to school happy. That's what Paul's talking about here. You no longer have that failing report card. You're justified in Christ. You're baptized into His death, burial, and resurrection. You have no excuse not to live for Jesus.

Adapted from an answer given in Episode 162 of the Core Christianity Radio Show. 

Photo of Michael Horton

Michael Horton

Michael Horton (@MichaelHorton_) is the Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California. The author of many books, including Core Christianity. He lives with his wife Lisa and four children in Escondido, California.

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