25 Sep Quarter Three Lesson Seven
The Gospel and Life Change
Today we want to answer the question “How does believing in Jesus lead to actual life change?”
We will see from our study in Romans chapter 8 that all believers in Jesus get these three important things:
- Freedom from condemnation
- Acceptance with God
- Power to change
Let us look at Romans chapter 8 and see these three points:
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” Romans 8:1
Question 1. According to Romans 8:1, what will the believer in Jesus never face?
In our last lesson we studied Romans 7 and learned that we all have a darkness in us—it is called sin. This sin is like a cancerous tumor that grows and spreads if left unchecked. We admitted that we do evil things we do not want to do and don’t do the good things we want to do. In frustration, we cry out in desperation, “Who will deliver me from me?” In response, we hear that Jesus will deliver us!
Romans 8:1 continues this good news and explains that we who are in Christ are free from condemnation. Regardless of all the wrong we seem to keep doing, even at the very moment we are sinning, there is no condemnation for us. Condemnation has to do with a judgment against someone; it indicates liability. So what is being said is that God will never make any judgment against us; we will never be liable for our sin.
This is because we are “in Christ” and Jesus was judged in our place and was made liable for our sin. He was condemned and crucified so that we could be forgiven and justified. We will never be condemned because Jesus paid our sin debt in full.
Question 2. What does it do for your heart as you consider that even at the very moment you are sinning, you are not and will not ever be condemned for your sin?
The fact that we are sinful yet unconditionally loved frees us to acknowledge that we have a problem with sin. This knowledge allows us the freedom to be intellectually honest about our problems.
If you haven’t already, at some point you will think, say, or do things you cannot understand; things so wrong that you can’t comprehend why you would think, say or do them. But you don’t have to run, deny, or try to hide it though you may want to. In those moments of failure remember that you can admit your sin because in Christ we are not condemned. Sinful, yes, but never condemned.
In John chapter 8, we can read the account of a woman who was caught in the act of committing adultery. The religious leaders drug her out of bed and into public in the presence of Jesus with the intent of stoning her (the punishment due according to the Mosaic Law). Jesus saved the woman from death by causing these religious leaders to acknowledge their own sinful hearts. He said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” The only sound that could be heard were the sound of rocks falling from the hands of the religious leaders and their fading footsteps as they went away.
Then Jesus turned to the woman who must have been guilt ridden and terrified, and spoke to her: “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” to which she replied, “No one Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more” (John 8:1-11).
Right in the midst of her adultery, caught in the very act, she was not condemned to die as an adulterous woman. What an absolutely freeing, wonderfully joyous pronouncement that you, likewise, should hear ringing in your ears: “Neither do I condemn you.” “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
But not only do you receive freedom from condemnation, but you also receive acceptance with God.
“…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.” Romans 8:2-4
Question 3. According to Romans 8:3 what has God done about our sin problem?
We learned in our last lesson that a common response to sin in our lives is that we set out to fix the problem ourselves. We determine to exercise our will power and please God. We set New Year’s resolutions, or make vows and promises to do better. We buy programs and products that are supposed to help us restrain our sinful desires.
But we understand that this is not the way to change. Notice the word “powerless” in verse 3. The Law is powerless to change us because we are powerless to change through the Law. The law only condemns our sinfulness; it has no power to free us from sin. No amount of self-will, self-determination, trying harder to obey the rules will ever make real and lasting change in us.
Our sin was so great that it was beyond the capacity of the Law; the Law could only uncover sin. So God sent His own Son “to be a sin offering.” These words “sin offering” refer to the method God gave to the Israelites where a person could be forgiven of all sin by sacrificing a lamb (Exodus 29 and 30). This system of offering animals as substitute sacrifices in payment for sin pointed forward to Jesus, the “Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
Question 4. According to Romans 8:4 above, what results did Jesus achieve when He came to this earth, lived perfectly for us, then died as our “sin offering”?
Wow, did you see that? It says “….so the righteous requirements of the Law might be fully met in us…” Did we really just read that? Yes, it’s true. Through Jesus living a perfect life and dying in your place, you fully meet the requirements of the Law. You measure up, in Jesus. You pass the test, you meet the code of conduct required to enter heaven, and that “fully.” You “fully” meet all requirements.
Jesus is the way of acceptance. In Him we are righteous and find acceptance with God. Not by will power, not by trying to obey the moral law, but rather through the “Sin Offering” the righteous requirements of the law are fully met in us. Jesus is the only way to acceptance with God as we are “accepted in the Beloved (Jesus)” (Ephesians 1:6).
Question 5. As you consider that in Jesus Christ you fully meet the righteous requirements of God’s law, what are your thoughts? How does this truth affect your heart and mind?
So, in Christ, we are free from condemnation and accepted by God, but how does this all work to actually produce change in us? How does faith in Jesus lead to actual change in our lives?
Please read Romans 8:5-13 and answer the questions below:
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. 6The 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, Romans 8:5-13 (NIV)
Notice the number of times this passage of Scripture talks about our “minds” and our “mindset”. This could be summarized by verse 5: “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires.”
Question 6. In reading through Romans 8:5-13, what contrasts do you see between having a mind set on sinful desires verses a mind set on spiritual desires. Please list as many as you can find:
In these times, we usually assign the “mind” to cognitive and intellectual thinking, and the “heart” to the emotional feelings. But the Bible does not. In Scripture, the mind and the heart are one. In this instance, the mind is the core of the being, the driving force of the individual, his loves, passions, imaginations and thoughts.
The mindset is exactly what it sounds like—it is that upon which our mind is set. It is that which dominates our affections, consumes our imaginations and drives our actions. At any given time, we might have our minds set on wrong and sinful things or seemingly right and good things.
Some people will be consumed with impurity, alcohol, gambling, overeating, growing their empire, etc. Others will be dominated by a desire to be respectable, to be looked up to and admired, to be seen as religious, educated or knowledgeable.
But regardless of our bent, we are by nature self-focused. Our natural inclination is to seek that which serves us and set our mind on it—food, immorality, money, status, appearance, etc.
Question 7. What things have you had in the past that have gripped your heart and mind, controlled your desires and drove your actions? Please list them here:
So what is the method of changing all this? Of escaping the mindset of the flesh?
Question 8. Please read through Romans 8:5-13 above carefully. What is the opposite of having a mind controlled by the sinful nature? What word is used over and over in the passage?
This is why we cannot give a set of steps, or “3 biblical principles for change”. Real change comes from “the Spirit” (Who is mentioned 9 times in this passage), and human beings cannot control the Spirit of God. He’s not like a hammer or a screwdriver that we can just pick up and use at will. The Holy Spirit does as He pleases (John 3:8).
We understand from John chapters 14-16 that it is the role of the Holy Spirit to point to Jesus, to “teach us” and “remind us of everything Jesus said” (John 14:25-26). He is given to “bear witness of Jesus” (John 15:26). Jesus said about the Holy Spirit, “He will glorify Me, for He will take what is Mine and declare it to you.”
The Holy Spirit’s job is to make much of Jesus, to take the glory of Jesus, the wealth of Jesus, the Majesty, beauty and power of Jesus and bring all that to us personally. The Holy Spirit’s role is to smite us with what Jesus Christ has done until we weep (Luke 22:61-62).
Dear friend, this is how we change. The Holy Spirit takes the gospel and applies it to our hearts, causing us to gush with the love Jesus showed to us. He sets our minds on Jesus; we become enthralled and captivated with Jesus. In the process, God begins to destroy our sin “tumors” through the Spirit’s revelation of Jesus in and to us.
Question 9. Please summarize in your own words the work of the Holy Spirit:
This new Spirit mindset motivates us to seek out and destroy that which grows the tumors of sin in our lives. The Holy Spirit empowers us to seek out those self-serving things which are filling our minds, hearts and imaginations, which are putting us to death, and reverses the process so that we begin to put them to death. “If by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 5:13). It is by the Spirit’s work of making Jesus huge in our minds and hearts, that we then “put to death” the misdeeds of the body. That is how we really change.
And that is the power of the gospel. If the Holy Spirit, even one time shows you Jesus, shows you that His death was for you personally, causes you to drop to your knees in wonder and awe, you will never be the same. You will become addicted to seeing Jesus and accordingly begin to amass one experience after another of the preciousness of Jesus Christ to you. With each new vision of Christ, the sin tumors shrink.
You will discover Scriptures that make you weep, shout for joy or both under the force of the Spirit, as He makes Jesus your God, your salvation and your satisfaction.
And it won’t just be Scripture, the Holy Spirit will be showing you Jesus everywhere. Like a young lover who sees reminders of her love in everything, so you will see Jesus’ face in nature, in the heavens, in books, music and movies, literally everywhere.
One time I took my daughter to see the movie Superman. As the movie ended, I sat there absolutely awed to once again see Jesus, my powerful Savior. I said to my daughter, “Did you notice that Superman was sent by his father to this earth to save it? That he was exactly 33 years old when his mission started? That he was betrayed for money, fought the evil powers and then willingly sacrificed himself for all humanity?” She said, “Wow, so Jesus is Superman?” We laugh, but it is true. We should delight to see Jesus in the Superman movie.
Dear friend, let the Holy Spirit of God begin amassing much radioactive material to work on your cancerous tumors of sin. As He shows you Jesus in the Scriptures, in nature, in your life, your sin will shrink and shrivel.
To get you started, let me ask: have you ever read the book or seen the movie A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens? Well, at the end of the story Charles Darnay, who has been falsely accused of a crime, is awaiting death by beheading. Suddenly a man by the name of Sydney Carton appears at the door to Darnay’s cell. Sydney Carton does an absolutely amazing thing: he tricks Charles Darnay into switching clothes with him, then he dictates a letter of explanation, and finally he drugs Darnay. He then arranges for the unconscious Darnay to be taken to safety.
At the appointed time, guards take Sydney Carton from Darnay’s cell to execute him, believing him to actually be Charles Darnay. Carton stands in the long line of the condemned. But here is where the story becomes amazing:
A poor seamstress, also falsely sentenced to death, realizes that Sydney Carton is not actually Charles Darnay. In her amazement she asks him, “Are you dying for him?” He replies, “For him and his wife and child.” Then Carton and the young seamstress reach the guillotine. The seamstress cannot contain herself at the thought of what Carton was doing, so she kisses Carton, absolutely amazed at Carton’s sacrifice.
Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:7-8 (NIV)
Question 10. Dear friend, if you are ever made to feel as though you want to kiss Jesus, as Psalm 2:12 tells us to do, in response to His sacrificial love for you, you can be sure this is the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. Please share your thoughts about this lesson here: