How would you describe living the Christian life with the Holy Spirit in you? In 2005, sociologist Christian Smith published results from surveying and researching the spiritual views of teens in America. He coined the term "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism" (MTD) to describe their views of God and Christianity. 

  • Moralistic: Christianity is essentially about living a good life, and that God wants you to be a good person. The main idea then, is to try to live out the 10 Commandments and Great Commission
  • Therapeutic: God is seen as a therapist, and the highest point of the Christian life about being happy. 
  • Deism: Picturing God as a distant being that is not very involved, more like Santa or a genie. 

This is the view of many people even today. But our passage in Romans 8 gives a radically different picture. God, through the apostle Paul, displaying out the practical implications of the gospel for your life and mine. 


(A) We have the righteousness of resurrection (Rom8:10)

Paul explains what he means by having ‘the Spirit of Christ in you'. In verse 10, the body, we are told, is dead because of sin, and this is contrasted with the Spirit, which gives life. Death was not part of God's intention. If we go back to Genesis 1, we know that life was the original intent and design. (For example, we see how God created plants with seeds and a potential for life.) But now we live in a very different world -- one full of brokenness and death -- because of sin. 

We are clear that the sin is ours ("although the body is dead because of sin", but whose righteousness is referenced in verse 10 ("Spirit is life because of righteousness")? Is the text saying that our own righteousness will therefore lead to life? Or is it saying that the righteousness of another will lead to my life? One of it is a non-Christian answer, but the other is a gospel answer. If we look back to Romans 3, it makes it clear that the righteousness in Romans 8 is that of Christ. Therefore, what this verse is saying is that if Christ is in you, the body will die because of sin, but we will have life in the truest sense because of the righteousness of Jesus. Theologians commonly refer to this as "The Great Exchange" where Jesus takes all of my sin and the wrath, judgment and destruction I deserve, and in exchange, I get the righteousness He has. For Christians like you and me, this is all of our hope. This is how we can sing hymns like "On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand" and "nothing in my hands I bring, simply to thy cross I cling". Do you believe this? Don't gloss over this tonight. This shows us that everything we do to attempt to gain God's favour will fail. This is something that we have to continue to go back to, not only at our conversion, but also continually in the Christian life. 


(B) We have the promise of future resurrection (Rom8:11)

According to verse 11, we read that Jesus is raised from the dead by "him". Based on the text, and with some logic, we know that this "him" is neither Jesus nor the Spirit (which is mentioned separately). According to Acts 2:24, we read that God (the Father) raised him. Putting it all together, God the Father, with the power of the Spirit, raised Jesus from the dead.

Why is this so important? This means that we have not received promises from God in an arbitrary manner. These promises are based on some concrete actions, and it is important for us to know the basis and background behind these promises. The intricacies and design of what we have received, revealed in Scripture for us, helps us better understand and appreciate what we have received! 

What does Paul promise the Spirit will do for us? If we read on, if the Spirit has raised Jesus from the dead, we are told that we will be given life through his Spirit who dwells in you. There is a clear emphasis on the work of the Spirit.  Here, we also learn that each part of the Trinity has a unique work, though they are united and work in tandem.How should we respond practically to this promise? Why does Paul tag our resurrection to Jesus'? You see, the Jews had no concept of an individual resurrection but they believed in a corporate resurrection at the last day (c.f. Dan 9). Thus, when Jesus was raised, he was raised as the first of many to come. Paul is arguing something that the Jews would find radical, and Paul is encouraging us to look to Jesus' resurrection to understand ours. Paul writes extensively about the resurrection in his other epistles, such as 2 Cor 5:2-4 (c.f. 1 Cor 15:53-55). From these verses, we see that Paul is arguing that we are experiencing a sub-human life, and we await a day when we will experience life as it was designed to be ("so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life", 2 Cor 5:4b). Sometimes we do think that Jesus is our ticket to the movie, and once we get there, he's not important. But these verses are actually telling us that Jesus is the ticket and the movie, and He brings us into the movie too.  Honestly, when we read these verses and try to talk about it, our analogies and description fall flat because we are reading about and talking about something that we have no categories to understand. 


(C) We live today awaiting resurrection (Rom8:12-13)

Paul goes on to describe Christian life in relation to the flesh in the here and now. He says that we are debtors, but not to the flesh, meaning that we now have a choice (Rom8:12). We do not have to live the way that we lived before. Our hearts are not bound to resist God but can now respond to Him. This is such a precious truth. As Christians, we no longer have to live against God, in sin and death. 

Paul explains this further in Rom 8:13. He puts forward a series of contrasts -- life vs death, Spirit-filled life vs living in the flesh, putting to death vs living by the Spirit. Paul argues that if you keep doing what you do ("live according to the flesh"), it will lead to death. Yet, if you put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit, you will live. Verse 13 is a prescriptive verse (i.e. instructs) and has similar themes as the description given in verse 10 previously. John Owen wrote a book titled, "The Mortification of Sin", and the entire book is an exposition of this verse. On Romans 8:13, he paraphrased it as "Be killing sin or it will be killing you."  

There is a way to read these verses and arrive at a MTD outcome. The point of these verses in Romans is not about becoming tips and techniques to become a better person. It goes deeper. It is about putting ot death every desire and hope that sets itself up against God, and we can only do so by the Spirit. God wants to come into our lives to dwell in us, and transform every part until we are finally transformed and as He is. Romans forces us to think about what it means to live in the Spirit, and how it changes our lives in so many practical ways today. It calls us to live in the Spirit and to starve those desires that are against God, and feed the hunger and desire for God. It changes how we live, how we fight sin. It encourages us in our fight against sin, and it continues to point us to the day when we will finally live. 

Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.
Be saved, to sin no more, be saved, to sin no more;
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.
E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.
And shall be till I die, and shall be till I die;
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.
(There is a fountain filled with blood)