Romans 8: Killing Sin (or it will Kill You)
“So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
Romans 8:12-13 NASB1995
In the last devotional, I included a list of ten ways that you, as a believer, might know that the Holy Spirit is working in you. The list is not meant to be comprehensive or to cause panic if some of the items are not very strong or don’t exist yet in your spiritual growth. But if you have accepted Jesus and want His redemption and salvation, the Holy Spirit WILL cause you to move from God hatred to love of God, cause hunger for God’s word and to know more about Jesus, increase your desire to be in daily prayer, increase thankfulness and joy (not happiness, which is temporary), and cause you to have a growing hatred of sin and also to desire holiness. Paul tells us next that we need to put to the death the deeds of the sinful body through the Spirit or we will die (eternal separation from God, not just mortal death).
So what is sin? That is a trillion-dollar question, isn’t it? Sin is anything that goes against God’s holiness and moral law. In another devotional, I talked about the seven deadly sins, which are not a bad way to look at various ways in which we sin. Lucifer started those sins by being prideful and thinking he could be greater than God, then fell from Heaven with his followers. Adam and Eve continued it by being led astray by the serpent, questioning what God said, and succumbing to temptation. The rest is history. Many, many people today either do not acknowledge that they are sinners (because they don’t believe or they have been so deceived about their behavior that they justify anything) or think that they have never sinned! Some, like me, have struggled with patience, kindness, humility and especially self-control (among others) and have succumbed to pressures and temptations because “I’m on vacation” or “I’ve had a hard week at work” to explain bad behaviors or justify indulging. Sometimes, the Spirit will give you a rude awakening to realize how much you are deceived.
A few years ago, we were on a cruise and a discussion was going on at the next table in the small coffee shop about religion. One of the participants was a guest lecturer on board who obviously thought he knew everything about everything (and let you know it). Somehow the topic of “sin” entered the conversation (I was now involved) and this guy said “Well, that’s easy for me. I have never sinned in my life”. I looked bemused and he asked me to explain how he could have sinned, as he never murdered anyone, never stole from someone, honored his parents and never committed adultery.
My answer would be more comprehensive now rather than saying that there are big sins and there are little sins. I would point him to the “you’ve heard it said” statements in the Sermon on the Mount, for starters, where our hearts filled with anger are the same as committing murder. Or I would have him read Romans 1, which is a litany of the same kinds of sins that were as pervasive in the 1st Century Roman era as they are now in our self-indulgent “me” and woke generation. Sin is like ripples on the water when a stone is thrown or like a small branch that trips you and you drop and roll into a bigger sin. Your conscience, given to you by God, knows when you have sinned, but if you choose to suppress the warnings, or, even worse, act in sin to “get back at God”, you are definitely heading to that death that Paul warns about.
We will never be free of sin until the day we die and only if we die the right way, having accepted our salvation through Jesus and His redemption and resurrection, then we will have finally conquered sin. Some would rather choose sin than redemption, so they have chosen eternal separation (the great divorce). Until that day of physical death, pray that the Holy Spirit continues to move you away from sinful flesh to life in the Spirit by expanding your consciousness about sin. Precept Austin has a treasure lode of comments and links about the utter deceitfulness of sin, by the way. Here’s a great quote by the legendary British minister Charles Spurgeon:
Notice very carefully that sin has a hardening power over the heart. How does that come about? Partly through our familiarity with sin. We may look at hateful sin till we love it. Familiarity with sin makes the conscience dull, and at length deadens sensibility. Security in wrongdoing leads also to this kind of hardening. A man has been dishonest; he is found out, and he suffers for it. I could almost thank God, for now he may cease from his evil course. But one of the greatest curses that can happen to a man is for him to do wrong with impunity. He will do it again, and again, and again, and he will proceed from bad to worse.
My next commentary will examine Romans 8:14-17 True Assurance as Children of God