Andrew Murray said, “The believer who studies this life of Christ as the pattern and the promise of what his may be, learns to understand how the “Without me you can do nothing” is but the forerunner of “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” How does Romans 12 press us to dependence on the Holy Spirit to help us live out the life of Christ?
Romans 12, among other passages in the New Testament, is filled with a list of attributes or characteristics that should be evident in the life of every Christ-follower. Whether in the letters of Paul, Peter, or James, there is a right way and a wrong way to look at these characteristics.
Some would look at them and say, “I need to work harder, create habits, and set up boundaries so I can love, forgive, and serve people so that God will be pleased with me.” Oh Lord, protect us from thinking such thoughts! Certainly our diligence and dedication to godliness is commendable and necessary (1 Timothy 4:8-9), but to think that our strength and commitment is the foundation of our work or effectiveness is anti-Gospel.
The right way to approach love, forgiveness, and service in the Christian life is to first seek to be something, rather than do something. Romans 12 thoroughly provides this perspective for us. It begins with us viewing the mercies of God (Romans 12:1) and coming the conclusion that the only right response is to surrender to God’s will. We must be convinced that the only right response to God’s gracious favor and love being poured out on us is to live in and live out that love and grace — to abide in it (John 15:5) and to show it to the world (John 13:35).
Many people come to this conclusion, but its at the next point that they falter. When we feel the call from God to love, serve, and sacrifice for others, we must not seek to do before we seek to become. How do we become more like Christ? It begins and ends with the perfect Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Bible that you hold in your hands is the key to your transformation, for through it the Holy Spirit applies truth to your life and, using your new heart and new mind that God has put within you (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ezekiel 36:26-28), He transforms you to look more and more like Jesus (Romans 12:2; Romans 8:29).
So, the next time you see a command like Romans 12:14, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them,” if you think, “I can’t do that,” you’re exactly right — you can’t. Instead, let the Spirit of God bring about that change in you. Dependence on Him is the only way that you can truly live out the life of Christ in your life.
What things can you learn about the ministry of the Holy Spirit through Paul’s letter to the Romans?
If you are reading this post with your bulletin in hand, you can tell that I have broadened the question to include the entire book of Romans. And while I will not set out to provide a full picture of the Holy Spirit in the book of Romans, I want to point out a few key things to know:
1. Romans 1:17 >> The Spirit of God was the means through which God the Father raised God the Son (Jesus) from the dead.
2. Romans 2:29 >> Salvation happens when the Law is written on the heart by the Spirit, which is something that the Law cannot do.
3. Romans 5:5 >> Along with showing us the depths of His love by sending His Son (Romans 5:8), God the Father shows His love for us by putting the Holy Spirit within those who have trusted Christ.
4. Romans 7:6 >> Because the Spirit of God is within us and leading us to do the will of God (a.k.a. “fulfill the Law), we have been set free to live according to the Spirit within us (guiding us through the Word), instead of having some kind of written code of Christian ethics that guides our life.
5. Romans 8 >> The Spirit is within us to testify that we are free from condemnation (Romans 8:2), have been the recipients of the new life in Christ (Romans 8:10), have the power to kill our sin (Romans 8:13), assurance of our salvation (Romans 8:16), and confidence that our requests are being made known to God even in the midst of suffering (Romans 8:26-27).