“So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God. When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death. But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.”
Romans 7:4-6 NLT
Perhaps we can see how the Roman Christians became a bit confused, prompting Paul’s detailed and enlightening letter. They must have thought that if the Law was replaced by something far better – their faith in the redeeming power of Jesus – then they were free to do what they wanted. Paul associated the Law and its many rules and regulations about what to do and what not to do with arousing within them the desire to do what they shouldn’t. Imagine the scene. There is a door to a cupboard in the house and a small boy living there is warned to never open it and look inside. What is the first thing he would do when the opportunity arises? He will open it and have a look. Perhaps if he had not been given that instruction, he might never have given it a thought. Paul wrote, “the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds”.
Paul wrote that because of Jesus and all that He did at Calvary, and through their faith in Him, they were released from the power of the Law. So for the small boy in our example, instead of listening to his “evil desires”, he has the opportunity to listen to the “still small voice” of the Holy Spirit within him, leading him to make the right decision. Perhaps not a good example but it hopefully illustrates the point.
God’s Spirit has unfettered access to the hearts and minds of redeemed Christians. And we pilgrims welcome Him in with open arms. Without the Holy Spirit we are very spiritually impoverished and thrown back to a time when all we had was the letter of the Law. But thanks to God and His wonderful plan we have a new way – life in the Spirit.
There was a principle taught to youth groups a few years ago, and it spawned a number of wrist bands with the letters WWJD engraved on them. The letters stand for ”What Would Jesus Do”. Perhaps this could be a mid point between the legalism of “obeying the letter of the Law” and true life in the Spirit. For most people it is perhaps too big a leap going from a Law-inspired life of sinful thoughts and actions to one of pure obedience to the Holy Spirit within us. So on occasion there might be a fog of doubt and confusion as to whether the voice within was really the Holy Spirit. To put skin on the Spirit’s voice is often helpful in times of uncertainty. But as we listen more and more to the Holy Spirit within us we increasingly recognise His voice and learn, almost intuitively, how to learn the ”new way of living in the Spirit”.
Dear Father God. What would we do without Your Spirit’s dwelling within us? Going back to slavery in the Egypt of laws is not an option we can consider. We are so grateful. Amen.