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What’s the Question? (Life Through the Spirit)

Sermon passage: (Romans 8:1-13) Spoken on: September 6, 2015
More sermons from this speaker 更多该讲员的讲道: Keng Wan Ling
For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: Romans

Tags: Romans, 罗马书

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About Keng Wan Ling: Deacon Keng was theologically trained in TTC, and currently serves as the worship ministry chairperson.

罗 马 书 第 8 章 1 - 13 节
Sermon on Romans 8 : 1 - 13

Title: What’s the Question? (Life Through the Spirit)
Speaker: Sister Keng Wan Ling

Good morning brothers and sisters.

Let’s start this morning with a little game. Can you complete the blanks on the powerpoint with the appropriate question? If the answer is August 9th, then what’s the question? [When is Singapore’s National Day]. If the answer is 50 years old, then what’s the question [How old is Singapore this year]. Great, well done.

Our scripture today is taken from Romans 1:1-13, I will read it in English, those reading Chinese can look at the powerpoints. As I read through it, I invite you to think: What’s the answer? What’s the corresponding question in this text?

[Read the passage]

Romans has been called “the consuming scripture”[1], “the greatest letter ever written”[2], and it’s also been said that, “If Romans is the high point of the Bible, then Romans 8 is the high point of the book”[3]. Many preachers and commentators seem very excited about it; but I wonder if you feel the same way. I come back to my earlier question- according to today’s passage, what is the answer? Or the solution? [pause] Not sure? Ok I’ll give you a clue.
We’ve been listening to sermons on Romans for weeks now. What words do you associate with this book? One- word answers, only, please. Law? Righteousness? Sin? Justification? Faith? Salvation? Assurance? Yup.

The problem is that of SIN and how to be freed from the tyranny of it.
The answer, or the solution, is life in the Spirit, through God’s work in Jesus Christ.

To Paul’s original audience, this was a tremendous message. They were used to faith in the context of law (the Torah), and Paul’s message was important to help them to see how different Christianity was.

To earlier Christians, such as Saint Augustine of Hippo, who spent much time thinking and writing about how law and grace operated, YES, the message of Romans comes as an assurance and a comforting balm. For such as these, the message that “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (v1) is a welcome relief.

But let’s be honest. What have been the pressing questions for you this week? What are the issues that have kept you awake at night, what conversations have you been having?

I am guessing that you’re not kept awake at night by the weight of your own sins, nor by doubts of your own salvation, or how the law operates, or issues of righteousness.
When… … you or your loved one is sick, dying or in pain?
…you can’t seem to get what you want?
… life seems empty and meaningless
…. you can’t seem to feel God?
… things are hard and frustrating at work or in school?
How does this message help?

If we look at the things that cause us to fret and worry on a daily basis, at first glance Romans 8 might not seem to be very relevant. However, if we think that, we would be very wrong. Let me try to connect the dots.

To match the questions (the things that keep us awake at night, life's niggling issues and worries), with the answer (the promises of God as expressed in Romans's 8), we need to step back and re characterize things. We need to reframe our questions.

I don't like hearing it myself either. All these worries (or questions) need to sit under an overarching umbrella of how we choose to live life and what we want out of life.

Romans 8:5 asks you - are you living according to the flesh, or according to the Spirit? What are these concerns rooted in?

“In the flesh” means looking at things from a human perspective, to being ruled by the desires and dictates of human nature, with all its weaknesses and vulnerabilities. So those on the flesh are thinking all the time about what the flesh wants, and Paul says this leads to death (v13)[4]. He presents the alternative as ... Life in the spirit.

For a start, it means (v5) setting our minds on what the Spirit desires.

Life in the flesh is self idolatry - what the individual wants becomes the centre of all values, all actions. In contrast, life in the spirit is about God and His desires and dictates. Because, we are told, the mind governed by the Spirit is "life and peace".

By now, you might be feeling a little bit conned for one of 2 reasons:

(1) Firstly… I'd implied at the start of this message that romans 8 would show you how to solve life's problems.

But now I'm saying you have to CHANGE what you want. It's as if you went to the shop to upgrade your car (your life), and the salesman, instead of suggesting to you a nice upgrade to a snazzy new model, says instead, "hey, you know what? Have you considered you've got your hearts set on the wrong thing? It's not a car you need at all. You should take public transport instead."

Whaaaaat??? But he says, "Look, it's for your own good. These cars, in the end, they lead to death. You'll be better off walking and taking the MRT. You'll have peace."

I’ll bet you won’t be going back to this salesman!

But this is precisely the choice put before us- the way of the flesh, or that of the spirit ? Are we willing to change what we want? And that starts from the renewal do the mind.

(2) Secondly, you might be feeling cheesed off at me is because you say," I'm already a Christian and I AM trying to live according to what God wants. But, where's this life and peace that was promised? I still don't have enough money, quarrel with my wife and kids all the time, and hate my job."

Er- well it's good news and bad news and good news again.

The good news is that live according to the spirit is a new life, full of spiritual fruit.

The bad news is that it's a life relinquished to God, subjected to Christian discipline.

The good news again is that we've got help! The Holy Spirit,the ruah, the gale force, the same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead, is at work in us, to help us. It's divine power.

Oh yes, there will continue to be frustrations and irritations. No, life won't be problem -free. It’s said that Romans 8 starts with no condemnation, and ends with no separation, and in the middle there is no defeat.[5]

Eugene Peterson says it well in his Message translation- the solution is life on God's terms; life in the Spirit.

Still quoting from the Message translation (190 words) :

v2- Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.

V10-11- For you who welcome the invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, in whom He dwells- even though you still experience all the limitations of sin- YOU will experience life on God’s terms.

God will bring you alive to Himself. When God lives and breathes in you (and He does, as surely as He did in Jesus), your body will be as alive as Christ’s! Just as God brought Jesus to live, He will bring you alive to Himself.

V12-14: So we don’t owe this old DIY (do-it-yourself) life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing we can do is to give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!

I love this translation. God will bring you alive to Himself!!

The passage is vibrating with the excitement of the freedom that comes from being alive in God, of life in Spirit. But in real life, it doesn’t always feel that way, does it? That excitement and freedom often seems nowhere to be found. Life happens. Life sucks. It sucks to be sick. It sucks to be old and weak. It sucks to be poor.

What does life in the Spirit look like, under these less-than-ideal circumstances? What does someone who’s living life in the Holy Spirit look like?

Among those things, the Spirit is sent to us to teach us and remind us of all the Jesus has said (Jn 14:26). Linking that to Romans 8:5-8, I believe the Spirit teaches us what to set our minds out “Those who live in accordance to the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires…” The Spirit helps us understand what it means to focus on God, and not be absorbed in ourselves. He helps us to renew our minds (see also Romans 12:2, not to conform to the world, but to be transformed by the renewal of our mind).

So in any situation, the power, the teaching of the Spirit helps us to perceive things as God might do so. And that reframing, that change in perception, makes up the “renewal of the mind”, that makes us “alive in God”. It is precisely when life sucks, that this godly perspective is importantly. Of course it’s hard; but the power that raised Christ from the dead is at work in us. If we believe this, then we must trust God. Along the way, the witness of those who have walked the same journey encourage us.

Joni Eareckson Tada had a diving accident in 1967 as an active teenager with her whole life ahead of her. After many struggles, suicidal thoughts and personal pain, she came to terms with it and is well known today for being a talented vocalist and author. I never fail to be moved by her story.

She says[6] (250 words)
- in the almost 30 years she’s been in the wheelchair, God has shown her what really matters- like patience, peace, love, and heavenly glories above. “I can’t wait when I finally get my brand new glorified body, I’m gonna stand up, stretch, dance kick, comb my own hair, even blow my own nose. What’s so poignant is that, when I’ll finally be able to wipe my own tears, I won’t need to because God will be there to personally wipe away every tear, as promised in Revelations. How ironic.”
-“ God’s Word is what has worked for me, it’s alive and active in my life- and it can be in yours as well.”
-“In this life we have a cross we must bear, but it’s just a tiny part of Christ’s death that we can share. One day we will lay down our suffering and exchange it for a crown”.
-“Though others have been given the gift of healing, I believe He has given me a gift beyond compare. For heaven is nearer to me and at times, it’s all I can see. Sweet music is coming down my ear and I know it’s playing for me. I am Christ’s own bride and redeemed and I shall stand by His side. He shall say, shall we dance, and our endless romance will be worth all the tears I have cried.”
And she says, “And it will be worth all the tears that you’ve cried too.”

THAT is the testimonial or someone who is alive in the Spirit, alive in God. That is someone who is living “life on God’s terms”.

Sure there are good days and bad days. Some days, we fling our hands up before God and demand, “Where’s this life in the abundant you promised God? Is this the exciting, spirit-filled life I’m meant to have? It’s not really what I expected…. ” I don’t have the answer, and you might not get a straight answer either from God.

The last few months haven’t been great for me, I have many question for God about my job, my health, my personal life. Everytime I try to ask Him, the answer I get it “Eyes on me, child.” “Er… but so how, should I be looking for a new job….?” “I said, eyes on me”. “Oh… ok.” I got a reply, but it wasn’t exactly an answer, lol. He’s telling me to reframe my question, ask what He wants.

So how can we be freed from the tyranny or sin and death? Even if that doesn’t FEEL very relevant to your daily problems, from God’s perspective, that is ALWAYS relevant.

And so we struggle on. But as the song goes, “not by might, not by power, but by the Spirit of God”. The power that raised Christ from the dead is at work in us, the Spirit helps us. Joni Eareckson Tada tells us, “it will be worth all the tears that you’ve cried”. You might not take her word for it, ask God yourself.

[1] By Dr Lewis Sperry Chafer, in his systematic theology volumes.
[2] By John Piper, in
[3] Check source
[4] (source: