Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Romans 8:1-11 in the English Standard Version (ESV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 7:24-81).
Regardless of who you are or what walk of life you are from, you know what it is like to struggle. We all do. In this life, and in this world, struggles come in many forms. There are financial struggles, relationship struggles, social struggles, and career struggles—to name just a few. But nothing compares to the struggle that every believer faces between the old human nature and the new divine nature.
It is knowing what is right and wanting to do what is right but often doing the opposite. It is praying about a particular sin and experiencing victory over it, only to fall back into it a few months later. It is the guilt we feel when we find ourselves doing the very things that we know we should not do.
This is the struggle that we must all acknowledge and accept if we are to make sense of what Paul writes in Chapter 8 of Romans. This wrestling of the two natures within each believer serves as the context for two very important declarations made by Paul. Amidst the vivid description of his struggles, Paul seems to have a moment of clarity when he asks, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). He answers this question with his first declaration: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Paul’s first declaration is one of victory and it supersedes all that Paul has previously stated. For us, it means that despite the struggles we face, the temptations that come, and the guilt we feel when we slip up, Christ has won the victory! This is true whether we believe it or not, and it is true even when we tend to forget. Jesus has conquered sin and consequently He has also conquered the struggles that we face. It is on this truth that Paul’s second declaration hinges. Because Jesus Christ is victorious, “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” And we too should exclaim like Paul, “Thanks be to God!”
Recalibrate: How do you manage the tension between the struggle of your nature and the fact that Jesus is victorious? What are some ways that you can praise God through the struggle?
Respond: Make a list of some of the things you struggle with. At the end of each one, add the words “but God” and a brief statement about how the victory of Jesus applies to this problem. Ask God to help you to focus on the victory rather than the war.
Remember: “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2, ESV).
Kory P. Douglas is the youth director for the Central States Conference in Kansas City, Kansas. He is a native of Brooklyn, New York, where he previously served as a Bible teacher. Kory has a beautiful family comprised of his wife Kimberly, daughter Carsyn Rei (2), and son Noah Kai (10 months). He loves God and young people, and wants to see everyone become the best version of themselves they can be.
Stretching your arms as wide as you can, say “I love you more than this.” Reaching as high as you can, say, “I love you higher than this.” Crouch down to the ground and say, “I love you deeper than this.” Ask your little one, “Who loves you even more than I do? Jesus does. In Jesus name, you are perfect!” Repeat the movements with your child and see if they can say the words back to you along with the motions.
The Bible says, in Romans 8:1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Have you ever felt condemned? Condemned is when you’re in the worst trouble and there’s no way out. The word “condemned” itself is horrible, but it’s especially horrible when your name is attached to it! Paul writes that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Say the verse over and over until you can remember it without looking at the words. These words are worth remembering.
Romans was one of the first biblical books I ever read on my own. I didn’t use commentaries nor read it for a particular Bible study. I read the raw text through by reading a few verses at a time. It was such a deeply moving experience that Romans soon became my favorite book in the Bible. Later on, I read it with a commentary, and it was an even better experience. Something I remember from that experience is reading the words righteousness and flesh over and over again. Previously, I had a tendency to skim over passages that were filled with these words because they seemed so complicated. This time, I really wanted to understand what the passages were saying. This week, there will be a few recurring words: condemnation, flesh, freedom, and the phrase “living according to the Spirit.” These may seem like a list of complex religious words, but there is so much good news that Paul wants to make sure we understand. So let’s start with the first time “condemnation” appears in this passage in the first verse. Paul is declaring that we live with no condemnation who are in Jesus Christ. We can joyfully declare that we are not doomed or sentenced to an eternal death if we choose to let Jesus into our lives. What does living with Jesus Christ inside you look like? I encourage you to read the entire passage and take note of when it answers this question.