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 Message (MSG). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (Romans 8:2, NASB).
The declaration of Paul that we are no longer condemned because we are in Christ Jesus should be enough to make any believer excited. For one, the legal term denotes that a verdict has been rendered in our favor. That is, we should be regarded as guilty, but instead have been cleared of all charges.
The term that Paul uses for condemnation is not only a legal term, but also written in such a way as to imply a statement of absolute fact. What he is saying cannot be changed. If we are in Christ, we are free! Jesus says it this way to His disciples: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36, NIV). This idea of freedom is paramount to the Christian experience and to living the Christian life. In order to understand the freedom that we now have, we must understand what it means to be in Christ. Let’s walk through it:
I Corinthians 1:30: “And because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” God makes us in Christ. It is something that we cannot do.
Ephesians 2:8: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” God has given the free gift of salvation through grace. We must accept it through faith. That is, we must believe.
Romans 6:3: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” Belief is shown through the act of baptism. Baptism marks the decision to accept our place in Christ. (See also Mark 16:16)
Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Acceptance of Christ allows for the indwelling of the Spirit of God. Through His Spirit, Christ now lives in you. (See also John 17:17-26)
This freedom in Christ is the ability to live a life in which the struggle discussed in Chapter 7 no longer dominates our lives. Notice Paul says specifically, “The Spirit of life in Christ has set you free from the law of sin and death.” That is, being in Christ provides the supernatural power necessary to overcome in the day-to-day Christian life. This isn't about ESP or conjuring capabilities; no, it is about Divine power from heaven.
Ironically, Paul’s idea of freedom is actually best described as slavery. In fact, Verse 2 is a wink back to Chapter 6. Read Verses 15-18. They imply that freedom requires us to take into consideration two things.
We are not free to do what we want.
Some Christians believe that the fact that we are saved in Christ once and for all gives us the ability to continue to freely engage in sin. Some call this “once saved always saved.” To this Paul responds, “by no means.”
We must submit.
Freedom in Christ requires submission to the will of God and to His transformative powers. As I submit to Christ daily, He empowers me to live a life that is pleasing to Him. In daily submitting, I open myself to the power I need to remain in Christ.
Recalibrate: How does freedom in Christ differ from our idea of freedom on a political or social level? What are some ways that you can daily submit to God’s will and transformative power?
Respond: Take the time to ask God for the ability to accept and stand in the freedom that He offers through Jesus Christ.
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.
Play a game of “jump on the blanket” with your little one. Collect your favorite things and put them all on the blanket. See if your family can fit on the blanket, too. Know that God loves you so much that He has covered all your life from beginning to end with grace.
Play a game of tag that includes a free zone. At any time, you can jump in the free zone and not be tagged. After you’ve finished the game, imagine that being tagged is being condemned and that the free zone is living in Jesus. How do you think we can live in Jesus in our everyday life?
Have you ever played “would you rather”? If you’ve never played before, it’s a series of questions where the humor is that both options are either very desirable or very undesirable. Give it a try. Would you rather lose all your money or all of the pictures you have ever taken? Would you rather have free flights for the rest of your life or never have to pay for food at restaurants? Tricky, right? Reading Romans 8 reminds me of the ultimate “would you rather” question. Would you rather set your mind on the things of the flesh—although they lead to death—or set your mind on the Spirit and choose life and peace? Many people may think, “Well, of course I want to live and have peace!” So why is it so easy to get distracted by things that draw us away from God? Make a list of your personal challenges. Do any of these get in the way of you connecting with God?