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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Romans 8:1–11

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you. (NRSV)

When I find myself with an assigned passage with which I have difficulties, it can be a good thing. I am pushed to dig deeper into the text and to grow in my response. This was the case for me with today’s verses from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the early church in Rome.

Paul’s dichotomy of either flesh or spirit challenges my faithful understanding of a deeply loving God who took on flesh in Christ to dwell with us fully. Yet I was helped when I thought more metaphorically, aided by commentators.

In Paul’s context, to live according to the flesh was to be dominated by selfish passions. These passions can preoccupy us, leaving little room for God or neighbor.

On the other hand, to live in the Spirit is to belong to a new community of faith, navigating together at the leading of God’s Spirit. I was drawn back to “A Brief Statement of Faith” of our Presbyterian church.

“We trust in God the Holy Spirit,
everywhere the giver and renewer of life.
The Spirit justifies us by grace through faith,
sets us free to accept ourselves and to love God and neighbor,
and binds us together with all believers
in the one body of Christ, the church.”

May we be set free from selfish past patterns, so that we are open to the Spirit’s empowering presence in the service of God and of all our neighbors.

Freeing God, I thank you for the wondrous workings of your Spirit, opening us anew to the meanings of the scriptures. Open our lives to a spirited sense of service, as followers of Jesus, our brother and our Savior. Amen.

Written by Jeff Doane, Parish Associate for Older Adults

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