I could rant and rave for days showing all the scriptures of how we should live, but without the work of the Holy Spirit it would be for nothing. The Pharisees actually saw several astounding miracles of Jesus and Peter but still did not believe or obey. It’s totally possible to completely harden your heart to truth. Therefore, from the start I’ll have to acknowledge the source that will change your mind, and give you the ability to do what you should do. That source is the Holy Spirit. That’s why the first thing you should do when your conscience is stirred at all is to ask God for help to continue. Eventually you’ll learn the exciting transforming power of the Holy Spirit.
Let me share from my personal testimony and how I learned this. One year I decided to study Romans seriously. I had always hated it because I couldn’t understand it, though I had heard from everybody how good it was. So I decided to study it until I understood it. I read each chapter 3 times, overlapping the 1st and last chapter each night. And that’s when I discovered the power of the Holy Spirit in our life over the sinful nature.
Although I was a serious Christian who faithfully and joyfully went to church, read my Bible, and tithed, my whole Christian walk was full of sinful fruits; including lust, anger, impatience and others. No matter how hard I tried (and I really tried) I couldn’t conquer these things. Then I finally understood from Romans about God working in us through the Holy Spirit to give us the power to live the Christian life. No working just trusting. It sounded too simple and easy, and it really put my faith in God to the test – to see if I really knew He was “up there” and could do this. That is because this was something that I couldn’t do but had to ask God to do. Before, my Christian life could have been lived completely without Him being real. He could have been just a false myth and nothing would have been different in my life. I believed in Him from the evidence I had seen, but I never really counted on Him for anything; I was making my Christian life happen, which was the problem – it was a wreck. Then I found in Romans that I needed His help to live a godly life, without all these sins I had. I knew I was asking for a very real and powerful change that only a real God could do. It took a humble child-like faith, trusting in God and not myself. This must be one of the child-like attributes Jesus wanted in us.
Therefore, after reading Romans, especially chapters 5 through 8, for several months I finally understood that it promised that the sinful nature WILL be killed and replaced with the Holy Spirit if you ask God to do it. When you ask this it says you would clearly see the fruits of the Holy Spirit and not see the fruits of the sinful nature. I’ll describe this in detail later. I was so convinced that Romans promised exactly that, that if it didn’t happen I knew that the Bible was false. (Remember it took months of reading it to come to this conclusion. You need to be convinced in your mind so you have the faith for it to work.) I still remember distinctly the night I finished reading Romans chapter 8 for the 3rd or 4th time. I was filled with sin. I was even struggling with temptation to lust at the very moment. I knew what God wanted me to do, so I confessed to Him that I couldn’t live this Christian life alone, asked Him to kill that sinful nature in me that I was born with, and asked Him to fill me with His Holy Spirit. I knew that if He was really really really real, I would see a dramatic difference in my life. And I did!!! Instantly I was freed of the lustful thoughts and overnight my life cleaned up. As long as I was focused on Him and depending on Him I was completely pure, patient and at peace. This was clearly a miracle to me because I had tried every trick in the book for years to conquer these sins.
After a few days of living a whole new life I started feeling pretty good about myself. I forgot that it was only Him and not me, so I fell back to the lustful thoughts as I started depending on myself again. I was shocked, but then I realized my self-dependency had crept back and so I focused on Him again, and was clean again. I would often fall but it was when I slipped back into self-confidence and I had to renew my dependence on God. I was learning more and more to do so. It was the most exciting and fulfilling time of my Christian life as I practiced daily walking in the Holy Spirit. I learned to walk for longer and longer periods of time before I fell again. Conquering lust (self-control) was the most obvious indicator, but after some time I realized the other fruits of the spirit, like patience and love, were also there, without me even trying. It was another by-product of having the Holy Spirit in charge. My faith was “through the roof.” I thought about God constantly, and I didn’t want to do anything but His will. My only goal in life was to tell others about Him and worship Him and live for Him. He was everything.
Since then I have been trying to fight weeds and feed the Spirit (Galatians 6:8) through Bible study, prayer, memorizing scripture, service, etc. Also learning more and more to submit to Him and not try to do things on my own. There is a ton of room to grow in this. It’s a faith thing, the more you think He’ll do, the more He does. Eventually it leaves the defensive posture of keeping sin away and starts to get into the offensive Christian living where you’re depending on His power to do His works. I have a lot to learn but it’s a very exciting life. When I hear people arguing about their Christian right to do some wicked, foolish or worldly thing, I just can’t believe it. There’s so much more to live for! It’s so frustrating to see people hanging on so tightly to such emptiness.
Here’s the Biblical outline in Romans of how Paul lays out how to live a holy life by the Holy Spirit. The reasoning starts in chapter one and really starts getting developed in chapters 5 through 8. I’ve tried to pull out key verses that give the chapter’s overall theme, but it’s best to read the whole chapters.
TRAIL OF REASONING ON SPIRIT LIVING IN ROMANS
• Chapter 1 Talks about how these “other” people (using the term “them”, probably Gentiles) have sinned, contrary to God revealing Himself in creation.
18 “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.”
• Chapter 2 turns it around to those he’s writing to (using the term “you”) and how they have sinned. It seems to have a Jewish focus.
1 “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. … 22 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?”
• Chapter 3 talks about how all (Jews and Gentiles) have sinned and are saved by faith.
9 “What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. …23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”25
• Chapter 4 talks about how Abraham discovered faith.
1 “What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
• Chapter 5 talks about how we were all born with a sinful nature.
19 “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”
• Chapter 6 talks about the choice we have, to live by the sinful nature which leads to death, or the Spirit which leads to life.
23”For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
• Chapter 7 talks about Paul’s struggle to do God’s will and how his sinful nature kept making him do the opposite. Toward the end of the chapter he asks, and answers, ‘who will rescue him from this sinful nature?’ Then he builds on that in chapter 8.
20 “Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. … 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Before I go into the victory he found in Romans chapter 8, let me point out that Paul already had a fervent desire to serve the Lord in chapter 7. I too had a strong desire to do God’s will, I just couldn’t. The reason I had a strong desire to do God’s will is that years earlier I had seen how temporal this life was, how amazing God was, and how important it was to live for Him. I also noticed a big difference when, at one point, I just simply asked God to show me how much I needed him – to show me my spiritual poverty so I would seek Him. So asking God to give you, or someone else, this desire to seek Him is a good starting point to a victorious Christian life. If it’s sincere I know God will answer it. Just keep following His leading with obedience. After God gives you a strong desire to obey Him, then He’ll teach you to rely on His Holy Spirit to do so, as we see in the next chapter of Romans.
• Chapter 8 has a whole new tone where he talks about his victory over the sinful nature thanks to the Holy Spirit.
3 “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. 5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. 9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. 12 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”
This goes along with Ephesians:
22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22)
16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. (Galatians 5:16-17)
The key that I have found is that you have to understand it to the point that you believe He’ll do it – just like it is with salvation. Then you will pray in faith that He will crucify the sinful nature and fill you with the Holy Spirit, which is evident in the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5: love, joy, peace…). No trying to do it on your own. Just total surrender and trust in Him with a childlike expecting faith, while you obey the things you know you need to do (which is basically just seeking Him through Bible study and prayer initially).
As you see I discovered this straight from Bible study, which is the only reliable way to learn something. Later I found that The Church of the Nazarene teaches it sometimes as part of their sanctification doctrine. I’ve been through the gamut of churches, covering all the major evangelical denominations, and I really haven’t seen this taught at all elsewhere. Many churches will talk about relying on the Holy Spirit in a general sense but they don’t specifically teach about how the Spirit needs to crucify the sinful nature so you have a whole new heart and desires. This is a very important teaching because it is the key to Christian living and overcoming sin. Some people may have a more natural tendency to trust God and rely on His power and so they experience this power easily. I was too self-reliant and so learning it was hard.
In summary, if you ever see the need to live more fervently for the Lord (from this book or otherwise), remember to just confess your shortcoming to Him and ask Him to help you change. Follow up with obedience on your part – for example, Bible Study and much prayer. Your obedience alone won’t change you. Reading the Bible alone won’t change you. God Himself will change you when He sees your obedience as you stay in faith and obedience. The more you obey, the more faith you’ll have and the more He can do. It’s an exciting journey and eternity with Him at the end. It is well worth giving up the temporary and destructive pleasures of sin for a season and the fickle popularity of people (yes you will be persecuted; that’s the only down side. See 2 Tim 3:12). By Mike Murphy