Enjoying the Spirit of life in Christ is a wonderful experience of Christian living. Romans 8:2 states an incredible truth about the freedom we as believers can enjoy in Christ:
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2).
The law of sin pulls us downward. It causes us to miss the mark that we set for ourselves. The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, however, pulls us upward. The Bible describes the fruit of the Spirit as,
…love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23).
You cannot pass a law that forces me to love you or to have a heart filled with joy. You cannot order me to be a peaceful man. You can force me to act like I love you. You can determine how a joyful person should look and require everyone to look that way. But you cannot pass a law that orders me to cease being angry, hateful, or lustful. You can only pass a law that limits the way I can behave when I am angry, or hateful, or lustful. You cannot legislate the condition of anyone’s heart. There is a vast difference between a cheerful manner and a cheerfulness that emanates from the Spirit.
There are controlling mechanisms in the body that cannot be resisted. It is possible to control some parts of the body by exercising willpower. Breathing and pulse rate are examples. Eventually the demands of the body take control.
Likewise, we can control our emotions and behaviors to some extent by willpower for a time. For example:
- I decide to eat no more desserts.
- I decide to quit lying.
- I decide to stop being angry at my parents.
Personal resolve can melt like chocolate bars in the sun when you are standing in front of a well-stacked dessert bar. Selfishness can compel you to lie your way out of going shopping. Parental insistence on cleaning up the bedroom can make you furious. Unconditional love disappears.
Students of human behavior observe that our responses are shaped by social interaction. That is true to some extent. Biblically oriented observers of human behavior recognize two laws that govern our lives: the law of sin, and the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.
We have some choice over which law prevails in life, just as we have some choice over obeying physical laws.
There is a law that overcomes the law of gravity; it’s called the law of aerodynamics. I do not have to understand the law of aerodynamics in order to fly. To overcome the law of gravity I simply must entrust my life to the pilot of a plane. But, if the engines stop, the law of gravity takes over and the plane falls.
The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus is like the law of aerodynamics. This law overcomes the law of sin as long as you submit to the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. Note that the law of sin doesn’t go away; rather it is suspended. The Bible says:
For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:3-4).
To live up to the law of the Spirit requires a supernatural miracle. In order to experience the fruit of the Spirit, you must first understand that these qualities are just that–the result of yielding to the Spirit of God. If it is true that these qualities are the result of yielding to the Spirit of God in you, then you are forced to conclude that they are not affected by your interaction with people. Nor are they affected by your interaction with the circumstances of life. People and circumstances will reveal your spirit, not cause it.
In other words, we do not produce a consistent pattern of Spirit-filled behavior by means of training, keeping rules, determination, willpower, good intentions, or self-control. You don’t need to take my word for it–simply observe yourself and pay attention to your reactions to other people as well as your circumstances.
Adapted from Breaking Free from the Bondage of Sin, Brandt & Skinner