Three Obligations Of The Christian
We all have obligations. None of us are an island unto ourselves. We have obligations to our family, to our parents and grandparents, to our children and grandchildren to be loyal and loving and supportive. If we are students, we have obligations to our teachers, to our fellow students, to our study materials to be prepared for learning. If we work we have obligations to our employer as well as to those with whom we work. If we owe money we have obligations to repay our debt on a timely basis. If we lease property we have an obligation to take good care of the place as if it were our own.
I don’t know about you, but I actually prefer to know what my obligations are so that I can do my best to live up to them. Don’t you hate it when you find out that someone was expecting something from you… and you had NO IDEA of that expectation? Of that obligation? When that happens you feel like you disappointed and didn’t live up to your end of the bargain… and you didn’t even know about it!
This is all true about our Christianity. We have obligations as a Christian. God does not want you to be ignorant about your obligations. He doesn’t want you to feel like you disappointed Him or didn’t know about your obligations. So He spells out three obligations for us in Romans 8.
“Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation.” Rom. 8:12a
Now, before we discuss these obligations of the Christ-follower, it is vital that we understand that these are NOT obligations to become a Christian. We do not earn our salvation. We do not become a Christian based on what we do, but rather on what Christ has already done. This is really important, because frankly, there is not enough that you can do to put yourself into God’s good graces. God knows this. The Son of God knew this and offered Himself as a sacrifice to pay the penalty of our sins. That work is done! That work is accomplished. That bill is paid in full! Hallelujah!
With that said, there is still yet an obligation for those of us who are saved, who are Christian. Notice to whom Paul is writing: “brothers and sisters.” These are other Christ-followers and thus are within the family of God. Paul is writing to us in the family that belonging to the family brings obligations to us. We don’t fulfill these obligations so we can be in the family. We fulfill these obligations because we are in the family!
Obligation #1 - I must really LIVE.
“… we have an obligation - but it is not to the flesh to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit… you will live.” Romans 8:12-13
More than anything else, living the Christian life is about living - really living… being more alive than ever before, experiencing life with expectancy and joy and surprise and enthusiasm and vitality. Those who are Christ-followers are more alive. It’s not just about a theological future eternal life, but rather a zest for life now that is exceptional.
And note that this zest for life is not just an attitude or a personality quality, it comes from living by the Spirit! God’s Spirit within us quite literally enlivens us. Here we have a bit of a conundrum because this enlivening can only come from God. Only He has the supernatural power to place His Spirit within us and to give us this sense of new life. And yet… (and herein is the obligation part), we must cooperate with God’s Spirit for this new life in us to be exhibited.
Do you remember last month when we talked about Joshua and how God had wanted the Israelites to cross the Jordan River 40 years before they did? Because of their fear and because they didn’t quite trust God enough to deliver them, they wandered the desert for two generations. Remember we said we could be saved but not living out God’s will for our lives?
This is so true when it comes to the obligation to really live! To really experience life on a whole new level. Remember that Jesus told us:
“I came that they [Christians] my have life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].” John 10:10b
Life according to the flesh is a slow grind down to death. All the world is corrupted to end in destruction… and that includes people who live without the Spirit, people who live according to the flesh. So here is my challenging question to you today: is your life really living - to the full? Can other people tell there is something different, something alive (Someone alive!) within you? Because you really live!
Obligation #2 - I must really CHANGE.
“For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” Romans 8:13
So how do we really live as we talked about with the first obligation? Part of the equation is to kill off all those things in our life that lead us away from the life of Christ. We must kill (put to death) those things that kill us (the misdeeds of the body.)
We completely get this when it comes to physical “misdeeds,” right? If we were diagnosed with cancer - we want to “put to death the misdeeds of the body”… the cancer cells, so that the rest of our body can live in a healthy manner.
The Christian life is a life of change, a life of continuous self-examination, a life of confession in the Holy Spirit’s Presence… a willingness to enter into a time of questioning: “Is there anything in my life that I need to kill off? Are there habits and attitudes that look more like who I used to be rather than the man or woman that God wants me to be? Can my actions over this day, this month, this year reflect…
“Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17
As someone who has walked this Christian path for 55 years now, I can tell you that this life of change, this life of self-examination and confession never ends. The Holy Spirit is such a Comforter and Encourager on the one hand, but is seemingly never satisfied on the other hand. There is always more change to come. Always more ways that your new life in Christ can become even newer! Always more ways that your old life, old habits, old attitudes need to die off to make room for the new person God wants to see you change into.
So ask yourself: No matter how old I am or how long I’ve walked this Christian path, am I open to whatever God is showing me? Am I open to change? Am I open to improvement? Am I willing to make the disciplined choices to really live that abundant life God wants for me?
Obligation #3 - I must RELEASE my shackles.
“The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again.” Romans 8:15
God the Holy Spirit is unlike any other Master you could ever have! All other Masters want to control you, to enslave you, to keep you in bondage, to use you up, to suck away your life. God the Holy Spirit wants to be your Master so that He might FREE YOU!
If we can be honest with ourselves, our life before Christ was to be a slave to something - to our appetites, to our lust, to our selfishness, to our wanting, wanting, wanting - without any satisfaction, to our work, to our perfection. We could be slaves to our relationships, our families, our bosses, our educations, our expectations. The one common denominator of this slavery is that it was never satisfied. Serving these masters was always exhausting and never fulfilling. A never-ending treadmill. A hunger that never ended. A thirst that never was quenched.
This is not what serving the Master Holy Spirit is like. God wants to free us from all that. More than anything God wants to free us from ourselves and our endless appetite for more. Do you know this freedom? Do you claim the freedom in principle but yet are still shackled to slavery by another name?
I’m reminded of Jacob Marley in Charles Dickens Christmas Carol. If you’ve ever seen the play or the movie, you’ll recall that Scrooge’s former partner was always weighed down by the heavy chains that bound him. In his case his chains were the result of the mistakes of a non-compassionate businessman during his lifetime.
The chains we carry in life may be different than Jacob Marley’s, but Dickens was onto something. We all carry chains… chains of regret, chains of past mistakes, chains of old habits, chains of addiction, chains of mistreatment, chains of brokenness, chains of hurt. Romans 8 promises us that God the Holy Spirit wants to break these chains… all of them! More than His desire to do so, if we indeed are Christian with the Holy Spirit within us, then these chains ARE BROKEN!
We do not need “to live in fear again.” Why? Because we are free! God Himself is our Master and we are free from all that kept us in bondage! Paul writes about this same freedom theme in Galatians…
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1
Allow me to paint a picture of what this looks like. The Bible teaches us that we are free. Christ has set us free. The Spirit does not make you slaves. It’s very clear. And yet, many of us who claim to be Christian still submit to the old ways of what used to enslave us. To put it in Jacob Marley terms, the chains are gone, the shackles are released, yet we still choose to wear the heavy shackles of our old life!
What is it that God has freed YOU from that you allow to still weigh you down? What shackles do you continue to wear, even though you don’t have to? You have God’s permission to take those shackles off! You need NOT fear! You can throw those shackles away and never carry the weight of them again! Whatever it is that you feel in bondage to is only a feeling and not a reality! Stop carrying the weight! Jesus has set you free!
Conclusion: In the midst of great persecution from the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, Jesus provided his own verbal and powerful defense. Right in the middle of this great oral defense, he says something that is so powerful and is so important for us to grasp:
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36
Simple. Easy to understand. Not at all complicated. Let’s personalize it this morning. Are you a Christian? Does Jesus’ own Holy Spirit live within you? If so then all that we have been taught today tells us that you are free from your past wrongs. Your chains have been broken. You are free to change. Indeed you are free to really start living like you’ve never lived before! You are free indeed!
Do you believe Him? Do you believe that Jesus can do what He said? Or do you claim to be a Christian and yet still carry the shackles of your past around with you whoever you go? Do you allow your shackles - unlocked though they may be - to weigh you down? Release those shackles! Celebrate the changes of the new life in Christ. Live the abundant and free life that God wants for you! Amen!