Living in the Spirit – September 19, 2021
Psalm 90:1-12, Romans 8:1-11
September 19, 2021
I’m going to start off with a statement of belief today. And I think it’s one thing we would all agree on. But… you never know. Sometimes we don’t agree. And there are times that, even things we say we believe can get a little “hazy” – times when we’re not so sure.
Well, here is my statement. We are spiritual beings! Yes, we have a physical existence. But, in the end, we are spiritual beings. This is especially true when we think in terms of eternity. When we consider the eternal nature of our souls, this physical life is just a drop in the bucket – maybe just a molecule in the bucket!
The psalmist so beautifully writes, “Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or even before thou hast formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” (Psalm 90:1-2) Those are such wonderful words about the eternity of God.
Then, in contrast to the eternal nature of God, the psalmist describes our existence. “The years of our life are three-score and ten, or if by reason of strength, four-score. Yet… they are soon gone, and we fly away. So teach us to number our days, that we may have a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:10, 12) To say that another way, “Teach us to have the wisdom to know that our days are numbered.”
When we were teenagers, it seemed like we’re going to live forever. Didn’t it? Teenagers often have an “immortality complex.” They think they are going to live forever, and nothing will ever happen to them. And teenagers often behave as though that were the case. Maybe you remember those days!
As we age, we gain the wisdom to know better. Well, most of us do, anyway! We don’t’ behave like we did when we were young. But we still want to look like we’re young, don’t we? We see endless advertisements for products that help us with that, from hair color, and wrinkle cream, to “Grecian formula” – whatever that is! We want to think of ourselves as young, and we don’t want to talk very much about the alternative. (You know, the big “D!”)
Yet, our physical earthly lives are only the tiniest part of our entire lives! In the end, in light of the sheer expanse of our eternal existence, we are spiritual beings! And we are spiritual beings the whole time – not just after our physical lives are over! Think about these words from the last verse of one of our most beloved hymns, “When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’ve first begun.”
I’m glad to say that scientists and medical people have reluctantly acknowledged our spiritual nature for a number of years now. Because, for a long time, they didn’t. For a long time, there was science, and there was spirituality. And they were mutually exclusive. You either “believed” in one or the other. If you were a scientist, you didn’t entertain faith. And if you were a person of faith, you were ridiculed by the scientific world. I read once that Einstein went to his grave, ridiculed by his fellow scientists for his belief in a supreme being!
I have never accepted the exclusivity of those two things! If you know me, you know I am both! I am a person of faith who is very scientifically minded! And I firmly believe it’s both! And I have been championing this cause since 1981, when I took a course in seminary called “The Theological Foundations of the Exact Sciences.” Sounds kind of dry, huh? Well, it wasn’t! Long story short, our teacher taught us that, contrary to some people’s belief, the early scientists were very spiritual people – people like Copernicus, Galileo, Davinci, and Darwin! And they saw their work as gaining a deeper understanding of God’s creation! And, if it weren’t for them, there would be no science as we know it!
Yet, for years, there developed an understanding that all scientists were empirical (that is, practical) thinkers, and that they all disregarded spirituality. And that’s simply not true! Many of the early scientist I just mentioned devoted their life’s work to God! This idea that the world evolved on its own – by chance alone – with no “intelligent design” – in other words, no God – is frankly harder to believe than the “Creation” story itself!
I could talk about this for a long time! But the premise of the course I took, and the book that was written by the professor, was that it was the Judeo/Christian mindset, with its understanding of time being linear – with a beginning and an end – that was the fertile ground in which our modern-day science could germinate and grow.
Ok, I’ll leave that for now, but I think you know it’s a very important subject for me! Suffice it to say that more and more people in our world are recognizing and conceding that we are spiritual beings! They are acknowledging that there is a spiritual realm, a realm that is “beyond touch and sight.” And there is, in our world, a growing spirituality movement. It’s everywhere! And it takes many forms. People will talk to me about things like “spiritual meditation,” and “out of body experiences,” and they’ll say, “But you don’t believe in that, do you?” And I say, “Of course I do! I know there is a spiritual realm!” “It’s defined and experienced differently in traditional religion, but it exists!” “You haven’t discovered something new here!” (And please note, I’m not advocating those things, I’m just acknowledging their existence!)
We are spiritual beings. The problem is that the spiritual realm is hard for us to see sometimes. It’s hard to recognize! That’s because the physical world dominates our senses! God gave us – yes, God gave us – the ability to perceive the physical world! Touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste, these are all ways of perceiving and connecting to the physical world. But what about the spiritual world? How do we connect to that?
Paul gives us some great words about that for today. And he tells us that it’s more than just a matter of connecting to it. And notice, he isn’t simply trying to convince us here in Romans that we are spiritual beings. That’s a given here. What he’s telling us is that we need to focus on our spiritual selves. “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, and those who live according to the spirit set their minds on the things of the spirit.” (Romans 8:5)
At this point in chapter 8, Paul has just taken us through several chapters about how we have been set free from the law. “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the spirit of the life in Christ has set me (us) free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2) That’s how this starts. And like an old professor of mine once said, “When you see the word ‘therefore,’ you should see what it’s there for!”
So, take some time and read the previous chapters, the ones that lead up to this. You’ll see that they read like “lawyer-speak!” Paul is very legalistic and methodical here. I’m sure that, as a Pharisee, Paul (or Saul as he was known) served as a lawyer in some capacity. Remember that the Bible sometimes simply says, “A lawyer came to Jesus with a question.” As I’ve said before, I would not be surprised to learn that Saul was one of those un-named lawyers who engaged with Jesus. And I am sure that he didn’t just pop onto the scene after Jesus’ death!
Well, here in chapter 8 we find his conclusion to all that. And this is a “treatise” about our spiritual nature and how that relates to “The Law” which Saul dealt with all of his life! And the bottom line for him, is that, because of what Jesus did for us, we live according to the spirit. And his advice – his requirement, if you will – for living in the spirit, is that we “set our minds on the things of the spirit.”
So, do we do that? As I’ve always said, if you concentrate on your faith for only one hour a week on Sunday morning, what you do and think about for the other six days and 23 hours is simply going to drown it out. We should give thought to how often we actually do “set our minds on” things of the spirit? Think about that! Ask yourself that!
Know for certain that there is a spiritual realm beyond all that we can touch or see. And we are part of that! We are spiritual beings! And the kingdom of God is “in our midst,” as Jesus said. And because of what God did in Jesus, we have been set free from the law of sin and death. We are free to know our true spiritual selves, in him!
As you consider that, I’d like to close with the last line in this chapter. This is the culmination of all of Paul’s thinking on this. Here are his words. “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things present, or things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, shall be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord!” (Romans 8:38-39)
Eternal God, help us to set our minds on you. Help us to grow closer to you each day, and to meditate on your goodness and your grace. Help us to know, beyond any doubt, that we are yours, and that your spiritual kingdom is indeed in our midst. For this we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.