Did you know that our obligation to the Lord stems out of love. We have a love debt with the Lord because of everything he has done for us. In verse 15 of the very same chapter, Paul tells us that we received 'the Spirit of sonship', not a spirit that makes us slaves again to fear ( Romans 8:15 ). So in today's verse Paul is simply reminding us that we do have an obligation, but it is not an responsibility ground in our previous nature, it is an obligation to our new nature in Christ Jesus.
In our previous study of Romans we learned that we have been completely freed of the sin nature. This freedom exists in our born again spirit. Paul told us that experiencing this freedom in our natural self is a choice. "Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey-whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?" ( Romans 6:16 ). Through Christ, we are not obligated to obey the desires of the sin nature, it should have no authority over us.
If what Paul says is true, then why, as Christians do we struggle so intensely with this. One of the reasons I believe is because we haven't fully understood everything that the Lord provided for us in our redemption. Maybe we've read these truths but we haven't let them soak into our brains and become foundation. I was praying about this the other morning and I got a picture in my mind of this very thing. I saw a person in heaven, clothed like royalty. And in the same instance I saw this person on earth bound and hog tied to the ground and they were immobile by these bonds. It was the very same person in two different states at the very same time. As Christians, this could be true of us if we don't understand how to live by the spirit. In the spiritual realm we have been blessed with all blessings in Christ. We are sons and daughters of the most high God. We are raised up and seated in the heavily realms with Christ Jesus. And yet on earth, we experience multiply things that hold us in constantly in chains, unable to break free. What is reality? The world would tell you that it is your physical existence. But the Bible tells us that it is your spiritual existence that trumps the natural realm. That is why Jesus provided everything for you in your born again spirit. To experience this freedom, Paul tells in today's passage that our obligation is not to live according to the sinful nature, because we belong to Christ. We are his heirs, his people and his royal priesthood. He gave us the Holy Spirit to testify to this very fact.
It is easy to get wrapped up in the world around us, but we have a choice in how we will respond to all of these things. In my own life, discouragement will keep me passive and ineffective. Things people say to me, even well meaning people, tend to make me immobile. I take their words and ponder them and play on them until they become hindrances to me. To break free of this vicious cycle I have to stop thinking on those things and turn my mind towards heavenly things. Paul said, "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you" ( Philippians 4:8-9 ). Sometimes it takes a conscious effort to take the focus off the situation or self and turn it where it belongs, on the Lord. Remember, our obligation is not according to the flesh, but to the spirit. Paul said, when you do these things, then you will experience the peace of God. Even if you are experiencing turmoil in your life, you can also experience the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. It is yours for the taking and it is a natural byproduct of your born again spirit. But it takes effort on your part to experience in your natural state.
The writer of Hebrews gave the most amazing piece of advice concerning this. "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart" ( Hebrews 12:1-3 ). If you really want to experience the victory in life then start throwing off everything that hinders you. It may be painful at first, but once you realize how fast you can run without all the extra baggage you will be looking for chains to remove. Our obligation isn't to the sinful nature, but it is to Christ. When we focus on him and his example then the perfect goal lays before us. Remember Jesus as your example. If he would have gotten bogged down in the natural realm then he would never had undergone the pain and suffering of the cross. But he could see past that and look forward with joy at what he was going to do. Think about this as you run your race and run in such a way to win! Amen.