This is one of my favourite passages of scripture, but one of the most challenging. This has been my mission of late, and it will be a focus of mine for the rest of my life. I will use a parable to try and explain what I mean, it worked for Jesus, so hopefully it will work for me too. I have been asked to write a blog post for my church, about fasting, and why we do it. I will use the same parable for that, as it not only explains what Romans 8 means, but it also shows why fasting is important. Here goes.
Imagine that you’re driving a car, you have no idea where you’re going, so you’re relying on the other people in the car to direct you on an epic road trip. The first person in the car, is in the passenger seat. They are loud, self opinionated, selfish and needy. The second person is in the back, they are soft-spoken, wise, patient, and they want what is best for all the occupants of the car. You set off on your trip. All you can hear is the person in the passenger seat, barking instructions at you. They have no regard for anyone but themselves, whatever they want, will be shouted as instructions to you. After a while, you realise that the person in the from seat is only looking out for themselves, so you stop the car and get your passengers to swap places. You now have the soft-spoken, wise unselfish person in the front seat. The loud, selfish, needy person has been relegated to the back. The only problem is that the loud person can still be heard above the soft-spoken person. Yes, you hear some more of what the wise person is telling you, but the loud person will not shut up long enough for you to get some really useful directions. Eventually you turn around and shout, “Will you just shut up for 5 minutes so that I can hear the other person speak!”. You are then able to hear the wise person for a few minutes, gathering valuable information as to where to go. The ironic thing about this, is that the wise person is looking out for you all. If he gives the directions, ALL of the occupants of the car get to experience the ride, and enjoy the destination. The loud mouthed person is actually better off listening to the wise person, but they will never admit that!
I assume that you are all one step ahead of me and know where I am going with this. You (as the driver) represents your soul (mind, emotions, feelings), the loud person represents your body (flesh, selfish desires) and the soft-spoken person represents your spirit. Our spirit is the part of us that has been made new, and is seen righteous by God. Our spirit is the part that communicates with God. Before we are saved, we have our body in the front seat, we only listen to our selfish desires. Then we realise that there is more to life, so we give our lives to Jesus, thus switching our body with our spirit. We are now supposed to listen to our spirit, as the mind in the one who decides where we should go. The mind is in control, it will listen to the spirit or the body, the choice is ours. Very often as Christians, we have our spirit in the front seat, but we often can’t hear it over or bodies shouting out from the back seat. We either stop the car and revert the positions back, or we carry on listening to our bodies, who are happy to continue directing us from the back seat. We need to tell our bodies to shut up every now and then, in order to hear our spirit. That also helps the body to learn that they are no longer in charge. This gets easier the more we do it, but it is very difficult to start. Our whole being will be better off if we listen to the spirit, but we still tend to want to listen to the body. This is how we are conditioned. We need to renew our mind (Romans 12:2). We need to be following the Holy Spirit, who speaks to our spirit, as He lives in us. Does this make sense? This is what this passage is about. This is why we fast and do other spiritual disciplines, to keep training our body to take second place to our spirit. This is an ongoing practice. Our mind is a powerful tool, we need to make sure that it is fighting for us (in line with God’s Word) and not against us (in line with our sinful desires).
The chapter then goes on to show us how NOTHING can separate us from God’s love and it starts by telling us that there is no condemnation in Jesus. This means that as we tackle this task of listening to our spirits and not our flesh, we can do so without fear of failure or condemnation from the enemy!