“So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.”
As Christians, we often feel pressure to live up to certain standards. While our own actions won’t save us, Jesus does give us expectations of how we’re to live and treat one another, so it’s natural that we sometimes worry about living up to those expectations. But we also commonly think we can perform up to expectations just by working hard enough at it and really pushing ourselves. This makes sense, since so much of our culture builds up independence as a virtue. We admire those who grit their teeth and accomplish amazing things seemingly all on their own, so why wouldn’t we strive to follow Jesus’s example the same way? But God wouldn’t set these expectations for us if He intended us to live up to them all on our own.
Romans 8:13 tells us that if we “live according to the flesh,” we will die, and that if we “put to death the misdeeds of the body,” we’ll live. If we try to follow through on this all by ourselves, we will fail every time. Life is tough and full of temptation, and we aren’t strong enough on our own to avoid the “misdeeds of the body,” or even to recognize them every time. Going this route can leave us feeling disheartened and wanting to give up. But there are three extremely important words in that verse that change everything: “by the Spirit.” We are not to live by Jesus’s example through our own strength. The Spirit of God we’ve freely received will give us the perseverance and endurance we need. We know we won’t be perfect, as Jesus was, but by the Spirit we can have the perseverance to pick ourselves up even when we fail.
Father, we know how often we try to get by on our own strength, and how that leads to feelings of failure and hopelessness. Help us remember that you’ve given us a Spirit of perseverance so that we don’t have to rely on our own strength and can better follow your Son’s example. Amen.
Written by Preston Thiemann
Preston Thiemann and his wife, Rachel, live here in Lincoln. He is the Web Content Coordinator for the ASEM Marketing team at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, where he’s worked since April 2015. At Sheridan, he also plays guitar on the Praise Band and is active in Sheridan’s 20s & 30s ministry, Second Quarter. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, watching movies and spending time with friends.