When my husband and I started dating, he used to invite me over to his dorm room. Archie’s roommates were always conveniently busy and not around, the room was clean and the lighting definitely somewhere on the mood-spectrum. He always made green tea and had John Coltrane playing in the background. I told him the tea was great and he told me how cool he thought John Coltrane was as we listened together.
I laugh now because I don’t like green tea and my husband does not like Jazz. Now that we’re married I don’t drink his green tea and I play my jazz when he’s out of the house. Was it dishonest to say we liked what we don’t like during those evenings in the dorm? I don’t think so. We liked each other and we were trying to communicate that message through any open channel we could find.
Archie knew I liked jazz, because I used to carry a disc Walkman with me at all times. There was generally a CD of Miles Davis or Charlie Parker, or some other jazz master loaded in it, ready to play at a moment’s notice. He played that Coltrane album in order to get close to me, so we could build a relationship. He got into what mattered to me in order to create intimacy, to try and see the world the way I did. I was doing the same thing with his tea, because he was a barista and his drink making skills mattered to him.
I tell you this story because I think these little trips out of comfort zones and personal preferences for the sake of relationship apply to our relationship with God. When we read the bible it tells us plainly the things that matter to God, and what brings Him delight. God is unchanging. What mattered to him in biblical times matters to Him still. If we participate in those things it brings us closer to God, it creates intimacy with Him.
One of those things is bringing the lost, those in bondage to sin and desolate with an orphaned spirit, back to Himself and into restoration. Romans chapter 8 is all about this work of the Spirit. Jesus broke the power of sin by coming as a man, fulfilling the Law of Moses, and breaking the power of death by dying on the cross and rising again on the third day. Jesus did what we couldn’t do for ourselves and broke what we couldn’t break in order to bring us into His freedom.
Paul compares living life according to flesh (which is not our actual skin but a representation of letting brokenness or desires or lusts drive decisions) to life according to the Spirit. Life according to the flesh is trying to pay the price for sin on your own without Christ. It’s living in opposition to God. It leads to death of hope and love and your heart. It ultimately leads to death of the body.
Life according to the Spirit leads to submitting to Jesus and letting Him pay the price for sin. It’s living not just in acceptance from God, but as His very son or daughter. Living in the Spirit means receiving the Spirit of adoption and recognizing God as our Father. This union with God through Jesus breaks the bondage of sin and fear off of us and we are able to walk in freedom and peace with Him.
Paul points out that peace does not mean a lack of suffering. There is still suffering in the world and in life, because it is still a fallen world and we are still living in it. Yet we have hope in Christ and the life and redemption we have in Him. Suffering cannot take that away. As we persevere we also have hope from the knowledge that the Holy Spirit is interceding for us. We are not alone in times of trial.
In fact Paul says it is by this intercession that God works out all for good, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Rom. 8:26-28 NKJV)
The Holy Spirit knows what God intended for us when He created us. The Holy Spirit prays for the will of God to come to pass in our lives. God’s will is that we would be brought out of life according to the flesh, which leads to torment of mind and heart, and to death. Brought into life according to the Spirit, which leads to life and union with Him, filled with His love and His peace. The rest of chapter 8 is about the love of God and how nothing and no one can separate us from His love when we are in Christ Jesus.
The main take away I get from Romans 8 is the only thing that can separate me from the love of God is sin. It is in my power to accept sin and brokenness for the rest of my life or to reject sin and accept Jesus and His healing. Accepting Jesus daily means choosing to live according to His teaching and commandments in the gospels. If I choose to ignore them, it sends me back into the wrestle with sin. It’s my choice what I accept and what I reject in my heart. The more I choose Jesus every day, the more He is established in my heart and the wrestle fades.
What then? How do I become closer to God? I think one of the ways is to participate in what matters to Him. What matters to God is His pursuit of us, and one of the ways He pursues us is through intercession. The Holy Spirit is interceding for me, but He’s also interceding for my neighbor and the lady behind me in church and the jerk on the highway who just cut me off, and the retiree sitting at the entrance of the grocery store greeting all the shoppers. I can pray for them too.
I want to get close to the Holy Spirit and do what He is doing. So I try to intercede with Him. He is always giving me His love, and I want to stop what I’m doing for a minute and give some love in return. So I intercede for my city and my church, and my kids’ schools, my grocery stores, and my government. I pray for my pastor and other pastors around the world. I pray for those who are still in bondage whether it be in body or in mind because the Father longs to bring them out of bondage and into His unending love.