Derek Prince - All Creation Groans
We’re continuing now in Romans 8 exploring our destination at the end of this long pilgrimage. We looked in our previous session, we focused on the statement that God, through the sacrifice of Jesus, put away sin that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who don’t walk in the flesh but in the Spirit. And we then carefully analyzed what is the righteous requirement of the law and we came to a very simple but profound conclusion. It’s summed up in one short word of four letters which is love. Then we saw that love is supernatural, it originates through the new birth, it’s fulfilled through the baptism in the Holy Spirit and it’s worked out by a life of progressive obedience. We don’t start perfect in love, we often fail and stumble. But all the time we’re failing and stumbling our faith is being counted to us for righteousness. And what I didn’t say in the last session I will just add now.
In 1 John 4:7 John says: The one who loves is born of God. In other words, there is a kind of love that can only come from the new birth. This is the supreme distinctive evidence of being born again, it’s that kind of love. Now we’re going to go on in Romans 8 to verse 5 through verse 17. Paul now focuses on the fact that there is a total opposition between the flesh and the Spirit of God. You understand by now that the flesh in this context doesn’t mean our physical body but it means the nature we have received by inheritance from Adam. And its essence is summed up in one word which is rebel. You remember God dealt with the rebel on his side in Romans 6. As far as God is concerned, the rebel has been executed.
I need to point out to you at this point, otherwise you may be misled, what I am essentially seeking to unfold to you is what I would call your legal inheritance. You heard the people who say, I got it all when I was born again. I'm sure you’ve met people like that. I say to them if you got it all, where is it all, let’s see it. But, in a certain sense, what they say is true. Legally, they got it all, they were entitled to everything. But there’s a vast difference between having it legally and having it experientially. That’s really the nature of the Christian life, is moving from the legal to the experiential. I always illustrate this by the children of Israel moving into the Promised Land.
In Joshua 1:2 God said to Joshua: I am giving them the land. In verse 3 he said: I have given them the land. From then on, legally the whole land of Canaan belonged to them. But experientially they didn’t have one inch of it. Dear Lord, help me. If they had been, shall we say, members of one type of church, they would have lined up on the east bank of the River Jordan, folded their arms, looked westwards and said, We’ve got it all. But the Canaanites knew who really had it. If they had been people that believe in the extra step, without naming anybody, they would have crossed the Jordan, lined up on the west bank, folded their arms and said, We’ve got it all. But they still didn’t have any more than they had when they were lined up on the east bank.
Do you see what I’m saying? God brought them into the Promised Land by two major miracles, the crossing of the Jordan and the destruction of Jericho. But from that time onwards they had to fight for everything they took. If they didn’t fight, they didn’t get it. And the same is true in the Christian life. I’m unfolding to you the legal. But Paul here indicates very clearly it’s one thing to have the legal, it takes a lot of determination, faith, patience, to move from the legal to the experiential. Now that you’ve heard all this teaching, don’t walk out of here and tell somebody I’ve got it all. Let them see it, okay? It’s much better that they should see you’re so totally changed that they come up and say, What changed you? Then you can say, Let me tell you. Now we’re going to go into this opposition between the flesh and the Spirit.
We’re in Romans 8:5: For those who are according to the flesh Those who are operating in the realm of the flesh, let’s put it that way. set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are operating in the realm of the Spirit, set their mind [or think the way] of the Spirit. Really set their mind is not exactly the translation I would like. It’s they think like the flesh, the others think like the Spirit. But the difference is not just external; it’s in the way they think. And you see, when God changes us He doesn’t start from the outside, He starts from the inside. Religion starts from the outside. You’ve got to change your clothes, stop smoking, straighten out your hair, take off your make-up, or whatever else it might be.
God doesn’t start that way. Sometimes religious people get frustrated with Him because he starts in the heart. And it sometimes takes quite a long while for what’s happened in the heart to work out in all the details of external appearance. But when God has changed your heart and your mind, ultimately he’ll change you. Whereas, if all you change is your external, that really hasn’t accomplished very much. So, the people who are operating in the realm of the Spirit think spiritually. The people operating in the realm of the flesh think like the flesh thinks. And then verse 6, this translation: For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace I’m old fashioned enough to like the King James Version. To be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Now, you know whether you’re spiritually minded or not. If you have life and peace, that comes from being spiritually minded. If you’re still anxious, troubled and tormented and uncertain, you haven’t yet moved into your inheritance. You’re entitled to it but you haven’t come into it. Verse 7: because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God Again, I prefer the old King James. The carnal mind is enmity against God. That’s very, very important. You have inside you an enemy of God. Your own natural mind is at enmity with God. This is very important because it really makes a big difference to what we do in Christian ministry. I hope I’ll not be offending anybody when I say to my way of thinking, the majority of Christian seminaries today are educating the carnal mind. What they’re educating is God’s enemy. What they’re producing is educated enemies of God.
Now that’s not true of all seminaries but in my opinion, it’s true of the majority of seminaries today. I remember Dennis Bennett telling us years ago when he went to the seminary in Chicago, his first lecture, the first thing the lecturer said was, I want to tell you all I’m an atheist. That’s not surprising. There’s that kind of infiltration in Christian seminaries. It’s very much the same on the mission field in many areas. We take the less privileged, less well educated, we take them into schools and colleges, we educate them. But they’ve never been converted. What are we doing? Producing educated enemies of God. Very often, they’re the people who kick the missionaries out. This is a deeply important truth. You may think I’m cynical but I’m talking about things that I’ve witnessed firsthand. So inside you is an enemy of God. That’s the important thing for you to realize.
Now, talking about the carnal mind in verse 7: it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so That rebel cannot change. Not even God can change that rebel. What does He do to him? Put him to death, that’s right. and so those who are in the flesh cannot please God. As long as you’re operating in your own natural ability and your unconverted condition, you may be very religious, very zealous, go to church and confession and whatever else it may be every day of the week. But you cannot please God. That’s the bottom line. What we need to notice is that this enmity, as I’ve already said, is in the mind. Consequently, to get right with God there has to be a change in our minds. Let me show you quickly two statements to this effect.
Ephesians chapter 2 verse 3 Talking about all the people of the world: Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh Now we’re used to that. Then it goes on: indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath So it’s not just the flesh but it’s the mind that is at enmity with God. And then, in Colossians 1:21 Paul says speaking about those who have not been reconciled with God: And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds. So true conversion absolutely demands a total change of mind and the proper scriptural word for that is repentance. The Greek word for repentance 'metanoia' means 'change your mind'. It’s not an emotional experience, primarily, it’s a change of the will and of the mind.
It’s described very clearly in Isaiah 55:7. Isaiah 55:7 is as good a description as you can find anywhere of repentance. I consider myself that repentance is probably the most neglected major doctrine of the Christian faith in the contemporary church. The condition of the church shows it. Isaiah 55:7: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts It’s not just your way, it’s your thoughts. and let him return to the Lord Return is the Hebrew word for repentance. and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. Thank God he’s waiting to have compassion and to pardon. But it’s not enough to turn from our outward ways, we have to turn from our inward thoughts because they are in hostility toward God.
Romans 12:2 Paul says: And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. What’s going to change us? When our minds change. So much of religion is just getting people to change externally and it doesn’t work. But when your mind is changed, your external behavior will change automatically. So not being conformed to the world is not primarily a dress code, it’s a change of the way we think. And some of the people who’ve got the strictest dress code have never had their minds changed. I’ve lived with them. In fact, I’ve pastored them, I know. Now Paul comes back, we come back to Romans 8, and the transition from the flesh to the Spirit.
Verse 9, However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit; if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. I’ve always had some difficulty with that because I know some people who say, and I believe them, they have the Holy Spirit in them, they act in the most carnal way. I mean, when Spirit baptized people are carnal, they’re the most carnal of all and the hardest to deal with. But let me say who I understand this. You don’t have to accept it. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God really occupies all of you. People say how can a person who’s baptized in the Spirit have demons if he’s filled with the Spirit?
Well I say lots of people who are baptized in the Spirit are not filled with the Spirit. There’s lots of areas the Spirit hasn’t taken over. Like when you pour water into a bottle, the water may begin to run over and there may be a lot of bubbles inside the bottle. A lot of quote, 'spirit filled people' have still got bubbles inside them. How do we know? Because the tree is known by its fruit. When it comes out in bitterness and sloppiness and unfaithfulness and criticism, that’s not the fruit of the Spirit. Don’t attribute that to the Spirit. The potential is there if you let the Spirit indwell you and control you. Then it says if any man hasn’t got the Spirit of Christ, he doesn’t belong to Him. He may belong to any church but he doesn’t belong to Christ.
What is the Spirit of Christ? Ask yourself. What are its marks? I would say first of all, meekness, humility, purity, honesty, love. Let’s not boast about things we don’t have. Let’s set to work to get them while we have the time. You may think I’m cynical but I’ve been in this thing well over 40 years and I think I can say I’ve seen it all. I doubt that there’s any kind of strange behavior or silliness that I haven’t seen. If there is, I just hope God will prevent me from seeing it because I think I’ve seen enough. I hope you understand what I’m saying now. I love the body of Christ, I’m jealous for the body of Christ. I want to see Jesus presented with a truly beautiful bride who is without spot or wrinkle, glorious and holy.
And believe me, it takes a lot of faith at the present moment to believe that can happen. I passionately believe in the restoration of Israel. I know lots of people don’t but that’s their problem, not mine. But I look at Israel and think what a mess! I mean, you don’t know half the mess there is in Israel till you live there. Then I say to myself, But God says all Israel will be saved. All Israel will rejoice in the Lord. All Israel will be justified in the Lord. I say, God, I’m not going to look at people, I’m going to look at your word. Then I live away from Israel, I look at the church and I think, Dear Lord, You mean to say that that is going to become a beautiful holy bride? If I keep looking at the people, I can’t believe it. I just have to look at your word.
Sometimes I wonder who has failed God worse. Israel or the church. We have to say about the church God has given us more, therefore what? He requires more from us. Going on, verse 10. And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. I’m giving you the King James Version which I think is more accurate in this case. So if Christ is in you, if you have truly received Christ and yielded to Christ, all right? Then the body is dead. What body? The fleshly nature. Not your physical body, you didn’t die when you got converted, did you? But the spirit is alive. I prefer to say the spirit is life, which is what the Greek says. The Holy Spirit provides a totally new life. The old life has come to the end and a new life has started, initiated by the Holy Spirit.
Now listen, here is really where we are at the legal and it’s not always the experiential. Would you agree with me about that? I don’t want you to walk out of here thinking you’re more than you are. Because you’ll go home and you’ll create a lot of trouble for a lot of people. People will say if that’s what happens to people who go to that conference, I’m not going. I don’t want that to happen. I don’t want you to walk out of here proud, self righteous. I don't want to walk out of here proud and self righteous myself. If there’s one thing that’s odious and alienates people, it’s self righteousness. And God hasn’t got one good word to say for it. So this is the potential. When Christ comes into you, that old fleshly life dies. As far as God’s concerned, on His side it’s dead.
You say how do I go on living? A new life is born into you by the Holy Spirit. A totally new life. Not an improved life, not a reformed life but a new life. I said earlier in this, it’s not out of place to emphasize it again, corruption is irreversible. And the key word that describes our carnal nature is corrupt. The old man, Paul says, is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts. Now that corruption cannot be reversed. Take corruption in anything. Take a piece of fruit, a peach. It can be beautiful with that beautiful furry luster on it, it can just fresh and wonderful. But you leave it standing on a table in the kitchen for three days and come back and look at it. You didn’t do anything to it but there was something inside it that caused it to decay. That’s corruption.
Well, you can put it in the refrigerator and you can go back after three days and there’s very little visible change. But it’s still corrupting, only slower. I say religion is a refrigerator. It slows up corruption but it doesn’t stop it. The only solution is a new creation. God isn’t going to patch the rebel up, he isn’t going to make him over again. He’s going to put him to death and start anew. And that’s what we have in Christ. If any man be in Christ, he is a what? New creation, that’s right. That’s totally logical. God is so practical, He’s so down to earth. He doesn’t try to patch us up, make us over again, reform us. He says, I’ll execute the old man and then I’ll start something new which is totally of my heart. That Scripture in 2 Corinthians 5:17 says: If any man be in Christ he is a new creation; old things are passed away, all things have become new, [don’t stop there] and all things are of God.
The new creation is totally of God. It’s got nothing of the old creation in it. It’s a totally new beginning. You see, if we really realize what we have in the new birth we’d get excited about it. But a lot of people use it as such a trite religious phrase and they haven’t really any conception of what it is. We’ve got to go on. Verse 11: But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you. To me, that’s the basic principle of divine healing. The same power that raised the body of Jesus from the tomb and set him at God’s right hand is now working in our physical bodies. If you can really believe that, it will be the basis of faith for any kind of physical healing or miracle that you need.
Now, Paul comes to the application as usual. So then brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh for is you are living And he’s writing to quote, spiritual Christians. if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. I once was for a short period an associate pastor of an Assembly of God church in Minneapolis. And one of my duties was to visit the sick in the hospital. And there were an awful lot of sick people. I said to myself, How come? Here we are, we believe in divine healing, we’ve got all the Scriptures.
Why so many sick people? And this is not a criticism or a condemnation of anyone who is sick. I said, Lord, how come? And He gave me this Scripture. If you live after the flesh, you’ll die. They weren’t lost souls but they were living much more in the flesh than in the Spirit. They spent much more time in front of the televisions than they did in front of their Bibles. Most of their conversation had got very little to do with God. They were living according to the flesh. And Paul says to, quote, Spirit filled Christians, if you live according to the flesh, you’ll die, because you’re nurturing that thing in you which is corrupt. All you’ll get out of it is corruption.
Let’s go on quickly. So we have to put to death, we have to mortify, we have to refuse the demands of the flesh. We saw that already, we have to refuse our members to sin and yield our members to God and to righteousness. That’s an exercise of the will. Then Paul comes to this beautiful Scripture: For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. I’ve dealt with that already, I can’t go into it. But, that’s the alternative, it’s to be led by the Spirit of God. I want to say the Holy Spirit is a person, He’s not a theological abstraction. He’s not a little sentence at the end of the Apostle’s Creed. He’s a person and if you want to be led by Him, you’ve got to cultivate a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit.
You’ve got to let Him take you by the hand, you’ve got to listen to His quiet whispers, you’ve got to sense His gentle nudging. He’s a very sensitive person. He’s pictured as a dove and one thing about a dove is it’s a timid bird, it’s easily scared away. The only person who never scared the dove away was Jesus because he had the lamb nature. The dove, I’m talking about John 1, the Dove settled on the Lamb. And if you want a real intimate, personal relationship with the Holy Spirit, you’ve got to cultivate the lamb’s nature: meekness, purity and a life laid down in sacrifice. Paul then says: You’ve not received the spirit of slavery but you have received a spirit of adoption. You’re not slaves any longer, you’re sons. You’re not motivated by fear, you’re motivated by love and guided by the Holy Spirit. I think we'll close there, because We'll just move on into the next verse, in our next session Praise God we have another session. So we don't have to give up at this point.