Articles & News

The Power to Live for God

April 30, 2021

by Dr. J. Vernon McGee

Before me is a letter that tells the story of failure in the Christian life. The man writes, “I’m living in Romans 7 and can’t find the way out. I have the way, but can’t get to Romans 8. I am fighting a losing battle, seemingly singlehanded.”

The writer goes on to describe the struggle happening in his heart, as it does in many other born-again Christians.

But Romans 8 delivers us. The purpose of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to lift our shackles so that all might come to the place of salvation, and also to give power to those who want to live for God.

Romans 8 is one of the great chapters of the Bible. Theologians have called it “the Mount Whitney of Scripture.” It opens with “no condemnation,” closes with “no separation,” and in between “all things work together for good to those who love God.” Now, friend, you cannot have it any better than that.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. -Romans 8:1

Salvation means to be in Christ. It doesn’t mean you have to join a church or say a prayer or do anything. When you are saved, you are in Christ.

We also need to understand the expression “justification by faith.”

First there is a negative aspect. You and I were once hell-doomed sinners because we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God(Romans 3:23). You may be better than somebody else, but you have nothing that is acceptable to God. Every one of us stands before Him as a lost sinner. Therefore, when we come to God, we don’t come offering Him anything. Salvation is not by works of righteousness. We come to Him empty-handed, as lost sinners, and we trust Christ as our Savior.

Now here is the positive aspect of justification. God not only subtracts our sin, not only paid the penalty for our sin, but He puts us in Christ. God looks at us in Christ. My friend, you are completely saved in Christ or completely lost out of Christ. You are in Him 100% or out of Him 100%. If you are in Christ, God sees you in Him, and you have as much right in heaven as Christ—or you have no right there at all, because you and I have none in and of ourselves. But in Christ we are accepted. The poor lost sinner, the moment he trusts Christ, is as much saved today as he will be a million years from today.

We cover this tremendous truth earlier in Romans; the eighth chapter just reaches back and summarizes what’s been said before.

You see, there is no judgment for sin to those who are in Christ. If you are in Him, God sees you in Christ, and He accepts you because of Christ. Christ’s righteousness is your righteousness. Paul summarizes this in Philippians 3:9, “And be found in him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (Philippians 3:9).

This righteousness comes to us by faith in God only, and it’s available to you now. If today you have Christ and are in Christ, you are not condemned for your sin.

Paul tells us this from experience. He fell on his face as a Christian, as he describes in Romans 7. He talks about that in the next verse:

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. -Romans 8:2

Here he mentions the Spirit for the first time. Back in Romans 5 he mentions eight wonderful results of our justification by faith, one of which is that we have the Holy Spirit, but he doesn’t mention the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer until he gets to Romans 8. He mentions it here because this is the way of Christian living.

Paul discovers something important in Romans 7: Even after he was converted, he could not live the Christian life in his own strength.

A great many of us find this out the hard way. That was my experience. I thought when I got saved that I’d be walking on top of the world, but that’s when I fell on my face. Nobody told me I could not live the Christian life. In fact, they patted me on the back and told me I could. But I couldn’t, and I found that out.

The Christian life is the Holy Spirit working through the believer, producing the life of Christ and what He wants. Anything the Holy Spirit doesn’t produce is of the flesh. It’s no good at all, and it’s not Christian living.

Christian living is the work of the Holy Spirit. What a marvelous truth.

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My Turn

Can you identify with Paul’s experience described in Romans 7 and 8? If you can identify with feeling frustrated on your own in spite of your desire to live God’s way, then be encouraged that you’re not alone in this feeling—and there’s a way out! God provides the power to live His way through His Spirit that lives in you.  

  1. Read Romans 7 and 8 together a couple times. Then, in your Bible in the space between Romans 7 and 8, write, “God provides the way” and then circle or underline or highlight Romans 8:1.
  2. Ponder the phrase “in Christ.” That’s where you stand today if you know the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. You are not condemned for your sin, and you have the power of His Spirit to live a life that pleases God because you are “IN Christ.”
  3. How does that truth stir your faith and give you confidence to live a life that pleases God? Think of one area of sin/frustration that you have been dealing with and ask God to show you how to have victory over it today—from your position in Christ.