A short series on Romans 8 – 11. Part 8.

Yesterday we did something incredibly important. We participated in the launch of two radically new mRNA vaccines by receiving our first shots. After weeks of striving to sign up, all of a sudden the Lord provided two slots conveniently close to our home. The hospital pursued us. In we went.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Those who sequenced the genes in SARS-CoV-2 began their work approximately a decade ago. These vaccines have been at least ten to twelve years in the making.

In the providence of God, all of this scientific effort was ready and waiting to serve our need when COVID-19 attacked our planet in Hubei province, China, in December 2019, and then circled the globe.

God works on our behalf. Now we have three vaccines out there, with more coming to help us stop this pandemic. Gifts from God!

God works on our behalf. Now we have three vaccines out there, with more coming to help us stop this pandemic. These vaccines are gifts from God! #StopCOVID #VaccinesWork Click To Tweet

Not only does God work in global ways, but he also works in personal and private ways. Last week, I wrote about hard hearts. But what about soft hearts, hearts that listen to God, hearts that can be moved to repentance and kindness and mercy? What about them?

How does God soften our hearts?

None of us can love, live, or exist selflessly one hundred percent of the time. We are shot through with sin. Sin leaks out in our emotions, actions, and speech. We can’t eradicate our sins. Therefore, we are not qualified nor capable of the sinlessness necessary to enter the presence of a holy God. The first three chapters of Romans define this with convicting purpose.

How can our lost and sinful selves come to know the God who loves us enough to die for us, to heal us, and to save us?

God initiates. He pursues us.

His Holy Spirit begins the slow but steady work of softening our hearts, making us aware of our harmful and selfish deeds, convicting us. When we recognize our inability to even be kind, patient, and consistently loving with our family members, we turn and go the other way. This is repentance.

We know we’ve done wrong, and so we humble ourselves, asking for mercy, for we are flawed to the core. We yield our lives to God, entering into a covenant of love. We become his.

And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood“(Romans 3:22b-25a NLT — This is the Gospel).

"For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:23-24 NLT). #JesusSaves Click To Tweet

As Peter stated in his first sermon, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38 NIV).

With the Holy Spirit’s enablement, we turn from our sins, sincerely asking for forgiveness and cleansing from these iniquities that inhabit our hearts and minds. We yield our lives to Jesus, and the Holy Spirit begins remaking us. We learn that the sooner we confess our sins to him, the softer our hearts become, making us able to recognize his gentle nudges sooner.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).

We do battle with our old nature, our sinful tendencies, our long-held flaws. Slowly these release grow weaker as we conquer them in Christ. We cry out, asking for his mercy and help to become a kinder, more loving self. Gradually, we change. Our words become considerate, our actions gentle. Our lies diminish. This is our sanctification, our transformation, a lifetime of spiritual and personal growth.

We do battle with our old nature, our sinful tendencies, our long-held flaws. Slowly these grow weaker as we conquer them in Christ. We cry out, asking for his help to become a kinder, more loving self. #JesusSaves Click To Tweet

This is how a soft heart is made. This is how a soft heart is maintained.

Even though we will not ever do this perfectly, we will grow with God’s help. Jesus will never give up on us, for we are his.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and deathFor God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1-4 ESV).

Though we may sin in thought, word, and deed, still we are no longer found guilty. We are not condemned to failure. God’s forgiveness flows like a mighty river overflowing its banks, wildly leaping out to sweep along everything into its path, washing it all away.

We are not condemned to failure. God's forgiveness flows like a mighty river overflowing its banks, wildly leaping out to sweep along everything into its path, washing it all away. #JesusSaves Click To Tweet

There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Period.

We have been liberated from a state of calamity and death, released from an eternal darkness spent apart from God. We couldn’t free ourselves. The law couldn’t set us free, for we cannot keep it perfectly. And so, Jesus came to do that on our behalf. He lived a perfect life, and he died a sinless death, thereby condemning sin and fulfilling the law on our behalf.

When we walk according to the Spirit, our softened hearts repent, turning around more quickly when we are convicted of wrongdoing.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:5-8 ESV). 

Our minds aren’t set on pleasing the world system, on living by our culture’s dictates. No, our minds are set on living according to God’s standard of love, kindness, mercy, and forgiveness.

Our growth is bumpy and messy, but with the Spirit’s help and enablement, we seek to please God, rather than the desires of our bodies and minds and wills — our flesh.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” (Romans 8:9-10 ESV).  

How does one who is indwelt by the Spirit of Jesus live? Not according to sinful desires. Not according to the whims of our tendency to sin. Sin gave us a death sentence, but God’s forgiveness produces a lifetime of growth in kindness and obedience to God and his ways. No matter how many times we must confess our sins, turn from them again, and get back up to live as we should, we will grow in godliness and kindness.

Time in the Word of God is essential here, for it keeps us on course.

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 dwells in you” (Romans 8:11 ESV).

"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 dwells in you" (Romans 8:11 ESV). #JesusSaves Click To Tweet

Death has been on our minds this past year, because of this pandemic. But consider that death is the end of the road for all of us. One of the glorious promises of life for those who loves Jesus is that not only does he help us to overcome the harmful ways that we live, but he also gives us eternal life.

One of the glorious promises of life for those who loves Jesus is that not only does he help us to overcome the harmful ways that we live, but he also gives us eternal life. #JesusSaves Click To Tweet

We were aware of life and death when we received our vaccinations. Though none of us know when or how we will die, the hope for more days flooded our hearts as we received those first shots. We gave thanks and praise to God for the potential of more church life, more family, and a more active and vibrant life after an entire year of remaining locked down.

Thank God that the One who was raised from the dead will give us a truly glorious life when we draw our last breaths. We will leave our bodies and walk right into his arms. These are all the treasures we have in Christ Jesus.

Do you know Christ Jesus as your Savior?

Are you wondering how you can come to know Christ?

Have you struggled during this pandemic?

How can I pray for you in your spiritual journey?

Previous Posts in this Series:

Not a Tame Lion

A Merciful God

Vessels of Mercy

He Came to His Own

The End of The Law

More Than Conquerors

Hard Hearts