They Cannot Please God

Romans 8:1-4 ESV

“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 death. For 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.”

Many people read this first verse and then stop there, and then they claim that they are “in Christ” because of some confession of faith that they made, and therefore they also claim that they are no longer under condemnation. So, then many of them assume that their sins no longer matter to God, and so it doesn’t matter how much they sin, for their assumption is that all their sins are covered by the blood of Jesus, and therefore they are not guilty.

Now, there is an element of truth to what they say, yet, just like many lies, they are a mixture of truth and lies, largely as a result of teaching Scriptures out of their context and presenting them in a way that is not accurate to that context, with regard to biblical doctrine. So, we can’t build our doctrine of salvation around just this one verse. We need to keep reading on.

And then we read that God condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk (in conduct, in practice) not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Now we have a much clearer picture of what is going on here.

Yes, Jesus died on that cross to forgive us our sins, to remove the punishment of sin from our lives, and to give us the hope of eternal life with God. But that is only half of the story. He died that we might die with him to sin and live to him and to his righteousness, and that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us, and so we would now honor God with our lives (1 Pet 2:24; 2 Co 5:15; 1 Co 6:19-20).

Jesus said that if anyone would come after him he must deny self, take up his cross daily (daily die to sin and to self) and follow (obey) him. For, he said if we save our lives (hold on to our lives of living for sin and for self) we will lose them for eternity. But if we lose our lives for his sake (die with him to sin and live to righteousness), we will have eternal life (Lu 9:23-26).

[Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; Tit 2:11-14; Rom 12:1-2]

Romans 8:5-8 ESV

“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.”

And now the picture becomes even more clear. If we claim to have faith in Jesus Christ but we continue in deliberate and habitual sin, and we walk according to the flesh and not according to the Spirit, not in righteousness, our minds are not set on God/Jesus Christ or on things above, but our minds are still fixed on our flesh and on the things of this sinful world.

So, if we walk according to the flesh and not according to the Spirit (in righteousness), this will end in death. And this is not speaking of physical death which we all will face unless our Lord first returns. This is speaking of spiritual death. We will die in our sins. We will not inherit eternal life with God if sin is what we practice and if righteousness is not our practice.

So, if our minds – our thinking, believing, attitudes, philosophies – are set on the flesh and not on the Spirit, it means that they are hostile to God. They do not submit to God’s law. They are not capable of submitting. So, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. And yes, we still have commands of God we must submit to, that we must obey, and yes, we must live to please God and not ourselves or we don’t know God.

We can’t continue in deliberate and habitual sin and have eternal life with God. We can’t go on living in idolatry, adultery, fornication, sexual immorality, thievery, lying, cheating, slandering, and abusing others. God does not look the other way when we sin. He sees if you are looking at porn or if you are in an extra-marital affair, or if you are refusing to let go of your past and to get rid of all the hate stored up in your heart.

He can see what you do when the door is closed behind you and you think no one else is looking. He knows all that you do every moment of every day, and he knows every thought that you think and every evil deed that you conspire against him and against others. He knows it is “lust” when you call it “love” and when you are walking by your flesh and not by the Spirit.

And he knows, too, if you are conspiring to do evil to those who are walking according to the Spirit, and who are following the Lord in obedience. He knows the jealousy that is in your heart. He knows the bitterness you won’t let go of and the resentment towards those who are godly, who are living in freedom from sin, and who are living to please the Lord. So, don’t think you can “pull the wool over” God’s eyes.

For, it is those who live according to the Spirit who have God’s divine approval. For, they are those who are setting their minds on the Spirit and not on the flesh, and not on the pleasures this world has to offer. They are the ones who will experience life and peace in the Spirit. For they are the ones who are living to please God. It doesn’t mean they are perfect, but they are conducting their lives according to the Spirit as their life practice.

So, if your mind is still set on the flesh and the things of this world while you are claiming “who I am in Christ” in order to alleviate your guilty conscience, please take this passage of Scripture to heart, and others like it. For, if you continue in living to please your flesh, and not to please the Spirit, it will end in death. You will not have eternal life with God.

[1 Co 6:9-10; 2 Co 5:10; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; Matt 7:21-23; Heb 10:26-27; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10]

Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer

Lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897
Music by W. J. Kirkpatrick, 1897

Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.

Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

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