Have you ever visited the Grand Canyon? It’s immensity and unique beauty must be seen first-hand to experience the impact. As summer vacation travel gets into full swing, Park Rangers at the Grand Canyon always encourage visitors to have a safe and memorable vacation. They also remind sightseers each year to be extra careful. Sometimes visitors are injured from slips, trips and falls that result in serious injury or even death. But, a trip to the awesome Grand Canyon can be a delightful experience and safe by keeping a few tips in mind. One of those tips is this: Know where the edge is. Right? You’d need to know that for sure! The Park Rangers warn people to not run, jump, or perform physical stunts near the rim of the canyon.
However, despite all these warnings, this past July 3, a young man wanted to get a better view of the canyon. He decided to climb over a railing at this scenic viewing point (See slide). But… he lost his footing… slipped off this railing… and fell approximately 500 feet. When Park Rangers arrived at the scene, they found this 24yr-old man had fallen to his death. He had ignored this basic safety rule: Know where the edge is. A lot of times in our lives, we are well aware of the edge, of rules and boundaries that are there for our good… for our safety… We learn rules to keep us all out of trouble and away from danger. Rules define what is safe and what is not. The thing about rules, however, is that they don’t keep us from breaking them.
As we’ve been studying Romans, Paul has been explaining to us that our problem with rules – our spiritual problem with rules – is that there is something so powerful inside us that it pushes us, or drives us, or unleashes a compulsion to defy the rules. Maybe that’s what happened to the young man climbing over the fence. Maybe just seeing the fence awoke an irresistible inner urge to stand on it or climb over it for a better view. His mind was commandeered by the temptation, and he succumbed. He ignored what was clearly a boundary setup to keep him and everyone else safe. His irrational decision led to his tragic death. We are all tempted by some powerful inner compulsion or force. At lot of times we give into that temptation and jump the fence… break the law… do what we know to be wrong. That inner brokenness that creates this powerful compelling desire in us to ignore God’s rules and standards has a name. It’s what Paul calls our sin nature. It is the power of sin within us. The word Paul often uses is “flesh”. (see Romans 7:5) In context, the word “flesh” describes the entire person: body, soul and spirit. Not just the body that we see (our skin) – but the entire being of a person.
When we gave our lives to Jesus, He made a new life available to us. However, at the same time we receive new life (are born again), we still live with our sin nature and battle the flesh. We have only tasted a sample of glory while we live with a corrupt sin nature. We exist in the middle of a transforming process. And that transformational place is not comfortable. You feel the battle. You know the struggle. We could call it middle-earth or middle-life on earth. It is fraught with sin… with failure… with some success… but with a lot of loss and sadness, pain and suffering. We struggle and struggle (as Paul describes in 7:14-25). The battle is intense! We want to do what is right (now that we know what it is), yet we can’t quite get it right. Sometimes we do, but more often we don’t. No matter what, however, Romans 8:1-2 tells us that we are not condemned even though we are in this middle-life of an uncomfortable, transformation process. The Spirit is working to perfect us… to prepare us for heavenly glory… to lead us to eternal life. At the same time we are still prone to keep doing things that lead to eternal death. But you must live according to the Spirit. (see Romans 8:9-13) In Galatians 5:16 Paul says it this way: “walk in the Spirit”. He means live your life the way the Spirit wants you to live it. Live your life guided by the Holy Spirit.
To walk in the Spirit, or run in the Spirit, or live according to the Spirit means (as Paul says) to yield, surrender, submit to the Spirit of Jesus living within you. This is how you pick-up transformational speed in your spiritual life. It’s how you gather speed toward maturity. The Greek word for Spirit means breath or wind. The fresh wind of the Spirit blows against you and through you like a cool summer breeze, fanning the flame of spiritual momentum. Life in the Spirit means inviting the Spirit already living in you to teach and change you. When you first believe in Jesus, the Spirit comes into your life and you are sealed with the Spirit. He dwells in you, yes. But… are you allowing him, inviting him, communing with him, asking him to live through you?