I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel a little bit like a dog chasing a car. Maybe you feel the same way.
You’re putting in your time. Working hard. Paying your dues. Keeping your head down. But every once in a while, you look up and think, “When am I going to get to where I’m going? And where am I even going?”
Really, what we want to know is when we’re going to experience the good life. We all have this sense that there is a certain person we are supposed to become—the person God created us to be. And there’s a certain life that God intended for us to have—a life that is purposeful and fulfilling.
But there always seems like there’s just one more hurdle to get there. You work hard to graduate college only to be buried by student debt. You find a job, maybe even in the field you studied for, but it turns out that you don’t even like it.
Maybe you thought you’d be married by now, and that hasn’t worked out.
Then, a global pandemic hits. Tragedy strikes. Unexpected challenges come your way. And you just never really feel like you can get ahead.
I want you to know that Jesus is offering for you to step into the good life. And not after you graduate. Not after your debt is paid off. Not after you get the job you wanted. Not after you get married. Not after you buy a house. Not after you have 2.5 kids and a white picket fence and drive a Tesla. But in the here and now.
In John 10:10, Jesus said, “I came that you might have life and have it abundantly.” And he wasn’t just talking about eternal life, payable on death. He was talking about everlasting life, where the realities of eternity break forth into the here and now.
By looking at Paul’s words in Romans 8, here are three insights into how we can begin experiencing that kind of a life in Jesus.
1. We Can Experience the Good Life in Jesus by Training Ourselves to Think Like Jesus.
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)
Paul says that those who set their minds on the flesh, the fundamentally broken things of humanity, will live in a way that is incongruent with who God created them to be. But the mind that is set on the Spirit is life and peace.
So if you train yourself to think like Jesus, who is completely united with the Holy Spirit, then you will begin to experience peace. The word “peace” here relates to this Hebrew idea of shalom. And shalom isn’t just peace in the sense that nobody’s yelling at you.
Shalom is the idea of wholeness. When God created the world, he created it with a certain internal logic, a structural integrity, where every part flowed into every other part in perfect harmony. When sin entered the world, it threw a giant monkey wrench into the whole system, and that’s why brokenness is now fundamental to the human experience.
So really when we pursue so many of the things that we pursue in our lives, whether they be success, wealth, love, entertainment, or connection, really what we’re searching for is wholeness. We want all the broken pieces of our lives to feel like they’re fitting together again. We just aren’t sure how to get there. And that’s because we often attempt to construct wholeness by broken means.
Fourth century theologian Saint Augustine talked about it like this. When we don’t know how to address our sin and brokenness, it’s like our souls are turning in on themselves.
Think of someone who’s spine is completely curved in. They have no range of motion. They live in constant pain unless they receive intensive treatment. It’s like the deeper we look within ourselves to try and find wholeness within ourselves, the more the spine of our soul begins to curve in on itself. If we do it for long enough, we end up becoming hardly recognizable as human.
Yet this is what we do. We think, “I need more self-care. I need to hit my next milestone achievement. I need some form of entertainment or pleasure that helps me to numb the existential dread.” And that’s exactly what leads us into our sin patterns, whether it’s greed, selfishness, a lack of empathy, promiscuity, substance abuse, envy, outburst of anger, or whatever it is you struggle with.
The sins you struggle with are nothing more than an ill-formed method of soothing your existential dread by allowing your soul to turn in on itself. But it’s only leading us into further pain and emptiness.
What having your mind set on the Spirit teaches you to do is to begin to look outward and upward. But what does “setting your mind on the Spirit” mean? That feels like esoteric language. Well, the way the Holy Spirit works and functions is that he lives in obedience to God the Father and in selfless service to others. And that’s where we begin to discover our own wholeness.
That doesn’t mean that we do away with self-awareness or even self-care. In fact, in our journey to be more surrendered to God and loving in service toward others, it will require us to tend to and discipline out the unhealthy parts of ourselves.
But as you are confronted with the brokenness in your life, invite Jesus to show you how he is calling you into a posture of surrender to his will and an ethic of selflessness toward others. That’s where you’ll start to become the person God intended you to be—the whole person he intended you to be.
That sounds so simple. But it’s all the stuff that we don’t want to do. And that’s indicative of how sick we really are. We keep drinking the poison, hoping that maybe this time it’ll be the cure.
In fact, we’re so stuck in that, that we can’t help but continue to do it apart from someone compelling us in another direction. We need a power not our own.
2. We Can Experience the Good Life in Jesus by Learning to Rely on the Holy Spirit.
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. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 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. So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:9-13)
The only reason Christians have the ability to train ourselves to begin thinking like Jesus is because we are indwelt with the Spirit of Jesus. The very same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is the same Spirit that is in those who belong to Jesus.
And with the very same Spirit, we have the same manner of power.
Because of that, what Paul says is that we are not debtors to the flesh who are forced to live according to the flesh. What Paul has in mind when he says that is the idea of indentured servitude. Until such a time as your debt has been paid off, your life doesn’t belong to you but is defined by the one who owns the debt. So, by very definition, we had no ability to do anything other than continue turning in on ourselves, living a life of existential pain that leads to ultimate death.
But when Christ died on the Cross, he paid the debt of our sin. And when he rose again, he imbued us with the very same resurrection power to begin the process of being made whole through our connection with him.
This is a concept that we often don’t fully appreciate. We understand that apart from God, we’re utterly sinful and in desperate need of a Savior. And that’s true. But what we often fail to realize is that once we have been saved, it isn’t just a “hurry up and wait” situation until we die. Supernatural transformation begins long before then.
That’s why Peter tells us that “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3).
God has given you everything you need as it pertains to living a godly life. In his Spirit, you have everything you need to become exactly the person God always intended you to be and live exactly the life he intended for you to live.
So let me ask you this: who told you that you need to keep sinning? Who told you that you need to keep being broken? And why did you believe them? Because it’s not true. You are not required to continue walking in your sin and brokenness. In fact, God intends for the opposite.
And I’m not arguing for some kind of Christian perfectionism or trying to tell you that the project will ever be complete this side of eternity. But it is to say that, if you belong to Jesus, in any given decision point or temptation, you have a very real power to step toward wholeness.
All of this is made possible because of one powerful truth.
3. We Can Experience the Good Life in Jesus by Operating From Victory Rather Than for Victory.
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. (Romans 8:1-4)
The language Paul uses here is emphatic. If you are a follower of Jesus, you are not living in the pursuit of victory but rather in the reality of victory.
The reason we know that, Paul says, is because the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. And when Paul uses the word “law” in this verse, what he’s really referring to are different ruling systems of existence, these universes in which we are confined to the natural order and physical laws of that space.
For example, in this physical world, we’re confined to physical laws like gravity, inertia, and conservation of energy. Except what Paul is talking about is the universe of sin and death. And in the universe of sin and death, we are confined to the laws of brokenness, separation from God, and ultimate meaninglessness.
But what God did is that he entered into the universe of sin and death as a fully human person. And Jesus, because he was sinless and completely whole even while he was completely human, began to violate the laws of that universe. In fact, by his resurrection, he created a whole new universe with new physical laws: the universe of the Spirit of life.
And so, when you give your life to Jesus, it isn’t just that the debt of your sin is paid before a righteous God—which it is. But this word “condemnation” also refers to sin in every aspect of its power. So, in effect, when you give your life to Jesus, you enter into a whole new universal plane. A whole new realm of existence. Before you take even one step in the journey of wholeness, in a cosmic sense, the work has already been completed.
Therefore, as you do step into your journey of understanding what it looks like to live the life God always intended for you to live, you are working not toward a victory but from a victory. You have already stepped out of the place of death and into a place of life. You have exited a world of meaninglessness and entered a world of wonder and power and wholeness. You are already a fundamentally different person.
Your life’s journey is to begin to discover and experience what you’ve already been given as you wait for it to be finally and ultimately revealed when you see Jesus face-to-face.
You want to know when you can experience the good life? If you belong to Jesus, you already have it! Because to be connected to Jesus is to be connected to life itself.
So as you go through all the struggles, all the temptations, even all of the mundane and banal moments of your life, what Jesus is inviting you to do is discover the power and abundance that already exists inside of you. Not because of what was already intrinsic to who you are, but because he has entered into your life so that you could enter into his.