Posts Tagged ‘Spirit’

Feeding the Whole Person At Easter

Feeding the Whole Person on Easter

© C. O. Bishop 4/13/17 THCF 4/16/17

1st Thessalonians 5:23, and others

Introduction:

One of the interesting things we learn in the Bible is that the human being consists of three parts…one could say we are a triune being, as is God…but it is not quite true. My body is not the real me…and, even my soul is only part of me. And my spirit is not intended to exist separate from a body and soul.

God says that He knows the difference (completely) between the soul and the spirit of Man. He says that we believers are to be preserved complete—body, soul, and spirit—until the coming of the Lord. (1st Thessalonians 5:23   And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”)

So, though we have some confusion about the differences, God does not. He will give us new, immortal bodies, and our spirits and souls will be eternally in tune with His Spirit. We look forward to the fulfillment of these promises.

We show our confusion about the invisible portions of a human in that we tell people to follow their heart, when God says our heart (soul) is deceitful…that it is not to be trusted. In fact, over in James, where God gives us some New Testament truth about wisdom, he specifically says that the soul is not a good source for wisdom.

James 3:13-15

13 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.

The word translated “sensual” in that verse, is the Greek word “psuchikos”—meaning “soulish”: coming from the soul. We can easily be deceived by our own souls, even as believers. I have heard people say things like “Eat chocolate! It’s good for the soul!” when evidently they only mean “it makes you feel good about life.” After I had heart-surgery, they gave me oxycodone—that made me feel good about life, too…but it was deceitful, and potentially addictive. I needed genuine healing, not just medicine that made me feel great for a while! As soon as I could, I got off that medicine, but it was hard, because, just like everyone else, I like to feel good. I needed physical nourishment and healing. But I am not just a body: I am also a soul, and a spirit.

So, how do we feed the whole person: body, soul and spirit…especially at Easter?

Feeding the Body

Feeding the body is no great trick, but it can be done well, or it can be done badly. There are tribal people in South America (Venezuela– the Yanoamo people) who chew certain leaves because they stave off hunger and thirst, and make them have a lot of energy. I’ll bet you can guess what those leaves are: Yep, they are coca leaves. They know they need food, water and rest, but on a long hike through the jungle, they take those leaves along, knowing that they will “feel better” as they travel. It is a pretty mild dose of cocaine, but still not a healthy choice.

So, we make healthy choices in food as best we can, in varying degrees. Some people are simply thinking basic food groups, and some not even that. Some folks, if you aren’t a trained dietician, you will not even understand what they are doing when they plan a meal. And some folks just eat whatever they like, whenever they are hungry. We vary all over the board on that, but we all feed our bodies. We get hungry, and we seek nourishment. This morning, for instance, we began with a fellowship breakfast downstairs, and everyone fed their bodies, and felt satisfied. But what about our souls? Perhaps our souls were being fed, as well, if we engaged in fellowship.

Feeding the Soul

How do you feed a soul? Our souls look for peace, and happiness, and feelings of fulfillment. Fellowship can provide that. Some folks enjoy the catharsis of a good cry, and they watch a tear-jerker movie. Some people thrive on adrenalin, so they either take risks themselves, or watch videos of those who take such risks… they watch action movies, or horror movies, thrillers, chillers, or something. They like the feeling of drama, so they read books or watch plays or movies that fill them with the sensations they crave.

Are these healthy diets for a soul? Well…depending on the subject matter or the activity, actually, yes, they could be. Engaging in competitive sports, running, whitewater rafting, or skiing could be quite healthy. Making things that require skill and patience, whether in stitchery or carpentry, can “feed the soul” on the satisfaction of a job well done. Enduring the daily drama of rearing children, and seeing those children grow to be productive members of society, and then feeling the satisfaction and relief of their maturation process, is a healthy sort of drama.

But there are unhealthy dramas, too, and some people feed their desire for drama on social conflicts, politicking, and gossip, or bullying and manipulating those around them. That is pretty bad food for the soul, and addictive, as well, as it feeds our sin nature’s desire for power.

Can we have unhealthy food for the soul in church? Some people would say we had an unhealthy physical meal this morning, because it wasn’t tofu and greens…but that meal was a special treat, and one we don’t engage in every day.

We could have an especially heart-rending story in a sermon or a testimony that wrings us out emotionally, and moves us at a soul-level. That can be perfectly healthy…or not.

The problem is: emotional drama is addictive, and we mistake it for spiritual food. On a once-in-a-while basis, there is nothing wrong with emotional drama, but as a matter of habit, it tends to take the place of healthy food, just as the coca leaves took the place of healthy food, water and rest, for the jungle tribesmen. But they knew not to do it all the time. We don’t seem to know the limit…we look for more and more emotional highs, and hope for more “signs” from God.

But God says that such things are not necessarily from Him. The false prophets in Jeremiah’s time had dreams and visions…but God says that they caused those dreams, themselves. They deceived themselves and others. He was not the source. (Jeremiah 23:25, 26)

We have read sensational books and watched movies about Jesus, which itemized every blow, every wound, and every drop of blood during the crucifixion, and stressed the emotional impact on the lives of the disciples, as well as upon Jesus himself. We agonize with Jesus at Gethsemane, and cringe at the deadly pain he endured for us. All of these things are true, and, to some extent, they are healthy soul-food, so long as you equally rejoice at the resurrection, and are galvanized to action by His ascension, His final commands, and His indwelling Holy Spirit.

But if all we want is the emotional drama, then, in the long run we are not much better off than the folks watching sad movies, and the like. I am covered by the blood of the cross…I don’t need to “have my nose rubbed in it” on a regular basis. I remember His sacrifice, and I am overwhelmed that He chose to die for me. I don’t see myself as someone that would even be attractive to God. But for some reason, “God so loved the World…”

I don’t have to understand it…I don’t even have to “feel” it. I only have to choose to believe it by faith, and receive His gift of eternal life. My soul will be fed as I walk with Jesus. I will experience all the reasonable, valid emotions just as He did, without any false drama, or self-induced emotional turmoil or ecstasy. But…How do we feed the Spirit?

Feeding the Spirit

When each of us who are believers placed our faith, individually, in Jesus’ shed blood at the Cross, as being full payment for our sins, we were born again, as children of the living God. And He says, that, as babies, we need to develop an appetite…that we must sincerely desire… what? Not emotional upheavals and turmoil of the soul, but rather “the sincere milk of the Word” of God, “that we may grow thereby.” (1st Peter 2:2)

What part of us does God’s Word primarily “feed?” It primarily feeds the spirit. We are born again with a new nature, and our spirits are alive to God, and hungry for His presence. Can it also feed the soul? Absolutely! As we read His word, we can be thrilled by the exquisite joy of seeing God at work. We are grieved at the hardness of the hearts of humanity. We are fearful of the judgment of God, and desire to be freed from our sins and our guilt. All those feed the soul.

We feed our spirits by taking in God’s Word. So, when we consider the Crucifixion, and Resurrection, and Ascension, we need to apply our attention to what God actually says about it, so that our Spirits are fed: not just “how do we feel about it”, which excites the soul, but leaves the inner man un-nourished.

So, What Does the Scripture Say?

  • To begin with, it says that the entire human race fell into sin with Adam. He was our representative, and when he fell, we fell with him. (Romans 3:23; Romans 5:12)
  • Then it says that the result of sin is death: separation from God. That was our natural state…and, had we died in that position, we would have been eternally separated from Him. (Romans 6:23a)
  • It also says that God reached out in Love, to save the whole human race…he offered a free gift of salvation to anyone who trusts in Him. (Romans 6:23b)
  • That gift is offered in the person of His son. God says the eternal life he offers is in His son. Whoever has the Son has the life. Whoever does not have the son, does not have the life. (1st John 5:11, 12)
  • He says that Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies, and that he came specifically to do that, in the course of offering us eternal life. (Luke 24:25-26)
  • God says the good news (the Gospel) of salvation is of first importance, and that it consists of the following truths:
    • Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.
    • He was buried in fulfilment of the scriptures.
    • He rose again the third day, also in order to fulfill scripture.

The Death and Burial and Resurrection of Jesus are the core issues of the Gospel, which, being believed in, is the power of God, to save those who believe. (Romans 1:16)

We understand the death of the savior, that it had to happen, or we would still be in our sins; unforgiven, and hopelessly lost. We see, too, how the burial at least gave testimony that Jesus really died—he was not just “playing possum”, or even in a faint. He was dead. And he spent three days and three nights in the place of the dead, fulfilling yet another prophecy, that he would spend three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

But, what about the Resurrection?

Here’s what the Apostle Paul said about it:

1st Corinthians 15: 17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.
18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.
19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

So, the resurrection had to happen too, or we would still be in our sins, just as surely as if he had never died for us. But he’s Alive! He is Risen! Not only He is alive, but He has ascended to the throne beside God the Father, and eternally represents us there, as our advocate.

Folks, these are facts!  I honestly don’t care whether you are “moved”, or stirred by these words: what is important is that you believe them! That you choose to place your dependence on Jesus’s shed blood at the cross as full payment for your sins, personally!

Sometimes I ask people, “Do you believe that Jesus died for your sins?” and they reply, “Oh, I believe He died for the sins of the whole world!” So, I ask again, “But did He die for your sins, personally?” And they repeat their creed that he died for the sins of the world. Do you see the problem? They know the facts, but they are not willing to apply those facts to their own specific case. Perhaps they don’t believe they need a savior. Perhaps they feel that they don’t understand it all. (Well guess what! I don’t either!) We are not required to understand it all. We are required to accept it by faith, apply it to our own personal case, and receive the gift of eternal life. It is just that simple.

The Resurrection is God the Father’s “stamp of approval”, showing us that Jesus was really who He said he was, and that His death and burial really accomplished all that He intended. And we are resurrected with Him, to live our lives for God! Let’s embrace the resurrection in our daily lives, and live because He lives!

Lord Jesus, strengthen us to do your will, and to follow you in our daily lives. Help us to embrace the full value of the Resurrection!


What About Israel? (Part One)

What about Israel? (Part One)

Has God Forgotten Israel?

© C. O. Bishop 2/13/16 THCF 2/21/16

Romans 9:1-13; 1st Corinthians 10:11

Introduction:

We have been working our way through the book of Romans for several months. The theme of the book has been “the Gospel of God’s Grace.” We have seen, traced in the first three chapters of Romans, the utter lostness of the whole human race, both Jew and Gentile, religious and irreligious; moral and immoral; good, bad and indifferent. We have seen that God has offered only one solution to the lostness of the human race: He says (Romans 1:16) that the Good News of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ as full payment for sins (that’s the Gospel of Christ, by definition), being believed in, is the power of God to save those who believe. And there is no other way offered. Jesus himself confirms that fact. He says “No Man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” Some call that “narrow.” It is only narrow to those who reject it. To those who receive Him as Savior, it is an “Open Door”, and “whosoever will may come!”

We saw in chapter four that the perfect standing of the believer in Christ is only by the imputed righteousness of Christ, added to the believer by God (that’s Grace) through faith alone. We saw in chapter five that the believer’s position and justification in Christ provided eternal peace with God.

We saw in chapter six that our new position in Christ also ended our slavery to Sin: we no longer have to yield to sin. But, in chapter seven we saw that the only way we can lay hold of that promise is by the indwelling Holy Spirit. We cannot please God in the strength of our old nature: we still have our old sin nature, and we have to live with the burden of that traitorous old self throughout our lives, but we are no longer identified with it. God has given us a new nature, and He calls us to live in that new life, walking with Him, in the power and guidance and control of the Holy Spirit. And He no longer sees us in our old selves.

Most recently, in chapter eight, we saw that there is no condemnation for anyone in Christ, whether Jew or Gentile, regardless of background, and regardless of subsequent success or failure in “walking with God”. We also saw, though, that there is a tragic loss of potential blessing and reward, if we fail to walk with Him. But, chapter eight concludes that we are unquestionably, eternally secure in Christ.

But, What about Israel?

Chapters nine through eleven, as a group, address the question, “What about the Jews?” The promises to Israel were solid, sure promises from God, but they have not been fulfilled in their entirety; so: you may ask, “Has Israel finally been rejected by God?” The answer is a resounding “NO!” God has not forgotten his covenant with Israel, though, for the time being, as a nation, they seem to have forgotten their covenant with Him. So, where do they stand, today? How does God see them? Let’s see how Paul addresses that question:

1I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,

That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.

For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:

In verses 1-3 Paul grieves for the lost estate of the people of Israel, as his kinsmen; his brothers according to flesh. This is one thing that tells me this is God’s Word and God’s Work in Paul: he does not condemn them as “blind fools”, or anything like that: He grieves their lostness, as one should grieve the loss of any soul for whom Christ died. There is no “self-satisfaction” as to his own secure position. He so desperately desires their salvation that, if it were possible, he would consider it a “good trade” for himself to be lost, if it would save them.

Notice also: He does not suggest that Israel has been “forgotten by God.” This has been suggested in the past, by God’s enemies, as it would actually call into question the character and faithfulness of God. (Who is the chief accuser, who, from the beginning of time, has questioned the character of God? Give that some thought, when you hear such arguments. Consider the ultimate source of such a statement.) There are folks today who claim that Israel has been disqualified form God’s blessing, and that the Church has replaced Israel, inheriting the blessings in place of Israel. This is absolutely false, and has the same source as the above false teaching.

No, rather, Paul points out that they have forgotten the God who promised the Messiah (that is a huge difference!). They have rejected His Grace at every turn. Paul assures us that he continually grieves for Israel, and he actually wishes that he himself could be lost, if it would save all of the other Jews. But of course, that is not an option for Paul. This reflects the heart of God, who did go to the Cross in the person of Christ, offering himself, on their behalf and ours.

The Inheritance of Israel

Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;

Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

In verses 4 and 5, Paul lists eight advantages that ALL of Israel shares…take note that they are not only to ALL Israel, they exclusively to Israel. This is what is theirs by inheritance:

  1. Theirs was originally the statement of adoption (being the stated heirs of God), and
  2. Theirs was the glory of their history, of God living and working in their midst, and
  3. To them were the covenants offered and confirmed, and
  4. To them was the Law given, and
  5. To them was committed the Service of God (in the temple: the priesthood)
  6. To them were the Promises in which they had claimed to trust for thousands of years.
  7. To them alone belong the Patriarchs, and, as far as the flesh was concerned, and
  8. Through them came the

What more could they ask? The advantages that were given to all Israel are phenomenal, and they still exist today. But, for whatever reason, the majority of Jews, today, still ignore their heritage, and do not use that advantage to good effect. Let’s not become smug, though, or be judgmental in our thinking about this. As believers in Christ, we have even greater advantages today: the completed written Word of God, and the indwelling Holy Spirit.

(Are you using them?  Really? Are you using them to the best advantage?)

But what entitled the Jews to take part in those promises? We can see that some did and some did not.  What made the difference? All through History, we can see that some were privileged to take part in the promises, while others were disqualified. What makes a “Jew”, born of the house of Israel, a “real Jew,” from God’s perspective?

The Heredity of Israel

Paul points out that Israel was not just a “breeding stock” that God turned loose to graze, and, wherever it wandered, or whatever brood it produced, He approved of it. His Word is complete, and His will is perfect. Read what he says about the heredity of Israel. It is not strictly physical.

Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:

Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.

In verses 6 and 7 Paul begins to touch on the idea that not all who are physically born of the lineage of Abraham are actually his heirs. He begins by pointing out that in spite of Abraham having had two sons (Ishmael and Isaac, at that time), God said, “In Isaac shall your seed be called.” Ishmael, though he was equally “of the seed of Abraham” according to the flesh, was not the heir. It seems that there is a spiritual principle involved. Paul goes on to explain:

That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.

For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son.

10 And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac;

11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)

12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.

13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

In verses 8-13, then, Paul reminds us that it is not the children of the flesh who are heirs of God, but rather the children of the Promise. There are two points to notice in the promise: He says “at this time”, so we can see there was a timing issue from God’s perspective: His timing, not theirs. He further says that at that proper time He would come. It was to be God’s work, not theirs.

Isaac was born of a miracle, as promised by God. In sharp contrast, Ishmael was born of a scheme of an old man and his wife, who were trying to short-circuit God’s Grace, and force the hand of God. (Is that maybe not quite the same?)

I have deliberately worded the story in rather blunt terms, to show the “seamy side” of this history: Sarah was definitely not following the leading of God: she was scheming by offering Hagar to Abraham. Abraham (as might most men) jumped at the idea of committing “legal adultery”, at his wife’s suggestion. But God makes it abundantly clear that it was not from Him.  The long-term results have been horrendous, and we are still experiencing that destruction today. Almost daily, now, we hear of more attacks by Islamic terrorists who correctly call themselves sons of Ishmael. The long-term effects of Abraham’s unbelief and sin are being inflicted on his offspring, particularly, and the rest of the World, as well; and it is increasing in frequency and magnitude. Interestingly, that is exactly what God predicted in Genesis 16:11, 12. “He (Ishmael) will be a wild man, and his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him, and he shall live in the midst of all his brethren.” (Thanks a bunch, Abe!)

(Oddly, this is one aspect of the Bible that actually adds to my conviction that it is truly God’s Word, not od human origin: Humans tend to gloss over the flaws of their heroes. God does not put the heroes of the faith on a pedestal. He shows them for exactly what they were: deeply flawed individuals through whom He showed His strength. Abraham made a mess: God says so. God is cleaning up that mess, in His way and in His timing.) And there was no condemnation for Abraham. Sound familiar?

By the way, after Sarah’s death, “good old Abraham” remarried (Genesis 25:1-4), and had six more boys by Keturah, his new wife (Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah.) Though we don’t know what happened to most of them, the few whose names we do recognize were enemies of Israel, later in history. The flesh has always warred against the Spirit. That was not something new in Romans 8:7, or Galatians 5:17. The offspring of Ishmael, Midian and Esau remain enemies of Israel to this day. So are the offspring of Lot.

Rebecca was a similar example, showing that the obvious human choice does not necessarily inherit the blessing of God, but rather, the choice of God will stand. God foreknew Esau’s choice to despise the birthright, trading it for a meal; and He foretold the result: “the elder shall serve the younger.” About 1000 years later He remarked, “Jacob have I loved; Esau have I hated”. (Malachi 1:2, 3) Was it just arbitrary, or capricious on His part? No, it was simply a recognition of the kind of person Esau turned out to be, and a statement that God knew it before it happened.

God knew who they were and what they would do, long before they physically existed. They were both sons of Isaac and Rebecca…they were fraternal twins, in fact—but one valued the birthright, and the other did not. One saw the things of God as being valuable—the other saw them as a waste of time and energy…and God responded in kind.

You do not “inherit godliness” from your human parents. You inherit it from your Heavenly Father, as a re-born Child of God, and you grow in it, by walking with God in obedient service. Every child of God has the capacity to become a Godly person: a man or woman of God, walking with Christ, and becoming a blessing to all around him or her.

Israel had some great promises. We have better ones. Israel also had the opportunity to walk with God. When they did so, they enjoyed His blessing. When they did not, times got lean. We can experience a leanness in our own souls when we neglect God’s Word, and ignore the leading of His Holy Spirit. We don’t want that, though. 1st Corinthians 10:11 says that all the things ancient Israel experienced were for examples, and for our admonition; an object lesson for us. Let’s learn from the failures and successes of Israel, and inherit the blessings promised to us. Their blessing is not lost; it is just postponed.

Lord; let us learn your Word, believe your promises, experience your Grace and Blessing, and become the Men and Women of God you have chosen us to be. Amen!


No Condemnation (Part Two)

The Enemy Within

© C. O. Bishop 1/6/16 THCF 1/10/16

Romans 8:4-13

Introduction:

Last time, we noted that, due to our new position in Christ, there is no condemnation awaiting us. This is “Positional Truth”: entirely dependent upon the fact that we are in Christ, and not at all dependent upon “how we are doing” in our walk with Him. This is an important distinction, because we tend to be far more conscious of how we feel or how we are acting at the moment—our condition—and we assume that God sees us the same way. Nothing could be further from reality…that is exactly the reverse of the truth. We see ourselves inaccurately, while God sees us clearly, and we need to adjust our thinking to match His, not the other way around.

The Christian has three major enemies. We frequently list them as

  1. The World,
  2. The Flesh, and
  3. The Devil.

That is true, but it doesn’t give any information by which we may defend against those enemies.

“The World” (Greek kosmon), as used in scripture, can refer to the people, but in this context, it is the system of thinking and behavior that influences us all from outside our bodies. It may include peer pressure, advertising, propaganda, philosophy, human reasoning and entertainment of all sorts, none of which are evil in themselves, but all of which can be used to feed our natural bent to turn away from God and pursue our own interests and desires. It is mostly visible, though sometimes very subtle, and it is outside the gate, so to speak. It is all around us, some good and some bad; we are immersed in it, to one degree or another, and we are heavily influenced by it; but it is still outside us. It is the Enemy without the gate, so to speak.

The Devil, or Satan, is the Spirit controlling the pattern of the World’s thinking; he who desires to destroy all the works of God in us. He is the unseen hand behind the evil of the World. We can see the result of his influence, but we cannot see him. He will play along with us, and lure us to destruction through the World and the Flesh. But we don’t see him. He is the Invisible Enemy.

The Flesh (Greek sarka) is the Enemy within. Today we will focus on this enemy, and try to shape our thinking to match what God says.

Defining the “Flesh”

To begin with, I think it is appropriate to remind ourselves that the “flesh” in this case, is not the physical body. At other times in history, people have referred to this entity as their “lower nature”, as if it were some link to the animal world, but that is not appropriate, either, because, ironically, animals do not suffer from this affliction of sin. Animals (with the exception of the serpent, who was under Satan’s personal control) were not involved in the fall. They did not sin; they have never been given a free will with which to rebel against God.

In the Old Testament, Jeremiah 17:9 refers to the flesh, the Adamic nature, as “the heart”. It says that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” Do you think that the scripture means the “central circulatory pump”, when it says “the heart is wicked, and deceitful?”  Of course not…but neither is it speaking of the new creation which God describes, when He promises, “I will take away your stony heart and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26) The heart God proposes to give is a new creation—the same as the New Testament promises. Language being what it is, then, with all the possible ambiguities, it is important that we carefully read the rest of scripture, and carefully consider the intent, before we jump to conclusions that may wrongly use the Word of God.

The scripture consistently calls the Sin Nature the “flesh”, but contrasts it with “our bodies”. In this chapter, we are told that the “flesh” cannot be subject to God. The body certainly can be, however—it does exactly what we choose to do with it, and, in Romans six we were told that we are to yield our “members” (physical bodies) as “instruments of righteousness” for God to use to His own glory. That would be impossible if the physical body cannot be subject to God.

In Romans five we are informed that we were once “enemies” of God. Now why would that be? How could we become God’s enemies? Ephesians 2:3 says we “were by nature, the children of wrath”: We were born that way! But God intervened and provided a substitute, so, instead of every sinner dying for his or her own sins, one perfect sacrifice forever satisfied the righteousness of God, and allows us access to God through faith in that blood sacrifice. Believers were each given a new nature, created by God at the moment of saving faith, and that is our “new identity”. God no longer deals with the identity of our old nature (our Adamic nature; our Sin nature) though it is still there. He calls it the “Old Man” in Ephesians 4:22, and confirms that, even in a believer’s life, it can neither be redeemed nor repaired. It is irreparably corrupt, and just continues to get worse, if we feed it. What a hopeless situation it would be if we were left to fight this battle alone, like a toddler left alone to fend off the attack of a rabid skunk.

But We Are Not Alone!

No such thing has been suggested: Jesus promised, “I will not leave you comfortless.” (We are not alone!) He promised that he and the Father would make their abode with the believer, and that the Holy Spirit would indwell each believer personally. (John 14:16-23read it!)

One may wonder, then, why the believer ever has a problem with sin: the answer is: In terms of day by day choices, the Lord has not reneged on His gift of a free will. He longs for our fellowship, but will not force himself upon us.

With all the above information as the backdrop for the message of Paul, we are invited to examine the source of our struggles in detail: We are told that Jesus condemned Sin in the Flesh by living a perfect life, and dying a perfect sacrifice, and we are told why:

That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

So, the result of our being set free from our enslavement to sin is that the righteousness reflected in the Law of God (not the condemnation, and guilt) could be showcased and fulfilled in us. We are free to serve; but we can only do so via the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Why is it so Hard to Live for God?

Because the old nature is actively sabotaging our efforts! And it always will!


For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

 

I don’t like to keep hammering on this point, but: in case anyone has missed it; the concept of “death” in the Bible is a little different than how we think of it in our culture. We have been taught to believe that “when you’re dead, you’re dead!” …which doesn’t really explain much… but the fact is, when we are physically dead, our spirit and soul have been (usually permanently) separated from our physical body. When Adam ate the fruit of the forbidden tree, he and Eve died instantly, as promised, but it was not physical death. There we saw the first example of spiritual death—the spirit and soul of Adam and Eve were separated from God. Were they happy about it? No; they could no longer even stand to be in the presence of God. They fled from Him because they were guilty sinners; no longer the innocent creatures they had been. Not happy!

So…which kind of death is warned of, here in verse 6? Is Paul warning that if you sin, you will lose your physical life?  Obviously not, because he just finished telling us of his own struggle against sin, in chapter seven. He did not die, physically, but he begged to know how he could be delivered from “the body of this death!” (What body? What death?)

As long as we live in these mortal bodies there exists the possibility of sin, and, with it, the repeated separation from fellowship with the living God; so that, far from loving His presence, we flee from Him, either in fear or resentment. That is separation from God, though it is a temporary condition, and, here in Romans Chapters 7 and 8, as well as other places, it is called “death”. And notice that in verse 5, he states that those who are living in the flesh focus their minds on the things of the flesh—they pursue their old carnal concerns and desires. Many of those old ways seem no different than the new; for instance, I still go to work when I am in the flesh, as well as when I am walking with God. But my motives are not the same. I am blind to the opportunities to honor God when I am “minding the things of the flesh.”

What’s the Problem?

In Romans 8:7, 8 we see why this is true:
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

The old nature has not changed its allegiance! Remember, it was an enemy of God by birth: that is where we got our old nature: Being born of Adam, we received the Adamic, fallen nature. Being born from above (born of God, born again), by Grace, we have received a new nature. But the old nature remains unchanged and unrepentant. The result is that as an unbeliever still “in the flesh” (positionally, that is—still unsaved) I cannot please God…period.

And, when I revert to sin, even as a saved man, I am functionally “in the flesh” again, though I already have been permanently transferred to the kingdom of God’s Son. Remember, God no longer sees me in Adam! He sees me only in Christ. He says that the Adamic nature is no longer the person He will deal with. The old nature has been separated from me as far as identity and authority, but not residency; just as Adam and Eve were separated from God in terms of fellowship, but not physical presence. They wanted out of His presence, because of their sin. I want to be separated from my old sin nature, just as Paul wanted to, and for the same reason. But God says it is already a “done deal”.

How Can We Escape our Bondage to the Flesh?

But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

Here again is the issue of “positional truth:” If you have the Holy Spirit, then you have a new nature; and that new nature is the only one God chooses to address: He says that you (the new creation) are under the guidance and control of the Holy Spirit.  Paul addresses this issue a little differently over in 1st Corinthians 3:3. There he is speaking to immature Christians who are allowing the old nature to control their lives and their decision-making: he says they are “carnal”—fleshly. (The NIV translates this to say “worldly”, but the Greek word is “sarkikoi”, from the same root as “flesh”—“sarka”. “The world” is a different enemy, though it is certainly in partnership with the flesh and the Devil.)

He goes on to state that if you do not have the Holy Spirit, then you are not saved…you do not belong to Jesus. Every believer has been baptized into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit, and has become a permanent part of the Body of Christ; the Church universal. Corresponding to that position, every believer has also been indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and Jesus says He will be with us forever. (John 14:16) Our gifts are often different, but our position is the same: in Christ.

Finally, he says, since Jesus Christ is in you (via the Holy Spirit, you are actually indwelt by the entire Trinity), then the body alone is subject to death: you (the new creation) have eternal life, and your spirit is alive with the Holy Spirit, and is forever separated from the death of the old sin nature. He also reiterates that the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to your account. He says that the “Spirit is life because of righteousness.” (Whose righteousness? That of Christ!)

Again, Paul is quick to let us know that the “flesh”—the old sin nature—is not the same as our physical bodies, as we noted in the introduction. He says:
11 
But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

The word “quicken” means to “bring to life”. What would be the point of condemning the body, only to bring it to life again? It is the physical “mortal body” to which God will again grant life. The old Adamic nature is lost and cannot be redeemed. It remains the enemy of God.

12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.

You don’t owe your old self anything. You can’t improve it in any way, though it can temporarily look as though you did. The core issue remains the same: the old nature is not subject to God, and it cannot be made subject to God, no matter who does the re-training. Also, you cannot hope to “get it out of your system” by succumbing to its demands. That is like “eating all the brownies so they won’t tempt you.” That really doesn’t help! Don’t give in!

13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.

When I am living according to the desires of the enemy within, in terms of fellowship, I am currently separated from God. 1st John 1:5-7 says I cannot walk in darkness and simultaneously have fellowship with God. That is the “body of death” from which Paul begged to be freed.

But notice how he says we are to be freed: He says “Through the Spirit” we are to mortify the deeds of the body…the “body of this death” from which Paul sought freedom.

And that is the key to Romans chapters 6-8: Faith in the indwelling Holy Spirit! Please notice that we were not admonished to “change our ways”, “get right or get left”, “turn or burn”, or any other such tripe. People have smugly quoted these and other pious warnings for centuries, and such thoughts define the heart of religiosity; but they have nothing to do with either salvation or sanctification. It is only the self-satisfied prattling of the self-righteous religionists…not the voice of God. It is based on works, not faith; Law, not Grace.

What Shall We Do, Then?

Jesus originally called us to place our faith in Him for Salvation, by Grace. Now He calls us to confess that we cannot produce righteousness on our own, any more than we could save ourselves from sin. John 15:5 says, “…without me ye can do nothing.” He didn’t say “without me you can’t do as much.” He said “…without me ye can do nothing!

We are called to allow the Holy Spirit to live through us, by faith…and He will produce the Fruit of the Spirit. In Galatians 5:16, God says “Walk in the Spirit and you shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.” Remember, it’s a blanket promise: if the Holy Spirit is in control of your life, then the old sin nature will have no say at all… you will do the things God has called you to do.

Lord Jesus, by your Holy Spirit, enable us to do the things you have called us to do, and to be the men and women of God you have called us to be.

 

 

 


Learning to Live in Liberty

Learning to Live Free

© C. O. Bishop 5/11/15; THCF 5/17/15

Galatians 5:14-26

Introduction:

Paul has spent four chapters warning against Legalism, and stating the free position of the believer; a half-chapter introducing Liberty as a life-concept, and now is having to give the “directions and warning label” for Liberty.

Unlike the legalizers, he makes no apology for the Christian having the liberty. Quite the opposite: he warns us against letting anyone rob us of it. But he does warn against the danger of misuse—the danger of allowing “liberty” to cloak licentiousness. (Verse 13). So, one might ask, how do we strike a balance? How do we live in liberty, and still not fall into licentiousness? It would be easy to smugly say something like “self-control!” or “moderation!”, but that is not what Paul preaches; He preaches the living, breathing, walking, talking love of Christ. We are free in Christ!  That is a positional truth, and a “location” truth. “In Christ!”

There was once a short time in US history during which there were some states where slavery was permitted, and some where it was prohibited. It was critically important to an escaped slave that he or she should stay in a place where it was illegal to enslave another person…because in that place he or she was free! Were they safe? No, not completely, because the laws had not become federal, yet, and it was quite common for an evil person to kidnap such an endangered soul and take him or her back into a slave state. They lived in fear that they might be taken back into slavery. We would do well to think of that, ourselves: We are only safe and free in Christ.

Satan still desires to enslave us, though we have been permanently set free. He can do it either through legalism or licentiousness. Those are the twin traps into which he tries to lure all believers. Those are the two “ditches” on every road the believer walks. Both are deadly snares; traps that are really difficult to escape. So what does it look like to be on the road between the ditches…walking with Jesus, and not wavering into license or legalism? Paul says it is to be summed up in one word:

Love—Agape Love.

14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

If you know that your sin could result in someone else spending eternity in Hell, because they used your sin as an excuse to reject the Lord, shouldn’t that make you more conscious of your actions and words? Therefore, loving our neighbor with agapé love should be among our primary concerns as committed Christians. (Compare Leviticus 19:18)

Agapé love implies “Being committed to the good of the recipient of that love, without regard to the effect in one’s own life.” This is the kind of love—the only kind— that Jesus commanded; and it’s the kind He demonstrated at the Cross. It has absolutely nothing to do with feelings, but is entirely about doing. It is “commitment with shoe-leather”. It is doing what is best for the other person. Ironically, it is also what is needed for you! This is how you stay on the road where you belong.

This is how you walk with Jesus. He said in John 13:34, 35 “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” So, Paul is reiterating that the entire Christian walk is one of allowing the Holy Spirit to pour through us the Agapé love that is only available from God. That is our outreach to the lost around us, and our fellowship with the believers around us. That Agapé love is what it is all about.

15 But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.

OK, so here is a big one: you may think, “Well, this person is already a believer, but they are frustrating me, or mistreating me, so I am free to ‘give them a taste of their own medicine!’”. No! This is precisely what He warns against! There is more damage done to unbelievers and to the credibility of the Gospel by “bickering believers” than perhaps anything else.

I have repeatedly been informed that the single most common reason for missionaries leaving their chosen fields of service is the fact that they and their co-workers were not getting along at one level or another. Sometimes they tried to hang on, and endured for years before they broke down, but the hard-heartedness that believers demonstrate toward one another (and the sins that come along with it) makes the worst possible testimony. How did Jesus say the world is to know that we are his servants? He said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples….” How? Because we are constantly fighting against one another?  No! The Agapé love applied consistently between believers is the strongest testimony we can produce.

Unity as a Result of Agape Love

And how did Jesus say the world would know that He himself was sent by God? He said in his prayer (John 17:21) “…That they may be one…that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” Unity in the Church is the other half of the testimony of the church. In fact, if you think about it, you can see that Jesus gave the World two means by which to judge the Church: Agapé Love, and Christian Unity. Whether we like it or not, we are being judged by the World, as directed by Jesus Himself, and…we are found sadly wanting. If we allow ourselves the luxury of anger, bitterness, or self-will, then what we demonstrate to the world is that the message of the cross is false, and/or that we ourselves are not the servants of God.

In fact, even when we want to do right, we find ourselves thwarted, either for the simple cause that it takes two people to be in unity and a loving relationship, but only one wants it; or, because in our human ability we simply cannot bring ourselves to be at peace with someone because they have hurt us badly, or we don’t trust them, or, conversely, that we feel guilty because we know that we hurt them.

Either trap can be fatal.

So… what is the answer? We agree that we can’t do it, so… Who can?

Only the Holy Spirit can do it

16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

It is funny that we should say that we “can’t do it”…that is exactly what God says, too! God warned the Israelites that they could not keep his Law. Paul has warned the believers that they cannot please God in the flesh. God never has given us a difficult assignment; He has almost always given us an impossible assignment! The Christian life is not difficult, it is impossible… apart from the moment-by-moment control of the indwelling and presiding Holy Spirit.

Only God can live the life that his righteousness demands.  Jesus demonstrated God’s righteousness, as “God in the Flesh.” He fulfilled the righteous judgment of the Law upon us at the Cross, and His righteousness was imputed to us (deposited in our accounts) the moment we trusted in His finished work for our salvation. But we still somehow think we ought to be able to do in our flesh what even He himself did by the Holy Spirit. (Jesus pointed out that what he did he did by the Holy Spirit.)

17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

This is a very important concept. Paul has laid out the problem in stark terms, not padding the truth at all. We still have a sin nature, but we also have a new nature. The new nature is a created being; completely obedient to God, and completely in harmony with the Holy Spirit. But we still have a will, and, even now, we can choose to submit to the Holy Spirit, and “walk” (day-by-day, step-by-step) with Him, or not. There is a war going on, and we have to choose, moment-by-moment, whose side we will serve.

18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

Remember that Paul made a similar statement in Romans 8:14 “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”

If you are a child of God, you are not under the Law…and, by the Holy Spirit, it should become clear to all observers that your life does not need the constraint of the Law, because you are under God’s direct control.  If you insist on putting yourself under the Law, then you are defeating the purpose of God’s Grace. So, what is the “measuring stick”, so to speak? How are we to see the difference, day by day? Paul introduces two contrasting concepts; “works” (plural) and “fruit” (singular). He pairs them with two mutually exclusive persons; the old Sin nature of every believer and the Holy Spirit of God. He says that our old sin natures produce certain traits in character and behavior that are observable to any person watching, and rejectable by all, as well. Think about this: sins of the flesh, while a source of pleasure to unbelievers, are a source of condemnation from those same unbelievers when they are practiced by believers. Why? Because, for better or worse, the World holds us to a higher standard of righteousness, and it is always looking for ways to condemn us.

But if you walk in the Spirit, there will be nothing to condemn. Doesn’t that sound attractive to you? It does to me. I read in the book of Daniel that his 120-some worst enemies, who unanimously wanted him dead, could find nothing wrong with him except his relationship with the God of Israel. My friends don’t have to look very far to find fault with me. My enemies certainly can find cause to condemn me. And I yearn for the time when I will finally be freed from my sin nature, and can rest from the war between the flesh and the Spirit.

But I remember that Daniel was living that way in his normal human body, not in some sort of “exalted state”. He simply was unfailingly doing at all times exactly what he was supposed to do. There is no evidence of his ever having spoken unkindly, or having stirred up arguments, having made accusations, or anything else of a counter-productive nature. Ironically, though, in his recorded prayer, he identified closely enough with Israel that he said “…we have turned our backs on You…” (Not “they”, but “we”.)

What will it look like?

So, what are the earmarks of the flesh-controlled life, and that of the Spirit-controlled life?

19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,

20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,

21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

I find it fascinating that the “works” (plural) of the flesh are listed seventeen strong, with an eighteenth item that is a “catch-all” phrase: “and such like”. The list is literally twice as long as that of the fruit of the Spirit, and the last item extends it to include everything that the human heart can imagine. And it is plural; if you are partaking in any of these, then you are in the flesh; it’s as simple as that.

But the next “list”, the fruit of the Spirit, is half as long, and is singular: it is not a “smorgasbord” from which you can choose what you would like to exemplify. It is a “nine-fold” fruit, singular; a fruit with nine aspects, or characteristics, and all nine aspects, or characteristics, have to be present or it is not the Holy Spirit who is producing it.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Notice that last bit? “Against such there is no law…?” Why is that even an issue? It is because the whole context of the book has been the separation of Law and Grace. If you are walking in the Spirit, the Law will have no effect on you because it does not touch the things of the Spirit. That is why the enemies of Daniel could find no cause for accusation in his life. He walked in the Spirit, and there was no cause for offense. There was literally nothing to condemn. I would love it if all my enemies found in me that same problem: nothing to condemn. But the honest truth is that my friends can find fault with me.

I did discover recently that a man I have known for 25 years, and of whom I had heard via the workplace “grapevine” (nice word for gossip) that he strongly disliked me, actually disliked me because I am a believer. That is a relief to know. I learned it, ironically enough, from another unbeliever. (He said the exact word used was “Bible-thumper”…which I guess is OK, but I do hope I did not cross some line and offend him by my words. If it is God’s Word that offended him, I am in the clear, but if I did it, then he may have had reasonable cause for offense.) I will probably never know for sure, but I don’t think we have ever had an argument, or any sort of cross words. We only worked together a short while, and I think I was always relatively friendly…but who knows? James says we all offend with our tongues. Looking forward, all I can do is to try to be vigilant to walk in the Spirit, so as to not cause offense, but, instead, to be productive for God.

This next verse is easy to miss, and nearly as easy to misread:

24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

Please take note that this is past tense: Whatever the verse is about, it already happened. This is not a command to “get crucified”, or to “crucify the flesh”. It is a statement of Fact, that if you belong to Jesus, then the crucifixion is a done deal. We just need to learn to walk in the daily reality of that fact. God sees you as being permanently separated from your old sin nature. He dealt with your sin at the cross, and will no longer see you in your sins. In fact, that is what Romans 6:1-14 is all about. You are dead to sin (whether you believe it or not), and do not have to continue in it. In Romans he points this truth out and says that it is incumbent upon us to believe it and rest in that truth, taking shelter in the fact that we are no longer slaves to sin. Here in Galatians, he says we are to walk in that truth.

Conclusion:

25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

This is an “it just makes sense” sort of statement. “Since you already have been saved, redeemed, resurrected and baptized into the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit, and since, in fact, you are already seated with him in Heaven…doesn’t it make sense that you function by that principle as well? That you, in fact, allow Him full ownership in your life?”

And what would that look like if you did?

Paul’s final messages in Galatians are to tell the believers how to treat one another. But if the fundamental principle is confessed and agreed to, (that, since I am spiritually alive because of Christ and Him alone, and have been joined to him by the work of the Holy Spirit, not my own works) then it is a logical necessity that I complete the transaction and walk with him.

When I was first born again, something a friend said made perfect sense to me: “If I belong to Him, I ought to work for Him.” That stuck with me ever since. And, as I look at this verse, I realize that that is exactly what Paul says. If I belong to Him, it makes sense that I act as if I do.

Spend some time thinking this over: if you see that the fruit of the Spirit is pretty thin on the limbs, so to speak, then perhaps you need to confess that you are not walking consistently, and you need to allow God to work a full repentance—a turnaround—a change of course. “Walking” must become a continuous exercise of faith, not just a series of failures, in the flesh. Bear in mind that as a toddler is learning to walk, he or she falls down a lot. That is OK…success means getting up one more time than we fall down. Eventually we learn to walk in a stable manner.

Let’s look to God to teach us to walk with Him.

Lord Jesus, help us to see ourselves through your eyes, and to be sober about our strengths and weaknesses, our successes and failures, and to confess them for what they are, without excuses. Allow us to be healed by your Spirit and so to lead others to You.

Amen