I should not view my daily life as being a difficult and frustrating struggle with sin, to be endured until I am finally delivered through death (an unpleasant, but necessary experience) into heaven.
Although I want to experience a consistently abundant life, I should not reason that only “very spiritual” believers are able to achieve that goal. God has provided everything I need to live the abundant life.
2 Peter 1:3-4 His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.
By these He has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desires.
My Christian Life is not just “avoiding” bad behavior, but rather Walking in the Spirit.
Many Christians are satisfied with NOT walking in the flesh. But is God simply satisfied with me NOT stealing or NOT getting drunk anymore?
It's a misconception for me to think that my Christian life is simply NOT doing "bad" things, bad behavior.
One of the dangers of behavior-oriented Christianity (behavior manipulation) is that I tend to say "Before I was a Christian, I did bad things; now that I'm a Christian I stopped doing those things." But is that completely true for me?
- If I am just focused on NOT doing bad things, typically it's for PEOPLE.
- BUT if my focus is on doing what is pleasing to God, then my focus is on GOD.
If my focus is on pleasing God, then I will NOT be doing these "sins" of the Old Self (walking in the flesh).
- Often, Christians think that when I'm walking "in the flesh", I can stop that behavior in my own strength.
- Walking "in the Spirit" (the "New Self") can only happen when I'm abiding in the Spirit.
It's not enough just to get rid of the darkness, but I need to have LIGHT.
Why is it critical for me to walk in the Spirit?
Ephesians 4:11-13 And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.
In Ephesians 4 and 5 Paul lists things I shouldn't be doing (the "Old Self". But God does not just want me to have a life of avoiding sin.
Instead, Paul is pointing out (the "New Self") that God wants me to have a life of consistently walking in the Spirit, because God wants to bless me and He wants to use me in the lives of others.
God wants to bless me and bless others through me!
OLD SELF: Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit.
NEW SELF: ...speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ.
OLD SELF: You should no longer walk as the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their thoughts. They are darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them and because of the hardness of their hearts. They became callous and gave themselves over to promiscuity for the practice of every kind of impurity with a desire for more and more.
NEW SELF: You took off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires; you are being renewed in the spirit of your minds; you put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.
OLD SELF: Since you put away lying
NEW SELF: Speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another.
OLD SELF: The thief must no longer steal.
NEW SELF: ...he must do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need.
OLD SELF: No foul language is to come from your mouth
NEW SELF: ... only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear.
OLD SELF: All bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander must be removed from you, along with all malice.
NEW SELF: ... be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.
OLD SELF: But sexual immorality and any impurity or greed should not even be heard of among you, as is proper for saints. Coarse and foolish talking or crude joking are not suitable,
NEW SELF: ...giving thanks. [as a habit]
OLD SELF: Therefore, do not become their partners. For you were once darkness,
NEW SELF: ...now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light— for the fruit of the light results in all goodness, righteousness, and truth— discerning what is pleasing to the Lord.
OLD SELF: Don’t participate in the fruitless works of darkness,
NEW SELF: ... expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what is done by them in secret. Everything exposed by the light is made clear, for what makes everything clear is light.
OLD SELF: ...walk—not as unwise people
NEW SELF: ... as wise— making the most of the time, because the days are evil.
OLD SELF: So don’t be foolish,
NEW SELF: ... understand what the Lord’s will is.
OLD SELF: And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions,
NEW SELF: ... be filled by the Spirit: speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music from your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.
Consider my behavior: where am I most comfortable?
In the "Old Self" list, in the "New Self" list, or somewhere in the middle?
...walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. Galatians 5:16
In Romans chapters 7 - 8, Paul presents God’s perfect solution (walking in the Spirit) to my human nature (walking in the flesh).
Some Christians find themselves habitually living in a Romans 7 experience (a desert experience) and some would point to the apostle Paul to prove that he, too, had the same struggles that we have.
Every Christian should understand their human nature does not disappear and is hopeless (the Law in Romans 7 serves this purpose). That means I cannot please God and live for Him under my own strength.
Paul did pass through Romans 7. He did not stay there but resided in Romans 8. God has made the same provision for me. His nature, His Holy Spirit living in me is more powerful than my human nature.
1) God never intended the Law to be a means by which I could make my sinful nature acceptable to Him, but rather He used the Law to demonstrate how “totally unacceptable” my sinful nature is.
Romans 7:7-13 … I would not have known sin if it were not for the law. For example, I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, Do not covet.… So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good. Therefore, did what is good cause my death? Absolutely not! On the contrary, sin, in order to be recognized as sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that through the commandment, sin might become sinful beyond measure.
2) Paul experienced what every Christian needs to learn, that my sinful nature did not disappear and is not improved since I became a Christian. No matter how hard I try, I cannot make it conform to God’s character in my own strength.
Romans 7:14-16 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am made out of flesh, sold into sin’s power. For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree with the law that it is good.
3) Paul became aware that the sinful nature no longer represented his real desires, but what other option did he have?
Romans 7:17-24 So now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but it is the sin that lives in me.
So I discover this principle: When I want to do what is good, evil is with me. For in my inner self I joyfully agree with God’s law. But I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this dying body?
4) God’s solution is to provide a new nature that is totally compatible with His character, creating a “new self” walking in the Spirit as compared to my “old self” walking in the flesh.
Romans 7:25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I myself am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh, to the law of sin.
Romans 8:1-4 Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. What the law could not do since it was limited by the flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending His own Son in flesh like ours under sin’s domain, and as a sin offering, in order that the law’s requirement would be accomplished in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Romans 8:5-8 For those who live according to the flesh think about the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, about the things of the Spirit. For the mind-set of the flesh is death (absence of life), but the mind-set of the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit itself to God’s law, for it is unable to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Romans 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Galatians 2:19-20 For through the law I have died to the law, so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Paul did not reside in Romans 7, nor should I.
I am freed from the power of my human nature. I can do everything that God wants me to do.
The only time I will walk in the flesh is when I choose to. If I walk in the Spirit, I will NOT walk in the flesh!
I don’t have to walk in fear of my sinful human nature, but I need to respect and be aware of the attraction of sin in my life.