“…Walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).
Believers are assured of walking in victory daily (even in the midst of a corrupt world) if they are led by the Spirit rather than their flesh. The source of all our struggles in this present world result from the fallen nature that each of us are born with (as we’ve all descended from fallen Adam). None of us are righteous by nature—we’ve all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Gen. 3, Rom. 3:10-18, 25, 5:12, 18-19).
It’s helpful to become familiar with the many names of this fallen nature in order to recognize it when it rears its ugly head (as it can with such subtlety and deceit):
· The Flesh “That which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6). This flesh “cannot please God” (Rom. 8:8); “profits nothing” (John 6:63), and has “no good thing” in it (Rom. 7:8).
· The Natural Man “receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him: neither can he get to know them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14).
· The Old Man “is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts” (Eph. 4:22).
· The Outward Man “… is perishing” (2 Cor. 4:16).
· The Heart (the natural heart) is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9)—so deceitful that only God can really know it. Jesus said that “Out of the heart precede evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornication, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matt. 15:19).
· The Carnal Mind is “enmity against God” (Rom. 8:7). This aspect of the old nature deals with the thoughts (“minding” the flesh), and imaginations of the natural man. These thoughts propel the flesh into action.
· SIN is the nature and the root while “sins” are the outcome (or fruit) of that nature. In Romans 1:18-5:11 it speaks of theses “sins”. From Romans 5:12-8:39 it’s “Sin” (the old nature) that is dealt with. Even though the sinner is justified in Christ, he/she still senses the old nature at work, and experiences the conflict between that and the new nature.
It’s a Lost Cause to try to improve this nature or change it as that which is of the flesh remains flesh. It can’t be turned into spirit. Its end is death (Rom. 8:6). “In Adam all die” (1 Cor. 15:22). The first Adam was made of the dust of the earth, and to dust all his descendants “return” (Gen. 3:19). He or she that sows to his/her flesh will of the flesh reap corruption (Gal. 6:8). All efforts to improve the flesh, provisions made for the flesh, and all ordinances connected with the flesh—end in corruption and death—all “perish with the using” (Col. 2:22). “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it…” (1 John 2:16-17).
Thankfully there’s a superior alternative, the spirit. It’s divine in nature—something begotten by God, created in righteousness and true holiness (Eph. 4:24). For those who partake of it, the whole course of life can flow in a different direction (2 Cor. 4:16, 5:17, Eph. 4:23). This new nature also has several names that it’s known by:
· Spirit “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). As the “flesh” partakes of the nature of Adam, so the spirit partakes of the nature of the Holy Spirit.
· Divine Nature “…partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Pet. 1:4).
· The New Man “…which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24, Col. 3:10). This is also referred to as “a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17, Gal. 6:15).
· The Inward Man “is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16). It’s called the “inner man” in Ephesians 3:16. The Holy Spirit fuels and nourishes the partaker with grace and strength enabling them the capacity to experience something of God’s vast love (Eph. 3:16). This inward man delights in the law and ways of God and so is in direct conflict with the outward man (Rom. 7:22).
· The Mind (this “mind”) serves the law of God and delights in it (Rom. 7:22-23, 25).
· Christ’s Spirit (Pneuma-Christou) is the new nature which makes one a “son of God” as Christ is “the Son of God” so Pneuma-Christou is another name for the “sonship spirit” (Rom. 8:14-15, Eph. 1:5-6).
· Divine Spirit (Pneuma-Theou) is begotten from God— “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13, Rom. 8:9).
This nature is perfect and impervious to change—it remains spirit (John 3:6). It originates from the Spirit of God and its instrument is the Word of God (1 Pet. 1:22-23, John 6:63, 2 Tim. 3:16-17). This gift of the new nature or spirit is called our ‘sealing’ which is ours on believing (Eph. 1:13). If we are “complete” in Christ, we cannot become incomplete (Col. 2:10). This new nature can’t be canceled out (even by sin). If any man or woman sins, they have an Advocate with the Father (Jesus Christ, the righteous) and He is (and remains) the propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:1-2).
THE TRAP OF RELIGION
The believer needs to be ever mindful of his/her standing in Christ (and where his/her true citizenship lies, Phil. 3:20, Col. 3:1-4) so they don’t fall into the trap of religion. Religion has to do with the flesh (and all the things that the flesh can perform) and is concerned only with what it can see, hear, and comprehend (1 Cor. 2:14). The rules of the flesh profit nothing (John 6:63). These works are dead and in these works they deny God (Tit. 1:16). The Pharisees erred thinking that in themselves (and more rules, laws, ordinances, etc.) they could improve themselves, but they were called out by Jesus for the phonies and hypocrites that they were (Matt. 23, John 8:44).
Christianity is not religion and isn’t made up of articles, creeds, confessions, ordinances, etc. but in the Person of Christ Jesus and the sonship relationship the Christian has with God in Him. The apostle Paul knew the dangers of a believer not realizing his/her position in Christ and how that opened them up to deception. He reminded the Colossians in his letter to them that because they were now complete in Christ (which is the Head of all principality and power) all ordinances were therefore done away with. He warned them to beware of anyone who tried to cheat them through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, or the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ, Who is the Head (and source of all nourishment that helps the body to grow with the increase that’s from God) (Col. 2:8-15, 19). He furthered urged them to not fall back to futile things— “…if you died with Christ to the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, are you subjecting yourselves to its regulations that are according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things may have an (outward) appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are useless against the indulgence of the flesh” (Col. 2:20-23). In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians it was a similar theme as he pressed them to walk worthy of their calling and use their gifts for God’s purposes (Eph. 4:11-12), the goal being a perfect man (fully grown) with perfect (or full) knowledge of the Son of God in order that they’d no longer be tossed to and fro, like children, from one wind of doctrine (teaching) to another— coming from the cunning, deceitful agendas of men (backed by the devil himself) Eph. 4:1-16, 6:11). It’s okay to be righteously angry at the corruption and injustice we see in the world today, just keep it transitory and exhibit self-control or the flesh will be fed, and an opportunity will be given to the devil (Eph. 4:26-27).
KNOWING GOD is the KEY to not being deceived and the source to stay spiritually minded
Understanding (through the Holy Scriptures) the knowledge of God is so vital and also a necessity to empower one to walk in the Spirit as well as perform the good works He preordained for the believer to walk in (2 Tim. 3:16-17, Eph. 2:10, Phil. 2:13, Tit. 2:14, 3:8, 14). Without the continual renewing of the mind (daily feeding of the new nature) (Deut. 8:3, 2 Cor. 4:16, Rom. 12:2, Eph. 4:23-24, Col. 3:10) the believer can fall into the trap of having confidence in their flesh once again (Phil. 3:3, Rom. 13:14, Ga. 5:16). I catch myself minding my flesh when my striving doesn’t lead to peace or any of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). Thankfully I remember that I can’t do anything profitable in my own strength and flesh and I turn to the One Who can.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh (See Eph. 6:12, 1 John 2:13). For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,” (2 Cor. 10:3-5).
A believer won’t be aware of what to cast down if they don’t have some firsthand knowledge of God. They won’t be able to use the spiritual weapons (Eph. 6:10-17) that God has so graciously provided for them if they can’t differentiate between the knowledge of God and the arguments and high things that exalt itself against it. Hebrews 4:12 reminds us that the Word of God is alive and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, dividing and differentiating between that which is begotten of the flesh and that which is begotten of the spirit (in the individual but also between the natural and spiritual man) (1 Cor. 2:13-15). Read the apostle Paul’s first prayer to the Ephesian believers in Eph. 1:17-23. He prayed that God would give them the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him as this was the key to leading them to know what the hope of His calling was…and the exceeding greatness of His power to those who believed.
PARTING WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT
Even though it says in 2 Timothy 3:12 that those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution don’t get discouraged. The suffering of this present time is not worthy to be compared with the glory which awaits us (Rom. 8:18, 2 Cor. 4:17). Even though our outward man is perishing, our inward man is being renewed day by day. Take good care of your spiritual self (by properly feeding it) as it will pay off and help you to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age. Keep your mind upward, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Rom. 13:13-14, 2 Cor. 4:16-18, Col. 3:1-4, Titus 2:11-14).
“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (Gal. 5:25).