Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Victory in Christ - Part 15

This is the next installment of a series I am writing concerning what Romans 6-8 teaches about our sin problem and God's plan for victory. To find previous installments do a search for the title: Victory In Christ. You can find the first installment here.

6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.

So we have the principle reiterated that it is an issue of death when we mind fleshly things. Living is found in focusing on spiritual things. As I mentioned earlier, sowing to the flesh reaps corruption. We need to come to the point where we actually believe this. When Adam was told not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he was told that he would die. I imagine that after he disobeyed, he probably thought to himself, “Well, that wasn't so bad. I'm still here.” I think we sometimes do the same thing. We spend time focusing on the flesh and earthly, sinful pleasures and we don't feel any worse as far as life and death is concerned. But we need to challenge ourselves with the question, “Do I believe God in this matter?” To be carnally minded is a destructive, death-producing way to live.

Principle 22: To be carnally (fleshly) minded is a destructive, death-producing way to live.

8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.

Here we have an explanation that clarifies a couple of things. He speaks here of being “in the flesh.” That is different than being carnally or fleshly minded. He very clearly says in verse 9 that if the Spirit of God dwells in us, we are not “in the flesh.” If the Spirit of God dwells in us, we are “in the Spirit.” Then he further goes on to explain that if someone does not have the Spirit of God dwelling in him, then he does not belong to God.

So let's start with this recent information and work backwards. Someone who does not know God through Christ does not have the Spirit of God in him and therefore does not belong to God. Such a person is “in the flesh.” This person cannot please God. This person is separate from God and is on a path to death. Now if I, as a Christian, spend time minding the things of the flesh, I am dabbling in the same kind of thought patterns and focus that a person who does not know God does. He is in it full time. I, when I think this way, am spending time there as well. Paul is telling us that to have that sort of mindset brings us into the arena of death and is somehow bringing the corruption of death into our lives. The more time we spend there, the more damage is done. Even if we are ultimately saved, we will have damaged our lives tremendously compared to what they otherwise might have been.

Here is what J.I. Packer wrote in Knowing God:
We are familiar with the thought that our bodies are like machines, needing the right routine of food, rest, and exercise if they are to run efficiently, and liable, if filled up with the wrong fuel -- alcohol, drugs, poison -- to lose their power of healthy functioning and ultimately to 'seize up' entirely in physical death. What we are, perhaps, slower to grasp is that God wishes us to think of our souls in a similar way. As rational persons, we were made to bear God's moral image -- that is, our souls were made to 'run' on the practice of worship, law-keeping, truthfulness, honesty, discipline, self-control, and service to God and our fellows. If we abandon these practices, not only do we incur guilt before God; we also progressively destroy our own souls. Conscience atrophies, the sense of shame dries up, one's capacity for truthfulness, loyalty, and honesty is eaten away, one's character disintegrates. One not only becomes desperately miserable; one is steadily being de-humanized. This is one aspect of spiritual death.

When Paul told the Colossians to put to death sinful behaviors, he warned them that it was because of these things that the wrath of God is coming on the children of disobedience (Colossians 3:6). Why would we want to spend our time doing the very things that those in the flesh are going to be condemned for?

The key to victory then involves setting our minds on the things of the spirit. While we don't do this perfectly, we are under the umbrella of “no condemnation”.

Paul summarizes some of this in Galatians 5:16-18: “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”

In this passage he reminds us that we can avoid fulfilling the lust of the flesh by walking in the Spirit. The flesh and the Spirit are against each other and there is a battle going on. My dad used to teach us that the phrase at the end of verse 17 “so that you do not do the things that you wish” really means, “so that you will not do the things you otherwise would have done.” The NASB translates this phrase, “so that you may not do the things that you please.” In other words, this may not be like the Romans passage where Paul laments the fact that he cannot successfully do the right thing. This passage may be saying that the Spirit is victorious. The battle rages, but the Spirit is the victor. He keeps us from doing what we otherwise would. I'm not a Greek scholar and so I don't know if this meaning is accurate or not, but it is worth considering. We should not minimize the capability of the Spirit to be victorious. After Paul's despair of Romans chapter 7, he brings the Spirit into His explanation as a reason for hope and praise. It is the Spirit that gives victory and so it makes sense that if the Spirit is against the flesh, He has the power to be victorious.

Principle 23: If the Spirit of God dwells in you, then you are in the spirit and not in the flesh. So don't spend time being what you're not.

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