Posted by: pastortomvabeach | October 28, 2009

Thought for the Week November 1, 2009

I want to build some more on what I’ve been writing about the last three weeks. Up to now I have tried to convey the truth about who a person is once they are “in Christ” or, in other words, when they become a believer in Jesus. I have shared that God says we are saints, righteous and holy, His own children, and so forth. It is vital that we understand our identity as God’s adopted children as the basis for conduct becoming such a person. Once we know and really believe who we are, how we conduct ourselves follows almost naturally.

For example, when Potiphar’s wife tried to entice Joseph into an adulterous relationship, Joseph’s reply was, “How could I do such a great evil and sin against God.” (Genesis 39:9). Joseph was logically looking at himself as one who belonged to God and had surely been blessed by this relationship and saying, “There is no way that God’s man is going to stoop so low and act in such an ungodly way!” When we view ourselves in the correct way, we’ll do the same.

This week I want to hit on something that I believe to be in error in much of Christian teaching today – the idea that there is a civil war going on within Christians’ hearts. In many places you will hear prominent teachers tell you that once you are saved a battle begins inside of you between your old man, often called the “sin nature”, and the new Christian you. They tell us that the reason we have such a hard time with sin is that we let the “sin nature” get the best of us. They prescribe all kinds of methods for winning the battle because reality proves that many Christians do fall into sin and have a hard time of it.

One translation of the Bible even translates the Greek word “flesh” with the term “sinful nature”, and puts that term in places that appear to show just such a battle actually spelled out in the Scripture. Beloved, I am convinced that this rendering is in error and that there is no such thing as a battle going on within myself between two natures. In fact, buying in to this idea, in my estimation, exacerbates the problems we have living free from sin because we think all of the problems are coming from “inside me” and it’s hard to fight against myself!

If we simply listen to what Paul teaches in Romans and other letters regarding the old man, we will recognize that the idea of an inner civil war is absolutely unbiblical. Listen to what Paul teaches, “Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death…our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.” (Romans 6:3, 6) Did you catch what Paul said? Our “old man”, the man of sin, the one in the likeness of Adam, the one with the sinful nature, was “crucified with Christ.” Paul is saying that when we believe in Jesus that nature that was a slave to sin, that only wanted to do evil, was killed! How can something that is dead wage civil war inside of you and me against the new man of the Spirit? It is impossible!

Paul clarifies this further on, “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.” (6:8) and so, ”Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (6:11) Paul is saying, look at it this way, when you believed, the old you died with Christ and a new you rose up, so stop thinking you are just the same old way with the same old temptations and the same old weaknesses which always give in.

The best thing we can do is agree with God that we are dead to sin. Can you see what this does for us? How much can you tempt a dead man or woman? What manner of enticement will it take to get him or her to rise from the grave, ala The Mummy, and walk the earth again enslaved to sin? It’s nearly absurd. You can do whatever you want to a dead person and they will give you the same response – nothing! This is how God wants us to consider ourselves when it comes to sin. I’m dead, sin has no power, no temptation can touch me.

But I can hear you now, wheels turning, clouds of thoughts gathering, “Why, then, do we sin? I mean we do, don’t we?” Yes, friends, we do sin and John says, “If we say, ‘We have no sin,’ we are deceiving ourselves.” (I John 1:8) Paul even describes a struggle against sin in Romans 7. The difference is that Paul describes a struggle with something outside himself, a sort of non-personal entity he calls “sin”. Paul says twice, ”It is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.” (Romans 7:17, 20). He says, in fact, ”I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.” (7:22) This indicates that it is not an inner struggle between my good and evil natures, which I can never win, but the struggle comes from without, surely instigated by the enemy of our souls, who targets not our spirit or new man, but the “flesh” we occupy.

The “flesh” is not the old man but the earthly part of us that is still subject to aging, sickness, weather, and eventually death. The enemy knows that this part of us has not been changed yet into a body that can live in heaven and so he tempts our flesh, our memories, etc. The great thing about knowing that the battle is not me against me is that I have a decided advantage because Jesus dwells in me, so it’s me & Jesus against the enemy, against sin in the flesh. And Paul says we win that battle hands down when we walk in the Spirit!

Romans 8:1-2, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” There is no condemnation, not because God now winks at sin, but because when we walk in the Spirit we do not yield to the flesh, we live in newness of life, we experience resurrection power and sin has no power over us! Anyone who says that no one can live without sinning is just wrong according to the Scripture. Galatians 5:16 says, “If we walk in the Spirit, we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” There, it’s possible, you are dead to sin, you can life free!

Here’s the challenge – read, memorize these passages, fill your mind with them until you are convinced that you are dead to sin. It will revolutionize your life and free you up! So let me ask you, are you in a civil war? Not if you are a Christian. But the next question is the biggee, are you walking “in the Spirit” or “in the flesh”? Just a thought.

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