Thursday, July 30, 2015

Flesh vs. Spirit: Our Responsibilities

The believer has two natures: the flesh (old) and the Spirit (new). These two natures being opposite as to origin, character, and destiny produces a conflict in the believer (Gal. 5:17). 

Salvation is of the Lord. It is God’s responsibility to save us from the flesh and give us His Spirit. He takes us out of Adam and put us in Christ. We are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works (Eph. 2:10). He makes us a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17). God alone is responsible for our standing in Christ. However, this does not mean that we are without responsibilities in this matter. Christ gave us the victory by His grace but we will not enjoy it if we do not fulfill our responsibilities in the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit. While God alone is responsible for our standing in Christ we are responsible for our state in this life (practical daily walk). The goal is to get our state lined up with our standing. Our practical daily walk must be in the power of the Spirit but that will not happen unless we do certain things.

It is God’s responsibility to work in us but it is our responsibility to work out what He works in (Phil. 2:12-13). To “work out” demands activity. It is not possible to be physically healthy without some kind of exercise. Likewise, it is not possible to be godly without spiritual exercise (1 Tim. 4:7).

I. BELIEVE what God Says about the Flesh and the Spirit

The flesh is a SIN nature and in it dwells NO good thing (Rom. 7:18). Religious flesh is just as corrupt as non-religious flesh. The flesh cannot please God (Rom. 8:8). The Spirit is a RIGHTEOUS nature and in it dwells NO bad thing (Eph. 4:24). Do you really believe this?

II. RECKON Yourself to be Dead to the Flesh and Alive in the Spirit

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh (referring to the body) I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Gal. 2:20)

On the cross Christ was baptized into our death (Lk. 12:50) and was raised victorious the third day. Upon salvation the Holy Spirit baptizes the believer into Christ and thereby we are identified with Him in death, burial, and resurrection (1 Cor. 12:13; Rom. 6:3-4). Regardless if you feel this truth or even know this truth it is still the truth. God said the old man is dead. He said that the believer is not in the flesh but in the Spirit (Rom. 8:9). It is our responsibility to reckon (to account it so) the flesh to be dead and ourselves to be alive unto God by the Spirit (Rom. 6:11). This is not a matter of feelings but FAITH. If we are guided by our feelings we will never enjoy this truth. It is for us to “believe God”. God has declared this great fact in His word (or we could have never known it); we hear that word; faith believes it, and rejoices in what it hears; and believes God, apart from the question of feeling. 

III. MORTIFY the Flesh and Walk in the Spirit

The word “mortify” is only used twice in the Bible and both times by Paul (Rom. 8:12; Col. 3:5). It may sound strange that we are told to mortify the flesh in light of the fact that the flesh is said to be dead already. However, if we understand what the word “mortify” means it makes perfect sense. What does a mortician do? He handles dead bodies. To “mortify” the flesh means that we are treating it as dead (even though it is still present). We don’t do this through the power of the flesh (by self discipline) but “through the Spirit”. The members of our body are not available for sinful deeds when we “mortify the deeds of the body."

If we reckon ourselves to be alive in the Spirit then we should walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16). The Christian life is not just about what we don’t do, it is also about what we do.

If we live in the Spirit (STANDING), let us also walk in the Spirit (STATE). (Gal. 5:25)

We walk in the Spirit when we yield to Him in our heart and obey Him in our life. Thus, the spiritual man is right inside and out. We must no longer think with the carnal mind but with the mind of Christ. Thinking with the mind of Christ will cause us to let Christ who lives in us to live through us.  

The first three chapters of Ephesians reveal our glorious standing as members of the Body of Christ. The last three chapters exhorts us to WALK WORTHY of that calling! 

IV. STARVE the Flesh and FEED the Spirit

But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. (Rom. 13:14)

To make provision is to supply with food. Don’t feed the flesh by constantly catering to its desires (Gal. 6:7-8).

How do we feed the Spirit? There is only one spiritual food that can nourish the new nature- the word of God (1 Pet. 1:23-2:3). We are as filled with the Spirit as we are filled with the word of God (compare Eph. 5:18-21 and Col. 3:16).

Practical suggestions:
1. Turn off the TV/internet and study the Bible
2. Don't think on wrong things but right things (Phil. 4:8)
3. Separate from worldly people and fellowship with spiritual people
4. Don't listen to worldly music but sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to the Lord
5. Don't make recreation a priority over church
6. Don't seek to please self, seek to please the Lord

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Believer's Two Natures

... were by NATURE the children of wrath... (Eph. 2:3)
... ye might be partakers of the divine NATURE... (2 Pet. 1:4)
Webster's 1828 Dictionary defines nature as being, "The essence, essential qualities or attributes of a thing, which constitute what it is."
The word of God teaches that every believer has two natures. It is important that believers learn about this doctrine as soon as possible lest they become confused, discouraged, and defeated. Upon salvation the believer immediately enjoys the “newness of life” that is in Christ. With a heart full of gratitude for salvation and the price that Christ paid for that salvation the new believer desires to live as pure and right as possible. However, it does not take very long for him to realize that the fleshly desires are not gone and that he is still tempted to commit the same sins he lived in before salvation. Without an understanding of what the Bible teaches concerning the two natures the new believer will lose the joy of salvation thinking that he cannot live the Christian life and will more than likely even doubt that he was ever saved.

I. The Concept Explained
When you first hear about the believer’s two natures it certainly sounds strange. How can one person have two natures? In John 3 the Lord Jesus teaches that a man must have two births to see and enter the kingdom of God. Though he was talking to a “ruler of the Jews” during the time that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, there is spiritual truth in this passage that applies to us today. Though the kingdom of heaven is not at hand during this age, the believer is spiritually “translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son” (Col. 1:13) upon salvation.

A. Every man is born of the flesh – The flesh refers to human nature or what we are by physical birth. The first man, Adam, was created in the image of God and enjoyed fellowship with Him. However, Adam sinned against God and died spiritually (Eph. 2:1) being separated from the Spirit of God. All that are born into this world are the seed of Adam and are in the image of Adam (Gen. 5:3). Kind begets kind and the flesh can only bring forth flesh. Other names in the Bible for the flesh are: natural man (I Cor. 2:14), old man (Rom. 6:6), outward man (II Cor. 4:16), carnal mind (Rom. 8:7), and sin (Rom. 7:17). In the Bible there is a distinction between “sin” which is the root and “sins” which are the fruit. The nature of “the flesh” is SIN. No matter how hard a man may try to be religious and good (like Nicodemus), “that which is born of the flesh is flesh”. 

Consider what the word of God says about the flesh:
1. It profiteth NOTHING (Jn. 6:63)
2. In it dwelleth NO GOOD THING (Rom. 7:18)
3. It is ENMITY against God and CANNOT please God (Rom. 8:7-8)
4. It CANNOT know the things of the Spirit of God (I Cor. 2:14)
5. It is CORRUPT according to the deceitful lusts (Eph. 4:22)

B. To be saved a man must be born of the Spirit – To be born of the Spirit means that the Holy Spirit has indwelt you and has thereby made you a partaker of the divine nature (II Pet. 1:4). To be born of the flesh is generation and to be born of the Spirit is “regeneration” (Titus 3:5). The regenerated believer has been “renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Col. 3:10). The believer is IN CHRIST and Christ is in the believer (Col. 1:27). Other names for the new nature are: new man (Eph. 4:24), inward man (II Cor. 4:16), and the spiritual mind (Rom. 8:6). The nature of the flesh is SIN but the nature of the Spirit is HOLINESS (Eph. 4:24). 

C. Both natures exist within the believer – The apostle Paul testified “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 7:18a). Notice that he specified “in my flesh” because in Christ there are good things in us (Phile. 6). The flesh cannot be changed and made good in the sight of God. When a sinner gets saved the flesh does not get saved. Nowhere in the Bible is it taught that the believer can “eradicate” the sin nature. The flesh will be with us until death or we are changed in the rapture.

The old nature and the new nature are opposite in origin, character (consider the contrast between the “works of the flesh” and the “fruit of the Spirit” as listed in Gal. 5:19-23), and destiny.

II. The Conflict Experienced
The existence of two natures within the same person which are of absolute opposite origin, character, and destiny obviously causes a conflict (Gal. 5:17). The flesh desires for you to sin and the Spirit desires for you to be holy. This is a conflict every true believer experiences but it is one that too many do not understand and therefore they do not enjoy the victory that is ours when we learn to walk in the Spirit. One of the blessings of this conflict is the assurance it provides that we are “born of the Spirit” for one that is not born of the Spirit knows nothing of a conflict between the flesh and the Spirit. Another blessing of this conflict is that it teaches us by experience that our flesh is totally depraved and therefore we must depend totally on God for victory. This conflict is no excuse to walk in defeat as a believer because we can “walk in the Spirit” and thereby NOT “fulfill the lust of the flesh”.

III. The Conquest Enjoyed
What a wonderful day it was when I learned from the scripture that it is not my responsibility to defeat the flesh because Christ has already conquered it for me (Rom. 6)! As to our standing (unchangeable position), we are complete in Christ the moment of salvation (Col. 2:10). But as to our state (changeable condition), we have have a responsibility to walk by faith in the victory Christ has given us. 

Romans 6 teaches us HOW to enjoy the victory we have in Christ. Please take the time to carefully read through this great chapter. This chapter can be outlined according to 3 key words:
A. KNOW (vs.1-10) – that our old man is crucified with Christ
B. RECKON (v.11) – that we are dead to sin and alive unto God
C. YIELD (vs.12-23) – our members as instruments of righteousness
But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. (Rom. 6:17)

1. Doctrine - Know (Spirit)
2. Heart - Reckon (Soul)
3. Obeyed - Yield (Body)
We cannot live the Christian life in the energy in the flesh anymore than we could be saved by it. We must stop striving to make our flesh like Christ (which is impossible) and let Christ live His life through us.

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20).
As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: (Col. 2:6)


Saturday, July 4, 2015

Is 2 Chron. 7:14 the Answer for America?

The common practice in preaching today is to isolate a text from its context and then just use it however you want. Ignorant and arrogant preachers actually think they “make the Bible come to life” with their story-filled sermons. The word of God is quick and powerful (Heb. 4:12). It certainly does not need our assistance! Very few actually “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:2) in context and rightly divided (2 Tim. 2:15). 

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

This is a well-known verse that is usually used by preachers when preaching on the need for revival in America. It will no doubt be the text for many sermons on this Fourth of July weekend. But does America have any right to claim the promises in this verse? 

Let’s consider the context. In chapter 6 king Solomon blesses the congregation of Israel (vs.1-11) and offers a dedicatory prayer for the newly built temple in Jerusalem (vs.12-42). In chapter 7:
· Fire from heaven falls on the sacrifices, the glory of the LORD fills the house (vs.1-3)
· More sacrifices are offered by the king and the people (vs.4-7)
· The king leads the people to keep the feast of tabernacles (vs.8-11)
· The LORD appears to Solomon in response to his prayer (vs.12-22)

Look at Solomon’s request in 6:24-31. This is in accordance with the covenant that God made with Israel in the wilderness (Deut. 28). In 2 Chron. 7:14 God promises to do 3 things IF Israel will do 4 things (the law is an "if" and "then" system). It is WRONG for the Body of Christ in this present dispensation of grace to put ourselves under this law system (Rom. 6:14). Do we have to do these things in order for God to:
1. Hear from heaven – Our access is based on Christ (Eph. 2:18; 3:12)
2. Forgive our sins – All of our sins are already forgiven (Col. 2:13)
3. Heal our land – We are a heavenly people with heavenly promises (Phil. 3:20; Eph. 1:3)

We may apply the moral principles in 2 Chron. 7:14 but we have no right to claim its promises. Certainly the Body of Christ should also do the 4 things mentioned in this verse:
1. Humble ourselves (Col. 3:12)
2. Pray (Col. 4:2)
3. Seek God’s face (Col. 3:1-4)
4. Turn from our wicked ways (Col. 3:5-11)  

But even if all the Christians in America faithfully obeyed these four things (which will sadly never happen) it would still not cause God to forgive the sins of our nation and heal our land from diseases and natural disasters. He has not made a covenant with America about our land! 

What is the problem with America? It is a part of this present evil world (Gal. 1:4) that is on a course set by Satan (Eph. 2:1-3) who is the god of it (2 Cor. 4:4). God has not called us to save the world. We are to preach the gospel so that sinners can get saved out of the world and placed into Christ. We are to shine as lights in the midst of this crooked and perverse nation (Phil. 2:12-16) but we are not going to change it. That is the real "Christian world view."


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