As we have learned in previous segments, Adam’s disobedience had a malignant effect on his entire being, (spirit, soul, and body); a condition passed on to all his descendants, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned…” (Rom. 5:12). Also revealed was the remedy; that by the means of God’s wonderful grace a dramatic reversal of this condition takes place upon salvation.
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17)
Sealed with the Holy Spirit
Spiritual life is restored when the Holy Spirit joins with and permanently seals man’s spirit (Eph. 1:13). At this point two spirits become one, “…he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit” (1 Cor. 6:17) “…so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).
As we have previously learned in prior segments, the new believer is now supernaturally removed from Adam and placed, “in Christ” thereby uniting him to Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, (co-crucifixion) (Gal.2:20, Rom.6:3-6). [Additional information see the article entitled “Co-crucifixion”]
“For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13). The process also involves a spiritual, “circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” (Col.2:11), whereby the soul is cut free from the corrupt body of flesh. [Additional information see the article entitled “Spiritual Circumcision”]
In summary, upon salvation man’s SPIRIT is quickened, his SOUL is redeemed, cut free from his dying BODY which shall be exchanged for a glorified body at the rapture,“For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1Thess. 4:15-17).
“Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. (Phil. 3:21).
One Person Two Natures
Due to the second birth, every born-again believer truly is a “new creature in Christ”, sealed with the Holy Spirit, possessing a “divine nature” (“new man”), “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). However, our old fleshly nature, (“old man”) which is opposed to God is not eradicated upon salvation… unfortunately, he remains alive and active. In reality, every believer is a spiritual being temporarily residing in sin-prone flesh. “An immortal life in dying flesh…a royal servant in a prison of clay.”
The nature of the “new man” is that of the Holy Spirit, therefore He desires to love, obey and please God.
The nature of the “old man” is that of the flesh, which manifests itself through self-centeredness; self-gratification and self-righteousness. He is characterized by an attitude that is antagonistic to everything genuinely associated with God (although he will gladly wear the mask of religion to suit his self-righteousness) “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof…”(2 Tim. 3:5). Rebelliousness, lust, worldliness, and pride are in his DNA. The “works of the flesh” (the old man) and “the fruit of the Spirit” (the new man) are set in contrast in (Gal. 5:19-23):
“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”
Hence, Paul’s declaration in Rom.7:18, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. Believers must learn to deal with the ever re-emergent force of the flesh…the “old man” is dead but buried in a shallow grave!”
Understanding the Inner Struggle
In Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians, he divides all Christians into two categories, the spiritual and the fleshly or carnal (1 Cor. 3:1-3). The two types consist of those who have learned to overcome the flesh and those who are overcome by the flesh; those who have matured and those who remain, “babes in Christ.”
As previously stated, every born-again believer has TWO diametrically opposed natures struggling for control of the being.
In Galatians 5:17 we read, “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”
Romans chapter 7, verses 14-25, provide a window into the nature of the constant struggle between the “old man” and the, “new man” which began shortly after salvation. In these verses, the apostle Paul describes the inner conflict between two contrary forces, the indwelling Holy Spirit, and his sin-prone flesh. The battle for control of the being is a tug-of-war between a well-established nature and an emerging new nature…intense as hand to hand combat, although in this case, the battle is not against flesh and blood, the mind is the arena of conflict. [Additional in-depth information see the article entitled “The Mind is the Battlefield”]
Who’s in Control?
The below drawings are meant to illustrate the “inner realities” concerning the spiritual state of Christians. The two believers set at contrast are both related to the Lord by the “second birth”; however, one has a “relationship” with the Saviour, and the other doesn’t. The diagram on the left pictures a believer who is yielded to the Holy Spirit (walking in the Spirit). Because he has learned to “draw nigh to God” and resist the flesh, the new nature is dominating… he is “spiritually minded.” For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. (Rom. 8:6). The eyes of his spiritual understanding are open and attuned to the motions of the Holy Spirit, therefore he is full of God’s Light, growing in grace and knowledge of the Lord.
On the other hand, the diagram on the right depicts a believer who is grieving the Holy Spirit by yielding to the flesh. He has chosen the things of the world and self…neglecting the things of God, “carnally minded”(Rom.8:6). He may even deceive himself and those around him concerning his actual condition, but God sees the heart. Because he is out of fellowship with the Lord, his spiritual understanding is darkened, receptivity is minimal. Therefore, he is deprived of the many vital spiritual blessings enjoyed by those who “Abide in Christ.”
Simply stated, every believer is either walking in the flesh (yielded to the influence of the old man) or walking in the Spirit (yielded to the power of the new man)…there is no middle ground! “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey…” (Rom. 6:16). That which separates the two types of believers is whether or not they have understood and obeyed the essential truths of Romans chapters 6-8.
The Trilogy of Transformation
Romans chapters 6-8 explain the crucial process of sanctification in the life of the believer…teaching the liberating truths which deliver from the sinful habits, appetites and thought patterns of the old man. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO LIVE A FRUITFUL CHRISTIAN LIFE WITHOUT A THOROUGH UNDERSTANDING OF ROMANS 6-8. [see the article entitled Salvation & Sanctification]
Chapter # 6 – KNOW YOUR IDENTITY… explains our new position, “in Christ.” Knowing the reality of (Gal. 2:20) “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live…” [see the article entitled Co-crucifixion]. Understanding the significance of your standing, “in Christ.” The key words, “Know” (verses 3, 6, 9) “Reckon” (vs.11) “Yield” (vs.13, 16, 19).
Chapter # 7 – KNOW YOUR ENEMY WITHIN… knowing what you are up against. This chapter addresses the believer’s new struggle with “the flesh” concerning attempts to keep “the Law”: Understanding your deliverance from the demands of the Law by your identification with Christ’s death. Key verses, “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.” (Rom. 7:4) “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” (vs.18).
Chapter # 8 – KNOW GOD’S POWER WITHIN…deals with the believer’s new power in the Spirit. Knowing how to “walk in the Spirit” and prevail through surrender; (Holy Spirit mentioned 19 times in Rom.8). Key verses, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit”. (vs.1), “… if ye THROUGH THE SPIRIT do mortify the deeds of the body…” (vs.13) [Emphasis mine].
“The flesh profiteth nothing…” (John 6:63).
The lesson of Rom. 6-8 is summed up by three words found in 8:13 “THROUGH THE SPIRIT.” All that is done for Christ must be accomplished through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
We, in and of ourselves, are totally incapable of pleasing God…it is impossible for us to live a righteous life. Whatever we accomplish on our own is but “filthy rags” (Isa.64:6) in the sight of God! The futility of trying to live the Christian life by attempting to reform the flesh is described by the apostle Paul in (Rom.7:15-25).
The Lord is not interested in our abilities or good intentions to help Him advance the Kingdom of God; no matter how zealous or sincere we might be. He is much more concerned with our SURRENDER.
Walking in the Spirit more than a matter of self-discipline…it’s an attitude of acceptance. Acceptance of His will in ALL areas of life. Our work is to “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Prov. 3:5-6). Learn to rely on His indwelling power (Rom. 6:13). His strength is made perfect in our weakness ( 2 Cor.12:9). Humility & Surrender unleash God’s power. [See the article entitled Walking in the Spirit]
“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us…” (Eph. 3:20)
“For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:13)
“And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord…” (2 Cor. 8:5).
When we prayed the sinner’s prayer we didn’t ask God to help us get saved. There wasn’t anything on our part that we could do to save ourselves…it was all His power and grace.
After salvation we didn’t ask Him to help us stay saved…we are, “kept by the power of God” (1 Peter 1:5).
The same holds true regarding serving and pleasing Him. Just as our flesh had absolutely no part in gaining or retaining salvation it is equally powerless to maintain a godly life. “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” (Gal. 3:3).
Jesus stated, “the flesh profiteth nothing” (John 6:63) “without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). Paul said we are to, “have no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3).
“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (Gal. 5:24-25).
The Freedom of Surrender
Surrender is the vital aspect of Christian living…the cost of following Christ. It is impossible to, “put off “the old man” and “put on the new man” without first laying ALL on the altar! Surrender not only involves the end of self-will but also the unconditional acceptance of God’s will. “The only way [to abide in Christ] is by learning to accept, day by day, the actual conditions and tests permitted by God, by a continually repeated laying down of our will and acceptance of His as it is presented to us in the form of the people with whom we have to live and work and in the things which happen to us.” Hinds Feet On High Places” by Hannah Hurnard.
Some believers surrender all at once, totally overwhelmed with gratitude; others upon deliverance from a severe crisis or trial. Still others in a moment of heartrending failure or despair.
Most followers of Christ, however, let go piece by piece, gradually through the process of time and circumstance. They are painfully brought to the point where they finally realize that “in Christ” they are no longer the master of their own ship (1 Cor. 6:19-20). In reality, we can’t control anything…God is in control of everything.
“We may rest assured that He will never expect us or ask us to face more than we can stand ( consider I Cor. 10:13). But what He does expose us to will strengthen and fortify our faith and confidence in His control. If He is the Good Shepherd, we can rest assured that He knows what He is doing. This in and of itself should be sufficient to continually refresh and restore my soul. I know of nothing which so quiets and enlivens my own spiritual life as the knowledge that God knows what He is doing with me!” – W. Phillip Keller “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23”
Once we grasp this truth, we gradually begin to realize how foolish, selfish and useless it is to even attempt to control our lives. The futility of murmuring or complaining…questioning the situation or circumstance becomes self-evident. Instead of asking “why Lord” we start asking “what Lord.”
Little by little, as this truth sets in, we learn to let go of the wheel and allow the Holy Spirit to take control so that He can begin to perform His work in us (Phil.2:13) “…conforming us to Christ” (Rom.8:29).
As a result, the inner struggle is greatly diminished…the peace of acceptance takes hold…priorities change, hearts and minds are melted by the love, mercy, and patience of the Saviour. Finally, we reach the place where we can truly say, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” (Phil.4:11). NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS GOD IS STILL IN CONTROL! “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him…” (Job 13:15).
Unfortunately, the sad truth is, that all “born-again” Christians trust Christ for salvation, but few with control of their lives.
It is not God’s will that His children live a life of relentless struggle and failure trying to control their lives by making the flesh serve God yet the majority of believers do just that…living in Romans chapter 7 never experiencing the liberty, joy, and peace of Romans 8.
The Heart of the Matter…Servant or Spectator?
The purpose of salvation is not only to provide eternal life but also to transform our present lives, WE ARE SAVED TO SERVE!
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a LIVING SACRIFICE, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Rom.12:1-2) [Emphasis mine].
A complete understanding of the purpose of salvation along with a heartfelt desire to obey the Lord is the prerequisite to defeating the old man and walking, “in newness of life” (Rom.6:4).
“Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it?” (Prov.17:16).
It has been wisely stated, “The heart of every problem is a problem in the heart.”
The crux of the matter is the affection and direction of the heart; the factor which determines the outcome of the inner struggle between self-will and God’s will. “…from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand…” (Dan.10:12). Notice it doesn’t say, “set thine head to understand”…spiritual realities enter the mind through the door of a truth-seeking heart. The essential heart attitude is revealed in Prov. 2:1-6:
“My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.”
Proverbs 2:1-6 encapsulates the formula for the transformation called for in (Rom.12:2).
“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” (Prov.23:7). The heart is where the rubber meets the road in spiritual life. It is here that decisions of eternal consequence take place…everlasting rewards gained or lost. “With my WHOLE HEART have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments.” (Ps.119:10) [Emphasis mine].
Consider Jesus’ question, “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)
When I stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ,
And His plan I begin to see,
The plan for my life as it might have been,
Had He had His way with me.
Will I see how I slowed Him and blocked His way,
And would not yield my will?
And will there be grief in my Saviour’s eyes,
Grief, tho He loves me still?
He would have me rich,
But I chose to stay poor,
He wanted to bless.
And I kept closing the door.
Will my memory run like a haunted fawn,
Down paths that I cannot retrace?
Will I remember things I should have done,
As I gaze on His precious face?
Then will my trembling heart will nigh break
With tears that must be shed.
I cover my face with my empty hands,
As I bow my uncrowned head.
Lord, of the years that are left to me,
I give them into Thy hand,
Take me, and break me, and mold me to fit,
In the pattern You had planned.
D. Windsor, September 8, 1986
“Search me, O God, and know my heart…”
Some difficult and searching questions must be asked at this juncture: Are you a servant or a spectator? Are you trying to serve the Lord in the power of your flesh or have you accepted His will for your life and surrendered to His power? Who sits on the throne of your heart…Christ or self?
“He is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Jim Elliot (martyred missionary)
Farsighted or Nearsighted?
ONE OF THE FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES OF LIFE IS THAT IN ORDER TO GAIN SOMETHING WORTHWHILE IN THE FUTURE WE MUST SACRIFICE SOMETHING IN THE PRESENT.
“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” (Luke 9:23-24) [Emphasis mine].
“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2 Tim.3:12) [Emphasis mine].
“Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season…” (Heb.11:25).
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Rom.8:18) [Emphasis mine].
“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory…” (2 Cor. 4:17).