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In the Flesh or in the Spirit

Now that we have come to know Jesus Christ personally we must live differently (2 Cor. 5:17). God is at work in us, “both to will and to work for His good pleasure,” so we must allow Him the freedom to work within us.

In Romans chapter seven the apostle Paul is sharing with us his own experience as a mature Christian. I know who the man in Romans seven is; I deal with him every day! It is the Christian’s continuing conflict with sin which he shares, and he reminds us that there is no victory in our struggles apart from the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit. The mature Christian is always in Romans 7, and apart from the daily work of the Holy Spirit in the believer he cannot live the Christian life (Rom. 8).

In the context Paul tells us the law is unable to justify us before God, and it is also unable to sanctify us. The Holy Spirit sanctifies the believer, not the keeping of the law. This wonderful chapter is a testimony of the great apostle that the mature Christian is continually struggling with sin, and is continually growing in his awareness of just how sinful he really is so that he will constantly turn to and depend upon the finished work of Jesus Christ (Romans 7:14-25). There is no end to this struggle with sin until we see Jesus face to face in heaven. It is a lifetime struggle against sin that resides in the born again person.

Victory comes only as we make ourselves available to the Holy Spirit. There is the continuing presence of sin in us through our bodies and we will struggle with it all the days of our life on this earth. We cannot win the battle with sin in our own strength.  The mature Christian believer continually struggles against indwelling sin, and he will do so until he is done with this present life.

The word “flesh” (sarx) is used in different senses in the Bible and therefore each use must be interpreted in its own context. The word “flesh” can refer to the whole human race as in “all flesh” (Isa. 40:6; 1 Pet. 1:24). After His resurrection Jesus used the word “flesh” to describe His own soft fleshly body (Lk. 24:39). Paul used the word on occasion to describe the whole body (Gal. 2:20). In Galatians 5:17 he uses it to refer to the sensual part of human nature.

In Romans 7:5; 8:5, Paul uses “flesh” to contrast those who are “in the Spirit.” It is used in Romans as a term for the unregenerate, the unbeliever, before God saved us. In its full theological sense the word “flesh” denotes what man is determined by his relationship to God. Paul uses “flesh” to describe “sinful nature” in Romans seven and eight.

The New Testament consistently brings out the contrast of what we were before we came to Christ and what we are now in Christ. The Christian cannot continue in sin as a habitual practice. However, mature Christians do sin, but they do not continue in it. The change that Christ brings will be seen in our daily lives. We have entered into a new fruitful vital union with Jesus Christ.

When we are walking in the Spirit we delight in the law, and want to do what is good and right in the sight of God. But we cannot achieve the total compliance. 

Whenever Paul  measures how far he has come in his Christian life, he finds that he has fallen short and does not measure up to God's standard (v. 23). Sin, though dethroned in his heart, still dwells in his own fallen nature. Our sin nature is not eradicated no matter how much we wish it were. Paul's desire for perfection is frustrated by the distracting power of indwelling sin.

Paul describes the grief in his heart at not being able to glorify God as he so desires. “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (v. 24) Paul asked his question in the future tense, and he also gives us the answer in the future tense. "Thank God! He will deliver me through Jesus Christ!” 

The only way to victory is through Jesus Christ. We will never achieve success by ourselves. We must depend upon Him every moment. Yes, we are to fight this spiritual battle with every ounce of strength in our being until we breathe our last. God is at work in you; please don’t stop now. Ultimately the triumph is God’s alone.

Paul is a mature believer, having served Christ for many years, and he testifies about his present involuntary imperfection. This struggle with sin will one day be made a thing of the past through the redemption that is ours in Christ Jesus. "Everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure" (1 John 3:3). The hope of appearing in the presence of God inspires the believer to put away every sin which clouds our vision of God.

Our victory is already assured when we see Jesus Christ in glory.

Our yielding to the Holy Spirit is not a once for all experience. It is not something you attain, but is a daily walk and a constantly renewed commitment to His work in us.

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

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(c) 2006  Message by Wil Pounds. Anyone is free to use this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author's written consent.

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