Our relationship to God through Jesus Christ is a spiritual one. It is not realized in the flesh, and does not consist of merely external procedures. In fulfillment of Jeremiah's prophecy, God has written His law upon the hearts of the regenerate (Jer. 31:33; Heb. 8:10). Those that have been reconciled to God serve the law of God with their mind (Rom. 7:25). Their thoughts are centered upon things "pertaining to life and godliness," and their affection is set "on things above" (2 Pet. 1:3; Col. 3:2). In confirmation of their acceptance, the Holy Spirit has been sent into their hearts (Gal. 4:6). He brings intimacy between the Father and His children, denoted by the expression "Abba, Father." These things take place within the individual.
Because of this condition, Satan seeks to cause disruption within. Working through the Adamic, or natural part of us, he instigates distracting thoughts and imaginations. These are called "fiery darts," or "flaming arrows," in Scripture (Eph. 6:17). They are called "fiery" because they excite the fleshly nature, inflaming it and causing spiritual infection. They are called "darts" because they are often piercing and painful. They are an intrusion into the minds of the saved. These are "imaginations" and "thoughts" that are to be cast down by believers. They are not an expression of the primary person, but are a Satanic attempt to drag us from the holy place. Misinterpreted, they will lead to captivity and spiritual bondage. Duly checked, their presence will confirm ones sonship.
We have been provided spiritual weaponry to combat this situation. These weapons are not philosophical in nature, but effective. It is written that they are "mighty through God," and properly used will cast down bastions of thought that attack the believer. The nature of this weaponry is uniquely adapted to the warfare. Do you remember how it is described? "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Cor 10:3-5).
Our battle is one of the mind! The "strongholds" which we demolish are bastions of thought that have captured men--wrong ideas, improper views, deceptive thoughts, and vain philosophies. In your own personal life, your new birth has inducted a fierce conflict of thoughts. Satan is aggressive to defile your mind--your thinking processes. He hurls thoughts at you in the form of lusts, pride, and other imaginations. There is no way to emphasize the jeopardy of being ignorant of this warfare.
Romans seven provides a proper interpretation of the inner struggles associated with our warfare. In this text Paul affirms that the conflict is evidence of our justification. Although it may appear to contradict our status as sons, this is not the case at all. Can you identify with the scenario Paul paints? Here are his arresting words. "For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom 7:14-8:1, NRSV). Some preliminary observations are in order.
Everything is in the present! There is not a single past-tense word in this text. Every single reference to experience is in the present! In spite of this, some religious sophists have taught Paul is referring to his life prior to regeneration. They could not be more wrong!
The situation defies human explanation! When Paul says "I do not understand my own actions," he is speaking rhetorically. There is no human explanation for what he describes. It is something he cannot control, yet it is not something that cannot be discerned. In fact, he proceeds, under the inspiration of the Spirit, to explain the circumstance. THIS IS AN AREA WHERE THE BELIEVER LACKS CONTROL!
He is discontent with the situation! The circumstance finds Paul experiencing things he does not want to experience, and coming short of involvement in his preferences. This is a situation from which he seeks, and joyfully anticipates, coming deliverance.
Here is a dichotomy of experience! There is a part of him serving sin, with another part serving the Law of God. The former is against his will, and the latter is an expression of his will. He identifies his REAL person ("I myself," KJV), with serving the Law of God, while his sinful nature ("the flesh") is what serves sin.
The conclusion: NO CONDEMNATION! After observing this fierce warfare, Paul affirms that "therefore" (in view of the experience just affirmed) "there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." There is, then, in this frustrating experience, evidence of life from God.
Those in Christ are a microcosm of world conflict--they are miniature worlds, in which a war between good and evil exist. From the beginning, this conflict can be seen. When the Holy Spirit brooded upon the face of a chaotic deep, the conflict between Divine order and chaos was seen. The conflict of light and darkness is seen in the separation of them. Satan and the innocent pair in Eden's Garden. Cain and Able. Enoch and the world. Noah and the world. On and o it goes! Good and evil are locked in conflict, and cannot be reconciled. You will find it on every page in the Bible. You find it in John the Baptist and Herod, Jesus and the Pharisees, the Apostles and the Sanhedrin, Paul and the Jews. No believer should think it strange that good and evil are at war within their persons!
The nature of regeneration is rarely explained these days. It is true, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Cor 5:17). That does not mean, however, that you will no longer confront wicked thoughts, temptations, and vain imaginations.
Conflicting Life Has Been Introduced In Christ, you have received new heart, one that can be fashioned by the Lord--a "heart of flesh," malleable and supple (Ezek 11:19; 36:26). Because you are a son, you have also received His Holy Spirit(Gal 4:6; 1 John 4:13; 1 Thess 4:8). Christ now "dwells in your heart by faith" (Eph 3:16-17), and you have "eternal life" (1 John 5:13). It is the presence of this new life that has created the conflict you are experiencing.
Our "new man" cannot be reconciled to this situation. He is unwilling to cohabit with the "old man" (Rom. 6:6), "put off" when we are baptized into Christ. One of these natures must die! One must be "crucified," "mortified," and "denied" (Gal. 5:24; Col. 3:5; Tit. 2:10-11). One must be "put off," and the other "put on" (Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:9). They cannot be given simultaneous dominance! In the economy of grace, there is no question about what is to be done. The "old man" must be "put off." The flesh must be "crucified," denying it expression and dominance.
It is true that the "children of God" are basically "peacemakers" (Matt. 5:9). They "sow in peace" and "make peace" (James 3:18). They also prefer the "bond of peace" (Eph. 4:3). But they make no peace with the flesh. Now, indeed, can they dwell in peaceful coexistence with those dominated by the flesh. They war to survive, not out of preference. They long for the time when war will cease, and swords--even spiritual ones--will be beaten into plowshares (Isa. 2:4; Micah 4:3). Their condition requires deliverance!
Now, in this world, we occupy the realm of restriction. Even the Lord Jesus confessed that while here, He was "straitened" (Luke 12:50). This is the land of the enemy (Jer. 31:16)! Satan is the prince of this world (John 14:30; 16:11), and all that is in it is destined to "pass away" (1 John 2:17). We are not content with this situation because we have been justified. In Christ we come into a kingdom that "cannot be shaken" (Heb. 12:27): one in which we shall "never see death" (John 11:26). As death and life cannot be reconciled, so we cannot reconcile ourselves to our present dilemma. Our condition requires deliverance.
The Old Nature Is Not Eradicated The "old man," or your unregenerate nature, has lost its dominancy over the believer--but it has not been destroyed. The "body," or mass, of our sin has been "destroyed" or "done away" (Rom 6:6). By the grace of God, it has been disconnected from us. You are, however, still saddled, so to speak, with the "flesh" the sinful nature.
The "flesh, together with the affections and lusts," have been appropriately "crucified" by those in Christ Jesus (Gal. 5:24). Notwithstanding, it still asserts itself. It is much like the impenitent thief that was crucified with Christ. Although he was on the cross, and, in a way, incapacitated, yet he asserted himself to the sorrow of the sensitive. That thief was disabled. He could not launch a military war, take up a sword, or cast stones. All he could really do was cast aspersions at the Lord. However, had Jesus given heed to the words of the unrepentant thief, doubt would have been introduced, and ultimate disobedience would have prevailed.
It is no different with the believer. The old nature really has no power. It cannot enslave the believer against his will. Satan, has also been rendered impotent in the realm of faith. He can work through the Adamic nature, or "old man," but he cannot force the believer to sin. He can only make suggestions--just as in the garden of Eden. He lures the child of God, attracting him through lusts that are resident in the lower, or sinful, nature.
You must remember, THE FLESH IS UNALTERABLE! You cannot train it to think right or act right. You must control it, buffeting it, and bringing it into subject (1 Cor 9:27).
You Are In Two Worlds At The Same Time You have been raised up, and made to sit together with Christ Jesus "in heavenly places" (Eph 2:6). Your citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20), and there is where you are blessed (Eph 1:6). But this is not all the story. You also dwell in a house of clay (Job 4:19), a frail tent (2 Cor 5:1-4), and a "vile body" (Phil 3:20). You are also in a world that is passing away, destined to be burned up (2 Pet 3:10-12). Do not doubt for one moment the reality of the inner conflict created by this situation!
There Are Contrasting Views Having two natures, you can see things from two perspectives. However, these are not complementary perspectives. They are antagonistic to one another. You can judge things according to appearance, or you can judge righteous judgment (John 7:24). The latter is the only acceptable way to evaluate the things about you. You can look at things that are seen, or at things that are not seen (2 Cor 4:17-18). These views are also conflicting. This sets the stage for the inner struggle of the believer.
To put it another way; in this world, you are being oriented for the "world to come" (Heb 2:5). While you are in the state of orientation, inner conflict is inevitable. Remember, you are a stranger in this world-- and the world does not like it! You have left the devil's camp, and he does not like it. You are refusing to let your lower nature dominate you, and it does not like it! No wonder you have inner conflict!
The fact that Satan hurls his fiery darts at you proves you have been translated into the kingdom of God's son (Col. 1:13). The fact that temptation is against your renewed will further confirms that you have been justified from our sins. It is unfortunate that contemporary religion has made too little of the human will. There are whole bodies of theology that view salvation and sanctification as Deity overriding the human will. Doctrines like unconditional election, being slain in the Holy Spirit, and once saved always saved, are gross misrepresentations of our situation. They view people as basically unchanged by redemption, which requires Divine intrusion. Little wonder that a strong confidence in God is so little known the churches of our day. When Paul says, "To will is present with me," he is stating a marvelous evidence of God's grace!
Struggle--inward struggle--is not of itself pleasant. It is what it reveals and where it leads that give it worth. As I am using the word, "struggle" is not mere difficulty or trouble. It is the experience of good and evil within. When we want to do good, evil is "present" with us (Rom. 7:21). As one that is born again, an honest appraisal of your condition will confirm that you are capable of unrighteousness as well as righteousness, evil as well as good, and disobedience as well as obedience. That is because you have two distinct natures. They are irreconcilable, and cannot have dominance simultaneously. Our capacity for sin was not removed by our regeneration. justification deals with the guilt of sin, as well as our love of it. Those that are in Christ have been completely exonerated from all guilt. They have also been given a nature that abhors sin. Notwithstanding this marvelous reality, the Adamic nature, or the "flesh," remains with us. Like Satan, it has received a mortal bruise, but has not yet expired. Also, like Satan, the defeat of the flesh has caused it to become more aggressive. It is said of Satan that He now has great wrath because he knows the days are short (Rev. 12:12). It is the same with the flesh.
Scripture provides us with the proper way of viewing our situation. A brief recap will again substantiate this truth.
First, in Jesus we have become dead to the law. It did not die, but we died to it (Rom. 7:4). The result of that situation is that the law can no longer condemn us, even though it once stopped our mouths and rendered us guilty before God (Rom. 3:19-20). The law has no power over a dead person, and we have died with Jesus. It is written, "Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him" (Rom. 6:8). We were baptized into Christ's death (Rom. 6:3), this embarking on a life of death. As it is written, " . . . I die daily" (1 Cor. 15:31). This is the prolonged death of the "old man," or old nature. This is the meaning of Romans 6:6; "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." This death puts us beyond the condemnation of the law.
Second, our wills have been radically altered by our justification. We now serve the law of God with our mind (Rom. 7:25). We agree with it, and consent that it is good (Rom. 7:16). We do not want to do evil, secretly or otherwise, and we do consistently want to please God in what we do. This is not pretense, and it is not the result of threat and intimidation. God has shown us realities that have reduced the value of this world and its attendant lusts.
Third, there is a part of us that we cannot completely control. It asserts itself at the most inopportune times, bringing us into captivity to the lower nature (Rom. 7:23). We cannot stop the thoughts from coming, but we can stop them from bearing fruit within us. There is a saying that is appropriate here. "You may not be able to stop a bird from landing on your head, but you can surely stop it from building a nest there!"
Thoughts foreign to our preferences and desires intrude, as it were, into our thinking. They are inhibitions, and stop us from being as pure as we desire. We wrestle against these thoughts, and even cast them down. Yet, they reassert themselves, much to our own frustration. Often they are hurled at us by the enemy in the midst of our prayers, or at other illogical times. If you view them as an expression of your person, they will drive you out from the presence of the Lord. If you view them as intrusions, you can throw them down. Paul was so sensitive to God, the intrusion of these thoughts were offensive.
Fourth, there is "another law" in our person that remains alarmingly active. It is that when we want to do good, evil asserts itself from within. We want to get away from this recalcitrant law, but we cannot. Even if we pray hard and long, and search the Scriptures with eager hearts, we cannot keep this law from asserting itself. Hear Paul say it again, and glory in your identification with the truth. "So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand" (Rom 7:21, NRSV).
It is not that we desire this law to assert itself--we do not! This is a law--a principle--within us. It is to the spiritual world what the law gravity is to the natural world. When you seek to be involved in the good things of God, the old nature will assert itself. It is in competition with the Spirit. As it is written, "For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want" (Gal 5:17, NRSV).
In a sense, the believer lives in a constant state of frustration. His condition is such that it prevents him from wholly accomplishing his purpose and fulfilling his desire. The Spirit describes this situation in Galatians 5:17, a text we have frequently referenced. "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."
In Christ, our desires exceed our current abilities. It might be countered that we can "do all things through Christ" Who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13). This is true, but we accomplish obedience with considerable effort. In addition, our obedience falls short of what we really desire. We dwell in recalcitrant bodies that must be brought into subjection (1 Cor. 9:27). While they tend to corruption, our essential persons advance toward glory. Scripture states it this way, "Though our outward man is perishing, our inward man is being renewed every day" (2 Cor. 4:16). The struggle created by this contrariety is fierce, and must be understood by those involved in it.
That shall we conclude from this situation? The Holy Spirit makes the conclusion for us. We do well to believe it. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1). That is not just a nice saying. It is not a creedal statement which we must try to believe. This is a divine affirmation. It is a statement of the condition of every person that is in Christ Jesus.
The personal struggle that with evil now becomes our evidence of justification! If we were not free from sin, we would not hate it. If we were not cleansed from it, it would not be so aggressive to obtain our affection. If we were not justified, Satan would not be so aggressive in his appeals to our crucified nature!
I would be remiss if I did not remind you deliverance is on the way! Your struggle is temporary, so you must hold on your way! The existence of the new creation (2 Cor. 5:17) proves that there is an environment for which it is adapted. God created the world "to be inhabited," and then populated it with creatures and people (Isa. 45:18). Viewed from another perspective, before the Lord provided Adam with a wife, He stirred in him a desire for one by having him name the animals, that came to him in pairs (Gen. 2:18-20). Desire and condition are always matched with the appropriate environment.
Think of the present condition of the child of God. He is a citizen of heaven, and, consequently, a "stranger and pilgrim" in the world (Phil. 2:20; 1 Pet. 2:11). He occupies a realm that is passing, but he himself is advancing from "glory unto glory, even as by the Spirit of our God" (2 Cor. 3:18). The believer has intense longings and appetites that cannot be satisfied by the world order. In fact, the world militates against the preferences and delights of the person in Christ.
Our longings are not simply dreams and vain wishes. They are associated with reality and certainty. This is why the Spirit speaks of "hope" in such a unique way. In Christ "hope" speaks of surety. It is associated with Divine commitment and the longing of the believer. It is no "will-o-the-wisp!"
The Lord has made a commitment to those in Christ. They are involved in a process that will culminate in them being "conformed to the image of His Son" (Rom. 8:29). Ultimately, they will be "without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing" (Eph. 5:27). They have been led by the Spirit to anticipate a time when they will be presented "without fault" to God (Rev. 14:5; Jude 24). By faith, through the Spirit, believers now "wait for the hope of righteousness" (Gal. 5:5), patiently waging a "good warfare" against fleshly proclivities (1 Tim. 1:18).
There can be no uncertainty in Scriptural hope. It is too critical! In Christ it is not merely "I hope so," but a "rejoicing of the hope" (Heb. 3:6). This hope has a sanctifying effect. "We are saved by hope," proclaims the Apostle (Rom. 8:24-25). This is what enables us to deal effectively with sins and weights that so easily beset us (Heb. 12:2). Personal purity cannot be accomplished by law, but it can be achieved by hope! "And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure" (1 John 3:3). The degree of holiness that we achieve is directly proportionate to the clarity and measure of the hope we have in Christ.
It is remarkable that the contemporary church ignores the matter of the resurrection with such consistency. To claim association with Christ, and yet not live in hope of the resurrection is a condition unacceptable to Him. The absence of a living and vibrant hope is confirmed by the general ignorance that exists concerning the resurrection. It is also shown by the fewness of the hymns in our song books on heaven, the coming of the Lord, and the hope of glory. We are living in a time of remarkable departure from the faith, and yet the apparent majority of professed believers are oblivious of this condition. This corroborates the earthiness of the religion of these days.
In our present state, we have two incompatible natures. Our "outward man" is perishing, while our "inward man" is being "renewed day by day" (2 Cor. 4:16). While the world draws attention to the "body" with its attire and emphasis, those in Christ confess its vileness. We know that it is associated with "corruption," "dishonor," and "weakness" (1 Cor. 15:42-44). It is a source of humiliation to us, and we long for it to be "changed" into the likeness of our Savior's glorious body (Phil. 3:21). This shall be accomplished at the resurrection.
There is a resurrection body, and God has "wrought us" to inhabit it (2 Cor. 5:5). He has graciously apprized us of its existence, and created us in Christ Jesus with longings to possess it (2 Cor. 5:1-2). Now, while we wait for the promised occupancy, "we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened" (2 Cor. 5:4). Unlike the fatalist, we do not "groan" simply because we desire to get out of this earthly body. We do not want to be "unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life" (2 Cor. 5:4).
Our "groaning" is not a fleshly moaning or complaining. It is the groan of travail and expectation. Our dissatisfaction with our present state has been prompted by the contemplation of coming glory. We are not merely discontent with the injustices and frustrations associated with earthly life. Our bodies are grievous to us because of their corruptible nature. What a marvelous thing has taken place! At one time the commandments of God were grievous, and our bodies were pampered. Now the commandments are no longer grievous, but the flesh is (1 John 5:3). We long for the redemption of our bodies!
Our resurrection bodies will be characterized by "incorruption," "glory," and "power" (1 Cor. 15:42-43). These are qualities that we now possess in the "inner man." We have been made "partakers of the Divine nature" (2 Pet. 1:4). Viewed from another perspective, we have been made "partakers of Christ" (Heb. 3:14). Within, we are being "changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:18). How fitting that we anticipate putting on bodies that are compatible with our renewed natures!
The view of a "carnal church" is a gross contradiction. It presumes that an unprepared people can make the transition to a prepared condition and place. This simply is not true! God has not promised good things to those that are not prepared to receive them! Anywhere and everywhere unprepared people are mentioned, a curse is pronounced. There are no exceptions. No person that is not anticipating and preparing for the resurrection can be considered to have a part in the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. For such as condition to exist requires the negation of God's Word, and He cannot lie! As evident as this may appear, there is a remarkable absence of anticipation and preparation in the professed church. It appears to be fascinated with this world, and that is a spiritually disastrous situation.
The cry, "Who shall deliver me from the body of this death!" is not often heard from the contemporary church. The reason for this is that, for the most, is that it is not living by faith. It has settled down in the world instead of assuming the posture of a stranger and pilgrim in it. The condition is inexcusable and intolerable. It is time for godly people to cry out against this situation. It is neither right nor acceptable.
In Christ, we have been created for incorruption, glory, and power. Until deliverance comes, we struggle with corruption, dishonor, and weakness. The struggle is not wrong; it is right! It is not evidence of condemnation, but of justification! Let every soul sensitive to this struggle rejoice in the prospect of deliverance.
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