THE SPIRIT WARS WITH THE FLESH
I receive almost daily emails and pleas for help with the sinfulness of the person writing. Most of these people profess Jesus Christ, but can’t figure out why they continue to fail when it comes to living a righteous and holy life. They lament that “How can God forgive me for such a sin that I have committed?” For the type of sin, just fill in the blank where sin is mentioned. Many people cry out for forgiveness and feel they are worthless. How could God love them? How could He forgive what they have done?
I am reminded of what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans the 7th chapter and when a person who is remorseful and beating themselves up for being a sinner, I remind them of Paul. I tell them, “Welcome to the human race.” Let’s go there to what Paul was speaking of and see if there is a lesson to learn.
Romans chapter 7:
7:1 Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?
7:2 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.
7:3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.
Paul makes an interesting analogy of being married to a husband, and a lot of people take this to mean that as long as a husband is alive, they cannot remarry. Is this what Paul is saying? I believe what Paul is speaking of, that as a sinner we are condemned by the law, as the law defines sin. When we accept Jesus Christ as personal savior and follow the Lord in baptism, out of sheer obedience in the latter, we symbolically die to the law having any affect on us. One example of the marriage covenant (the law and it’s penalty) has died, as we have died and are buried with Jesus Christ and are free to marry the One who wishes to spend eternity with us. The law condemned, but Jesus has saved us by grace. But are we suddenly changed into the likeness of Jesus Christ from that moment forward. Obviously, we are not. Continuing in Romans:
7:4 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.
7:5 For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.
7:6 But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.
In Romans chapter 6:v. 14, Paul uses the same word to describe our relationship with sin. "For sin shall not have dominion over you." Here he shows how our past sins have been forgiven, and we have access to Christ's atoning grace for forgiveness of future sins. Therefore, sin no longer has the power to condemn us to death.
In these opening verses, Paul explains how the law has power over a human being only as long as he is alive. The law has power over us, but when we a buried with Jesus Christ and raised to new life and a new creature, the laws power has been broken. The penalty for sin has been paid, and the law cannot condemn us. But does the ability to sin stop there?
Let’s read on and see what Paul had to say about sin and the flesh and being condemned by the law.
7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
7:8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.
7:9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.
7:10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.
7:11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.
Without the blood of Jesus Christ, each of us will stand before the judgment seat of God and give an account for the lives we have lived on this earth. What will be judged by? That is correct, the Word of God and His standard of righteousness found in His commandments. Can anyone live up to the high calling of God found in your Bible? No, not one! Paul explained this clearly in a prior chapter of Romans 3:
3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
3:11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
3:12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
Further down in the same chapter, Paul write:
3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
3:25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
To the Christian is who is honestly trying to live for Jesus Christ it is a daily struggle. The Bible is our play book for the rest of our lives, but we fail. Why? Let’s read on.
7:12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
7:13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.
7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
7:15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
We carry a cross, much like Jesus carried a cross that was His instrument of death. He that committed no sin took upon Himself the instrument of His death, for us.
That cross is symbolic with something that we carry with us everywhere. What is the instrument of our death? Sin. Sin lodges in the mind. The apostle Paul says in Romans 7 that he found sin still within him. Here is a converted man, an apostle of God, long after he was called, yet sin still lived in him. Every once in awhile, it would get control over him, and he would find himself under its domination once again.
That cross that we have to bear and carry with us right to the grave is our own mind laden with sin! Sin lies at the door. It is at the door of our minds all the time. God has given us an interesting challenge: Everywhere we go our cross is with us. It is sobering.
In these passages, notice we are talking about one of the main writers of the New Testament. Paul was a follower of Jesus Christ. A man who had seen our Lord up close and personal and it blinded him. This was a man that, I believe, was taught directly from Jesus Christ and Paul was the student. He says that he received this revelation from Jesus Christ as he wrote about it. Not that Paul is our example, because our example is Jesus Christ and Him alone, but can you see that a person who walked, talked and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the known Gentile world, if he had to deal with sin in his own life. How much more do we? Let’s read how Paul lamented his struggles.
Romans 7:16, If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.
7:17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
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.
7:19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
7:20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
7:21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
7:22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
7:23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
Paul was not living the life of sin, as he was before having the Holy Spirit of God cover his life, after meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus, but being a man of God, and understanding the requirements of the commandments of God, that no one can keep, he was mindful and could see the nuances of sin and the carnality that still lurked within him and it disgusted him, groaning and yearning and prayed to be released from it. Paul gives us the answer to this struggle.
7:24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
7:25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
Let’s move onto the companion chapter of the 8th chapter, which should really be no interruption, as Paul deals with the same theme. Paul reveals that we are delivered by grace:
8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
8:3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
8:4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
Here God wants us to know that He has accepted us, because of His Son, Jesus Christ. He loves us, and He will keep us and wants us to grow to be a part of His family, but my brethren, it is a struggle. We must be prepared for what is coming:
Ephesians 6:11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
6:13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Paul gives a warning in the next few verses of Romans 8:
8:5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
8:6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
There is a continued struggle between the self and what God has shown to be the way of the Spirit. Man wars within himself to follow his own self indulgence or to follow after God’s Spirit. We must decide who is our Master. Will you submit to His leading? It is a lifelong struggle.
8:8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
8:9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
8:10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
8:11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
8:12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.
8:13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
8:15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
Notice how Paul turns the direction of the passage to hope. He shows that our life here on earth is subject to futility. We become discouraged, we may stray, or we may doubt God, but we must not take our eyes off of our Savior, as hopelessness builds. We must put our faith and trust in the author and finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ. His will is that we rely on Him. He asks you a simple question “do you believe Me?” He wants you to put your faith in Him and Him alone. The expression of hope is clarified in the following verses:
8:16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
8:17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
8:18 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.
8:19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
8:20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,
8:21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
8:22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
8:23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
8:24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?
8:25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.
8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
8:27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
When we don’t know what to ask of God, we get on our knees or get alone with God and let God to the talking, as He knows what we need and will meet our every need when He knows that we are weak and need His strength. The Spirit will make known and help us in our request before Almighty God.
The next verses of this chapter are the most beautiful of these two chapters, in my opinion, and shows how God is with us. It is a passage that it would behoove the Christian who struggles for faith and strength to memorize.
8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
8:30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
8:31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
Wow, if that doesn’t make you see that you are not alone, then I don’t what will. Whatever comes our way, no matter how the flesh wars with the spirit, and no matter what Satan throws at you to make you give in to hopelessness and try and diminish your faith, this should increase your faith, your hope in Christ Jesus. We are a work in progress. He is the potter, we are the clay. He is working to conform us to the image of His Son. No matter how we fail, and no matter how many times Satan tries to beat us up and say we are worthless, God finds worth in each of us, because of the plans He has in store for us.
1st Corinthians 2:9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
2:10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
Then ending this beautiful thought in scripture, Paul tells us that nothing can separate us from the love of God, NOTHING!
8:32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
8:33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.
8:34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
8:36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
8:37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
8:38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
8:39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Do you see that He will never leave or forsake you. He knows that you are still human. He knows that you will still sin because of your flesh, but as time and maturity and being conformed to the image of His Son, sin will be less and less, but never complete.
Being a follower of Jesus Christ, speaks of relationship. That relationship is the one we have with the Creator of the universe. He wishes to be the center of your life. When we fail, we confess our sins:
1st John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He faithfully and righteously forgives us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
As I told my brethren who ask what they should do and how should they respond to this hopeless feeling they have, I have to say, “Forgive yourself, God has.”
Psalms 103:12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
103:13 As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear him.
103:14 For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
It’s a War, my brethren. It will last as long as you live on this earth. Decide now that you will follow after Him in Spirit and in Truth, as His Word is truth. Because until we are changed into immortal beings, in the twinkling of an eye, at the Last Trump or raised from the dead, the Spirit shall war with the flesh.
This is Pastor Mike Taylor, wishing God’s Salvation in your life through His Son, Jesus Christ. If there be anything you wish counsel on, prayer about, or just a listening ear, drop me a line at email@example.com. God bless you all, till we meet at Jesus feet.