Thursday, July 22, 2010

Grace and Obedience Part 3

(Friends: a bit longer than usual, but an important subject, I think. Thanks for your patience. Glen)

"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" (Galatians 5:17).

"I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 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... so then with the mind, I myself serve the law of God. But with the flesh, the law of sin" (Romans 7:22-23).

The conflict between spirit and flesh in every believer demands that we think in a different manner than that to which we are normally accustomed.

"To be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace" (Romans 8:6).
The Apostle Paul affirms delight and service to the law of God in his "inward man," or "myself." Conversely, in his flesh (the human and earthly faculties and members inherited from Adam), Paul confesses that he still serves the law of sin. By definition, this means that when Paul walked after the Spirit, he obeyed God. When he walked after the flesh, he disobeyed God. This is the truth for every believer. Thus, the challenge of obedience involves our learning to walk in the Spirit (which requires that we learn to think spiritually, or as Paul commanded, to be "spiritually minded").

The consideration begins with the truth that believers always "live" in the Spirit in the sense of our spiritual being and selfhood. "Ye are not in the flesh but in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you" (Romans 8:9). However, we do not always "walk" in the Spirit regarding thought, attitude, word, and deed. "Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16).

To live or be in the Spirit speaks of our being, person, and selfhood. As a free gift of grace, God has changed the innermost core of our identity by birthing a "new man, created in righteousness and true holiness" (Ephesians 4:24). It is this "inward man," this "self," united with Christ, who delights in the glory and will of God. Nothing changes the fact of this "new creature" and his spiritual substance and existence in the life of Christ. Therefore, as Paul affirmed, believers are always in the Spirit regarding our being and selfhood.

Concerning our flesh, however, God has chosen to allow a "law of sin" to remain in these earthly faculties and members. This aspect of our being, left to itself, will always think, feel, speak, act, and relate in a manner contrary to the will of God. Our bodies are a part of the earth, and while not inherently sinful, they are inhabited by the aforementioned "law of sin" that governs all earthly activity independent of God's will and direction. "The whole world lieth in wickedness" (I John 5:19). Thus, if our bodies control us, we will walk after the flesh and sin. This is why Paul commanded that we "through the Spirit mortify (put to death) the deeds of the body" (Romans 8:13).

Obedience to God is the fruit of the Holy Spirit who indwells our spirits, and who enables us to put to death the deeds of the body as controlled by the law of sin. Our responsibility is to believe the truth, and in the context of such faith, to submit ourselves to our Heavenly Father as those who are "alive unto God" (Romans 6:11). We must believe that we "delight in the law of God after the inward man," and that "it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). Indeed, we must believe in the grace of obedience no less than we believe in the grace of forgiveness and assurance of eternal life. As a free gift, God implanted the Spirit of the Lord Jesus in our innermost being, including His delight for the glory and will of His Father. This indwelling is so profound that it birthed a new person who also delights in the glory and will of God. Again, Paul not only declared desire for the will of God in the "inward man," but delight.

Do we believe this about ourselves? Can we affirm with Paul that "I delight in the law of God after the inward man?" We can, and we must! At the highest cost to Himself, God made possible the birthing of sons and daughters who bear His nature, character, and disposition toward righteousness. "I delight in the law of God" exulted Paul. We must rejoice with him that if we were boiled down to our essence, that which remained would be a spiritual being united with Christ, and delighting no less than does He in the will of God. Our Lord receives all the credit and glory. His indwelling presence is the source, reason, and power of such delight. And we will forevermore praise and honor Him and Him alone for such a gift. Nevertheless, we must affirm in no uncertain terms, as did Paul, "I delight..."

As we do, the power of God will unite with our belief in the truth, causing us to walk in the Spirit even as we live in the Spirit. We will more consistently obey God because we are thinking and believing in accordance with His Word. Paul alluded to this in his letter to the Galatians: "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit" (Galatians 5:25). In essence, the Apostle is commanding that we be in practice who and what we are in being and selfhood. The ugly duckling never acted as a swan until he realized that we was, in fact, a swan. Nor will we act as those who delight in the will of God until we realize and believe that we do. Believers are "the temple of God." We are His "habitation." We are "branches" of the True Vine. We are "sons" united to the Spirit of the Son. And whether we feel it, think it, or act like it, the delight of Christ for the will of God is our delight also in the depths of our being where we truly live. Let us believe, and we shall see in both heart and practice that thoughts of grace and thoughts of obedience are thoughts of the same wondrous gift of grace in the Lord Jesus.

"Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
(II Corinthians 5:17)

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