Still working to catch up on Romans. Here's my summary of the one from December 15th, in which we explored the topic of the flesh in the life of the believer, working out of Chapter 7.
To review, throughout this book we've been learning that we no longer have a relationship with the law, but with Christ. That we cannot be married to the law in any portion of our lives and have spiritual victory there. This manifests in self-dependency and trying to rely on our own strength, more will power, and more rules. We have been divorced and died to the law. However, we are still in our carnal conditions. We daily struggle with our flesh. It greatly encouraged me to understand this better; I hope you are encouraged too.
Romans 7:15 speaks of Paul's experience with the contradiction between his will to do and his actions. In Christ, we are given a new will, a will which wants to please the Lord and do good, but even as we will to do, our actions usually speak differently, don't they? As he talks about this more, he comes to two conclusions. The first is that the law is good, vs 16, and second, then it is not him who does it, but sin which dwells in him. I've always stumbled through this verse because I thought Paul was excusing his sin and that maybe it was possible I'm not guilty, cause it's really the sin that's well, sinning. But, this false interpretation comes from an incorrect understanding of the war within ourselves. Paul is discovering here the very extent to which we as believers deal with indwelling sin.
We have three spiritual enemies:
1) The Devil. He is an invisible enemy, yet powerful and very real.
2) The world. We are constantly dealing with being enticed by external seductions.
3) The flesh in us. This is our internal traitor. Our own worst enemy is ourselves.
What is the flesh? Three things we know about it:
1) Romans 8:7 says, "the flesh is at enmity with God". This implies that the flesh has it's own way of thinking, reasoning. It has a mental capacity. It's not just your muscles and ligaments that are your flesh... it's just part of you.
2) Ephesians 2:3 says, "all once conducted themselves in the lust of the flesh". This implies that the flesh has emotions and desires. It's not just a logical thinking thing, it's also a biased, dreaming thing.
3) Romans 7 alludes to the "will" of the flesh. It has a way to make decisions.
We all have this flesh in us. Few more things to note:
- Nothing good dwells in the flesh, says verse 18.
- Verse 25 says it is a slave to sin.
- Verse 7 says it is at enmity with God.
- and that it is not subject to the law of God, and our flesh cannot be cured.
I know I've always thought that as I grew in Christ, things would get easier, that I would be more predisposed to do good. That the more I walked with God, the less flesh would have a hold on me. These verses, however, clarify that the flesh's enmity with God will be the same tomorrow as it is today. This means that the reservations and fears I experience in my flesh when helping someone, or when sharing the gospel are not going to lessen as I get older or more mature. The world will be as appealing to my flesh when I'm 68 as it is today. My flesh will still swell with stubborn pride. I won't want to submit to authority. This flesh in me which is a slave to sin, and in which nothing good dwells, will not get better tomorrow. I'm stuck with it for life.
Now that seems pretty discouraging. But, for the Christian, that is not the end of the story. "In my flesh, no good thing dwells." The flesh is a part of me, inside of me, which means there is a part of me in which nothing good dwells. I can never fully do good. Paul was struggling in his flesh and he describes the contradictory experience of his will and his performance. His enemy is inside and it constantly is rising up to control him. Verse 21 says that this is a principle, a law of nature, that evil is always present in me.
John Owen has some principles that help us understand this a little better:
1) We are dealing with a governing principle here, like the change in seasons. The pull of the flesh is not sporadic or inconsistent. It is always there.
2) There is a sequence to the struggle. Because God governs our new will, the Christian habitually wills to do good. But, as he wills to do good, evil is present. Evil doesn't necessarily mean the opposite of good here, but instead the right thing can be done in the wrong manner and that is evil.
3) This is something that every person has to discover experientially for themselves. I must understand that until I come to the end of myself, until I clash with the depravity of my flesh, I will not be able to know just how truly incapable of good I am. This can mean sometimes we feel pretty low, because even at our best, there is evil in us.
4) You are made aware of this "law" of the flesh at the very moment that you will to do good. You will to be patient, something immediately comes up to test that patience. You will to speak kindly and next thing you know, harsh words are pouring from your lips. The believer has to cry out again and again, "Save me!" because there can be no lethargy to batting our flesh.
Until we recognize who we are as sinners, and who we are now as the adopted children of God, we won't utilize the resources He provides us. We cannot be unborn from God's family-- let's not forget that. In our flesh we look at our failure to do the will of God and we add more law to our routines. We have to know our enemies if we are to have victory over them. Verse 24-25a: "Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
The flesh will war with our minds, with the good things the Spirit is teaching us. When we desire to do right, we need to expect that our flesh will rise up and war with us. We can't take this as a reason not to engage in the battle, nor should we go looking for a formula or cure that promises a holier life. There are always new theologies around that appear to take the flesh out of the equation. "Do this and this and this and it works this way and wow, you will be so much happier!" But these things will be let down after let down because they are not engaging in the battle with the flesh. A seminar or book does not have the power to save us! The article "10 Ways to Love Your Siblings" is not going to help when stubbornness and bitterness are rooted in your soul. We have got to be realistic about the real spiritual battle that is really going on with our internal enemy. Who will deliver me from this body of death? The law cannot. I cannot overcome my shortcomings with willpower. Only Jesus Christ can deliver me. And He did.
Plus, if my flesh is never going away, I might as well get started on the work He has given me to do instead of waiting until I feel like I'm mature enough. Since I can never be good enough, whatever comes about through my hands in ministry glorifies the Lord all the more, because it is not I who lives, but Christ in me.
This outfit I wore the week before Christmas, thus it's nice black and red colors theme. ;) Please ignore the mud spots on my skirt. It happens. I wore this shirt and headscarf with a black skirt in November 2012 if you'd like to see how I mix and match pieces for different looks. Click here.
Shirt: Kohl's, $10? $12?
Tank: JCPenny's, $8
Skirt: Made by me: Fabric $10
Boots: SteinMart, $35