"So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh--for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live." (Romans 8:12-13)
A remembrance of Scripture that is at the core of our very existence is found in Genesis 2. "Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being." (Genesis 2:7) We look at ourselves in the mirror each day and some watch themselves as they travel across a pain of glass. We have a natural desire to look our best, as we should. A good impression is a lasting impression it is said. But we soon in life learn that the real lasting impression is not found so much in the outward appearance but in the beauty of the inward person, that which is not seen but revealed by word and deed. Life is not as much influenced by the outward features as it is by the thoughts of one’s heart. "For as he thinks within himself, so he is." (Proverbs 23:7)
At the creation of a man, he was a dead lump of clay or dust. Life did not come to him like all the other living creatures that were spoken into existence in Genesis 1. The man was unique as God breathed life into him with His breath of life. The man was not like the other living creatures as he was created in the likeness of God. All of creation was created for God’s glory but man was created to uniquely glorify God by his likeness to God. This is our calling to give our Creator recognition for the grace He has shown to us. "Everyone who is called by My name, And whom I have created for My glory, Whom I have formed, even whom I have made." (Isaiah 43:7)
Unlike the creation of God and by God’s breath of life breathed into us we have a spirit, as God is a Spirit. We cannot see the spirit of a man, so few pay attention to it, few pay attention to their own spirit, but it is real and deep down within us we know that we have a spirit. It is that part of us that causes us to know, or at least expect, we are eternal beings just as the angels and God our Creator. "He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end." (Ecclesiastes 3:11) Yet while having this eternal spirit that lives within us we spend the greater effort in the desires of our flesh and neglect that part of us which shall remain forever.
Attending that part of us which is seen, the flesh, we too often neglect that which is not seen, the spirit. As Paul points out we expend our obligations to the care and maintenance of the flesh, which from the day of birth is passing away. As time moves forward we see our youth slipping away and the trials of older years taking their toll upon us. We even plan for that moment of expiration by leaving our possessions to others and purchasing a plot of land to rest our bones in. Anyone who seeks sound investments knows the foolishness of this, to invest so much in that which was passing away. "And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment." Hebrews 9:27)
Living in the flesh is a deadly endeavor for people to take on. The desires of the flesh become ensnared by the attractions of the world that we live in. Primarily the desires of the flesh fall into three areas. "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world." (1 John 2:16) Of the three, lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life there is not one of us that is innocent. We all have been caught by them and there calling is strong upon the flesh and they all lead us into great troubles far more than any benefit we receive. "For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please." (Galatians 5:17) The battle of the flesh with the spirit is a lifelong struggle from birth to earth and if we are to live we must learn to master the fight.
I will be the first to admit that living for the flesh seems to offer happiness. On the short run, it may but happiness is a fleeting thing and often is a short-lived state. The constitution says that we have the right to engage in a pursuit of happiness. To have a life of complete happiness is most certainly a constant pursuit. Even if we were able our happiness would end in death, not only our physical death but also the second death, spiritual death. "But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." (Revelation 21:8)
All the problems that living in the flesh can cause us it is not by any means something that most of us can manage. As we walk through this life we are either willingly or not involved in spiritual warfare. We do not like the idea or will admit but we are pawns in the hands of evil spiritual forces that we are incapable of battling successfully. "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12) We need a power greater than our own to overcome these evil forces that are set against us. We need a power greater than our own to overcome even our own flesh. Jesus who was fully God and fully man, who took on the humanity of man overcame the temptations of the evil one and through Him and the power He will give us we too can overcome. "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
When we repent of this worldly way and turn towards a life led by our Lord and Master Jesus we will receive the Holy Spirit. "Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38) The Spirit of God the same that all creation was created by. That same Spirit that breathed life into our body that we could live. That same Spirit that will renew our spirit into what it once was at creation. When we submit to the Holy Spirit we become a new spiritually born again being. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23)
The Holy Spirit is the power of creation, there is no greater power, as it is the power of God. Being men of free-will we have to ask, seek, and knock to have Jesus come into our lives. We have to ask, seek, and knock to receive the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 7:7-8) It has to be our desire to have Jesus lead us to the Promised Land of the Kingdom of Heaven. Then we will have the power to overcome the evil forces, overcome our fleshly desires because the Spirit of Jesus is living through us. "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13)
Once we have received do not place the Holy Spirit on a shelf and allow the Spirit of God to collect dust. Do not ignore His promptings or as Paul said, "Do not quench the Spirit." (1 Thessalonians 5:19) Allow His Spirit to guide you into the abundant life that He has planned for you. It is not the easiest life, it may not be the life that you would choose, but it will be the life where all things work for good. "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28)
If we live by the Spirit in our lives, then we will walk in the ways of the Lord. We will delight in Him and He will fulfill the desires of our new heart. "Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4) The Apostle Paul teaches us that if we walk in the Spirit and not by our own ways we will be able to overcome the evil desires of our flesh.
We have to understand that our flesh has been crucified with Jesus, (Galatians 5:24) not only that we have nailed our own personal ego along with the flesh. If our battle is with the flesh, then it also is with our self and self’s ego. "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." (Galatians 2:20) We have to take ourselves off the throne of our lives and place Jesus upon that throne, His rightful place. If we submit to our King who sits on the throne of our life, if we walk by His Spirit, then we will overcome the evil forces that oppose us and find our life in His Spirit. "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh." (Galatians 5:16)
Thomas N Kirkpatrick
First Baptist Church of Durant, May 9, 2018