The depths of what it means to be born again does not necessarily sink in very quickly as we begin to live a new life in Christ. The apostle Paul knowing these things prays accordingly in the book of Ephesians for those who have been saved to begin to understand the width, the depth, and the grandeur of all that we have in Christ. Concerning our walk in the Spirit, it is something brand-new, unknown territory for the person brought in to Christ.
Many who were truly saved and believe with the whole heart that they are saved by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ continue to falter in an attempted walk in the Spirit of God. I personally adopted a view that the flesh will agree to almost anything with the exception of submitting to death. I am not talking here of when we stop breathing, or when our heart stops beating, but rather the putting away of our flesh making decisions concerning the direction our lives take. Outwardly pursuing God’s will in the flesh can look very similar to the individual who is pursuing the same will but has yielded his life to the Spirit or attempts to do so on a regular basis. The moment-by-moment walk in the Spirit yields a completely different kind of fruit so far as God is concerned.
It seems I always fall back on the same story: three persons are in a room and one man decides to give five dollars to one of the other two people. Now keep in mind that this incident is being viewed by a fourth party who is that true judge and discerner of hearts to the dividing of the soul and spirit. This is to say that God knows the motive of every action that we undertake. Now going back to the man who gives the five dollars to the other individual. We can insert in this story that the man who receives the five dollars is needy and that this will be food or perhaps provide some sort of comfort for this life. We can probably assume that this man who receives the five dollars is very thankful, grabs the giver’s hand, shakes it vigorously, thanks him repeatedly and leaves the room.
Now consider the man who was the observer into this event, he views this generosity and probably gives praise to the giver for his generosity, telling him repeatedly that it was a very nice thing, that in fact he’s going to report this kindness to his friends. Now the one who gave the five dollars feels very good because he has done something that he considers a very nice thing, a thing which he was not forced to do, but chose to do so of his own will. So far so good, right? Lets not be so hasty, remember the fourth party involved, the true judge, the one who weighs the motive of all the actions of mankind. A pause for thought is in order here, let’s consider the words of the Scripture wherein we see the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.——– Whose fruit does the Scripture say this is?
From where does this fruit originate? This clearly identifies the difference in pseudo-Christian behavior and behavior that originates from submission to God’s Spirit in our walk. As I said earlier, it can look the same but it does have a different fragrance or it lacks of the fragrance of Christ to God. We know from scripture that giving thanks or fasting to be seen by men is spoken harshly of by Jesus, but what of works done to be seen and applauded by men? Scripture gives account of works not accomplished by the Holy Spirit in a peek at the judgment seat for those not saved in Matthew 7:22, but what about works of believers?
In 1 Corinthians 3 we view works done by believers as observed under scrutiny of perfect ability to divide soul and spirit and thereby God sees motive. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved yet so as by fire.
We have spoken about the man who receives the gift, the five dollars. We spoke of the man who observed it and praised the giving of the money saying he would tell his friends. But we have not yet spoken of the man’s motive who gave the five dollars. What options are open to us as we consider what his options were concerning motive? The truth is we can’t really know, we can speculate especially if we are somewhat familiar with the individual and his manner of humility or lack of it. But the point of the story is God does know.
The giver may have been being totally obedient to the leading of the Spirit within him in giving the other man the money, but not necessarily, it may have been a totally selfish motive, one seeking only self-aggrandizement, perhaps praise from others, perhaps just a sense of having done something nice. As outsiders we cannot be sure whether this gift was the fruit of the Spirit of God or whether it was something originating from the flesh. Is this an important difference, a matter with which to be concerned? Yes it is, if your concern is to please God.
Our being saved and consequently being baptized into Christ’s death is in essence our agreement with God that we believe ourselves worthy of death in God’s view because of our sinfulness, but in the wonderful grace of God Jesus bore the pain and suffering for our sins upon the cross. We simply join in the death on the cross through faith and thereby accept the punishment without the suffering or the shedding of our blood, thanks be to God for Jesus Christ!—— Please pause here to carefully consider this paragraph.
This fact of being crucified with Christ is the only deliverance from the power of sin working in us after we are saved. As we continue to claim the power of the cross both in past tense acceptance of the crucifixion of our old man, as well as a moment-by- moment dependence on the power of the cross in our walk in deliverance of the new man, we will experience the liberty and freedom that Jesus promises in John 8:36 and Romans 6:7.
Suffering in the Flesh
When considering the death of Christ and our crucifixion with Him it is imperative to realize that as we walk in the full recognition of being dead with Him we will then in fact suffer in the flesh. This is not necessarily beating, verbal abuse and all the other things we might suffer at the hands of unbelievers, but very much concerns the denial of placating my flesh and desires of sin which is in my body attempting to gain control of my bodily members whether it be eyes, mind, or limbs. In light of Peter’s words how serious are we about pleasing God if indeed we have to put aside ruling our lives according to the desires that enter our thinking?
It would be necessary then to recognize and consider what suffering in the flesh involves and how we interpret what is meant as Peter penned down the words instructing all believers of all time to arm themselves with the same mind that we saw exhibited in Christ. The Spirit of God, speaking through the apostle, goes on to say that he that has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin. Though Peter speaks of this as a one-time event freeing us from the power of compulsory sin, we as believers when attempting to make this freedom from sin real in our lives find events of life necessitate the ongoing moment-by-moment application of being dead to sin by faith. This realization is a necessity in order to have a fruitful spiritual life.
As a result we should no longer live the rest of our time fulfilling the lusts of the flesh, instead yielding our bodies a living sacrifice to God. We must walk in the freedom that Christ has provided us in the same way that we received our salvation. The freedom of the cross of Christ and the freedom that has delivered us through an acceptance of our death with Him is one in the same faith, only apprehended moment-by-moment through faith in that finished work.
Next we will look at the word of God in Romans 6:2-4 as the explanation of how we that are dead to sin are no longer in bondage to that sin. This is the indwelling sin being spoken of, not acts of disobedience.