Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
The Battle of the Flesh
We are conceived in bondage to a liar who wants only to steal kill and destroy us. He wants us to stay as far away from God as possible. We do what is not like God by default, it is our programming to do so. You would think that laws telling us how to behave would lessen the chances that we would do wrong. While that?s true to a limited degree, in reality, the presence of a standard not only shows us how far we?ve fallen but actually increases the pull towards doing what is contrary to that standard because of our programming and the lies of the enemy that make us think that we are acting in our best self interest (which is naturally anything that moves us away from dependence and trust in God).
In chapter 6 Paul talked about how we died to sin with Christ on the cross. In chapter 7 he uses the analogy of the death of a spouse. Even as that separates us from the marriage vow, so too did Jesus? death on the cross separate us from our ?marriage? to sin and that old programming.
Chapters 7 and 8 are really one unit. Chapter 7 is about our struggle against sin while we live as redeemed humans in these decaying bodies, and chapter 8 talks about our victory over that fleshly nature through Christ.
1 ? 3
A dead person does not and cannot follow the law. When we die we can no longer act in accordance with the law or against it. That doesn?t absolve us for being judged for our obedience or disobedience. Heb 9:27-28 ? it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment. But if you could die and escape judgment, that would be really cool.
He uses the analogy of the law of marriage. A woman (or man) is bound by law to be faithful. If they sleep with someone else while their spouse lives they violate the law. But if the spouse dies they can marry another and sleep with them and not violate the law.
So Paul uses that analogy to declare us free from the requirement of the law through the death of Christ and frees us from our old self to be married to Christ.
4 ? 6
The law doesn?t die, but we die to being under its jurisdiction. The ?fruit? we bore while under the law was death because the law became a ?to do? list rather than an affirmation of our character?why? Because as born sinners we can?t help sinning. When told not to touch we automatically want to touch?that?s the human fleshly nature. The knowledge of sin through the law, and then our disobedience of it by our programming, led to death because we consistently do what is not like the character of God and are thus excluded from His presence. It?s a vicious cycle?knowing what God is like but not being able to be like Him. So we die with Christ and are set free from that cycle. No longer do we attempt to mirror God?s character using the dirty, scratched mirror of the external obedience (or lack thereof) of the flesh, but we mirror the character of our new husband because he has placed His Spirit inside of us and given us new life.
So in the remaining portion of this chapter Paul deals with three types of people?and highlights the inability of the law, or a moral code, to make us like God. Sinners (7-14), law keepers (moralists?15-22), and even redeemed humans (23-25).
7 ? 14
The law is not sin; it just identifies sin for us. And like I said before, when we know something is wrong, our sinful nature wants to go right out and do that very thing. It?s the same sort of draw that the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil had on Eve. The more she dwelt on it, the more benefit she thought she would get by eating it and the more unfair God became for keeping it from her. It was a lie, but that?s how the enemy works: he makes doing what is wrong seem beneficial, and then accuses us for failing when we give in. We wouldn?t have any of that knowledge were it not for the revelation of the character of God through the law.
Being ?alive? apart from the law (9) basically means that I didn?t know how dead I was until I knew how much I had fallen short of God?s character. Without the law, sin goes unnoticed.
In verse 10 Paul is probably thinking of Lev 18:5 ?You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the Lord.? But as we have seen, we can?t live by them in the flesh, we realize how we cannot obtain that promise but instead are faced with the opposite?death.
An important thing to note here. We all have needs, and they are legitimate: intimacy, fulfillment, joy, peace, purpose, etc. It is not the needs that are sinful, it is interpretation of those needs in light of this age and how the a world owned by Satan fulfills them outside of the ways God designed.
The law is good as it shows us the character of God. When we aren?t like God we don?t prove the law bad, we prove how much we lack in our flesh. We are, as Paul says ?sold under sin.? We sin because we can?t help it and the merely points out the reality that already exists.
Well, what about the person who tries to be a law keeper, a moralist?
15 ? 20
The moralist at least has the desire to do what is right?and the law is there to show them that standard?interpreted for us by the One who wrote it?Jesus Christ. But because we are sinners, a dissonance is set up between desire and action. We want to obey God but we can?t because of our sin nature.
Verse 18 is another verse along the Romans Road. If only more humans would take it to heart. In the old nature?the flesh?that part of us that is in bondage to Satan?there ?dwells no good thing.? No matter how good we think we are it is nothing in comparison with God. As one of my favorite teachers, Rick Booye, likes to say: ?we need to repent of all the good stuff we?ve done.? Because in reality it isn?t good at all (either in comparison with God?s goodness, or because in the flesh we always act in our own self interest apart from God, which is the root of all sin).
The key is: ?I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.? (18b).
So even for the moralist, it comes back to the realization that sin dwells in us and rules us no matter how hard we try to be ?good.? This even holds true, to a certain extent, for the redeemed human.
21 ? 24
Even after the Spirit brings us ?newness of life,? the old nature is still there?in latent programming routines that we have in our brains, the world system around us pulling back into the acting like the old nature, and a tempter who is all too happy to assist us in our journey back to fulfilling our desires through the flesh instead of through God.
A swimmer doesn?t know how strong the current us until he or she tries to swim upstream. That?s what it?s like for the believer trying to live a godly life in an ungodly body and world!
It is a war for the mind. It is in our thoughts that we are tempted and corrupted and it is in our minds that the Spirit of God wants to work to transform us.
I come back again to: Rom 12:2 ?Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by? the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may? discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.?
So how do we escape! Ahh, that?s where the good news comes in.
The truth is that our sinful nature was killed on the cross (Romans 6:6). The war is over, but the battles still wage on. Satan can?t have your soul, but he can sure try to keep you from being effective and delivering other people from bondage to him, and he can make your life miserable through giving in to sin and temptation.
What we need to realize is that as long as we live in these bodies we will deal with the sin nature. We shouldn?t expect ourselves to be perfect, but sometimes just realizing you have a stowaway on board your life makes dealing with it a little easier.
And next time, Paul continues this same line of thought to elaborate on the good news of deliverance we have in one of the most encouraging chapters in the whole Bible.
So what should we do with this information? How can it help us live a life of holiness to God?
1.????? Stop beating yourself up
You are going to fail. The war is over but not the battles. Satan has lost you. God loves you. There is no sin so big that God cannot forgive and no failure to large that He cannot handle. He loves you because of what Jesus did, not what you did or didn?t do.
2.????? Identify the source of the radio stations playing in your head
????????? The flesh is predisposed not to trust God and is tuned into the enemy?s frequency
????????? The enemy is more than willing to help you justify not depending on God
????????? Your new self is attuned to the Spirit of God?s frequency
????????? The Spirit will help you the more you listen to Him (how do you hear? ? through teaching, reading, praying, worshiping, being changed through trials)
3.????? Practice trusting God?s frequency
Satan wants us to stop trusting God since we started. Instead, look for ways to trust Him, with a feeling you are having, a temptation, an old habit pattern, an important decision, a relationship, a quandary, an understanding of Scripture, help in being strong, help in trusting Him. Pick one and focus on it for a while. The stronger his signal becomes, the more static gets into Satan and the flesh?s signals and the weaker they become.