Home Media Sermons by Pastor Nicki Coertze Series 6. Experiencing the power of the cross . No 17 :- Dead to the flesh (walking in the Spirit - Part 2)

. No 17 :- Dead to the flesh (walking in the Spirit - Part 2)

Experiencing the power of the cross (sermon 17)

Dead to the flesh - Wakling in the Spirit (Part 2)

Last week we started looking at this whole theme of experiencing the power of the cross in our victory over the flesh and we saw in Galatians 5:24 (ESV) that: “24 … those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

But in the same way as what we still struggle with sin and Satan even though we are dead to them, we still struggle with the flesh, the old ego. So we asked how do we subdue the flesh, how do we conquer the flesh, how do we overcome the desires of the flesh. Paul’s answer is actually quite simple, or so it seems at least in the words of the Scripture quite simple. Galatians 5:16 (ESV) But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”

The antidote for dealing with the poison of the desires of the flesh is very simple and very clear. All you need to do is to walk in the Spirit. Alright with that said and done, that is the end of my sermon, Amen! Let’s go home and enjoy a nice Sunday off. That’s all I have to say. Walk in the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. See you next Sunday.

No, sorry to raise your hopes. There is more to the answer than that which we will see in this sermon.

We must not forget that it is because of the flesh that we are inclined to sin. Spurgeon in one of the morning devotions this week spoke about the horrible trinity which is the flesh, Satan and the world. All three of these seek to keep us alive to sin.

So, back to verse 16. Let's look at the command for a moment. The word  peripateo) translated "walk" is a progressive present tense command with continuity that could be translated "keep on continually walking." One can also put in the word ‘conduct’ instead of walk which refers to our constant behaviour. The idea here is that the life of a Christian unfolds one day at a time, 24/7/365 just as we saw with prayer. It unfolds one step at a time. Isn’t it amazing how praying in the Spirit and walking in the Spirit comes together in a very logical way. Because as I walk, I pray, and while I pray, I walk. Just think if your prayers are limited to a 10 minute in the morning thing, how can you even claim to be walking in the Spirit?  There is not a moment that we do not walk and that we do not pray. The story is told of DL Moody a preacher from the years gone by, who stopped in the middle of a busy road, and said I dare not walk further, because where I am at now I have lost my communication with God. Please don’t do that, you might get killed by a car, and I also do not know if it is a true story, but dare we walk without praying, and dare we pray without walking in the Spirit.

 

Walking then is a very picturesque metaphor. It is one step at a time under the control of the Holy Spirit, continuously under His influence as we read in Ephesians 5:18. Don’t worry about tomorrow, walk today, that's how we are to live. It is a habitual thing. It is a constant pattern. It is a routine for us.

 

Now remember that from the moment you became a Child of God the Holy Spirit indwells you. Romans 8:9 (ESV) “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” There are those who say you receive Christ and only later you are baptised with the Holy Spirit, but that is contrary to Scripture. If you do not have the Spirit, you do not belong to God. That is very simple. And by the way, this issue of slain in the Spirit, please show it to me in the Bible and we will immediately change our doctrine, because with John Calvin we cry, that “even if every bone in my body cries out against this, if God says so, so let it be.” God, just did not tell us anything of that kind of work by the Holy Spirit.

Paul writes to the very immature Corinthian church. 1 Corinthians 6:19 (ESV) “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,…”

And it is this very Spirit, the Spirit of God that is moving and leading us and we are simply to respond moment by moment, step by step, day by day walking by means of the power and direction of the Spirit. Do you want a definition of the Christian life? Very simple, show me a person who submits to the Holy Spirit and walks with Him moment by moment, and I will show you a true Christian. Paul summarises it very well in Galatians 5:25 (ESV): If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” I love the way the NIV puts in “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

Now what does living and walking in the Spirit involve?

Now pragmatically it involves two things really.

Firstly it involves studying the Word of God, and applying the Word of God so that you know the mind of the Spirit and the will of the Spirit. Aha, you say, just as I thought, (well maybe you didn’t think so), isn’t the Holy Trinity after all just Father, Son and Holy Book?

We all know Ephesians 5:18 (ESV) “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit” or continually be under the control or influence of the Holy Spirit. Then we see a parallel text in Colossians 3:16 (ESV) “16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

We all know based on Old Testament teaching that the Word of God is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path, which directly affects our walking. You cannot live by the Spirit apart from the Word as it is the Word of God that is the very sword of the Spirit through which He guards our lives, guides our lives, cleanses our lives and enables our lives. 2 Timothy 3:16 (ESV) “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,…” So in the same way as the Word of God dominates your thinking and your actions, it is the Holy Spirit dominating your thinking and actions. As the Word moves through your heart and mind, it is that by which the Spirit of God directs your life. So as you spend time in the Word and as you spend time in prayer, communing with the living God and building an intimate relationship with the Spirit of God, as you feed on the Word and as you commune with God, you are in the position where the Spirit of God can move you down the path walking as He wants you to walk.

You see, an unbeliever cannot do that. You can put a Bible in the hands of an unbeliever, and tell Him to read it and live by it, he just cannot, unless the Spirit indwells him, so it remains Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Christians, we never stop walking. There's never a time in your life when you just arrive and from then on you are permanently spiritual. I do not believe the Bible teaches some eradication of the sin nature in this life or some second work of grace or some perfectionism, when you have reached that you never sin again. Not at all. It is a daily moment-by- moment walk, and it comes and goes, depending upon our submissiveness. By the way, according to 1 John 1: 8-10 if anyone of us says that we have no sin we lie, and we make God a liar. We never overcome sin totally but we can overcome it as a pattern of life by walking by the Spirit and His Word. The only way you can routinely walk in the Spirit of God is to have spiritual thoughts. And the only way you can have spiritual thoughts is to be communing with the living God in an intense and continual prayer attitude and being fed continually on the Word so that your thoughts are God's thoughts.

Church family, I trust that by now you are getting it. The Christian life is a moment by moment walking. Walking by the way is very central to New Testament Biblical thinking.

Let me just give you a few verses to ponder on. Ephesians 4:2-3 says ‘walk in humility’, 1 Corinthians 7:17 says ‘walk in contentment’ Ephesians 2:10 says “walk in good deeds’, Romans 13:13 says ‘walk in purity’, Ephesians 4:17 says that we must ‘walk different than the world’, Ephesians 5:2-3, ‘walk in love’,  Ephesians 5:8-9 says ‘walk in light’,  Ephesians 5:15-16 ‘walk in wisdom’, 2 Corinthians 5:7 says ‘walk in faith,’ 2 Thessalonians 3:6 says we must ‘walk apart or separated from sin’, and then lastly 3 John: 3-4 says we must ‘walk in the truth’.  Christian, this very much sums up the Christian walk. There are more verses, but this is the essence.

Now how are you going to do that? There's only one way. You must walk by the Spirit, for it is the Spirit who produces humility. It is the Spirit who produces purity. It is the Spirit who produces contentment and faith and good works and who makes you different from the world and separates you from sin. It is the Spirit who produces love and enlightenment and wisdom and makes the truth known to you. So the sum of it all is walk in the Spirit.

Church family, this is critical stuff.  You battle with the flesh, what is the antidote? Walk by the Spirit. You can take all of Christian living and reduce it to this. You can take all the commands of the New Testament and reduce them to this. If you will just walk by the Spirit you will not carry out the lusts or desires of the flesh. That's it. That's victory. The flesh wants to control you. It wants to have you think bad stuff, it wants to have you feel bad and it wants to create anger, hostility, bitterness, jealousy, envy, strife. It wants to make you sure that you have reason to fear, it wants to make you doubt God, it wants to take love out of your heart and replace it with hatred, bitterness and unforgiveness, it wants to make you do wrong things and fill your life with guilt, it wants to destroy your marriage, it wants to destroy your home, it wants to destroy your relationships and it wants to make you useless to God. The flesh lusts all the time desiring what is wrong, what is destructive. And the only hope of overcoming it is to walk in the Spirit.

There is no human solution to all these problems. The only way you overcome the driving compelling compulsions of the lust of the flesh is simply walking by the Spirit. So, there is the Word of God used by the Holy Spirit in your life.

Secondly, it involves you declaring war against the flesh.

You died to the flesh positionally, but now you must make dead the desires of the flesh. Now, why do I say it is war? Galatians 5:17 (ESV) “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”

So, to walk in the Spirit sounds quite simple, doesn’t it? Isn’t it just a matter of getting to know the Word of God and to apply it, right? If it was that easy, the question then is this. Why is it that we battle so in our Christian lives? Verse 17 provides the answer. Because there is a struggle between the flesh and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit in us, and the flesh, our old ego, our old self do not go nicely together.

In a sense we struggled less in life when we were non-Christians. Why? Because as a non-Christian everything was flesh. My relationships were in the flesh, my lifestyle was in the flesh, my conduct was in the flesh, my desires were in the flesh and my expressions were in the flesh. I though like the flesh, I spoke like the flesh and in everything my behaviour was fleshly. And flesh has no problem with flesh, as long as you are in the flesh there is no war. That is why the old life was so cool, because the conflict was less. The non-Christian life in many senses is not a battle, because there is no Holy Spirit to convict.

In a sense you might want to say, the upside of my life now is that I am a new creation, the old things have passed away, behold, everything is new, and in the same breath you might want to say, the downside of my life now, is that I am a new creation, the old things have passed away, everything has become new. In a sense, life without the Spirit in you was death, but without a struggle and life in the Spirit now is life, but with a struggle.

So why is there this struggle or battle? Yes, okay, I said it already, it is because the Spirit now indwells you, but here is the real essence, it is because you are a new creation in unredeemed flesh. And until the day when the Old Flesh is finally dealt with, the Christian life is going to be a battle against sin, the devil, the flesh, the world etc.

You say, "Well what is the flesh?" Well let me define it for you simply. The word sarxin (sarxin) in the Greek is a very important term in New Testament teaching. It can at times refer to the physical body, namely my skin and all of that which is hidden underneath it. One example is in the words of Christ in Luke 24:39 (ESV) “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” When Paul for example talks about his weakness in the flesh, he simply talks about the body. That is very much the same idea as when we say ‘the spirit is willing, but the flesh is tired’. But it can also just talk about our humanness.  For example: Galatians 3:3 (ESV) “3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” That is kind of a package deal where we put our trust in our own abilities, by our own bodies, according to fleshly desires. It is like trying to accomplish the supernatural with the natural. That is what you were before you were saved, now it is done with. Romans 7:5 (ESV) For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.”

So, it can refer to the physical body and it can refer to human effort or human works.

But its primary significance and certainly for us it that it refers to our unredeemed nature, our fallen nature, our unredeemed humanity, that part of us that hasn't yet been redeemed. And that's the flesh where sin exists. It's not just your body, it's your mind, too. It's not a philosophical dualism that says Spirit is good and flesh or material things are bad, it's not just your material body, it's your feelings and your thoughts, your mind, all of that is tainted by the flesh. The flesh is your unredeemed humanness that waits the glorification of the body when you get a new body and thus a new kind of humanity which knows no sin.

Paul talks about it in Romans 7:14-25 (ESV) 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this BODY OF DEATH? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

Isn’t that interesting? Have you noticed that you don't do what you ought to do and you do what you ought not to do? That's the ongoing battle of a Christian. That's not an unbeliever's battle, that's a Christian's battle. That's the flesh and the Holy Spirit at war. An unbeliever, does what he wants to do and does not feel bad about it.

So Paul says that his spirit has been changed, but the house it indwells is still the old one. That is exactly what Galatians 5:17 says to us. You have the Spirit in you, you are still inclined to the old nature, and the two just do not go together. Now if you understand this and that which Paul is saying in Romans 7, in the middle of all of this, you are either going to bow to the Spirit or to the flesh, you are either going to obey, or you are going to sin. You know right from wrong according to our first point, the Spirit will convict you of sin, righteousness and judgement, the question is this: ‘will you obey, or give in to the flesh, or will you walk in and by the Spirit?’ Have you noticed that?

Now listen, church family. If that is true, this whole spiritual battle, and it is, then the idea that you could come up with some more human solutions to your problem is ludicrous because it's just more of the flesh. The flesh is not only our unredeemed humanness but the flesh is all of our human effort. All the pragmatic solutions that people come up with for spiritual problems are nothing more than the flesh. And the flesh is not going to control the desires of the flesh. Flesh then refers to natural effort, independent of God that is weak, helpless and sinful. So if I have a problem and I turn to anything on the human level, I am purely putting petrol on the fire.

Look again at verse 17 as we close today. Galatians 5:17 (ESV) 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do". I just for a moment want to highlight a word in the text.

Do you realise that the desire of your flesh actually sets itself up against the Spirit. How often has it not happened? Let’s say on a Sunday morning, you lie in bed, and suddenly you do not desire to come to church, it is cold or rainy or whatever reason. You know the Bible says that we must not forsake the gathering of believers. It is the Word of God, the sword of the Spirit that showed you what is right. And so the flesh battles against the Spirit and you submit to one of them. And sadly, too often we throw fleshly solutions to a fleshly problem. The word "desire," epithumia epithumia, means strong desire, evil yearning or compulsion. What lust wants to do is conceive and bring forth sin. And what the Holy Spirit wants to do is prevent that from happening.

So the war is on. Evil desires moves in the flesh. You know what I am talking about. You know exactly what you have to do, but there is this strong desire, compulsion in you to do the opposite.  The power of the flesh is great, right. But the power of the Spirit is greater, right?  So all we have to do is walk in the Spirit and we will not fulfil the lusts of the flesh, we will not carry out its desires if we walk in the Spirit. If we offer fleshly solutions to the flesh, we pour petrol on the fire. That's the conflict. Whatever the Holy Spirit endeavours to do, the flesh endeavours to stop. So we must walk in the Spirit. We must be filled with the Spirit.

Come back next week, for the next sermon, on how to overcome or make dead the desires of the flesh.

Amen!

Logos Community Church:- 28 July 2013