Home Media Sermons by Pastor Nicki Coertze Non-series Sermons by Year 2020 Sermons . 13 Positions in Spiritual Combat

. 13 Positions in Spiritual Combat

13 POSITIONS IN SPIRITUAL COMBAT

In 2014 I did a series which is available on our website of 24 sermons entitled ‘Experiencing the power of the cross’. The thoughts I shared in my daily devotions the last while are extracts of that series. This topic caught my attention back in 1982 when I read the book of Jessie Pen Lewis on the same title. I am not going to go into the essence of the series. I just want to mention on today’s devotion that we have a positional experience of the power of the cross. Based on 2 Corinthians 5:14 (ESV) where Paul says: 14 … we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;” And then if you study the theology of Paul he teaches us that we have positionally died to sin, Satan, the flesh, self, the world and the law. So, in Christ we are dead to those things. Yet they remain a threat to us, therefore Paul teaches us all over his epistles that we must experientially deal with sin, Satan, the flesh, self, the world, and the law.

It is like saying that in Christ you are Holy positionally, therefore, strive to be holy. In Christ you are righteous so live righteous. We are dead to sin and the flesh, therefore mortify sin and the flesh, you are dead to self, so get rid of that ego and live by faith, we are dead to Satan therefore resist the devil. We are dead to the world, so do not succumb to the world and its desires. In the last few sessions, we have touched on the flesh and the Spirit and on Sunday we saw that we must put to death or mortify the flesh.

 

Now, in a sense it is both a relief and a major frustration to know that all true believers and even somebody like Paul have sin remaining in them. The only one who was sinless is Christ Jesus Himself. Paul says in Philippians 3:12 (ESV) 12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” Paul also says in Romans 7:23 (ESV) 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.”

I am not amazed that John tells the dear Christians in 1 John 1:9 (ESV) 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6:12 (ESV) 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

This does not mean we should become complacent about sin. Look at the words again of John in 1 John 2:1-2 (ESV) 1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins,...”

That is why we must fight it daily. We are commanded to constantly kill the sin that remains in our lives. We saw this on Sunday in Romans 8:13 (ESV) 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” And this we do because we are adopted sons of God. In Colossians 3:5 (ESV) Paul teaches us to 5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you...”

This is not optional. Either you die or sin dies. Now like Paul we will always say that we have not yet been made perfect, that we have not yet attained, it is an ongoing battle, but I know we all want to do better in the battle. We all want to have greater success in the fight, don’t you? We all want to become more and more Christlike, don’t we?

Now I had 24 sermons to pick from, but I chose to follow John Piper who gives thirteen tactical steps in battle, all that are reflected in my 24 sermons somewhere or another. Only the points are his, as I like the package deal here as it is something you can print out and keep it on hand in your Bible and study it again and again until you become more victorious in the battle.

 

  1. Take heart from the truth that the old sinful ‘you’ is decisively already dead because ‘when one died all died’. Let me give you some verses to help you in this regard. Romans 6:6 (ESV) 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” Colossians 3:3 (ESV) 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Galatians 5:24 (ESV) 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” This is what we will call our positional death, because by faith we are united with Christ and His death became our death. I am dead in Christ; I stand complete in Christ.


These verses and the ones I already quoted means 3 things. It means firstly that our old nature or let us just simply call it the old man had been dealt a mortal blow. Our old man or old nature is dead in Christ. It means secondly that the old self now no longer will succeed in dominating our lives as it did outside Christ and it means a third thing and that is that the final obliteration is certain the day we appear with Christ in glory, when we are finally saved from the presence of sin. We are already saved from the power and penalty of sin.

 

  • So, our first combative position is to take heart from the truth that the old sinful ‘you’ is decisively already dead.


2 Consciously reckon the old man dead; that is, believe the truth of Scripture about the old man’s death in Christ and seek to live in that freedom. Romans 6:11 (ESV) 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

This is a particularly important starting point. You know according to our first point that you are dead to sin, Satan, the flesh, self, the world, and the law. You know that it is ‘Christ in you the hope of glory’, but until you start considering this you will never start dealing with the challenges we face with our old foes. To “consider” means to reflect, to deliberate, to contemplate, to think or to way up. Until you start doing this you are not going to act according to your new status of being alive to God in Christ Jesus.

 

I do not want to spiritualize illustrations too much but let me explain. You are an orphan in an orphanage. On a day, a man arrives with his son and says he can choose a brother for himself. By grace, out of all the children he adopts you. You now get into this fancy car and you move into a fancy house. Suddenly your environment changes, the rules change, the menu changes, you have a new surname, you have your own room with your own bathroom, and the list goes on. But you lived in an orphanage for 12 years and suddenly you must adapt, and you tend to want to do things in the way you did at the orphanage, which are unacceptable for the new household. For the first while you struggle, because of your old nature. So how do you resolve it? You must daily consider yourself dead to the orphanage lifestyle, and put away the behaviour of the old lifestyle, until the old behaviour is nearly perfectly out of your system. Daily you are going to be tempted to act according to the old. You need to remind yourself that you are dead to the old and alive to the new and adjust your behaviour to fit the new.

 

Let me give you another example. You have been unemployed for many years. Eventually you sleep late every day, you do what you please, you forget what it is to work hard and smart. Suddenly you get a job. But based on the old nature you wake up in the morning and want to roll over and sleep further, but then you remind yourself, you consider your present position. You are no longer unemployed but employed and therefore you kill the desire to roll over and sleep further. But you get up in time because you are dead to unemployment and alive to employment. So, you adjust your lifestyle to your position of employment.

 

Another example. You relocate to America, so now you are dead to South African laws and behaviours and alive to America’s laws and behaviours. You climb into your car and have this absolute craving to drive on the left-hand side of the road. The consequences of such behaviour could be death. So, you consider where you live and the rules of this new kingdom, and you kill the desire to drive on the left before it kills you. Remember Romans 8:13.

 

Do you realise that we do this daily? From the moment you rise in the morning to the time you go to bed; you remind yourself of your position and act accordingly.

 

One more illustration closer to the bone. You were part of the kingdom of Satan, blind, deaf, living in darkness, gratifying the desires of the flesh, sharing with the world a life of disobedience, with not much of a consideration between right and wrong. Sin is no issue, as you are not part of the Kingdom of the light, so there is no consequence.

 

Suddenly something happens and you are born from above, by the Holy Spirit, your spiritual eyes open, your spiritual ears open, you see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ and you are transferred from darkness to light, from the Kingdom of Satan to the Kingdom of God, from blindness to sight and suddenly adopted as a son of God. You are now in a new Kingdom, ruled by God Himself, and the standards have changed radically. Sadly, day by day, some of our old habits still reveal themselves, temptation to do the things of the past settle in. What do you do? Well, you reckon yourself dead to the old kingdom and alive to the new, you kill the habits of the old, mortify them and live according to the New Kingdom you are in.


We are dead to the old and alive to the new. That is why Paul can say in 2 Corinthians 5:14 (ESV) 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;” The love of Christ is a rule of the new Kingdom, we died in Christ and are now alive to Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV) 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

So, because we are new, we live in the newness of life we have received. 1 Corinthians 5:7 (ESV) says: “7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” So, in Christ we are unleavened, but there is still old leaven present, but because we are in Christ, we consider ourselves dead to old leaven, and alive to Christ, and we clean out the old leaven.

Listen carefully. Living out the reality that you are is the proof that you are. If you try to play logic games with this reality and say, “I don’t need to fight sin because it is already cleaned out,” you will prove only that you are not among the number who are cleansed.

 

    So, our first combative position is to take heart from the truth that the old sinful ‘you’ is decisively already dead.
    So, our second combative position is to consciously reckon the old man dead.

3, Cultivate enmity with sin! We have seen that we must kill sin, mortify sin, but as long as sin is your friend you will not deal with it. We have seen Rom 8:13 a few times now, where we are told to kill sin, mortify sin. Now you do not kill friends, you kill enemies. For this reason, we need to hate sin.

There is an interesting verse right back in the Old Testament that requires our consideration. This time it is not Romans 8:13 but Proverbs 8:13 (ESV) 13 The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.”  We see some of Solomon’s wisdom further in Ecclesiastes 12:13 (ESV) 13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” Now if this is true namely that the whole duty of man is to fear God and keep His commandments, and the fear if the Lord is hatred of evil, then it means that it is our duty to hate evil, which is a sign that we fear God.

This definition suggests the kind of conduct the proper fear of God produces in practical application. If we hate something, do we not take steps to avoid it? It is like me and Brussel Sprouts. I take every step to avoid it. If I get invited to a Brussel Sprout party, with the best band in the province, and the greatest comedian as well as a world renowned motivational speaker, my hatred for Brussel Sprouts will win the day and I will not be there. So back from Proverbs 8:13 to Romans 8:13 (ESV) 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”



Now remember, we are dead to the deeds of the body positionally, and Romans 8:13 tells us to kill our enemy experientially.  Perhaps one of our major problems is that we do not hate and fear sin and its penalty strongly enough. The fear of God, along with the other elements of motivation, strongly induces us to be non-conformists to this world's ways. This is vital to our continued growth, as the apostle Paul writes in Romans 12:2 (ESV) 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.”

Do not let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould. It will be impossible or near to impossible to grow if we are conforming to this world. We know that “the wages of sin is death”. Now, even though we know that we have been delivered from the wages of sin which is death, ponder how sin killed your Saviour and Lord and your best Friend (Jesus), who is closer than a brother. It was our sins that put Jesus on the cross, surely it deserves our hatred. Sin dishonours your Father and aims to destroy you forever. The more we see the ugliness of sin and hate sin, the more we will start dealing with sin.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul stresses the need for believers to separate themselves from what defiles namely sin or evil. His concluding instruction is that the fear of God is how we accomplish this perfecting of holiness. Listen to Paul’s instruction in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (ESV) and understand the reason for his instruction. He says: 14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. (That is the instruction – but what is the reason?) For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

Now after having said that in 2 Corinthians 6, Paul tells us immediately in 2 Corinthians 7:1 (ESV) 1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” What are the promises that causes us to eradicate defilement of the body? They are: “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people,” and “18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

So, our attitude towards evil, or sin must be a shunning, a mortifying, a making dead, and that in the end exhibits our fear of the Lord.

 

  • So, our first combative position is to take heart from the truth that the old sinful ‘you’ is decisively already dead.
  • Our second combative position is to consciously reckon the old man dead.
  • So, the third combative position is to cultivate enmity with sin!

 

4. Rebel against sin’s rebellion. We must refuse to be bullied by sins deceits and manipulations.  Romans 6:12-15 (ESV) 12 Let not sin therefore reign (or have an unchecked dominion of sin within us) in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!”


Temptations to sin are all half-truths and half-lies at best. We all so easily succumb to it. So even though we are under grace and not under law, and even though there is no condemnation, we must not believe the temptations that they are good, and therefore obey it. Paul calls the fruit of temptation “desires of deceit”. Ephesians 4:22 (ESV) 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires. Again, we are confronted here with an old self, behaviours that were learnt in our past life and now revealing itself in our new life. Again, we are told that the old man must be put off, killed, mortified.


Let me tell you a story, and please remember that this is fiction, this is not how things work. The story is told how a man arrived at the pearly gates and was welcomed by Peter. As he was signing into heaven, he suddenly saw this big glass window with a sign above it titled “Hell”. Behind the glass there were a bunch of people having fun, celebrating, enjoying everything that we have always been told is wrong to hearts content. The man asked Peter if he cans swop and rather go to hell. Peter agreed and told him to enter the lift just to the right of the glass window. The man did so, and suddenly the lift went down and down at a high speed and stopped with a jerk, and the jerk got out. (Pun intended). The man got out and there he saw the ghastliest sight. There was a lake burning with sulphur and people were in the lake screaming and crying in pain and agony. There was a fallen angel there to check him in, and he asked him what this place was upon which the angel responded that it was hell. He then enquired about what he saw behind the glass window, to which the angel responded, that it was purely their advertising agency.


The strongest motives against sin, and to enforce holiness, are stated here in Romans 6:12-15. Since we have been made free from the reign of sin, alive unto God, and having the prospect of eternal life, it becomes our task as believers to march on to sinless perfection while knowing we will never attain it.

By now we know that unholy lusts are not quite rooted out in this life, it must be the care of the Christian to resist their motions, earnestly striving, that, through Divine grace, we may not remain in this mortal state. The very thought that this life will someday end, should encourage the true Christian, to put away the motions of lusts, which so often perplex and distress us. We must present all our powers to God, as weapons or tools ready for the warfare, and a work of righteousness, in His service.

 

There is strength in the covenant of grace for us. Sin will not have dominion. God's promises to us are more powerful and effectual for mortifying sin, than our promises to God. Sin may struggle in a real believer, and create in him a great deal of trouble, but it will not have dominion; it may annoy him, but it will not rule over him.

Let me just highlight verse 15 of chapter 12 which we just read: 15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!”

The same argument is seen in Romans 6:1 (ESV) 1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” In chapter 5 Paul said that the more we sin, the more grace becomes, because we are children of God, so in the end it sounds like we better sin more so that grace can become more. So, therefor the question. Paul however gives the answer which is the same as verse 15 of chapter 12 in verse 2. Romans 6:2 (ESV) 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

So, despite grace that is guaranteed to children of God, despite the fact that we are not condemned, what can be a stronger motive against sin than the love of Christ? Shall we sin against so much goodness, and such love?

Let me try and explain this by going back to Hell’s advertising agency in heaven. Do we realise that you will never destroy hell’s advertising on earth? Let’s say, you or I have a problem with alcohol. You are not a moderate, disciplined consumer of alcohol, but you have a problem with alcohol, and you get drunk, and then become unruly, loud, aggressive etc. How do we solve your problem? Should we go around and bomb every bottle store, and destroy every form of alcoholic beverages, so that you will not be tempted by Satan’s advertising agency. Have we solved your problem? No, ways. We saw this during lockdown, haven’t we? They simply make their own.

So, what is the best solution? Kill the person, and his drinking problem is gone. We know the saying that dead dogs do not bite. Let us retranslate verse 2: 2 By no means! How can we who died to drunkeness still live in it?” So, in Christ we are dead to that which is sold to us by half lies and half-truths. I remember years ago the “Break Away with Mainstay” advertisement, where this man standing with the glass in his hand is on this beautiful Yacht with the most beautiful girls and guys on the yacht, on the bluest waters you can imaging, close to one of the most beautiful Islands all just enjoying life. They will never show you the violent man beating up his wife in his drunken stupor. But when God gets hold of a person, and he dies in Christ to the things of this world, he will still struggle, but praise God he is under grace and not condemnation, and therefore positionally dead to whatever sin in his life. I have just used drunkenness as one example, the list goes on. Now he needs to deal with the leftovers of that sin in his life by putting off the old self, mortifying sin, killing sin, destroying the remnants of the desires of the flesh for that particular vice.

May God give us grace not to give in to sin’s deceits and manipulations and false advertising. Satan will make sure through the systems of this world, that he markets his devices to destroy us well.

  • So, our first combative position is to take heart from the truth that the old sinful ‘you’ is decisively already dead.
  • Our second combative position is to consciously reckon the old man dead.
  • So, the third combative position is to cultivate enmity with sin!
  • Our fourth combative position is to rebel against sin’s rebellion.
5. Declare radical allegiance to the other side — God’s side — and consciously put all your mind, heart, and body at his disposal for righteousness and purity. Yesterday we looked at Romans 6:13 (ESV) that says: 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.”

Friends, we have changed sides. I will in a few moments show you how radical the change is. It is so much more than simply being a New Creation. It is about radical allegiance to God and His Kingdom due to what has happened. In the book of Acts Paul defends himself before Agrippa. He tells Agrippa about the call the Lord has placed on his life and his command to ministry. In Acts 26:18 (ESV) the Lord says to Paul that He is sending him to the gentiles: “18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”

So, Paul is called to a radical allegiance to God and His Kingdom and his task is to bring the gentiles to that same allegiance to God and His Kingdom. Two days ago, I spoke of the change of kingdom we have experienced; therefore, it requires a change of lifestyle from our side to fit the new Kingdom. Sure, we drag old kingdom habits with us, that is why Paul says in Romans 6:13: present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life,”

Let me show you how radical this was for us as individuals, which will also help you understand why you carry something over from our old man. Paul explains in the most vivid detail in Ephesians 2 the natural condition of man. Now, realise if this was our natural state for many years, just how much we potentially can carry over into our new nature. But our salvation is so radical that we must as per our previous points do all we can to kill sin, to resist the devil, to turn away from worldly mindsets etc. Now I am going to give you single words all starting with the letter D to explain our old nature.

Look at Ephesians 2:1-6 (ESV) 1 And you were dead (dead) in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world (deviant), following the prince of the power of the air (demonized), the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience (disobedient)3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind (deranged – passionately pursuing our rebel desires), and were by nature children of wrath (damned), like the rest of mankind. 4 BUT GOD, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (delivered) —by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him (that is our position) in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (da kingdom living – had to get a D in there).


So, all of us were dead, deviant, demonized, disobedient, deranged and damned. Do you notice that by nature we were dead, not sick? We were also not dead in degrees. You cannot be 75% dead. Natural man is fallen, we are not hanging on halfway between life and death. Some theologians claimed that while we are dead we are not fully dead as God left just enough life in us to choose Him. The fallen man according to them has found a branch to hang on to on the side of a cliff, simply waiting for Jesus to reach out his hand. If man then chooses to take the hand of Christ he lives, and if he chooses not to then he dies completely. That does not make biological sense, as a man hanging on a branch is alive. And it does not make theological sense as the Bible says we are 100% spiritually dead. If you are 20% spiritually alive, well then 20% of you is going to heaven. No my friends, if you are dead in your trespasses and sins, you are dead, finish and klaar, and only Christ by His Spirit can pour life into that dead spirit so that we can believe and receive God into our lives.

Now what is the great purpose why God delivered us from all our ‘D’s? Why did he seat us positionally with Him in heaven in Christ Jesus? Ephesians 2:7-8 (ESV) 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”

Now, why were you saved, and some others are not? Is it because you are smarter or more intelligent than others? Is it because you were more desperate than others and more afraid of hell? Or is it simply because something happened in your heart that you cannot explain, but it changed you forever, and the total reason is because God who is rich in mercy and love, saved us by grace, changed our Kingdom and seated us in the heavenlies, so that in the coming ages He may show the immeasurable riches of His grace.

So, back to our point. Why would you and I declare radical allegiance to the other side? Why would we? Well, if you realise that you were all the D’s that we saw in Ephesians 2, and you realise just in what a bad state you were, and God saved you, logic dictates that you would show allegiance to God. Let’s retranslate Ephesians 2:1-3 in a personal shorter fashion.  “I was dead, deviant, demonized, disobedient, deranged and damned, 4 BUT GOD, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved me, 5 even when I was dead in my trespasses, made me alive together with Christ — by grace I have been saved— 6 and raised me up with him and seated me with him  in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Such a God deserves our full, radical allegiance.

Therefore, let us consciously put all your mind, heart, and body at his disposal for righteousness and purity, out of gratitude for His love and grace that was poured into our lives freely.

  • So, our first combative position is to take heart from the truth that the old sinful ‘you’ is decisively already dead.
  • Our second combative position is to consciously reckon the old man dead.
  • So, the third combative position is to cultivate enmity with sin!
  • Our fourth combative position is to rebel against sin’s rebellion.
  • Our fifth combative position is to declare radical allegiance to God’s side.

 

 

6. Don’t make any plans that open the door for sin’s entry.

 

There is a saying, that if you do not want to be pushed around by a bull, stay out of the kraal.

 

Let us read together Romans 13:12-14 (ESV) 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”

I want to focus on verse 14 that says: "14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”

Now part of our combatting positions is against the flesh. We have also seen that we struggle against Satan, self, sin, the world and the law and then even categorical issues like racism. So in this section on combatting the flesh our title is: “Don’t make any plans that open the door for sin’s entry,” which is just another way of saying: “make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”

Now, if Paul started with these words, one could classify it as a kind of legalism. That means that if I do the following stuff or resist the following stuff then I am a child of God and in right standing with God. However, Paul does not start there. In this section he once again starts with our position.

What is important for Paul is the “putting on” part, which he mentions twice as a kind of antidote to the flesh.  You see it twice. “Put on the armour of light”, and “put on Christ”.  It is like saying: “put on a coat and you will not catch a cold.” The words “put on” in verses 12 & 14 is commonly employed with reference to "clothing" or "apparel," but it is more than that as seen with the statement, “put on Christ.”  The phrase to "put on" a person, which seems a harsh expression in our language, was one not infrequently used by Greek writers, and means to imbibe his principles, to imitate his example, to copy his spirit, to become like him.

You see this with the Greek Philosophers. Dionysius writes, "having put on or clothed themselves with Tarquin." This simply meant that they imitated the example and morals of Tarquin. Lucian writes, "having put on Pythagoras;" means having received him as a teacher and guide. And so, the Greek writers speak of putting on Plato, Socrates, etc. meaning to take them as instructors, to follow them as disciples.

So, to put on the Lord Jesus means to take Him as a pattern and guide, to imitate His example, to obey His precepts, to become like Him, etc. In "all" respects the Lord Jesus was unlike what had been specified in the previous verse. He was temperate, chaste, pure, peaceable, and meek; and to "put him on" was to imitate him in these respects.

Hebrews 4:15 (ESV) 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

Hebrews 7:26 (ESV) 26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.”

1 Peter 2:22 (ESV) 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.”

1 John 3:5 (ESV) 5 You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.”

So, our starting point is to put on Christ. But it is more than that.

Ephesians 4:22-24 (ESV) 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Notice here that we must “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” In other words, we can humbly say: “put on God”. Did Jesus not say in Matthew 5:48 (ESV) 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” And then we remember the words of Peter in 1 Peter 1:15 (ESV) 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,” which is another way of saying “put on Christ.”

So when we see the statement:  “make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires,” the aim is not to put away the things mentioned in the previous verses to be a child of God, but because we are children of God, to rid ourselves of these things: 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarrelling and jealousy.” The list is far too small, those are simply examples, but it shows clearly what fleshly deeds Christians can become part of. But, the priority is to be: “putting on the armour of light”, “putting on Christ” and as we have seen by implication: “putting on God”, and let us take it further as we live by the Spirit, are led by the Spirit and keep in step with the Spirit, we need to “put on the Holy Spirit.” Paul writes that “we must not be drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). Close enough to putting on the Spirit, wouldn’t you think? If not close enough, let us go for 1 Corinthians 6:19 (ESV) 19 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.” I think that settles it. And then let us not forget being clothed with the full armour of God as well. So, in the end you are clothed with all that the new Kingdom is about.

Back to: “make no provision”. The word "provision" here is what is used to denote "provident care," or preparation for future needs. It means that we should not make it an object to gratify our lusts, or study to do this by laying up anything beforehand with reference to these wrong desires.

The word "flesh" is used here evidently to denote the corrupt inclinations of the body, or those which he had specified in Romans 13:13.

“To fulfil the lusts thereof” - With reference to its corrupt desires. The gratification of the flesh was the main object among the Romans. Living in luxury and licentiousness, they made it their great object of study to multiply and prolong the means of licentious indulgence. In respect to this, Christians were to be a separate people, and to show that they were influenced by a higher and purer desire than this grovelling propensity to minister to sensual gratification. It is right, it is a Christian duty, to labour to make provision for all the real needs of life. But the real wants are few; and with a heart disposed to be pure and temperate, the necessary wants of life are easily satisfied; so that the mind may be devoted to higher and purer purpose.

  • So, our first combative position is to take heart from the truth that the old sinful ‘you’ is decisively already dead.
  • Our second combative position is to consciously reckon the old man dead.
  • So, the third combative position is to cultivate enmity with sin!
  • Our fourth combative position is to rebel against sin’s rebellion.
  • Our fifth combative position is to declare radical allegiance to God’s side.
  • Our sixth combative position is to not make any plans that open the door for sin’s entry.
7. Know the spirit of the age and consciously resist conformity to it.

 

There was an interesting event that took place just last week in South Africa that hardly had Christians sit up and take note. I dare say that if this event took place 40 years ago, we would have seen a Christian riot of some sorts. What is the event that I am referring to and why do I believe it is significant? South Africa now has its first official government recognised and registered satanic church. For years, satanists did not have a place of worship. Now, since the opening of The South African Satanic Church in Century City they are able to. They are about the translate the Satanic Bible into Afrikaans.

Let me predict where this is going, and I do not regard this as a prophetic word, but simply discernment. With them now being recognized as one of the official religions in South Africa, very soon they are going to take offence with Christian churches speaking against Satan, as it will infringe on their dignity, and be regarded as discrimination on the basis of faith. Watch this space. I pray that God will protect us from that. One of the core principles of Christianity is our enmity with Satan. South Africa has become one of the most liberal countries in the world, and sadly many churches are following suit.

A pastor arrived in town one day looking for a specific church and exclaimed: “where in the world is the church?” Interesting question on another level. Where in the world is the church? Are we still salt and light? Are we impacting the world or has the world maybe made its entrance into the church as churches become more worldly? No wonder the statement by somebody, sometime, long ago that “coffee has become caffeineless, butter fatless, the streets dustless and Christianity Godless.”

As D.L. Moody said, “The ship belongs in the water of the world, but if the water gets in the ship, it sinks.”

Let’s read together Colossians 2:6-15 which actually deserves a sermon or more, instead of a devotion. Let me read through the section and just interact a bit, as we do not really have time to expound it in detail.

Colossians 2:6-15 (ESV) 6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him",

The walking language sounds familiar does it not? We are clothed in Christ, we are conformed to His image, it is Christ in us the hope of glory, so guess what? Just as you walk in the Spirit, you walk in Christ. Why do we think we are called Christians? It is because we are followers of Christ. So, as we positionally are in Christ, we need to experientially walk in Christ.

"7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving."

This calls for Christianity as a lifestyle, and not ceremonies and rituals. This verse implies a right understanding of who Christ is as it is based on what we were taught. If you have been taught the wrong Jesus you will never be established in the faith. Often when I watch some of these tele-evangelists I notice that that they serve an American Jesus, as the Christ I know just will not fit in with the fanciful spiritual culture. When Kenneth Copeland says: “when Jesus says ‘I am’ I laugh in my sleeve because I am too. Jesus is only the first born, I am also born again.’” No, my friend, he has the wrong Jesus. When Joel Osteen refuses to preach about sin, He has the wrong Jesus, because the Jesus I know did not come for good people to “give them their best life now” and just make them “a better you”. No, He came for fallen sinners just like me who were saved while we were yet enemies of God. When Joel Osteen says that Jesus is just one way to God, but that there are many ways, he has the wrong Jesus. The Jesus I know is the creator of the universe, the King of all ages.

Joel Osteen preached a series which is in book form as the two most important words that you can say. The book is entitled “I am”. Here are the chapters. “I am blessed. I am prosperous. I am successful.” “I am victorious. I am talented. I am creative.” “I am wise. I am healthy. I am in shape.” “I am energetic. I am happy. I am positive.” “I am passionate. I am strong. I am confident.” “I am secure. I am beautiful. I am attractive.” “I am valuable. I am free. I am redeemed.” “I am forgiven. I am anointed. I am accepted.” “I am approved. I am prepared. I am qualified.” “I am motivated. I am focused. I am disciplined.” “I am determined. I am patient. I am kind.” “I am generous. I am excellent. I am equipped.” “I am empowered. I am well able.” And then a afterthought “I am a child of the Most High God.”


Paul goes on in verse 8.

"8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ."

What we just heard about “I am” from Joel Osteen is hollow and deceptive philosophy. He has a different Bible and a different Jesus. Here is where our warning comes in. Understand the spirit of this age and run from that which is wrong and run to Christ. Do not let anybody take you captive to the point that you adjust to their thinking. It is amazing what has become acceptable in our day and age and how people justify it. We live in an age where right if wrong and wrong is right. We refuse as a country to condemn a man to death by execution who has raped and murdered a little baby, as he has a right to life, so we will rather look after him in prison for his life, feeding him, clothing him, paying his medical expenses, because he has rights. And then in the next breath we will murder little unborn babies through abortion based on the rights of mothers who do not want the child, children who will never know anything of these privileges we hold dear for murderers. The babies have no rights. Listen to the philosophers on this issue. They will deceive you “by putting a donkey under a blanket and selling it to you as a thoroughbred horse”. Sadly, many Christians fall for the empty deceit of this world and start believing it. Human tradition, the basic principles of this world are not always right. Run to Christ. In Him you will find the way the truth and life. Does Jesus matter. Well, let’s read further without exposition.

9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.”

The meaning of all this is, that since Christ has achieved for us such a victory, and has subdued all the foes of man, we should not be led captive, but should regard ourselves as freemen, who do not conform to this world. Galatians 6:13-14 (ESV)13 For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. 14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

Remember what we saw a few moments ago. We have a circumcision of heart by putting off the body of flesh, and on the cross, we died to the world and the world died to us. Therefore,  and with this we end Paul says in Romans 12:2 (ESV) 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, our first combative position is to take heart from the truth that the old sinful ‘you’ is decisively already dead.
  • Our second combative position is to consciously reckon the old man dead.
  • So, the third combative position is to cultivate enmity with sin!
  • Our fourth combative position is to rebel against sin’s rebellion.
  • Our fifth combative position is to declare radical allegiance to God’s side.
  • Our sixth combative position is to not make any plans that open the door for sin’s entry.
  • Our seventh combative position is to know the spirit of the age and consciously resist conformity to it.
8. Develop mental habits that continually renew the mind in

God-centeredness.

 

We ended yesterday with Romans 12:2 (ESV) that says: 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.”

Our focus yesterday was on the part Romans 12:2 (ESV) 2 Do not be conformed to this world.” But when we talk about developing mental habits that continually renew the mind in God-centeredness the place to start are with the words: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.”

We are perfectly useless as Christ-exalting Christians if all we do is conform to the world around us. Paul says that the key to discerning the will of God for our lives, is being transformed.

That word for transformed is used one time in all the gospels, namely, about Jesus on the mountain of transfiguration (the mountain of “transformation” — same word, metemorphōthē): “And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light”

 

Now one thing we must understand is that transformation is not switching from the to-do list of the flesh to the to-do list of the law, or list of worldly stuff replaced with spiritual legalism. When Paul replaces the list — the works — of the flesh, he does not replace it with the works of the law, but the fruit of the Spirit.

 

The Christian alternative to immoral behaviours is not a new list of moral behaviours. It is the triumphant power and transformation of the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ — our Saviour, our Lord, and our King. “[God] has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6). So, transformation is a profound, blood-bought, Spirit-wrought change from the inside out.

 

But notice that transformation comes from the renewing of the mind.

 

Now, what’s wrong with the human mind? Why does our mind need renewing? And what does this renewal look like? And how can we pursue and enjoy this renewal?

 

Renewal is not just education. It is not mere knowledge. Two days ago I shared the verse in Ephesians 4:23 (ESV) 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,” Now verse 23 is sandwiched between verse 22 that says that “we must take of the old man” and verse 24 that says we must “put on the new man.” It is to make dead the old and be clothed with the armour of light, Christ, God, the Spirit, the full armour of God etc.

To be renewed in the spirit of our minds will mean that the human mind is not a sophisticated computer managing data, which it then faithfully presents to the heart for appropriate emotional responses. The mind has a “spirit.” In other words, our mind has what we call a “mindset.” It doesn’t just have a view, it has a viewpoint. It does not just have the power to perceive and detect; it also has a posture, a demeanour, a bearing, an attitude, a bent.

Now why does it need renewing? Very simply this. Before we were born again our minds were hostile towards God according to Romans 8:7. Naturally our minds are fallen. They have a spirit, a bent, a mindset that is hostile to the absolute supremacy of God. Our minds are bent on not seeing God as infinitely more worthy of praise than we are, or the things we make or achieve. How did this happen? Romans 1:28 (ESV) 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” Now, we must no longer be like that. Ephesians 4:17-18 (ESV) 17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.”

Paul penetrates beneath the “futile mind” and the “darkened understanding” and the willful “ignorance” and says that it is all rooted in “the hardness of their heart.” Here is the deepest disease, infecting everything else. Our mental suppression of liberating truth is rooted in our hardness of heart. Our hard hearts will not submit to the supremacy of Christ, and therefore our blind minds cannot see the supremacy of Christ

This helps us understand the relationship between verses 1 and 2 of Romans 12. Verse 1 says that we should present our bodies — that is, our whole active life — as a living sacrifice which is our spiritual service of worship. So, the aim of all life is worship. That is, we are to use our bodies — our whole lives — to display the worth of God and all that he is for us in Christ. Now it makes perfect sense when verse 2 says that, in order for that to happen, our minds must be renewed. Why? Because our minds are not by nature God-worshiping minds. They are by nature self-worshiping minds. That is the spirit of our minds.

We are going to run out of time, so I will show us tomorrow how to renew our minds. But I do want to quote another section where Peter talks about the mind. Peter says in 1 Peter 1:13-14 (ESV) “13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance.” Again, we see the concept, this time from Peter that we must not be conformed by the passions of our former ignorance. Basically, don’t be conformed to the world but be sober minded.  Paul says, being renewed in the Spirit of the mind.

Right, back to Romans 12:2 (ESV) 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.”

I want to focus this morning on those 6 words: “by the renewal of your mind.” Now, let’s put the word ‘spirit’ in there because of Ephesians 4:23, that talks about the spirit of the mind. Now, there is only one other place in the New Testament where the word ‘renewal’ is used and that is in Titus 3:5 (ESV) “5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.

So, the Holy Spirit is active in our New Birth, and He remains active from beginning to end. But here we have two angles in Titus 3:5, firstly washing us by regeneration and secondly by renewal. Not only are we born again, but our minds are changed and we are changed.

Let me share another verse that will help us comprehend these truths related to the work of the Spirit in our lives. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV) 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

What does the Spirit do here to “transform” us into the image of the God-exalting Son of God? He enables us to “behold the glory of the Lord.” This is how the mind is renewed — by steadfastly gazing at the glories of Christ for what they really are. Get to know your Saviour better, and you will become like Him. But to enable us to do that, the Spirit must do a double work. He must work in two directions: from the outside in and from the inside out.

He must work from the outside in by exposing the mind to Christ-exalting truth. That is, he must lead us to hear the gospel, to read the Bible, to study Christ-exalting writings of great, spiritual men, and to meditate on the perfections of Christ.

This is exactly what our great enemy does not want us to do. 2 Corinthians 4:4 (ESV) 4 “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Because to see that for what it really is, Paul says, will renew the mind and transform the life and produce unending worship, and Satan does not want to see that.

“The Spirit renews the mind. It is first and decisively his work.”

And the Spirit must work from the inside out, breaking the hard heart that blinds and corrupts the mind. The Spirit must work from the outside in, through Christ-exalting truth, and from the inside out, through truth-embracing humility. If he only worked from the outside in, by presenting Christ-exalting truth to our minds but not breaking the hard heart and making it humble, then the truth would be despised and rejected. And if he only humbled the hard heart but put no Christ-exalting truth before the mind, there would be no Christ to embrace and no worship would happen.

Now what is our responsibility in all this?

What is our duty in renewing the mind? You know the saying “Garbage in, garbage out. Good stuff in, good stuff out.”

 


  • We must join the Holy Spirit in his precious and all-important work.
  • We must pursue Christ-exalting truth. What I shared yesterday of Kenneth Copeland and Joel Osteen is not Christ Exalting truth. They both exalt man and his flesh.
  • We must pray for truth-embracing humility. John Calvin said: “Every bone in my body cries against it, but if God says so, so it will be.”
  • We must listen to rich expositions of the “gospel of the glory of Christ.” It is time that we get away from sermonettes for Christianettes. You cannot remain in the milk of the word, otherwise your mind will never be renewed.
  • We must read our Bibles from cover to cover always in search of the revelation of the glory of Christ. Spurgeon said that wherever you are in the Bible, make a beeline for Christ.
  • We must read and ponder the Bible-saturated, Christ-exalting writings of great, spiritual men and women.
  • We must form the habit of meditating on the perfections of Christ.
  • We must in it all pray, pray, pray that the Holy Spirit will renew our minds, that we may desire and approve the will of God, so that all of life will become worship to the glory of Christ.
  • We must take Scripture seriously when it talks about the mind that is set on God.

Three examples:

And then harken to the words of Paul in Philippians 4:8 (ESV) 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Colossians 3:2 (ESV) 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”

Colossians 3:15-16 (ESV) 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 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.”

How can we teach and admonish one another in all wisdom if we do not have renewed minds? Makes sense doesn’t it. If we still have the old mind, that is what we will teach each other. But if we have a renewed mind, that is what we will teach each other.

Romans 8:5 (ESV) 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.”

Can I ask you fellow believer? What is your mind fixed upon, purely on the things of the flesh or on the things of the Spirit? If the things of the flesh are still your treasure, if you are still basking in the light of your previous behaviour, then that is where your mind will be. If it is about the worship of God for you, then your mind will be set upon the things of the Spirit.

  • So, our first combative position is to take heart from the truth that the old sinful ‘you’ is decisively already dead.
  • Our second combative position is to consciously reckon the old man dead.
  • So, the third combative position is to cultivate enmity with sin!
  • Our fourth combative position is to rebel against sin’s rebellion.
  • Our fifth combative position is to declare radical allegiance to God’s side.
  • Our sixth combative position is to not make any plans that open the door for sin’s entry.
  • Our seventh combative position is to know the spirit of the age and consciously resist conformity to it.
  • Our eight combative position is to develop mental habits that continually renew the mind in God-centeredness.
  • Admit failure and confess all known sin every day.

 

9. Admit failure and confess all known sin every day.

I think we are going to have a great time on this topic as I unpack it. Immediately I know that some of our sharp minds are going to ask: why confess our sins when we are forgiven, past, present and future?

 

I have often said that we are saved now from the power of sin and the penalty of sin and one day we will be saved from the presence of sin.

 

Now we have already seen that we all carry baggage from our past with us. There is something of the nature of the old man left in us that we must deal with. So, we all still sin. John writes to his precious spiritual children in 1 John 1:7-10 (ESV)7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

Let me quote some preachers of old on the topic.

 

Firstly, Charles Spurgeon had no misgivings about still being a sinner.

He says: “If any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him, for you are worse than he thinks you to be. If he charges you falsely at some point, yet be satisfied, for if he knew you better, he might change the accusation and you would be no gainer for the correction. If you have your moral portrait and it is ugly, be satisfied, for it only needs a few blacker touches and it would be still nearer the truth.”


Then there is Jonathan Edwards who says: “Resolved to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God.”

Back to Spurgeon who says: “When young folks tell me how terribly wicked they are, and therefore they are afraid that they cannot be saved, I sometimes reply, ‘Yes, but you are much worse than you think you are.’ They look so astonished, for they hoped to be comforted and they are plunged into a deeper ditch. I tell them that the Lord Jesus came to save the weak and worthless. We lay the axe to the tree of self that men may fly to the tree of life.

 

John Calvin says: “There is not a man who knows the hundredth part of his own sins.”

 

So, back to the question. Why do we need to confess when our sins have been dealt with on the cross? Think about it – Jesus cried out on the cross ‘Tetelestai’ which means, ‘it is finished’. This is a legal statement meaning our account has been settled thus our sins have been paid for.  Two days ago we saw the following in Colossians 2:13-14 (ESV) 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”

So, our debt was cancelled on the cross. There is no doubt about it.

Now, if it is cancelled, was the cancellation temporally? Now if it was temporally, then the sacrifice needs to be repeated to make the cancellation of our debts permanent. Let us look at a few verses in Hebrews that will tell us that the sacrifice was once and for all.

Hebrews 7:27 (ESV) 27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.”

Hebrews 9:26 (ESV) 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

Hebrews 10:14 (ESV) 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

Once for all: done, finished, complete, debt paid in full, cannot be added to, cannot be improved upon. That is the foundational glory of the achievement of Christ when he died for us on the cross.

 

That is why we do not go to a priest like the Catholics do for repeated forgiveness. That was the Old Testament way. In Christ, our great High Priest it is once and for all.

 

So why do we read in 1 John 1:9 (ESV) 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

In Hebrews it sounds like our sins have been forgiven, but now in 1 John in sounds like our forgiveness is based on our confession.

 

Now, here is how I would resolve the tension biblically. There are two steps in resolving the issue.

We should distinguish between the purchase and the permanent securing of our forgiveness once for all at the death of Jesus, on the one hand – from the personal possession and enjoyment of that benefit, which comes to us through faith, on the other hand.

At the death of Jesus, our sins were cancelled, nailed to the cross, debt fully paid. So, payment and securing are accomplished once for all — never to be repeated, permanently, infallibly for all God’s people when Christ died.

Now remember that we have been called to mortify sin, to kill sin, to make dead sin by the Spirit. We have spoken about these many times over the last two weeks.

Think about it this way. How do you mortify sin if you are not aware it is there? So, sin must be acknowledged in particular, realising that it is all forgiven in general. You cannot kill sin by the Spirit unless you have identified it.

So, even though we are justified by faith, and saved by grace and kept by grace from beginning to end. Even though the Spirit indwells us fully and assures us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Even though we have a right standing before God in the righteousness of Jesus alone, I believe that we must confess our sins in the process of making war on them. If you do not acknowledge that you have sinned, and are sorry, you will not mortify sin. 1 John 1:9 (ESV) again: 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” implies that confessing our sin is the agreement with God that we have sin and it must be fought and killed. If we do not confess this truth, we are living, John says, in an illusion. We are lying, we are deceived, we are calling God a deceiver, and we are not saved. If we believe we have no sin and that it does not need to be killed, we’re living in an illusion, not in salvation.

So, confession of sin is not the basis of our forgiveness; it is one of the traits that shows we are truly in Christ, where all our sins are covered by his blood.

 

  • So, our first combative position is to take heart from the truth that the old sinful ‘you’ is decisively already dead.
  • Our second combative position is to consciously reckon the old man dead.
  • So, the third combative position is to cultivate enmity with sin!
  • Our fourth combative position is to rebel against sin’s rebellion.
  • Our fifth combative position is to declare radical allegiance to God’s side.
  • Our sixth combative position is to not make any plans that open the door for sin’s entry.
  • Our seventh combative position is to know the spirit of the age and consciously resist conformity to it.
  • Our eight combative position is to develop mental habits that continually renew the mind in God-centeredness.
  • Our ninth combative position is to admit failure and confess all known sin every day.

 

10. Ask for the Spirit’s help and power in all these things.

 

Romans 8:12-13 (ESV) 12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

Friends, Paul is clear here that we are no longer debtors to the flesh. We owe the flesh nothing. But we are indebted to God with a tremendous debt.

We have already seen much of the combat that we are involved in. On the 7th of June we touched on Romans 8:12 and 13 where we saw the need of combatting those things that seek to kill us. We spoke about the mortification of sin. The word "mortify" means kill. And the text is basically saying, since we have no obligation to the flesh, we better be about killing sin in our bodies. We need to be putting it to death before it kills us.

My focus today though is on that wonderful empowering work of the Holy Spirit that we learn so much about in Romans 8. That is why chapter 8 is very much about "Life in the Spirit." The marvellous reality of no condemnation is not only due to the work of Christ, it is due to the work of the Holy Spirit in applying to us the work of Christ. Christ does the work and the Spirit applies it to us.

Now what do we learn about the work of the Spirit in Romans 8, which necessitates us to ask Him for His help and power in the combat situation we are in against sin, the flesh, self, Satan, the world, and the law.

Firstly, we noted in verses 2 and 3 that the Spirit frees us from sin and death. Romans 8:2 (ESV)2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”

That is why we have no condemnation. We are free from the power of sin. We are free from the penalty of sin, which is death.

Secondly, we saw that the Holy Spirit's ministry enables us to fulfil God's law. Romans 8:4 (ESV) 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” So, by the power of the Spirit in Christ we fulfil God's law. It is true of those who walk by the Spirit.

Thirdly, we saw that the Spirit ministers to us by changing our nature. We are not under condemnation because we have been made new creations. This you see from verse 5-11. We are a new creation. And someday He will change our outside, says Romans 8:11 (ESV) 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”

So, it is because the Spirit frees us from the law of sin and death and because the Spirit enables us to keep God's righteous law and because the Spirit transforms our nature that we no longer are under condemnation. And so, we bless the Spirit for the marvellous work which He does in our lives.

Fourthly, The Spirit empowers us for victory over the flesh. And this point is somewhat like the second point in verse 4 but focuses not so much on what the Holy Spirit does as on what we do as we allow the Holy Spirit to accomplish His work in us. So, the focus of verses 12 and 13 is not on His accomplishment as much as it is on our obligation with His power. That is why it says we are debtors. We must kill the flesh. And of course, it implies and even says, through the power of the Spirit, but nonetheless, we must be involved.

So, these two verses then become a demonstration to us of the call of God upon us to practically get about the business of killing sin in our lives. God never asks us to do what we cannot do, that would be futile. And when He asks us to kill sin, He says in verse 13, through the Spirit. And we remember that every Christian possesses the Spirit because that is what we learn in Romans 8:9 (ESV) 9 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.” So those that belong to Christ have the Spirit and because we have the Spirit, we have the capacity to kill sin in our lives, because the Spirit will empower us.

So, there is the power of victory. And this is very practical. And very clearly it says in verse 13 that the power of victory is through the Spirit. You might want to underline that in your Bible. That is the power. If we are going to know victory over the flesh, if we are going to know the killing of sin in our lives, it is going to be in the power of the Holy Spirit.

It is so wonderful to be aware of the fact as Christians that we possess the Spirit of God. Because if we did not have supernatural power, if we were not transformed and changed so that the Spirit of God dwelt within us, we would never be able to overcome the flesh. We would never be able to kill sin.

There is a remarkably simple reason for that; flesh cannot overcome flesh. Flesh cannot gain the victory over flesh. Sin cannot gain the victory over sin. Humanness cannot defeat humanness. And so, we needed a transformation and that is what verses 5 to 11 told us. Once we have been transformed so that the life within us is now the life of God in the presence of His indwelling Spirit, we now have the power in the Spirit to overcome the flesh.

So, what we are saying then is that apart from the power of the Spirit of God in the life of an individual, there is a hopelessly debilitating corruption that controls everything. And there is no capacity within the human, within the flesh, within the unregenerate man to deal with sin. But, when the Spirit comes in, all that changes. And by the presence of the Spirit of God in a life, there comes the capacity to overcome the flesh. We walk in the Spirit according to His power. And we overcome the flesh.

We must never underestimate the power of the Spirit. Romans 15:19 (ESV) 19 by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ;”

Ephesians 3:16 (ESV)16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,”

So, there is an obvious equation between the Holy Spirit and power. And I want to make that point very strongly because I want you to know that as a Christian, as one who possesses the Spirit of God, you have within you the power to overcome sin. That is particularly important for you to know. Therefore, if you are not seeing victory, the problem is not a lack of power. The problem is a lack of putting it into operation, a lack of appropriation of available power.

Have we got Biblical proof that the Spirit will be involved in our struggle against the flesh? Sure,  Galatians 5:17 (ESV) teaches us 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.”

Now, friends, let me just say it one other simple way, bringing all that together. When you became a Christian, the Spirit of God took up residence in your life. And with the Spirit of God came the power of God, mighty enough to pull down strongholds, to tear down every high thing that exalts itself against God and to bring you into captivity to the obedience of Christ. In other words, there's a resource there that can enable you to have victory over Satan and victory over demons and victory over the flesh and sin and the world and to bring everything in your life into captivity to the obedience of Christ. Listen, I am going to say something that might shock you. Do you realise you have the potential to be perfect? You have the potential to be perfect. If you do not have victory in each individual case, it is not because the power for victory is not there, it is because the appropriation is not there. And I confess, I agree that it is somewhat debilitated by the power of the flesh but nonetheless, the potential is there.

But there is a key to that and I think it's given in Ephesians 5:18 (ESV) where it says, 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery (astia, dissipation), but be filled with the Spirit,”

You see, the key is in appropriation. And the way you appropriate the available power is to be filled with the Spirit. To be filled with the Spirit, basically, simply means to have habitual permeation of your life by the Holy Spirit. You think His thoughts, you feel His feelings. You obey His will. It is to be controlled by the Spirit of God.

Let me end by quoting Galatians 6:8 (ESV) 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” Amen!


  • So, our first combative position is to take heart from the truth that the old sinful ‘you’ is decisively already dead.
  • Our second combative position is to consciously reckon the old man dead.
  • So, the third combative position is to cultivate enmity with sin!
  • Our fourth combative position is to rebel against sin’s rebellion.
  • Our fifth combative position is to declare radical allegiance to God’s side.
  • Our sixth combative position is to not make any plans that open the door for sin’s entry.
  • Our seventh combative position is to know the spirit of the age and consciously resist conformity to it.
  • Our eight combative position is to develop mental habits that continually renew the mind in God-centeredness.
  • Our ninth combative position is to admit failure and confess all known sin every day.
  • Our tenth combative position is to ask for the Spirit’s help and power in all these things.

 

 

11. Be part of a larger and a smaller fellowship where you are exhorted often to beware of the deceitfulness of sin.

We have spoken much about our individual responsibility in combat against sin, Satan, the flesh, self, the world, and the law. We have spoken much about the role of the Holy Spirit in our combat as He within us struggles against the flesh and empowers us to make dead the desires of the flesh.

 

However, as part of the Kingdom, as part of the church of Christ we need each other in this battle. Look how Paul explains the church that you and I are part of. 1 Timothy 3:14-15 (ESV) 14 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.”

These are radical truths. We are the household of God which means we are a family, and a family shares in each other’s burdens, a family supports one another, encourages one another, but also admonishes one another in love. We must always speak the truth in love. A principle we all must understand is that we may be hard on principle, but we must be soft on people. We may know the doctrines of grace perfectly, but if we do not understand and apply the grace of the doctrines we fail miserably.

In this household God is in charge as He is our Father and we are His children.

But we are not a church of an idol, we are the church of the living God, the creator of the universe, the Saviour of our souls, the Lord of our lives.

In our responsibility towards one another we are not here to convict one another of traditions, laws that we have created, or simply philosophical ideas, but we are the pillar and buttress or foundation of the truth. I mentioned Joel Osteen the other day who bombards his members with pop psychology, fanciful ideas born out of the gospel of imaginations instead of the Word of God. And most of the time when he quotes Scripture it is entirely out of context and has nothing to do with what he is talking about. This style of ministry from the pulpit and amongst the members in churches is very much the norm rather than the exception.

Scripture is our basis as the church is the pillar and foundation of truth. So, if we are going to exhort one another, it must be based on Scripture. I have grown up in the church and have seen the shifting sands of tradition. Things that were wrong 40 years ago are suddenly right. Now if we are convinced, they are right, now, then they were not wrong 40 years ago, they were simply man-made rules or traditions.

But nevertheless, we have a responsibility towards one another in battle.

 

Hebrews 3:13 (ESV)13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

 

One way to help fellow Christians from developing a hard heart is to constantly encourage each other in the truth. Again, I say, in the truth. You do not want to turn your fellow brother or sister to legalism.

The word “but” is a strong contrast to what has gone before in the preceding verse. Hebrews 3:12 (ESV) 12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.”

It is astounding that the Hebrew writer is talking to the church. Can we imagine that anybody can have an evil and unbelieving heart? Go and read Colossians and you will see that Paul is talking to Holy and beloved brothers, and then in chapter 3 gives this long list of ugly stuff that they should turn away from. Christians who disbelieve what God can do need exhortation.

The Hebrew writer then says that we must “exhort [entreatone another daily,”

Christians ought to exhort one another day by day; they are to do this each day. They need to constantly watch out for each other. It is so sad when Christians jump on one another when a brother or sister are overcome by sin, but we are not there for one another on the journey. One exercise of exhortation is not enough. Believers have a mutual duty because they have a mutual God and mutual spiritual interests.

Now I want to show you something interesting. The word “exhort” comes from the two words para (alongside) and kaleo (to call); Christians are to call fellow believers alongside themselves to help them. Now guess what the Holy Spirit is called. He is called the Paraklytos which is made up of two Greek words, para and kaleo. We normally translate Paraklytos as Comforter. So, just like the Spirit will minister to us in our spirit, we who are in the flesh, even though spiritual, should minister to one another.

The Hebrew writer continues to say: “while it is called “Today.”

Christians are to deal with their sins while they have opportunity. They are to deal with a present reality. The day may come when some are so hardened by sin that they become insensitive to it and to God. We have no promise for tomorrow. Mature readers of Hebrews must decisively help doctrinally weak believers. They need to help vulnerable believers to act upon God’s promises without delay. God gives each of us a “today” that we are to keep day by day.

Satan uses resolutions; his wish is for us to put them off until tomorrow. He does not care about the resolution so long as we do not fulfil it.

All Christians are to press on with their lives and live them day by day. If we do not, then we might be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness, by wilful rejection of God’s Word. It is important for believers today not to repeat the same experience of the Israelites. If we fortify our hearts against the Word, then it cannot possibly speak to our souls.

Christians have corporate as well as individual responsibilities. God expects us to help fellow believers who go astray. Now what if a fellow believer is caught in sin? Well, then we turn to Galatians 6:1-2 (ESV) 1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

Paul says if anyone is caught in any transgression. As Christians we tend to bring out lists in priority order. In God’s estimate according to the book of James, all sins are equal and if you have broken one law you have broken all laws. We cannot and must not make the rules as we go on. I often hear Christians saying that sins that have a greater impact on people are to be dealt with in a harsh manner. So, let us take as an example. Adultery and divorce for example has a broad impact on people. And so, we deal harshly with such people, and we ignore slander that has a much greater impact on the broader community. It destroys people, it destroys families, it destroys churches, but sadly slander is often treated with kids’ gloves. No, Paul says any transgression.

And then he says we need to treat one another with gentleness. You and I have no place to be harsh, it is God’s church, and God’s kingdom and not ours. It is God’s glory that is tarnished in sin, and not the church’s glory.

And what is God’s goal. God’s goal is not that we will join Satan and tear the church apart, no, the goal is restoration. And this is done in a spirit of gentleness. Isn’t that beautiful. We are all sinners and the church must be a safe place where we can err knowing that fellow believers will pick me up instead of breaking me down, no matter my sin or error.

Whatever the issue, always err on the side of grace. Do not kill the wounded, for one day you may be one. Just as you do not want to be remembered and judged on your one weakest moment your fellow brother or sister would like the same courtesy. Remember that sin, Satan, the flesh, self, law, and the world are common enemies. We are brothers not enemies.

So, perseverance in faith is a community project. We have no warrant to think we will make it to heaven if we neglect the appointed means of mutual encouragement and warning.

 

 

  • So, our first combative position is to take heart from the truth that the old sinful ‘you’ is decisively already dead.
  • Our second combative position is to consciously reckon the old man dead.
  • So, the third combative position is to cultivate enmity with sin!
  • Our fourth combative position is to rebel against sin’s rebellion.
  • Our fifth combative position is to declare radical allegiance to God’s side.
  • Our sixth combative position is to not make any plans that open the door for sin’s entry.
  • Our seventh combative position is to know the spirit of the age and consciously resist conformity to it.
  • Our eight combative position is to develop mental habits that continually renew the mind in God-centeredness.
  • Our ninth combative position is to admit failure and confess all known sin every day.
  • Our tenth combative position is to ask for the Spirit’s help and power in all these things.
  • Our eleventh combative position is to be part of a larger and a smaller fellowship where you are exhorted often to beware of the deceitfulness of sin.

12. Fight your sinful impulses with all your might, as a boxer fights an opponent and as a marathon runner fights fatigue.

There were times that I hit the road early in the morning and I would drive past one or two of our gyms, and it is amazing to see the amount of cars, of people exercising early in the morning. One of the gyms was on the way to Mike van Heese’s house to our Men for the Master Meeting. Now, we were only a handful of men silly enough to endure the early morning hours to study God’s Word, to fellowship and to pray. I wondered if you were to do an inventory as far as how many of the people in the gym call themselves Christians, how many would respond with a positive? I guess we can safely say, quite a few. Now, if you were to invite them to an early morning spiritual gymnasium where we study God’s Word, how many would be willing to pitch.  Why are we more concerned about our physical stature than our Spiritual stature? Sure, there must be a balance. Look at Jesus as an example: Luke 2:52 (ESV) 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and man.”

Jesus grew in wisdom. Now we all understand the value of that and that is why we sit at the feet of those who are older than us, and we burry our noses in books and newspapers so that we can become wise.

Jesus grew in stature. There is the normal growth in stature and then we see in God’s word, much reference to the athletes, fighters etc. who are dependent on exercise for the events they compete in.

Jesus grew in favour with God. This is where our spiritual growth comes in, and where we use the laws and discipline of sport as an illustration to our responsibility to enter God’s spiritual gymnasium.

Jesus grew in favour with man. To grow in favour with God, does not mean that we cut ourselves off from man. No, we are the salt and light of the world.

So, how do we apply physical exercise to our spiritual exercise?

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (ESV)24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So, run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

Now what does this text mean?

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, (v. 24a). Paul introduces an athletic metaphor to illustrate his point. Just as runners in a footrace must practice certain disciplines to make it possible for them to win a race, so also Christians must practice certain disciplines to make it possible for them to win the spiritual prize.

Scholars have noted that Corinth probably hosted the Isthmian games, which were named after the Isthmus of Corinth (an isthmus is a narrow strip of land that connects two larger land masses—Corinth was located on an isthmus that connected northern and southern Greece). These games included various contests, such as racing, boxing, and wrestling. The Corinthians would have been remarkably familiar with these athletic contests and the disciplines required to win them. It is possible, therefore, that Paul is tailoring his metaphors to fit what the Corinthian know. However, Paul’s athletic metaphors are common enough that people anywhere can understand them.

“but one receives the prize?” (v. 24b). In an athletic contest, only one person can win first prize, but athletics often provide lesser prizes as well. Nevertheless, the second-place winner usually feels more like a loser than a winner, because first place was the goal.

We must be careful not to make too much of this phrase, because the spiritual prize that Paul is illustrating is not limited to one winner. Many people will win a place in the kingdom of God. Nevertheless, this phrase contains a warning. Just as there are winners and losers in athletic contests, so also there will be winners and losers when it comes to spiritual prizes.

“So, run that you may obtain it.” (v. 24c). Paul emphasizes running the spiritual race in such a way as to win the spiritual prize. That raises the question of works versus grace. Can we win salvation by our own efforts—by applying spiritual disciplines?

Elsewhere, Paul emphasizes that we are “justified freely by his (God’s) grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God set forth to be an atoning sacrifice, through faith in his blood.” However, his counsel about running in such a way as to win the spiritual prize shows that the way we live is a significant component of winning the spiritual prize.

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. (v. 25a). Most of the effort required for winning a footrace (or any contest) takes place before the day of the race. Winning today requires practicing yesterday—and the day before—and the day before that. It also requires disciplines of other sorts, having to do with sleep, diet, studying the competition, developing strategy, etc. The game in which the competitor competes is only the tip of the iceberg. Most of the effort lies below the surface, out of sight.

What disciplines do we need to observe to win the spiritual prize? Traditional Christian disciplines include Bible reading, prayer, and fasting. However, other disciplines come to mind as well. Jesus emphasized feeding the hungry, giving the thirsty something to drink, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, taking care of the sick, and visiting the prisoner (Matthew 25:31-46).

Few Christians do all of these things, and none do them perfectly. We all depend on the grace of God. However, spiritual disciplines bring us closer to God—closer to becoming the people God created us to be—better fitted for the kingdom of God.

They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” (v. 25b). In our day people receive trophies and medals, and with our Comrades even gold medals.  Each of those things has intrinsic monetary value, but that value pales beside their statement that the possessor of the prize is the best of the best.

In Paul’s day, winners of athletic contests received wreaths of laurel branches, olive branches, or even celery. Those prizes had no intrinsic monetary value, but competitors prized them for the same reason our athletes prize winning.

Paul contrasts those wreaths, which would soon wither, with the spiritual prize that he is calling Corinthian Christians to pursue. Laurel wreaths were highly perishable, but the prize that Christians pursue is imperishable, “eternal, in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1).

So, I do not run aimlessly; (v. 26a). Many people do run aimlessly. They blindly climb a ladder, not having determined whether it is perched against the right wall. They don’t know whether they are coming or going but seem determined to set a speed record getting there. Or they simply go through the daily cycle of working, eating, and sleeping that they seem doomed to repeat endlessly—with no apparent purpose except survival.

But Paul does not run aimlessly. God has called him to proclaim the Gospel, and he does so tirelessly. He does so, in part, to be faithful to the one who has called him, but he also does so to win the spiritual prize that he is pursuing—the same spiritual prize that he is calling these Corinthian Christians to pursue.

I do not box as one beating the air. (v. 26b). This is a parallel metaphor to “run aimlessly.” Paul isn’t shadow boxing his way through life. He isn’t swinging wildly, with no purpose or strategy.

But I discipline (hypopiazo) my body and keep it under control, (doulagoyo)” (v. 27a). The verb hypopiazo is a compound word that has to do with subduing one’s passions.

The verb doulagoyo means imposing a discipline to bring his body into subjection. We might ask, “Into subjection to what?” Paul would answer that he is determined to bring his body into subjection to his goal of the spiritual prize that he is pursuing—and that he is encouraging these Corinthian Christians to pursue.

lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (v. 27b). The great irony would be if Paul were to proclaim the Gospel to other people (presumably in such a manner as to help them to win their salvation) while living a life that would disqualify him for that spiritual prize. He is determined not to allow that to happen. He practices spiritual disciplines himself so that he might be fitted for the kingdom of God.

Now after Paul had said all these things to the Corinthians. Did he do it? Let us end with his words to Timothy and let us follow in his footsteps.

2 Timothy 4:7 (ESV) 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

 


  • So, our first combative position is to take heart from the truth that the old sinful ‘you’ is decisively already dead.
  • Our second combative position is to consciously reckon the old man dead.
  • So, the third combative position is to cultivate enmity with sin!
  • Our fourth combative position is to rebel against sin’s rebellion.
  • Our fifth combative position is to declare radical allegiance to God’s side.
  • Our sixth combative position is to not make any plans that open the door for sin’s entry.
  • Our seventh combative position is to know the spirit of the age and consciously resist conformity to it.
  • Our eight combative position is to develop mental habits that continually renew the mind in God-centeredness.
  • Our ninth combative position is to admit failure and confess all known sin every day.
  • Our tenth combative position is to ask for the Spirit’s help and power in all these things.
  • Our eleventh combative position is to be part of a larger and a smaller fellowship where you are exhorted often to beware of the deceitfulness of sin.
  • Our twelfth combative position isto fight our sinful impulses with all our might, as a boxer fights an opponent and as a marathon runner fights fatigue.
13. Beware of “works of the law” but let all your warfare be the “work of faith”. That is, let your fight against sin spring from your confidence in the superior pleasures of all God promises to be for you in Christ, and not a confidence in law, traditions or rules of man.

 

You will remember that I have often mentioned that our struggle, our combat is against the remains of sin, Satan, self, the flesh, the world, and law. Now for the first time we are starting to touch on the issue of law and the fact that we are dead to law, but we so easily succumb to law. So, for today I simply want to do a devotion on it, but Sunday I will do a full sermon on it. This information is more critical than what you think. I wish I had time today to unpack examples, but there is no time.

 

For today I want to contrast law and faith in our salvation. On Sunday we will look at the whole issue of law against the completed work of Christ on the cross of Calvary.

Galatians 3:2 (ESV) 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?


Paul says: “Let me ask you only this:”


Though there were many things he could have asks them, he only ask them this one question, which, if honestly answered, will expose their folly, and put an end to the controversy of why they have left the road they started on:

 

The question he asks is this: “Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?”


This question supposes they had received the Spirit; as the Spirit of wisdom and knowledge in the revelation of Christ; as the Spirit of regeneration and sanctification; as the Spirit of faith and adoption; and as the earnest, seal, and pledge of their future glory. You will remember that we saw in Romans 8 that if the Spirit of Christ is not in you, then you are not of Christ. So, the issue here is not that they do not have the Spirit but how they received the Spirit. Paul simply gives them two options of which the one is wrong. He does not even consider other fanciful ideas of receiving the Spirit.

The question is whether the received the Spirit "by the works of the law, or the hearing with faith?"


So, Paul’s first question is very pointed. He wants to know if they imagined that it is by their obedience to law that they received the Spirit of God. The follow up question could then be. How could they keep the law without the Spirit of God? Any works done without the Spirit of God, cannot be perfectly good works, as it is done in the flesh.

There is another angle pertaining to law that could also be their option and that is the preaching of the law. In their case they were taught to obey the law by false teachers. There are those who thrive to put Christians back under law, so that they can boast in your law keeping. Paul warns the Colossian church in Colossians 2:8 (ESV) 8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”

This issue I will cover in as much detail as possible on Sunday, so I recommend that you try not to miss it.

So, can it be by the preaching of law that brought the Spirit of God into their lives. Sure, law will bring a sense of the knowledge of sin, yet all it can do is to leave you with nothing but a sense of wrath, and damnation in your heart as the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. All this will do is to bring you under fear of condemnation for breaking the law which flies against Romans 8:2-3 (ESV) 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.”

Let me just say this, that the law was not the problem, man was the problem. The law was weakened by the flesh.

The second option was whether they receive the Spirit by “hearing with faith”? Paul teaches in Romans 10:17 (ESV) 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” So, we know the answer, they knew the answer, but chose to rely on the flesh, or law, and this brought condemnation.

Paul, throughout his epistles is clear that for by "faith", is meant the Gospel, and particularly the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ's righteousness; and by "the hearing" of it, the preaching of it, the report of it.

Now this is the way the Spirit of God is received – while the Gospel is preached. The Holy Spirit falls on them that hear it, He conveys Himself into their hearts, and He births them again by the word of truth. This is the way the Galatians received the Spirit, and which is another aggravation of their folly, that they should enjoy so great an advantage by the Gospel, and yet be so easily wander away  from it, and follow law again.

Paul addresses this in another way in Galatians 3:5 (ESV) 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—”

The answer is obviously again “hearing with faith”.

Now, the legalists, the works-based believers, the Judaizers made much about being sons of Abraham. Paul then concludes this part of the argument by saying in Galatians 3:7-9 (ESV) 7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Christian, our salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. Let us not wander back to a law based, legalistic style of Christianity. I am saddened by seeing men and women who are experts at the doctrines of grace, becoming the biggest legalists under the sun. You cannot be a legalist under the Son.

Let us end with a verse that clinches it all. Ephesians 1:13 (ESV) 13 In Him (Christ) you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,”.

When were you sealed with the promised Holy Spirit? When somebody laid hands on you? When somebody knocked you to the ground? When somebody prophesied over you? When somebody prayed for you? When you prayed a sinner’s prayer? No! You were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, “when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him.” It is another way of saying: “by hearing, with faith”.

So, fight against law, fight against law preachers, fight against legalists and traditionalists, and stand firm in your faith which is in Christ alone. Let your fight against sin spring from your confidence in the superior pleasures of all God’s promises for you in Christ Jesus.

 

  • So, our first combative position is to take heart from the truth that the old sinful ‘you’ is decisively already dead.
    Our second combative position is to consciously reckon the old man dead.
    So, the third combative position is to cultivate enmity with sin!
    Our fourth combative position is to rebel against sin’s rebellion.
    Our fifth combative position is to declare radical allegiance to God’s side.
    Our sixth combative position is to not make any plans that open the door for sin’s entry.
    Our seventh combative position is to know the spirit of the age and consciously resist conformity to it.
    Our eight combative position is to develop mental habits that continually renew the mind in God-centeredness.
    Our ninth combative position is to admit failure and confess all known sin every day.
    Our tenth combative position is to ask for the Spirit’s help and power in all these things.
    Our eleventh combative position is to be part of a larger and a smaller fellowship where you are exhorted often to beware of the deceitfulness of sin.
    Our twelfth combative position is to fight our sinful impulses with all our might, as a boxer fights an opponent and as a marathon runner fights fatigue.
    Our thirteenth combative position is to beware of “works of the law” but let all your warfare be the “work of faith”.