Video Transcript: Spirit Versus Flesh
Unit 09 03 Spirit Versus Flesh
Hi, I'm David Feddes. And this talk is about spirit versus flesh. And what do I mean by spirit versus flesh? Well, in Galatians, chapter five, verses 16, through 18, the apostle Paul writes, but I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh, 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. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law, we'll see a bit more of what that means. But first, I just want to give you some examples of spirit against flesh. Most of us go through life with a lot of good intentions. And we find that our behavior is very different from our good intentions. When you're little, you may tell yourself, I'm going to be nice to my sister today. And instead, you fight and you yell, I hate you, you started the day, intending to be nice, you ended up saying I hate you. You may be trying to watch your language and clean it up, I'm not going to say that bad word anymore. And then you say it. Or you may tell yourself, well, I'm going to be gentle and consider it to my family, I'm not going to lose my temper. And then the next thing you know, you're exploding in anger towards your family members. You say, Oh, I'm going to eat responsibly, and I'm going to lose weight. You really intend to do that. And then you're eating an extra helping. I'm going to stop smoking, or I'm going to stop drinking. But the addiction continues. I'm going to read the Bible, and I'm going to pray every day. But you don't you intend to you want to. But something keeps you from doing what you want. I'm going to invite my neighbors for dinner, and I'm going to share Jesus with them. But the time is never right. I don't want to look at pornography ever again. I'm not going to do it. But you do. I'm not going to lie to my parents might be a teenager and you say Oh, I'm I've got to start being more honest with them. But then you're still sneaking around and covering up. Or, you know, your words aren't helpful to people. So I'm going to be an encourager, I'm not going to gossip. But then you're gossiping about somebody and running down the reputation or saying mean things about them, even though you said you were going to watch your mouth. I'm not going to worry about money. I know that worry is foolish, and it doesn't do any good anyway, so I'm not going to worry about money. But you worry all the more. I'm going to be content, I'm not going to cover what other people have. But soon you're envying and asking why did they have it better than I do. And we could go on and on with areas where we know we should improve our life where we have a strong sense that we really want to change our behavior or our attitudes, there are certain things we want to stop doing other things we want to start doing. And yet somehow
part of us wants to do it and the other part seems to win out that does the wrong thing or doesn't do the right thing. Now the apostle Paul wrote in Romans seven about this, doing what I hate and not doing what I want, I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. For I know that nothing good dwells in me that is in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. So there's a part of him that says it's not really me there's this sim thing in me or this flash, and nothing good dwells in that. But the real me doesn't want what that flash or that evil self wants to do. And so there's this frustration of doing what I hate and yet knowing that it's not really I but something sick and wicked, that he labels my flesh. Now, when Paul speaks of the flesh, we need to understand And that he's not talking about just the body, he's not saying body is bad, and the invisible part of you is good. That's not what he means by spirit versus flesh. The flesh represents the self centered, sinful identity, which is in conflict with the real identity that comes to us when the Spirit of God lives in us. Now, when your conduct and your conscience collide, when what you want is not what you do, you have three main options. One option is self improvement. You say, Well, conscience is right, it's in tune with the right thing to do. And so you try to force conscience to take control of your conduct by sheer willpower, I'm going to try harder, I'm going to do my very best obey what I know God's Law tells me. And so you have a project of self improvement. And opposite approach is self indulgence. You say, Well, this really bothers me that my conscience is always fighting with my conduct, I got to get rid of that stupid conscience and learn to ignore it and just drown it. So you try to drown your conscience in just a flood of sinful conduct. Just give in, do whatever you feel like doing. Let yourself hang loose and run free. And after a while, your conscience might just get quieter and quieter, and debtor and data and so you don't have this collision between conduct and conscience anymore, because you're just letting your flash do whatever it wants to do. And the third option is Spirit indwelling. You trust God's grace and Jesus Christ, to forgive all of the failures that you do commit, and you depend on the Holy Spirit's power to battle against the remaining influence of the flesh. Let's look at each of these three options in a little more detail. Self improvement is not a healthy option. The apostle Paul, when he writes to the Galatians, is especially upset that some people who learned the gospel of trusting in Jesus and living by the Spirit are now going back to an idea of self improvement of living life in their own strength. Oh, foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this? Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law, by self improvement? Or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish, having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh. And so he identifies the flesh with this attitude of trying to improve yourself and of making yourself measure up to God's requirements by your own efforts. Self improvement is foolish. He says, self improvement tries to live up to God's law. But God's law was never given as a ladder to heaven, or as a means just to improve ourselves and make ourselves right and acceptable with God. Instead, God's law shows us sin. Again, Romans chapter seven, Paul explains these things. chapter seven, verse seven of Romans, What then shall we say that the
law is sin by no means yet, if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin, For I would not have known what it is to cover to cover it. If the law had not said you shall not cover. So the law shows coveting wanting other people's stuff. It shows that to be wrong. And there are other things that we wouldn't know were wrong. If you live in a certain era, you begin to just find certain behaviors are common. For example, in many cultures, now, it's just common for a man and a woman to live together, not be married and live together have sexual relations, and think nothing of it. Nothing wrong with that it's normal. It's healthy. It's right. God's law says that sex is for marriage and for marriage only. In some cultures, homosexuality has become widely accepted. But once again, God's law makes clear what's right now, once we accept what's right, and say, Yeah, God's law is right, that my sexuality is intended only for the person I am married to, and it's got to be a person of the opposite sex. Now, believing that and saying yep, that's God's law, and it's right and being able to live by it. Wow, there's a difference. There are many a person who has accepted that marriage is the right context for sexuality has nonetheless committed fornication or adultery or homosexuality. or looked at pornography, knowing full well, that it's wrong. God's law shows the sin, and we take God's law seriously, you believe it. But it doesn't fix you. You might know that coveting is wrong, but you still want what other people have. You might know that pornography is wrong, and yet you still look at it, and the list can go on and on. But the point here is God does give his love for a purpose to just make sure that we know very clearly what sin is, but it can't fix it. In fact, God's lost stirs up sin and makes it even worse. Paul writes, did that which is good, then bring death to me? He says, is God's law the thing that brings death? No, no, it's not the fault of the law, by no means. It was sin, producing death me through what is good. So sin is the cause of the death and of the trouble. But the law is given in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. Now, what's he talking about? He's saying that sometimes when you know what's right, it makes you do wrong, even more. I've told you before the story of the guy on my floor in college of the dormitory, he lived on the same floor I did. And he was a chemistry geek, who loved to play around with chemicals. And so one day, he concocts this horribly smelling potion, it wouldn't kill you just make you wish you're dead. And he took that potion, put it in a jar screwed the lid on very tightly, then placed it in the hallway of the dormitory and wrote just a few words on top, do not open. Well, as you know, just not very long after that it smelled terrible there because somebody seeing that sign do not open just had to open it. If you instruct children now, don't touch this honey, you know that it's almost like an invitation for them to touch it. Because the moment they're told not to, they want to Aldemar when we're given orders to do things, it stirs up our desire not to do it. No, you don't tell me what to do. And so God's law stirs up sin, it often makes us even worse and unfortunate with addictions and other kinds of sinful patterns, the more we know what's right and the guilty or we feel about it, almost the more driven we are to do it again, a person who's got a problem with gluttony, or, or with overeating, the guilty or they feel about it very often the harder time they have controlling and, and so it goes on with one kind of sin after another. And so what that means is self improvement and attempt to live up to God's law, and earn God's favor by keeping his law or change our behavior by just living by God's law through sheer effort is not going to work. Because God didn't give his law to accomplish that. God's law shows sin, God's law stirs up sin. But God's law does not overcome sin. And so taking God's law as a way to self improvement is a sure way to defeat and self destruction.
When conduct and conscience collide, you can try self improvement, but it won't work. And you might just give up and say, Well, I'm tired of fighting. I'm tired of that. And so you go from one end, self improvement to the other and just self indulgence. You try to drown your conscience in one sin after another after another doing whatever you feel like doing. Instead of trying to live up to God's law, you say, I've had enough of that law. I don't want the law. I don't want God I want what comes naturally to me. Well, self indulgence is not any better option. In Galatians, chapter five, verse 19, through 21, the apostle Paul deals with the opposite error. One kind of error is legalism, where you try to earn everything by law, and that's the first thing that he deals with in writing to the Galatians because that's a great error that some of them are making. But then he also deals with the opposite. And he says now the works of the flesh are evident sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Now, it doesn't mean that anybody who's ever done one of these things can't go to heaven. He does mean that those who live in these things who indulge in them who do not fight against them, who do not seek to be set free from them, who instead said that's who I am. That's how I'm going to be. He says, That's hell. This is hellish living, you are living as someone who is not ruled by God or governed by God. And so you would spend eternity without God, if that's the way you continue, you will not inherit the kingdom of God. self indulgence is not a healthy option to say the least. Now, an interesting thing, we may think of self indulgence as the opposite of self improvement, in one sense, it might be but notice something that's in common. They both have the word, self. It's all about self. And so you can have self centered morality. That's your self improvement project, trying to live up to God's law. Or you can have self centered immorality, where you ignore God's law and say, I'm going to do my own thing, but either way, it's a matter of self self self. John Piper comments on this, he says legalism means treating biblical standards of conduct as regulations to be kept by our own power in order to earn God's favor for the legalist. Morality serves the same function that immorality does for the antinomian or progressive the person who rejects the law, namely, as the expression of self reliance and self assertion. The reason some Pharisees tithed and fasted was the same reason. Some university students take off their clothes and lie around naked. That may sound really strange that some people would be very straight laced and strict, and others would live in wild wickedness. And Piper says that basically, they are operating out of the very same reason. And that reason is self self assertion. Some want to be self righteous, other want to be self indulgent, but it's all about self. The moral Legalist says Piper is the elder brother of the immortal prodigal member Jesus parable of the prodigal son, one runs into another country and lives in all kinds of wickedness. The other one always stays close to Dad always tries to be the perfect son, but He doesn't love his dad, and he's resentful of his dad. And he's angry at his dad. The moral Legalist is the elder brother of the immortal prodigal. They're both blood brothers in God's sight, because they both reject the mercy of God in Christ as a means to righteousness, and use either morality or immorality, as a means of expressing their independence and self sufficiency and self determination. And it is clear from the New Testament that both will result in a tragic loss of eternal life if there is no repentance. So whether it's self morality or self immorality, either one keeps us very far from God and both get this our actions of the flesh. The person who was trying to use God's law as a way to earn eternal life and improve himself is acting just as much out of the flesh as somebody who goes from one orgy to another or from one drunken bash to another.
Sin is basically anti God, egoism, self centeredness. Dr. J. I Packer writes that sin is an irrational energy, of rebellion against God, a lawless habit of self willed arrogance, moral and spiritual, expressing itself in egoism of all sorts. Scripture views it not only as guilt needing to be forgiven, but also as filth, needing to be cleansed. Somehow, we need to get rid of the guilt and be forgiven. But we also need to get rid of the filth and get cleaned up, and we can't do it. Our efforts to keep God's law can't do it. And certainly, our rejection of God's law and are plunged into the filth is certainly not going to do it. We need to be rescued from our sinful self that is from our flesh. Galatians six verses seven and eight, tells us that if we're going to use the flesh, whether it's the flesh of trying to earn God's favor through legalism, and moralism, or whether it's the flesh of immoral ism, and just ignoring God, either way, the flesh will kill us. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked. For whatever one sows, that will he also reap, for the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh, read corruption, but don't have souls to the spirit will from the spirit, wreak eternal life. If you want to reap eternal life, then somehow this thing called sowing to the spirit has got to happen. And that's the third option, not self improvement, not self indulgence, just give up on that whole self thing. All together, and experience Spirit indwelling, where you trust God's grace in Christ to forgive you, and to depend on the Spirit's power to battle the flesh. That's Paul's emphasis in Galatians. With a very strong edge. Paul's very upset when he writes Galatians. And it's the upsetness of the Holy Spirit himself. In Romans, he's presenting much the same teaching, but in a little calmer mode, because he's simply letting them know how these things are. And he's not fighting directly against a big error that a lot of them are making. But either way, the Spirit indwelling, this trust in God's grace in Christ for forgiveness, and this dependence on the Holy Spirit's power, in the ongoing battle with the flesh. This is the way of Christian living, not self improvement, not self indulgent, but Spirit indwelling. And that's what Paul's talking about in Galatians 516 through 18, but I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh, but 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. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. You're not condemned by God's law, if you're led by the Spirit, because the Spirit leads you to trust in Jesus, crucified and risen, to take away all your sins and give you eternal life as a free gift. You don't need the law to make you write with God, because Christ has fulfilled the law and made you write with God. And you don't need your own effort to change yourself. Because you walk by the power of the Holy Spirit. And these words can only be said of someone who's already a Christian, someone who's born again and has the Spirit of God living in him or her. And when that's true, there is a conflict going on. Where the Christ life, the real reborn you is fighting against something that's really not you anymore, that Paul labels the flesh, or as some translations put it, the sinful nature. In Romans seven, Paul asks the question after after saying, Oh, I'm doing the things I hate, and I'm not doing the things I want. He says, wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but when my flesh I serve the law of sin, and how does he resolve that tension, there is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for the law of the Spirit of Life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin, and death.
There's no condemnation if you're in Christ, so you can be free of that guilt right off the hand right off the bat. And that is a tremendous relief, to know that Jesus has paid for it all. For God has done what the law weakened by the flesh could not do. Our flesh, our self assertion, our self improvement, couldn't do it. But God did it. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin. He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walked not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. So God condemned sin in Jesus Christ. It was our sin laid on Jesus and that sin was condemned. And then He gives us His Spirit so that we more and more do start living in the pattern of his law. Dr. J, I Packer again, there are two opposed sorts of desire and every Christians makeup, there are desires that express the natural anti God, egoism of fallen human nature, the flesh. And there are desires that express the supernatural God honoring God loving motivation that is implanted by new birth. The desires of the Spirit felt in the believers own spirit are to be followed, but the desires of the flesh are not to be indulged. And so more and more we count on the presence of the Holy Spirit and, and that power that's within us, and we don't just indulge the desires of the flesh. And this involves then an ongoing dependence on the grace of God at all times. The Christians present quest for purity of life, means conscious tension and struggle and incomplete achievement all along the line. The Christian who thus walks in the spirit will keep discovering that nothing in his life is as good as it should be. So that he has to depend every moment on God's pardoning mercy in Christ or he would be lost And he needs to keep asking that the Spirit will energize him to the end, to maintain the inward struggle. So it's going to be an ongoing struggle in this life, where our flashes that never completely gone. And we need to depend every moment on the fact that Jesus forgives that his blood covers it, we never perform perfectly, there's always a stain on our motive or in our performance of it, and we fall short. And so we always need that grace of Christ. And we always need the Spirit to just help us keep going, help us keep moving, help us keep moving upward in the Lord. We're never at a point where we can say, okay, Jesus has cleanse the sins and I don't have any more to cleanse. So God that's taken care of. And I've pretty well got this thing licked. I've defeated all my bad habits, I've got it all together, I'm in great shape, I don't think I need that Holy Spirit to take care of me anymore because he's already perfected me. Know, the spirit, and the flesh will be in conflict throughout this life. And it's our calling as Christians to keep depending on Jesus grace and forgiveness to keep drawing upon the spirits, guidance and the spirits energy and power to keep up the struggle against the flesh knowing that the flesh is not our true self, that our true self is the one that's being created in Christ Jesus. John, Oh, and one of the great Puritan writers of the 1600s said this The chief way by which the saints have communion with the Father is love, free, undeserved, eternal love. That's really the message of Galatians. To just free grace, you've got to live by this free grace, don't let yourself become a slave. Again, don't fall away from that gospel. It's free love, oh, and goes on Jesus, in effect says, Be fully assured in your hearts that the Father loves you. have fellowship with the Father in His love, have no fears or doubts about his love for you. The greatest sorrow and burden you can lay on the father, the greatest unkindness you can do to him is not to believe that he loves you.
God wants you to know that he loves you. God wants you to live by that free grace, not think that at every moment, it depends on you to earn your way to him, you have to give up on that whole self thing, that God is just watching your performance to decide whether he loves you or not. Once you accept his love, the amazing thing is your performance will begin to change and improve because you know that you're surrounded and supported by that love. And then even when you recognize something you've done wrong, it can be a blessing to you. I'll give just one little example from my own life that happened a little while ago. We were just riding along in the car and talking and joking and as a family and a college age daughter of mine was telling us about a math course she was taking and about her professor and then she says, Oh, my professor is just like you dad. He brags that he's smarter than everybody in the class. And when they can't see what he's showing them. He looks frustrated and breeze kind of funny as can't just see it. How can you not see it? He was just like you dad. If kids don't do well on tests, he blames them. He thinks everybody could get an A if they just try harder. Yeah, Dad, my professors just like you. Well, you can tell that sometimes I can be overly demanding on my kids or overly arrogant in the way I handle myself. My my daughter wasn't trying to be disrespectful. She was kind of laughing. As she said it was just one of those things she knows about her dad? Well, maybe that's was her intent. But I took that as a rebuke from the Holy Spirit and not as one where I just felt totally defeated. No, yeah. And now it's all over. I'm such a rotten father. Yeah, there's ways in which I fall short, but I thank God, that, that he showed me you know what? You are too arrogant in the way you behave towards others. Dave, and you know what else? You sometimes expect things of others, that they're not ready for. Some people are better at math than others. Some people are more mature than others. The Bible says of the Lord. He knows our frame, he remembers that we're dust. He knows what our weaknesses are. And so I needed to be corrected, and I can do I can just say to the Lord, well, Lord, forgive me for that. Forgive me for the ways I do that wrong. And also say, Lord, I can't just make myself a less arrogant, more kind person on my own. But Lord, help me to make some more progress in that area of my life. And as we live with constant conflict between the flesh. And the flesh can take a lot of different manifestations. Sometimes it's things where I have to be careful what I look at on a computer, or the things that I avoid. Sometimes it's the way I relate to others in ways that I hardly am aware of till the Holy Spirit brings it to my attention. You may have things in your life right now that you have no clue are offensive to God, and wounding others. But the Lord will show you little by little more and more of your flesh that needs to be crucified, that needs to be changed, that needs to be dealt with. And when that happens, don't feel defeated are overwhelmed. Just throw yourself on the mercy of God and say, Thank You, Jesus for your blood. And thank you for your Spirit, who changes me. And as the Lord continues to work in our lives, and as we walk by the Spirit, here's what happens more and more fully Galatians five, verses 22 through 26, the apostle Paul says the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control against such things. There's no law, and those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. So we live by the Spirit and more and more his fruit becomes fuller and more beautiful in our lives. And that flesh part of us is identified and crucified and left at the cross of Jesus. This is what the Apostle Paul especially in Galatians and Romans wants us to know, and what the entirety of God's word shows us that Jesus Christ and He alone, pays the penalty for our sin, Jesus Christ, and he alone by the power of His Holy Spirit, gives us the ability to change. So no more self centered self improvement, no more moralism and legalism, at the same time, no more just saying, Oh, I
give up I can't resist sin, but instead, keep on fighting because just getting into the flesh is no answer. live by the Spirit. Crucify the flesh, with its passions and desires. And always hold on to the Lord Jesus Christ.