Walking by the Spirit: Power for Bitter Warfare - Part 1 (Galatians Sermon 19 of 26)
May 11, 2014 | Andrew Davis
Christian Living, War Against the Flesh, Abiding in Christ, Life in the Spirit
Amen. So next month, my daughter and I, God willing, are going to be in Serbia, ministering to some folks there with the IMB. And that same month, actually, right around the time that we're there, will mark on June 28th 2014, the 100th anniversary of the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, thus beginning World War 1, Which as I've said before, I think is one of the greatest tragedies in all of human history. I mean the war, in particular. Obviously assassination is a grave crime, but all of the nations of Europe had armed themselves to the teeth and were ready to show off what they could do in the battlefields. And these mighty modern economies, these post industrial revolution economies, with all of the technological development and all their weapons, were ready to be unleashed on each other. Each nation convinced the war would be a short one and that the troops would be home by Christmas.
And so, the guns of August were unleashed in 1914 and devastating war resulted in just casualties by the tens of millions. 37 million people killed in World War 1. And perhaps, as finally, when it ended in the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 and a generation of young men lay in their graves as a result of just political insanity. And a poet said, "The lights had gone out all over Europe." The only hope for many in the world at that point, lay in the name that many gave to that war which was 'the war to end all wars'.
Well, from the perspective of the 21st century, know that was absolutely not true. World War I gave birth to an even greater conflagration in the World War II, which the death toll rose to more than double. 85 million people died as a result of that one. And so, the 20th century was really a century of warfare, of huge warfare, of world cataclysmic shaking warfare that has shaped the world as we know it today.
But as we look at the text that we're looking at today, Galatians 5:16-18. I would say as a Christian pastor, despite the fact that World War I and World War II and other subsequent wars have captured all of the headlines and given rise to countless books and documentaries, and poems, and essays, and movies and all kinds of things. Massive scale that dominates the landscape of human history and catches the eye. I think that the warfare described in our text today is infinitely more significant. And it is the warfare that goes on inside every true Christian every day.
The spiritual warfare, the warfare that goes on between the Spirit and the flesh, that's what we're going to talk about. This battle field is internal, its ebbs and flows are invisible, yet the destiny of the world lies in the balance. As Christians conquer the flesh by the Spirit they move out and do the good works that God has ordained, build the church, including evangelism and missions.
We talked much in this church about two infinite journeys, the internal journey of sanctification and the external journey of worldwide gospel advance. So those two are absolutely interconnected. Today, we're going to focus on the internal journey and understand it as a warfare, bitter warfare between the Spirit and the flesh.
Allow me to set these three very small but significant verses in context; we're in the book of Galatians. Galatians to the letter written by the Apostle Paul, he was called the Apostle to the Gentiles. He went out as a church planting, trail blazing missionary, evangelist. He went into the lands of unreached people groups, Gentiles and Asia Minor, modern day Turkey. And he went to a region called Galatia and there were some Gentiles there, and God blessed his preaching of the gospel, many came to faith in Christ. They understood the message of the gospel and they were saved and believed. He organized them into churches and then left to go work in another place. After he left, some false teachers came in who have been called Judaizers. And they preached a poisonous mixture of Christ plus Moses, or Christ plus works, faith plus works, and that believing in Jesus is not enough for the salvation of your souls, you must also obey the laws of Moses, beginning with the law of circumcision.
Paul says that is no gospel at all, it's a false gospel. I call it poisonous. Paul lifted up and made plain in Galatians 2 the center piece of the gospel, which is justification by faith alone, apart from works of the law. Sinners are made right with the Holy God simply by faith in Jesus. We who are guilty, we who have violated the laws of God, we can be made right, we can be forgiven through faith in Jesus and through faith alone. Paul then says that, that their own experiences with the gospel, how they received the gift of the Holy Spirit and began the Christian life proved it out. And then, the Bible itself, the Old Testament proved it out. Abraham was justified by faith not by works, and there a number of verses he sites in Galatians 3 and 4 that show that this idea has been woven throughout the Bible. Sinners are made right by faith and not by works.
In our chapter now, Galatians 5, he calls them to freedom. He warns these Galatian Christians, concerning these false teachers, that want to wrap chains of legalism around you and tell you that you are made right by God and made right in the sight of God and you continue in that status by your own obedience to the law. Well, that's a yoke. It's a chain of slavery. So in Galatians 5:1 he says, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then and do not allow yourself again to be burdened by a yoke of slavery." But as we've been saying in the last few weeks, this freedom is not freedom the way the world defines it. To sin with impunity and do whatever you want, doesn't matter how you live, you can pursue happiness as your own fleshly appetites define and there are no repercussions, once saved always saved, doesn't matter how you live, go to heaven when you die. <any have understood the doctrine of God's grace in Christ that way.
In Romans 6:1, Paul brings up this question. He says, "What then, shall we go on sinning, so that grace may increase? May it never be." And then, later in that same chapter, Romans 6:15, he says, "What then, shall we sin because we're not under law," as it says in our text here 5:18, "Not under law but under grace." Shall we sin for that reason? By no means. So the true gospel flees the opposite extremes, as we've been saying, of legalism on the one hand, that you are forgiven in the sight of God by your obedience to the law, unaided obedience to the law, or license on the other, that it doesn't matter how you live.
Now, legalism has been the focus of the letter up until now, but now Paul addresses the concerns about license. That the gospel of God's grace means that you can sin all you want, it doesn't matter how you live and you'll still go to heaven when you die. In order to understand this, this teaching, we have to stop and just step back and look at the big picture. Salvation, Christian salvation from sin, comes to us in stages. We don't get it all at once. None of you has your full salvation from sin yet.
Christian Salvation Comes in Stages
It begins with justification, which is the declaration by God, the Almighty Judge of the universe that you are forever not guilty of all your sins. And that's on the basis of the gift of righteousness credited to your account by simple faith, the righteousness of Jesus. That's justification, the beginning of the Christian life, but it flows inevitably into sanctification. And the rules of the game on sanctification are different than that of justification. Whereas, in justification, your works are absolutely unwelcome. You must not seek to bring your works for the forgiveness of your sins. Now, in sanctification, you gradually, little by little, are called on to work out your salvation of fear and trembling [come back to that phrase], and become more and more like Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, step by step. And then finally, it ends in glorification. And glorification is the act of the sovereign God, Almighty God, instantaneously to transform you forever conform to Christ perfectly in every way. And that comes, I believe, for most Christians in two stages. At death, the Spirit is made perfectly righteous and then goes and waits for the resurrection of the body. And at the resurrection of the body then we get glorious resurrection bodies, just like Jesus and that's it. And we're heading toward that. Amen, hallelujah.
But we're not there yet. And all of you who are listening to me today who are Christians, you're right in the middle of a warfare known as sanctification. And that's what we're talking about today. And it begins in our text with a command, a clear command in verse 16. "So I say", according to the Apostle Paul, he's giving the commands of an Apostle, "So I say, walk by the Spirit." So there's this initial command that comes, walk or live by the Spirit. The word 'walk' means live your daily life. It's a meticulous kind of thing, in detail, how you walk, etcetera, day by day, walk by the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit: The Sovereign Power Behind Sanctification
Now, the Holy Spirit has already been introduced to the Galatian readers. He says back in 3:2-3, he said, "Now I want to ask you, did you receive the Spirit by works or by believing what you heard?" So they received the gift of the Spirit, God did miracles among them at that time, the gift of tongues came often in the book of Acts. And there were some other miracles, they knew that the Holy Spirit, the baptism of the Spirit had come upon them.
They had received the gift of the Spirit, simply by faith. And they had begun the Christian life by the Spirit but they're not perfected by the flesh, he said this back in Galatians 3. And then in 3:14, it says that by faith they received the promise of the Spirit. So they have received the gift of the Holy Spirit. And then, in 4:6, "The Spirit is in our hearts crying out of a father." By that Spirit, we cry out 'Daddy', we cry out to God that He is our adoptive father. And then again, in this chapter 5:5, it says, "By faith through the Spirit we wait for righteousness." That's the essence of sanctification, I think. So the Spirit's already been introduced.
Let's talk about the Holy Spirit now. The Holy Spirit is the sovereign power of God behind sanctification. The Holy Spirit is as essential to sanctification as Jesus Christ is to justification. Without the work of Christ on the cross, we would have no hope whatsoever of being made right in the side of the Holy God. You would have no hope if it weren't for Jesus. None. In the same way, without the work of the Holy Spirit within us, we would have no hope whatsoever of growing in holiness. We would have no hope whatsoever putting a single sin to death apart from the Spirit, so the Spirit's indispensable.
Now, let's talk about a simple definition of the Christian life. Christian life is a life lived daily under the direction and by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, moment by moment, forgiven completely by the blood of Jesus, that's the Christian life. We are justified, we are forgiven, we're adopted, we are secure. Amen? You can't sin your way out of the family of God, but you have the indwelling Holy Spirit and moment by moment, the Spirit empowers you to live a holy life defined by the moral law as we've talked about before. That's the Christian life.
The Holy Spirit: The Third Person of the Trinity
And so, in this paragraph, we have the power of the Holy Spirit described in the life of the Christian, enabling each Christian to live a life that's well pleasing to God. Now, who is the Holy Spirit? What do we mean by the Holy Spirit? Well, we believe that the full revelation of God in the Bible, is that of the infinite mystery of the trinity; the infinite mystery of trinity. Now, you're not going to find the word trinity in the Bible, but it's basically a summation of some doctrinal insights that do come straight from the Bible.
The first and foremost, is that there is one God and there is only one God. There is one God and there is only one God. Secondly, that this one God has eternally existed in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Eternally existing this one God in three persons. And that these three persons are in some mysterious sense, we could use a language, separates centers of existence while being still perfectly one. It's very difficult, I would say close to impossible for us to completely conceive of this mysterious unity of three persons in one God head. This is what the Bible teach us and we accept it by faith.
And in the doctrine of the trinity, the Father is fully God, and the Son is fully God, and the Holy Spirit is fully God, but the Father is not the Son, and the Son is not Spirit, and the Spirit's not the father. So, they can have relationship with each other, communication, conversation with each other, that's the doctrine of the trinity. So, what we're saying is, that the trinity is directly eternally involved in human salvation, but they have different roles in that salvation. The Father before the foundation of the world, made a plan by which the elect would be saved from their sins. Before the foundation of the world, that's what the Bible teach us.
The Son became incarnate by the Virgin Mary, by the power of the Holy Spirit became incarnate, became a human being, lived a sinless life, did great signs and wonders, died in atoning a substitutionary death on the cross, he died in the place of sinners, rose from the dead on the third day and ascended to heaven. The son executed the Father's plan, that part of it anyway. He achieved redemption on the cross, and then ascended to heaven. Then the Father and the Son together sent the Holy Spirit into the world to take that finished work of Christ and apply it to individual people all over the world.
And that's what the Spirit is doing right now. The sovereign Spirit is moving throughout the world and I trust even throughout this sanctuary right now, applying the work of Christ to individual hearts. If you are Christian today, you may thank the Holy Spirit for making you so. The Spirit personally brought Christ to you. And it is the Spirit who made you a Christian. Now, the Holy Spirit is almighty God, and that's awesome when you think about it. He first is mentioned in the Bible in the second verse of the entire Bible. It's amazing. There the famous verse, Genesis 1:1, it says, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." And then it says now, "The earth was formless and empty and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." So, the Holy Spirit of God is right there hovering over the waters. And in the same way, he is at work inside you, he's working in your soul. How awesome is it? It's really almost inconceivable that the third person of the trinity is dwelling within you if you were a genuine Christian, if you're born again. The Spirit of God is living within you, the same Spirit who hovered over the waters of creation in the ancient world is now moving in our hearts to bring about holiness, to bring about God's purposes, to bring about his changes that he wants.
This is absolute omnipotence. That's got to be redundant, but anyway, I'm going to say it anyway. Absolute omnipotence, he has all power, absolutely. And he's at work in your life, and he is perfectly wise, he's omniscient and he's inside you, fully engaged in your life to bring about holiness. Now, the indwelling Spirit, the gift of the Spirit was promised through the prophets in the Old Testament, that this gift would come to us. He is the promised Holy Spirit of the Spirit of promise. And there's one promise in particular that I never tire of reciting to you folks, and I love it because of all that it says. It's in Ezekiel 36:25-27, you've heard it before, just listen again. This is what the Spirit brings to you. It's what the Spirit does to you if you're a Christian. Listen. Ezekiel 36:25-27, "I will sprinkle clean water on you and you will be clean. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. And I will give you a new heart and put a new Spirit within you. And I will remove from you your heart of stone, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I'll put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws."
That is the promise of the Holy Spirit's work in applying Jesus's cleansing blood to you, transforming your nature from within and moving you to obey God's laws and keep his commandments. The Spirit's also promised in Joel 2, which the Apostle Peter referred to in the day of Pentecost, Joel 2:28-29 says, "In the last days, I'll pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I'll pour out my Spirit in those days and they will prophesy." Jesus, for his part, made also repeated promises that he would send the Holy Spirit. He said in John 14, "I will ask the Father and he will give you another counselor to be with you forever. The Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you."
So again, the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit Jesus made. And then, after his resurrection he reiterated the promise. He's very clear about this. He says in Luke 24:49, I'm going to send what my Father has promised but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high. And so the Holy Spirit, the power of the Spirit poured out by the Father and the Son. And then again, in Acts 1:4-5, Jesus commanded them, "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days," He said to them at that time, "In a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."
Then that great and awesome day came at last, the day of Pentecost came. And they were all together in the upper room and they're praying and waiting. And suddenly, there came the sound of a violent rushing wind, like the sound of a hurricane but no moving air, just the sound, and they saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. And all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, it says, "And they began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them." And a crowd gathered for the feast of Pentecost heard the sound of the rushing wind and they gathered, and the church flooded out into the streets and began to change the world, by the power of the Spirit, they began to change the world. And Peter began to preach this awesome Pentecost sermon, he's explaining what's going on. And this is what he says, "God has raised this Jesus to life and we are all witnesses of the fact of the resurrection. Exalted to the right hand of God, He has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear." So he's explaining the phenomenon they're seeing, the gift of the Holy Spirit. And then, at the end of his Pentecost message, he extends the promise to everyone. When they heard Peter's very convicting sermon, they were cut to the heart. And they said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"
Now, that may be you today I hope. If you have come in here as an unbeliever, you've come in here you've never trusted in Jesus, you've been playing the game. Maybe you're nominal and not a genuine Christian. Maybe you've just been invited today. Maybe you're here for the dedication. Maybe you're a family member or a relative, and you just want to take a nice picture of a family that you love and a cute little baby. Hey, they are cute. But can I talk to you about your soul? Someday you're going to die and you're going to stand before God in judgement. Are you ready? The only way you can be ready is by repenting and trusting in Jesus. They, on that day of Pentecost, those people were cut to the heart. They knew they were sinners and they weren't ready to die. And they said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" Peter gave this timeless answer, he said, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off." That's us, we're far off, for all whom the Lord, our God, will call.
So the promise of the Holy Spirit has been abiding now for 20 centuries. Everyone who hears the gospel and believes, they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is the theology of the Spirit. Every single Christian has the indwelling Spirit. If you don't have the indwelling Spirit, you are not born again, you're not a Christian. You're still in your transgressions and sins. Every Christian has the indwelling Spirit. The Spirit is the deposit guaranteeing that we're going to heaven, guaranteeing the full inheritance of the saints. The Spirit is that guarantee. But He is also the power for ongoing holiness, for the internal journey of holiness, of sanctification. He is also the power for the external journey of evangelism and missions. The Spirit is active and at work, the sovereign Spirit.
Having Begun by the Spirit, We Are Perfected Also by the Spirit
Now, on the internal journey having begun by the Spirit, we are now also to be perfected by the same Spirit. Paul cried out earlier against the Galatians, "Are you so foolish?", Galatians 3:3, "Having begun by the Spirit, are you now perfected by the flesh?" So what that means is, it is the Spirit who began the Christian life in you or began you in the Christian life, say both. It's the Spirit that did it. You were dead in your transgressions and sins until the Spirit came to you. You were dead. And the Holy Spirit came and raised you to life. You heard the gospel and He raised you to life. Ephesians 2:4-5, "But because of His great love for us, God who is rich in mercy made us alive with Christ even when we're dead in transgressions, it is by grace you have been saved."
But now, I want to give you a picture, the Spirit has raised you to life. Now, Ezekiel 36, is that great promise of the gift of Spirit. Ezekiel 37 has the picture of a valley of dry bones. All these dead, these dry bones, everywhere, completely dry, dead, nothing. And Ezekiel was commanded, "Prophesy to the dry bones." And as he was speaking, as he was predicting, there came this terrible rattling sound, and these bones were assembled but still as yet no life. And then He said, "Prophesy to the wind." The same word in Hebrew for wind and Spirit. Prophesy. And then, this wind came and they were filled with the Spirit and came to life. And it says in Ezekiel 37:10, "A vast army."
Now, just pause with me. What's an army used for? Army is used for war. And as soon as those people come to life, I want to combine it with Ephesians 6, flaming arrows start coming right at them. Now, the flaming arrows can't kill and we'll never die but they can hurt us. Those flaming arrows from Satan are temptations, they're assaults on us. And we are commanded to get ready for battle and to pick up the shield of faith and put on the armor and get ready to fight. And that's what this text is about.
Now that you're alive, you are at war. Before you were alive, you were just dead. But now that you're alive, you're at war. That's what this text is all about. And the Spirit empowers you to live, and you cannot ever say to the Spirit, "Okay Spirit, I got it, you've done really well up to now, I got it from here on forward. I'll take over, I can do it now." You can't do anything now but sin, alright. That's what you can do on your own. Remember how Jesus said in John 15:5, "I am the vine, you're the branches. If a man remains in me, and I in him, he'll bear much fruit. Apart from me, you can do nothing." The Holy Spirit is in, right in there, the Spirit is the connection between the branch and the vine. By the Spirit, we stay abiding in Jesus. Apart from the Spirit you can do nothing. That's the Spirit filled life.
Now, we come to the issue of law versus grace, or flesh versus Spirit. The whole epistle has been about the contrasting themes of law versus grace. We are always tempted to revert to law, that's our tendency, we always go back to legalism, that's our tendency. God means for it to be a salvation by grace from beginning to end. So many Christians, then embattling sin, draw up a list of do's and don'ts, rules and regulations, new rules for the Christian life. And that's what it means to try to be perfected by the flesh. Arrogant, independent human effort. See the law, do the law, you're on your own.
The Command: Walk by the Spirit
Now, the Spirit-filled Christian life does involve distinct patterns of Bible study, prayer, church involvement, witnessing, giving, etcetera, yes. But these things are written on our hearts by the Spirit. They are lived out in our lives by the Spirit, not in some legalistic way, as though we are slaves in chains or we're somehow on probation, needing to secure a permanent place in the family, that is not true. Everything God commands you to do, He empowers you to do by His Spirit, you're not on your own. That's the essence of sanctification by the Spirit not by law. So we're commanded right here in verse 16, "Walk by the Spirit." Now, I want you to know that it is a command. What does that tell you? What does that tell you? You're commanded to do something. The Lord is telling you how to live, in order to live a life worthy of the Lord, how to please Him. Now, the command here, the verb is "walk." As I already mentioned, this has to do with daily life patterns, details. It has to do with habit patterns. What you are in the habit of doing, how you live your life, practical daily life. There are habit patterns, a habitual lifestyle of holiness that the Lord is after.
The verb "walk" also speaks of progress, doesn't it? We're going to be moving out now. When the Spirit tells you to rise and walk, you're being told to go somewhere. So we call it in journey, or an internal journey we're in. We're not staying where we started, we're going to move out now. This infinite journey, internal journey, we're going to move out. There's a clear parallel verse, in verse 25, it says, "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." Do you see that? Let's keep in step with it. So, the Greek word behind that keep in step, means to walk in a line like soldiers on a parade ground. Left, right, left, right, left, right. The Spirit is the drum beat of a life of holiness. Left, right, let's move, keep in step with the Spirit, that's what he's giving us. So the Spirit is prompting us, and He's leading us, and it covers every area of life. There's no part of life that the Spirit doesn't cover. How to speak, how to eat, how to sleep, how to pray, how to spend money, how to be in church, how to be married, how to be a parent, how to resist temptation, everything is covered, everything.
Incomprehensible Mystery: God’s Power AND Our Effort
Now, we come to an incomprehensible mystery, and that is the relationship between the Spirit's power and our effort. The Spirit's power and our effort. And here, so many people go astray. So many people, so I will do the best I can to explain to you how these go together but it is very difficult to understand. We have to do the best that we can. There are two extremes when it comes to sanctification. We do everything versus we do nothing. These are extremes. We do everything versus we do nothing. Now, we do everything, we've already covered... That's legalism. You're on your own, here's the law, do it or die; that's legalism. That's we do everything. You're on your own, you got to do it, that's the essence of legalism.
Now, let's talk about we do nothing. There is a strong history of sanctification taught in this pattern. It's been going on a long time, it's got lots of different names. There are popular books still being sold that tell you in effect, you do nothing when it comes to sanctification. One of the slogans of this movement has been, 'Let go and let God.' Growth and holiness then is as easy as a twig moving down the stream, if you just get the right formula. Just let go and let God take you where He wants to take you. That sounds to me a lot like glorification. I'm going to let go from whatever I'm holding on to in the ICU and I'll be gone, goodbye. And then, God's going to take me to perfection, but that's not sanctification. 'Let go and let God.' That's not what's going on. Another language title of it is 'The Surrendered Life.' A movement around a church camp retreat center is called Keswick Holiness. Keswick Holiness.
Now, this is probably more information than you need. But Keswick Holiness taught that striving in the Christian life is evidence of the flesh. That if you're striving, you're off, you're already off. What you need to do is cease striving and know that He is God. And if you're sinning, it means that you haven't paid the price tag for holiness which is total surrender. Oh, wow. This hit me for the first time. I was telling Andy about this. I've never put this together. I see now the deadly combination of what Keswick Holiness and all of this is doing. JI Packer wrote about this. You can look up, just Google JI Packer on Keswick Holiness. Keswick is K-E-S-W-I-C-K. But I guess, Google will cover it if you misspell it, I don't know.
But JI Packer on Keswick Holiness, and he said this, he said, "It's not much of a recommendation of a pattern of Christian life when the best you can say is this teaching may help you if you don't take any of its detail seriously." Wow. It is utterly damning to such a movement to have to say, as in this case, we must say, that if you do take the detail seriously, it will tend not to help you but destroy you. He said it didn't work, and that was deeply frustrating. It was a depressing thing. "It made me feel like an outsider." And at the age of 18, that's a pretty burdensome thing. "In fact, it was straight out driving me insane," he said.
The reality of Keswick's theology, the passivity program, let go, let God, cease striving all that. And it's announced expectations plus its insistence that any failure to find complete victory is entirely your fault, that combination make it destructive. Now just look at what's being said here, cease striving and let God do it directly contradicts the warfare language in all the holiness passages in which you're told to arm yourself and put your own sin to death by the power of the Spirit. We'll talk about all that in minute, but cease striving is not what those passages tell you.
Secondly, total surrender will elude you while you live in this sinful body. You won't be totally doing anything while you live in this sinful body. You're always going to be a mixture of light and darkness; you're going to be a mixture of Spirit and flesh. That's what the text says, as long as you... So you will never be totally surrendered, and you are not just to cease striving. That's the problem with all this. Another writer, Hannah Whitall Smith wrote the 'Christian's Secret of a Happy Life' teaches the same kinds of things.
Now, Packer says and other say, many Christians have gone a long way in the Christian life and have done many good things thinking these thoughts but the essence of that type of sanctification is false, that's not what we teach. We are taught, a strong effort is required to grow in holiness. You must fight. You must run with endurance. Listen to this, First Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul says, "Don't you know that in a race, all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way that you may get the prize. Those who complete in the games go into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last. We do it to get a crown that will last forever. [Listen to this] Therefore, I do not run like a man running aimlessly. I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave; lest after I preach to others, I myself may be disqualified from the prize." That doesn't sound like let go and let God to me. That doesn't sound like cease striving and know that I'm God, which is a Bible verse but misapplied when it comes to this warfare. It sounds to me like, Paul says you want to do well, you've got to go into strict training, you need to be an athlete, you need to be a warrior, you need to fight. That's what he's saying. Same thing in Hebrews 12, there it says, in verse 1, "Let us throw off everything that hinders us in the sin that so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race marked up before us."
That doesn't sound like cease striving and know that I'm God. That doesn't like let go and let God. Sounds like you've got a race to run, and it's going to take every bit of your strength and endurance to run that race. The Spirit is there to empower you to do it. But all of that fighting and all of that running... I love this, 2 Timothy 4:7, you've heard this at funerals, here at now while you live, while there's time to make it happen, "I have fought the good fight. I've finished the race. I've kept the faith. Now there is laid up in store for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord will award to me, and not only to me but also to those who have long for his appearing."
Are you fighting the good fight, right now? The good fight I think is sanctification, and also I think it's the advance the external journey; they're both good fights. But it's at least fight the good fight. Finish the race. Keep the faith. I think, I would love that to be said at my funeral, that it were true; that I fought the good fight, that I finished my race, that I kept the faith.
Now, all of that is done by the power of the Spirit; all of it. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15, "By the grace of God, I am what I am. And His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them. Yet not I, but the grace of God that was in me." Do you see that? Paul says, "God's grace worked on me, it made me work hard, really hard. And yet it wasn't me working but it was the grace of God working in me." That sounds almost confusing but that's the complexity of Spirit works and we work. Probably the best harmonizing verse on this is Philippians 2:12-13. There he says, "So now dear friends, as you have always obeyed, as you've always obeyed, not only in my presence but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who works in us to will and to act according to His good purpose." That harmonizes everything.
The Spirit Leads Us to War
But do you see, "let go and let God" in there? I don't. Do you see cease striving there? I don't. Do you see that God's waiting for you to be totally surrendered, and then he'll give it to you as a gift? I don't see that. I see that we're being told to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, but God's at work in us to do it. That's what I see. So we are commanded to walk by the Spirit, and if we do walk by the Spirit, we will not gratify the desires of the flesh. So the Spirit is leading each one of you, who are true Christians in to war. The Spirit's leading into war. He says we're led by the Spirit in verse 18. If you're led by the Spirit, not under the law.
Romans 8:13-14 says it more plainly. It says there, "If you live according to the flesh, you will die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live because those who are led by the Spirit of God, are sons of God." Okay. So, if you live according to what the flesh wants, you'll die and go to hell; that's what he is saying. If you live that kind of life, but if by the Spirit, you are in the process of putting to death the deeds of the body, killing them. If you are in the process of killing them by the Spirit, you'll live, that means you go to heaven. Because, Romans 8:14, those who are led by the Spirit, those are the children of God.
So let me say again. If you're not at this kind of warfare, you're not a Christian. If you're not at war with the deeds of the flesh, you're not born again. You're dead in your transgressions and sins. If you are born again, you're at war with the deeds of the flesh by the Spirit. Everyday, the Spirit gets you up, I mean, literally and gets you dressed, not literally, and leads you into battle, into warfare against the deeds of the flesh; that's the Christian life. You're at war and you need to fight in a way that glorifies God.
Now, what are we at war with? And we're going to close with this today. The acts of the flesh are what we're at war with. Look down at verses 19-21. This is what you're going to fight, this is what you're fighting. The acts of the flesh are obvious, sexual immorality. We're at war with sexual immorality, at war with it. We hate it, we want it dead. Impurity and debauchery, we're at war with these wicked things. We're at war with idolatry and witchcraft. We're at war with hatred. Isn't this weird? We hate hatred. And we are at war with discord. We're against jealousy. We're at war with the tendency we have to be envious of other people's blessings; we're at war with that. I don't want that in my life; it's evil. At war with jealousy and we're at war with fits of rage. We're angry about anger. I don't know how that works. But anyway, we're at war with it. We don't want it anymore. We want it out. James calls it moral filth. Its radioactive waste. I want sinful anger out of my life. We're at war with dissension, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions all of these things. We're at war against drunkenness and orgies and the like. "I warn you as I did before that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God."
So, we're at war with any motion of our heart toward those things. We want to kill them and by the Spirit, we put them to death. So this morning, as I was practicing this incredibly, ridiculously long sermon, there it is, 23 pages. There was clearly no chance, none whatsoever. So, what's the rest of this? What's the rest of this sermon which I will not be preaching today? This is how to fight. How do we put to death the deeds of the flesh? What strategy are we going to take? I'm going to try to help you with that. I don't think we should hurry through this because you guys are going to go from this sermon today into this warfare. You're at it, right now. It's going on right now. I want to help you. It's my yearning to help you. So next week, God willing, I will finish up and I'll urge how it is that living by the Spirit guarantees that you will not gratify the lust of the flesh. Close with me in prayer.
Father, we thank you for the things that we've learned today. Really, the simple lesson is this, so many things that I said today but that all Christians are at war, we're at war with the flesh. And that we're at war not in the legalistic sense, as though you're standing back from us with your arms crossed across your chest saying, you better win this one or you're not going to heaven. No, no, no, you're living within us, enabling us, empowering us, guaranteeing success. Thank you, oh Lord. I pray that you'd help my brothers and sisters here to fight powerfully and courageously. And I pray one more time that if there are any here that walked in this place not born again, that they would right now trust in Jesus and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. We pray this in Jesus's name, Amen.