Walking by the Spirit: Power for Bitter Warfare - Part 2 (Galatians Sermon 20 of 26)
May 18, 2014 | Andy Davis
Christian Living, War Against the Flesh, Abiding in Christ, Life in the Spirit
Pastor Andy Davis preaches a verse-by-verse expository sermon on Galatians 5:16-18, and our dependency on the Holy Spirit to equip us for daily spiritual warfare.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
Turn in your Bibles to Galatians 5:16-18. We're going to be looking for a second week at Galatians 5:16-18. And I was just thinking about how we were right in the middle of the sermon last week, and just ran out of time. So we are just picking it right back up again. I was thinking about a hero in the Bible we know very little about, and he is in the last verse in Judges chapter 3, a man named Shamgar who followed Ehud. We know nothing about but we know this, he killed 600 Philistines with an ox goad. Now I don't know what an ox goad is, but I think it's a sharpened stick. I'm thinking what kind of man do you need to be to kill 600 Philistines with a sharpened stick? And then there's another question, how do you do it? And I think the answer must be one at a time. Then I must think that these Philistines have got to be the stupidest warriors in history; seven or eight of them jump this guy, it's over. But then I picture this in my mind and always and I want to go to Christ, and I think Jesus fulfilled that image for me.
Jesus is the warrior who took on in His life every single temptation that Satan threw at him and killed them all. They laid dead at His feet. He lived a perfectly holy life, and now we by the Spirit can sit at His feet, this great champion who is Jesus, and we are asking him, "Teach us to be warriors for You, O Lord." Do you realize how many warfare images there are in the Old Testament? There are so many. And many of us, just perhaps many of you, are not all that interested in military history. Others of you very interested like myself. But some of you may be wondering why so many battles, why so much killing? Why so much warfare?
Abraham had to fight a war to rescue his nephew Lot, you remember? Right on through the book of Joshua, it's just one battle after another, and Judges one battle after another. And then once you get into the era of the Kings it's just one invasion and one battle after another. Sometimes they went one way, sometimes another. But why so much warfare? And there's a lot of reasons for that but I think one of them is to teach us in the New Covenant we are at war and we need to fight, and teaches us how to fight.
I think that's one answer, and I think as I read the pages of these warriors in the past, how they fought, how they relied on God and won, how they did not rely on God and lost. There are so many lessons for me in the warfare I find myself in today and that all of you do as well. So as we plunge right in here into these three key verses, I want to remind you of the things we've already said. The Apostle Paul is writing in this Book of Galatians about the doctrine of salvation, how it is a sinner is made right with God, and I'm not going to go over by way of review, but these false teachers were saying that salvation from sin is a combination of faith in Jesus plus obedience to the laws of Moses, and Paul said that is no gospel at all. And he just unfolds how we are not justified by works of the Law but faith in Christ alone. We come to the Galatians five and Paul sums it all up saying, "It is for freedom that Christ has set you free. Stand firm then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." And so we are to fight against anything that would enslave us. Now the immediate context was we will not be enslaved by false gospels that teach legalism; we will not be enslaved by legalism.
We will break all of those chains of legalism. We will know that our sins will never be forgiven by what we do, never. We are forgiven by what Christ did, amen? By His works of righteousness and specifically by His work on the cross we are freed from our sin, from the guilt of our sins. Now we have said again and again and I don't think I can say it too much, salvation from sin comes to us in stages. None of us who are here in the flesh now, none of us is fully saved. We're not done being saved. There's yet more salvation work to be done on us. The first stage of salvation as it comes to us, is justification. What does that mean? It means the act by which the judge of all the earth, the sovereign God of all the universe declares you a sinner, not guilty in His sight, righteous in His sight.
A simple word for it is forgiveness, that we are forgiven by faith in Christ alone. Now at the moment of justification, we become adopted sons and daughters of the living God and that will never change. And we receive the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Spirit of adoption by which we cry out "Abba, Father." Having been justified by faith we are then launched out into a life of working out salvation, of gradual steady growth in Christ-likeness called sanctification. And the rules of the game, if we can use that language, are different than justification. Whereas our works were not welcome in justification, they are essential to sanctification. We must work or we will not grow. Now we work in a certain way, we work by the power of the Spirit, we work with the solid rock or justification under our feet. We work understanding all the time that we are forgiven, we are not guilty, but we must work. And we will battle sin and we're at war. We're going to talk about all that again today but that leads finally to glorification, the final act of the salvation drama for an individual is glorification.
"Having been justified by faith we are then launched out into a life of working out salvation, of gradual steady growth in Christ-likeness called sanctification. "
Glorification happens generally in two stages. Two stages, if we're not the final generation, it'll happen for you in two stages. First at death, when your soul is separated from your body, your body will go to corruption in the grave but your soul will be instantaneously perfected by the sovereign grace of God and you will never again sin. Isn't that awesome? I'm yearning for that more and more, I'm yearning for that moment but that's not finished because God willed for us to be in bodies, he willed for us human beings to live in physical bodies and so the final act of our salvation, is the resurrection from the dead. At the second coming of Christ, we will be raised up incorruptible and we will be in resurrection bodies as glorious as Jesus's body and that is it, that's the finish line for you. Now we're right smacked up in the middle, if you are a Christian today you're listening to me, you are in the middle of your sanctification struggle or battle or journey. There's a lot of different ways we can talk about it and these verses, I hope, will help you in that battle. I believe it's my ministry, as Jesus said to Peter "feed my sheep," I want to feed you and nourish you for your battle this week. I want you to get ready for your battle, I want you to get ready for warfare, so by way of review, last time we talked about a command in verse 16.
The Apostle Paul said to the Galatian Christians, "So I say, walk by the Spirit" or "live by the Spirit," The Holy Spirit we talked about. The Holy Spirit is the sovereign power behind your sanctification progress. He is as essential to your sanctification as Jesus to your justification, without Jesus you cannot be justified, without the Spirit you cannot be sanctified. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, we see right away in the second verse of the Bible hovering over the waters of the deep and he comes and actually dwells inside of you the moment you become a Christian and there he lives with you forever, he will never leave you.
Now we are begun by the Spirit, we are not then perfected by the flesh. We, by the Spirit, seek to make progress and sanctification. The command here in verse 16 is to walk or to live your daily life by the power of the Holy Spirit. So we came last week to the incomprehensible mystery, the difficult mystery of God's power and our effort. How do they go together? How do we understand those two? In justification they don't go together, In glorification they will not go together, you will do nothing to glorify yourself, and you did nothing to justify yourself. It is justification by faith alone apart from works. It is glorification by God's sovereign power apart from works. But in between these two, we have works and you must work.
Now they're two wrong extremes, we do everything versus we do nothing, we do everything is sheer legalism, that's the very thing that we've been against this entire epistle. You are on your own, there's the standard, now live it. But we already know we can't do that. We have seen that again and again, that is not what sanctification is all about. But on the other side, neither is it true that we do nothing. We're not going to be taken to heaven on a flowery beds of ease. It is not true that if you are striving and struggling you are out of God's will.
There might be an individual who's been struggling, let's say with internet pornography and for the first time he's convicted, and for the first time he's putting up a fight and he's struggling, that's the first indication of sanctification in that area, he's struggling. Now the Keswick theology holiness, this “let go and let God” thing that says, "Cease striving and know that I'm God," and if you're striving and working you're not doing it right. That is just completely wrong. We talked about that last time, instead we are told to make an extreme effort in a Christian life. Many verses teach this, many.
I. Obey the Command: Walk by the Spirit (verse 16)
Just the grammatical nature of verse 16, we're being commanded by Paul to walk by the Spirit. We have a command right in front of there something we must do. We must walk by the Spirit. There are other verses that are even clearer than this. 1 Corinthians 9, “Don't you know that in a race all the runners run but only one gets the prize, run so you may win. Now everyone who competes in those games goes 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. Therefore, [says Paul] I don't run like a man running aimlessly, I don't fight like a man beating the air, I beat my body and make it my slave, lest after I've preached to others I myself may be disqualified for the prize.” That's hard running.
You remember the movie "Chariots Of Fire"? I love that movie. There are so many great illustrations from that movie, but there this one moment which the Jewish runner Harold Abrahams, is called in to these two men, these older men who are frustrated by how diligently he's training. Remember that scene? They're having tea together and with a very aristocratic kind of feel they say to him, "You've been acting like a tradesman, you need to act like the elite. If you're going to a run, run like the elite," meaning without severe training. And Harold Abrahams says, "You know, you yearn for a victory attained with the seeming effortlessness of Gods, it's not how it's going to be, effortless." So I'm just totally ripping that off and applying it right here alright, you're not going to just coast into sanctification. You're not going to just coast into the Heaven. You've got to run this race. And it's going to take everything you have to succeed.
And as I've thought about this, it occurs me, God wants the war. He wants the struggle, he wants the valor, He wants the courage, He wants you to serve him, when it's hard. There's some things we can do here on earth that can't do in Heaven and one of them is suffer, and He wants us to suffer for His glory. He's greatly glorified when we suffer and trust Him and get through some very difficult temptation and kill it. He's glorified by that. And He wants us to glorify Him. So, you folks will have just countless, probably among all of you, thousands of opportunities this week to glorify God by putting sin to death. And He wants you to do it. It is to His glory to do it. And so you need as Paul said at the end of his life, "I've fought the good fight, I've finished the race, I've kept the faith, now there is in store for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord will award to me." He wants you to do that. He wants you to run your race now, He wants you to fight your fight, He wants you finish this race and He wants you to keep the faith and continue believing in Jesus.
However, you must know that all of that is done only by the power of the Spirit, only by the Spirit, never independently. And so key harmonizing verse we looked at last time Philippians 2:12-13 says "Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose." So God by the Spirit is working inside you to will it, he wants you to will it so that you want holiness, and then to do it. But you are called on to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. There's hard work involved and it's not easy. Now I want you to take a minute and we're going to be working back and forth between these three verses, Galatians 5:16-18 and Romans 6-8, those three chapters. This is like a kind of a quick charcoal sketch on mortification, sanctification. The full treatise is unfolded in Romans 6-8. And so if you really want to understand sanctification, if you want to understand mortification, that is putting sin to death, really Romans 6-8 gives you the comprehensive teaching. This is just some quick statements that Paul makes in Galatians but the fuller treatise is in Romans.
If you want to hear how I preached through Romans 6, 7, 8 they're online. You can listen to them and I will commend some of them to you. We went through that over a long period of time and so I would urge you to go back and listen. But the key verse for me in Romans, is Romans 8:13-14. We're going to be looking at this a little bit this morning in conjunction with Galatians. But there in Romans 8:13-14 it says "For if you live according to the flesh you will die." Now, I just believe in context that means "Go to Hell." Not just that you'll die physically. I think it means you're not a Christian. If you live according to the flesh you will die, you will perish. "But if, by the Spirit, you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live." In my mind I read that, "Live eternally," go to Heaven. So this is just two different ways to live. Life of the flesh, life of the Spirit. Those are just two different ways to live. "Because," Romans 8:14, "those who are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God." And you could again put in your mind “these and only these.” These are the only ones who are the true children of God. So genuine Christians are at war against the deeds of the flesh or the misdeeds of the body.
"These are the only ones who are the true children of God. So genuine Christians are at war against the deeds of the flesh or the misdeeds of the body."
So again, just keep your finger there or bookmark or whatever and then just go back to Galatians 5. What do we mean by this, the deeds of the flesh? They're listed for us and we'll go there, God willing, in our next few weeks, Galatians 5:19-21, "The acts of the flesh are obvious: Sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkenness, orgies and the like." And then that's why I say if you're living that life, he says very plainly "I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like that will not inherit the kingdom of God."
So it is not the case that if you have prayed a prayer and claim to be a Christian and then you're living however you want and these words characterize how you're living that you're fine, "Once saved always saved" and you're going to Heaven, that is not true. It is not true that justification means you can sin as much as you want and go to Heaven. That is not the Christian life. If you're truly justified, the warrior God, Holy Spirit comes within you and he starts to war against these things. He hates them and he will fight them. And if that warfare's going on and you're being led by the Spirit, you're a child of God.
So every single day what that means is, every single day the Holy Spirit gets you up, gets you dressed and sends you into battle. He doesn’t send you alone, he's with you, he never leaves you or forsakes you, but he is with you. Alright, so that's all by way of review. And it's beautiful we are not passive in this, in this warfare, neither are we abandoned in it, amen. Not passive and not abandoned. Spirit is with us and we have to fight.
II. Believe the Promise: You Will Not Gratify the Lusts of the Flesh (verse 16)
Alright so secondly, believe the promise. You will not gratify the loss of the flesh. Look at the whole statement, "but I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh." So what Paul's saying here is the direct result of walking by the Spirit is success. You won't gratify the loss of the flesh. These two are diametrically opposed, as we'll see. There is a 100% success rate for everyone filled with the Spirit in facing temptation. Every time you're filled with the Spirit and temptation comes, you will win. Okay? The Spirit is completely effective in enabling us to live holy lives. Of course he is, he's God, he's the Sovereign Spirit. Again from the Judges, think about Samson. Remember when that young lion jumped on Samson and he threw it off and ripped it apart? Says in Judges 14:6 "The Spirit of the Lord, rushed upon him in power. So that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as he might have torn a young goat." We were actually joking about this the other day, how do you tear young goats? But I think we know what he meant. I personally never torn a young goat. But you could imagine it's easier to tear apart a young goat than it is a young lion. And Samson, it was the same either way. He was able to kill this lion who came on him by the power of the Spirit, the Spirit rushed upon him and he won. So it is with us in temptation, amen? The devil is like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. You resist him standing firm in the Spirit and you will win.
That's what we're saying. So we have this promise, we have to believe it, it's a sweet promise. It's also convicting and a diagnosis after sin. Temptation comes on you, you yield, you sin, you violate your conscience, you know you have sinned. You know you weren't in the Spirit. You didn't by the Spirit put to death, it wasn't like you tried and didn't work. You were not at that moment controlled by the Spirit, that's what we know, just in after the fact.
III. Expect Constant Warfare: Flesh vs. Spirit (verse 17)
Thirdly, expect constant warfare, flesh versus Spirit. Look at verse 17, "For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit, what it desires, is against the flesh. These are opposed to each other, so that you not do what you want." Now we come to the issue of this word, "flesh." What do we mean by the flesh? And what are the lusts of the flesh? Well, the word "flesh" is very interesting. It's not just used in this one sense, and that's what makes it a little bit difficult. The flesh sometimes refers to just a physical body like the soft tissue, your organs, your muscles, your circulatory system, your tendons, nerves as opposed to bone. So flesh and bone together makes up the body. I'm not being really technical here but this is just how the Bible uses the term in that sense.
And there's nothing intrinsically sinful or wicked about it. We're not dualists, saying that physical stuff is evil, we are not saying that. Actually it says in John 1:14, the word Jesus, became flesh and made his dwelling among us. And so Jesus became human, became physical, and there's nothing wrong with that. And not only that, but after His resurrection, He became flesh again. Now, He was in a resurrection body but he still uses the same terminology. When they didn't believe what they were seeing in Luke, they couldn't understand, they were just so amazed and filled with joy but still not sure what they were seeing. Jesus said this, "Look at my hands and my feet, it is I Myself, touch me and see. A ghost, doesn't have [listen] flesh and bones as you see I have." That's in His resurrection body, uses the same word flesh. So the word flesh generally just means that muscles... And beasts have the flesh. You can eat the flesh of this or that.
It was by Jesus's physical body, his flesh, that our sins were atoned for. In Colossians 1, Paul is writing to dualists who tended to deny the value or the benefit of things physical and to deny that Jesus even came physically. He said, no, He came physically and not only that, it was by his physical body dying on the cross that your sins were atoned for. Colossians 1:22 "He's reconciled you by his physical body." Now, what does the word flesh then mean here? What does it mean? Well, let me just give you a simple way of understanding it. Do you see lists of the acts of that flesh? Do you see that list? In Galatians 5:19-21 "The acts of the flesh are obvious, sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed." That whole list. The flesh is that internal part of you that produces that. That whole list, that's what the flesh is.
I don't know what it is, but it produces that list of sins. Now, the NIV, generally translates flesh in this sense, sinful nature. Sinful nature. So that's that part of you that's inside of you, that makes you do evil rebellious things contrary to the law of God. Now, a clear description of the flesh, the clearest description is in Romans again, Romans 7. So if you're still in that region, you can look at Romans 7. And verses 14-20 in general, talk about... I don't have time to read through it all, but what Paul says is, "The very thing I want to do, I do not do, but the thing I hate, I do. Now, if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it but it is sin living in me that does it." So that's... I think that's flesh. Indwelling sin, sin living in you that does it, the internal sin nature. Now, why is the word flesh so closely related to the body? Why does Paul choose this to talk about that sinful nature? Well I think it's because the body is a seat of sin. It's also a vessel for serving God. We can't serve him without our bodies in this world. So that's why Paul says he beats his body, makes it a slave, rather than just killing his body, because if he killed his body, he's commit suicide, he'd be out of this world, couldn't serve Jesus in this world.
So the body is... It's good and bad. It's a vehicle for serving God but it has to be watched very closely. Why is that? Paul uses other terminology in Romans such as "body of sin," and "body of death." And it's linked to the bodily drives. And this is what I think happens, in Adam, in sin, the sinful nature, indwelling sin hijacks normal physical things and pushes them beyond boundaries set by God into sin. It pushes you. A normal good bodily desire pushes it into something that's evil. So, the desire to be loved becomes the drive to be worshipped and esteemed. Like the devil wanted Jesus to fall down and worship him. We are like that. We want to be worshipped. The desire to eat, becomes a drive toward gluttony. The desire to drink, a drive toward drunkenness. The desire for sexual pleasure, becomes the drive towards sexual immorality of many kinds. Fornication, adultery, homosexuality, promiscuity, pornography, all of these things are displays of the flesh. We’ll talk more about it next week.
The desire for pleasure of any type, soft clothes, comfortable living arrangements, well-crafted automobile, or wrist watch, becomes materialism and pleasure-seeking, yearning for only the best and luxury. It's what the flesh does. The desire for productive labor becomes a drive toward workaholicism, seeking the praise of others for the excellence of the work that you do. The love for any created thing, any beautiful thing, any good thing in this world can become idolatry. You can make an idol of a spouse or a child, or a friend. You can make an idol of any good thing that you experience in this world. The desire for rest and refreshment becomes a drive towards self-indulgent laziness. So, you become the sluggard of the Book of Proverbs. Just living for sleep. You can never get enough sleep. That's what the flesh does and I can go on.
The flesh takes normal bodily functions and pushes them beyond boundaries that God set up. These are therefore the lusts of the flesh. The Greek word lust has to do with an overpowering desire, magnetic pull consuming your thoughts. The lust of the flesh flow from the mind of the flesh which is described very clearly in Romans 8:5-8. "The mind of the flesh is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so." It's a thinking pattern. Romans chapter 8. Now, the verse says in verse 17, "The lusts of the flesh are set against the desires of the Spirit. The flesh desires or lusts for what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh. These are opposed to each other so that you do not do what you want." The same Greek word is used for desires in reference to both the flesh and the Spirit. Same one. Now, generally the drives or desires of the flesh, we use the word lust. We usually don't use that word for the Spirit. We don't say the Spirit lusts for certain things but it is the same Greek word.
Strong desire. So, where the flesh has a strong desire for these sins, the Spirit has a strong desire for the fruit of the Spirit in your life. He yearns for your holiness. He's jealous over you and yearns for your holiness. So there's this strong desire. The Spirit yearns to produce Christ likeness in us in the pattern of the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generous, faithfulness, self control. He yearns to produce those in you. And the flesh hates those things and yearns that they not be in your life. Conversely, the flesh yearns for that list of sins and the Spirit hates them all and is fighting against that list in your life. So, some examples. The Spirit moves in you to pray, it's time to pray. It's time for warfare, you know what I'm talking about. Especially the longer it goes on, alright, you get down on your knees and begin your time of prayer. You start lifting up your hands, you're praying, you're interceding for others. You get the church phone list, please get the phone list, pray for other brothers and sisters in Christ. Pray for each other. Please do that, not just the elders need to do that. Pray for each other. Get the phone list, take a page pray through it. Pray for five people everyday. Just pray though that list. So, you're praying and as it goes on, the flesh starts to rise. Has that ever happened to you? Happens to me all the time. Flesh starts to rise, your mind starts to wander. You start to be anxious about the things you need to get done. Financial pressures start coming in, other issues, temptations start coming in, you're at war. The Spirit wants you to keep praying, wants you to put up the shield of faith. He wants you keep staying on your knees, forget about the pain in your lower back. You older people know what I'm talking about. Not worrying about the fact that you're not getting much circulation to your lower legs. Forget it, shift around a bit, alright but you're at war.
"Where the flesh has a strong desire for these sins, the Spirit has a strong desire for the fruit of the Spirit in your life. He yearns for your holiness. He's jealous over you and yearns for your holiness."
The Spirit wants us to go on a short-term mission trip. You have the idea of it but then immediately some ideas start flooding in. And you start to be anxious about fundraising. Anxious about the travel, anxious about the weird foods you're going to... Sorry, the multicultural different foods you're going to be eating. And you don't know what is going to happen and you start being anxious and then you don't want to do it. And it's a war. The Spirit wants us to evangelize. You know what a war this is. He's leading you, prompting you to share the gospel with your boss at work. And the flesh doesn't want to do that, and there's this war back and forth. Everything's a struggle. The Spirit wants us to attend church and be active in church life. Use your spiritual gifts, have a ministry. So, simply just going to church can be a war for some people. Just going to church, and you know you want to be there but there's just that desire for maybe a day off, it won't matter... And you're at war. It's going all the time. The Spirit wants us to be generous with our money and give to the church, and give to missions, and give to the poor and needy, and he wants us to do that but the flesh wars against it and stops it.
Conversely, the flesh, as I said, has a program for you as well. Read about it in verses 19-21. That's what the flesh wants, and the Spirit hates those things and wants them all dead. So you may ask "Is bitter warfare guaranteed for the rest of my earthly life?", what is the answer? Yes. Absolutely. The only way to escape it is to be taken out of this world by Jesus, either by death or the second coming, that's the only way your warfare will end. It says it right there, "They are in conflict with each other so that you do not do what you want," so you've got to battle. And so as it is, while we live, we will always be deeply conflicted and deeply divided. Look what it says at the very end of verse 17, it says they are in conflict, the flesh and the Spirit are in conflict with each other so that you do not do what you want. So I've just taken that, I'm going to absolutize it.
Christians are never wholehearted in anything we do, ever. We don't wholeheartedly serve God, and we don't wholeheartedly sin, ever. It's true. There's something holding you back at every moment when you're serving Jesus. It's like running through waist-high water with a parachute behind you. Or like, for me yesterday on my bike ride, riding for at least 4/5th of that ride though, I was on a circular route, I know I went uphill out and uphill on the way back. And you think "How can that be?" I don't know, but it was, I'm sure of it. The wind was in my face like 80 percent of the time. And I'm very competitive with myself, not with anyone else. Don't any of you really expert riders come and want to take me on. You'll win, I'll lose, I don't care, I don't care. But, I compete against myself with this little bike computer, and I'm thinking "This is pathetic." But I know it's because of the head wind. Every stroke, left right left right is opposed by the head wind, it was a strong wind yesterday. I knew it would be too, because I saw the flag on that Free Will Baptist church at the end of the road right before I turned. Anyway, it was perpendicular, I was like "Oh Lord." So just terrible. And it's in your face.
That's what it's going to be like the rest of your life. It will never be easy to serve God, and I don't think it's meant to be. Now occasionally, the sovereign power of the Spirit will come on you and move you to do it, and that'll happen. He'll do that, but generally you're going to just feel that warfare strongly. So you're not going to wholeheartedly serve God, and neither on the other hand are you going to wholeheartedly serve sin. You may be watching a movie you shouldn't be watching, or reading a book you shouldn't be reading, you may be on the phone saying some things, disparaging things, and you know you're wrong, and you're violating your conscience, and you don't feel good about it, and you feel sick, and you want to stop it, and that's you're not whole heartedly serving sin either, ever.
So therefore, Christians are schizophrenic and weird in God's universe. We are the weirdest thing there is in the universe, and I'm not joking. Think about it, God is pure light, and in him there's no darkness at all. There's no shifting shadow of change within God, he is one, never second guess himself, he is at one with himself all the time, perfectly one. So also the holy angels, they do nothing but serve God whole heartedly all the time. They delight in anything God wants them to do, so also the glorified saints in heaven are like the angles, praising him all the time. Conversely, Satan is not deeply divided and conflicted within his nature, he hates God and fights against him all the time. He knows what he's about, so also his demons, they're just serving Satan all the time, so also the reprobates, unrepentant serving sin slaves to sin. The rocks and wind and gravity and dirt just do what God made them to do. They're not deeply conflicted. Have you ever seen a deeply conflicted rock? You're the one with the problem, it's not the rock that has the problem. So also animals. The cow chews it's cud, it's not deeply conflicted. Dogs do whatever they do. Cats, I guess squirrels are different. You know when they're crossing in front of you and go back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and back and forth? And you're just about to kill them and they don't know what direction, they're deeply conflicted. But everyone else, they just do their nature. We're weird, we are weird. We are strange.
But thank God it's only temporary, amen? Thank God someday we will be what we want to be. Someday we will be free. Free forever. James put it this way, with the tongue we praise our God and father, and with it we curse men who have been made in his likeness out of the same mouth come praise and cursing, my brothers this should not be. Yes, but it is. Can the same spring produce both fresh water and salt water? You can, in the same 10 minute span, praise God in a very beautiful way and then say something hard about some other person. Could be the next minute. So we're weird, we're schizophrenic, but praise God the deep division is temporary.
IV. Understand Your New Status: Not Under Law (verse 18)
So therefore, what is the key? Verse 18, understand your new status, we're not under law, but under grace. If you're led by the Spirit, you're not under law. There's a whole new status, and I covered this two weeks ago in the sermon on the law, basically the law as perfect standard: FBI, District Attorney, convicting judge and executioner. Those days are over, amen? The law will not do that for you anymore. The law will not condemn you and send you to Hell. That's what it means, you're not under law. We're in a whole new status. We're now led by The Spirit in a whole new way of life, instructed by The Spirit we understand God's law. Transformed by The Spirit, we delight in God's law. Empowered by the Spirit, we obey God's law. We're not under law now. Instead, we're led by the Spirit. So how can we win? How will we wage war and win, led by the Spirit? What do we do? Look again at Romans 8:13-14. "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." Now here when I talk about being led, I'm not talking about, I felt led to take this Job, or I felt led to marry this person, I felt led to go on this mission trip. It's not that. It's he's leading you to put sin to death that's the leadership we're talking about here, mortification.
V. Wage War God’s Way: Led by the Spirit (verse 18)
And so I'm going to lean on John Owen here as I wrap up. You just want to know how am I going to win. John Owen was a 17th century Puritan Theologian, wrote some great things on the mortification of the flesh. Mortification, putting sin to death. He says, "You have a responsibility, if you by the Spirit…" So you have a responsibility. Own your responsibility." And he tells you how you're to do it. "If you through, or by the Spirit, put to death, the deeds of the body, you will live." The outcome is you will live. You'll have eternal life. So Owen says this, "The choices believers who are suredly free from the condemning power of sin, ought to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin." And he said this, "The vigor and power and comfort of our spiritual life depend on the mortification of the deeds of the flesh." Let me say that in simpler language. The health and power and joy and assurance that you want in your Christian life, are directly dependent on how well you put to death sin by the Spirit. Turn it around. The more poorly you put to death the misdeeds of the body, the less power you'll feel in the Christian life, the less joy you'll feel in the Christian life, the less assurance you'll have in the Christian life.
You can't sin your way out of the family of God but you can definitely sin your assurance away and you won't know if you're a child of God and you'll be struggling and wondering about it because you've just been giving into sin so much. So you must put it to death. You must mortify. You must make it your daily work. You must be constantly at it while you live and then John Owen said this, "Be killing sin or sin will be killing you."
"You can't sin your way out of the family of God but you can definitely sin your assurance away and you won't know if you're a child of God and you'll be struggling and wondering about it because you've just been giving into sin so much. So you must put it to death."
Now based on a little illustration used, I've liken it before to a fight with a poisonous snake like a black mamba or something like that right? Walking through the jungle and the snake sees you, and you see the snake, and the snake comes at you and somehow you're quick enough to grab it right around the throat. And it is writhing and moving and hissing and you see its fangs there and you know he wants only one thing and that's to kill you. And you're fighting and struggling and sweat coming down and you're just at war with this snake. You cannot get to the point where you say, "Look, snake. We've had a really good fight haven't we? You and me. We've really had an awesome fight and I respect you. Alright? I don't know if you respect me but we fought well. Now, I'm pretty much done. So I would like to put you back on the path and let you go, and let you go to your snake family and snake home and do whatever you do there in your snake... I'm going to turn around and go back the other way. Okay?" What happens when you let go of that black mamba and turn and walk away. It comes and gets you, it comes to kill you. So it is with sin.
Sin wants to kill you. It wants to take everything of value from it. Now it can't kill you eternally, I've already covered that. And you know what, in this life you can't kill it either. You can never say of any sin pattern, I know this, I will never sin in that way again. No way. If any man thinks he stands, what, take heed lest he fall, you got to be on your guard. But what you can do, is you can gradually weaken sin so it doesn't trouble you as much.
I'm going to close with a key verse, Romans 6:6. Romans 6:6 says this, "we know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing." That's the key idea there. Rendered increasingly powerless, so that's the strategy I'm giving you for this, for mortification, okay? You can kill temptations, like Shamgar, you can kill them all. But you can't kill the sin that's sending them. Alright? But what you can do is weaken it. The longer you put between yourself and the last time you yield to that sin, the weaker it gets in your life. The longer, the more hours, days, months, years, between you and that sin, the weaker and weaker it gets.
And so Romans 6:6 says, that our old self is crucified. The person we were in Adam is dead in order that this sinful body might be increasingly rendered powerless, so that we might no longer be slaves to sin. So here's the strategy, death by starvation, besiege the sin, okay? Cut it off, of its supplies. Cut it off of its food supplies, cut sin off of its water supplies, make it weaker and weaker. How? By resisting the temptations it sends to you. You resist one time, the next time it'll come a little weaker. Resist two times, it'll be even weaker. Resist three, four, five times, it'll be weaker still.
And little by little it will not have a grip on you like it used to. Now in order for this to happen, you have to be a Christian. You have to be a Christian. I'm not talking to non Christians. This is a family discussion. If you are here and you have never trusted in Christ, you cannot defeat sin. Your task is to repent and believe in Jesus. Trust in Christ crucified and then you can begin your warfare, but before that all you need to do is trust and repent in him. Now, we're going to go to the Lord's supper. There are so many more things I could say, but this time for us to partake. Now, here is the thing the Lord's supper is a means or avenue of grace in this battle. It is an avenue of grace. If you're a believer in Jesus Christ and you have testified to that by water baptism, you're welcome. If you have not yet been baptized to believe, or you've not testified to that, okay do not come. But if you're a believer and you've testified by water baptism, you are free to come, alright? This meal, this Lord's supper has strength in it, if you feed on it by the Spirit you'll be strengthened for your battle. I'm going to close the sermon in prayer and then I'm going to ask the deacons to come up and we'll partake in the Lord's supper.
So Father thank you for the wisdom that comes from your word and fighting this battle. Thank you for the way that you empower us. God I pray for my brothers and sisters that are here. Give them power to fight by the Spirit. And Lord I pray for any that are here that are lost, that they would trust in you and repent and believe for the forgiveness of their sins. And now as we turn to this time we pray that you would send forth your Spirit we need his ministry with us. In Jesus' name, amen.