22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. Rom. 7:22-25
Even I am surprised at myself. I am very, very surprised at what I see in me. It is as if I am trapped on every side by the flesh. So much so that, in other words, I could only describe myself as a carnal man. The lusts of the flesh are all too clear in my life and they batter at me on every side!
And yet, at the same time, I find myself cheering at the things of the Spirit. When my spirit hears something Godly, it comes alive. It cheers wildly!
I find this juxtaposition hard to comprehend. Is it me who is cheering at the things of the Spirit and at the same time desiring so much the things of the flesh? How can the two things be alive in me? And so, so much like the Apostle Paul here, I find myself thoroughly flabbergasted and distressed by this state of affairs.
But I find also that Paul had an answer to this problem. In verse 25 he says,
“I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord…”
Therein – in Christ Jesus our Lord – lies the answer to this most complex of problems for the believer. In the following verses, Paul shows us that it is through crucifying the flesh. In Romans 12:1-2 he writes:
“1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
That means to crucify the flesh.
There is only one way to defeat the problem of the flesh in our lives: it is to crucify the flesh.
I never truly understood what Paul meant when he described Jesus as God’s “unspeakable gift” to us (2 Cor. 9:15).
But I have come to know its meaning. It is, simply, that the cross (“Jesus Christ crucified”) helps us to live the will of God!
When “Christ crucified” is firmly enthroned in our lives and we are living the crucified life, we will not obey the lusts of our flesh. In fact, we will live in a completely different dimension; a dimension where the lusts of the flesh are alien to us.
I recall there was a time when believers lived this kind of lifestyle. My elderly pastor often regales us with the story of the day when he proposed to his then wife-to-be. She burst out crying, “Oh my God! What have you likened me to? A harlot?”
In her mind, the thought of being with a man was alien. It had never crossed her mind!
Yes, in those early days when salvation was untainted, the flesh never had a chance. The cross was alive in God’s people’s lives. People’s consciences were alive! If someone needed to forgive, the hurriedly did so. They would not accept to live even one minute with unforgiveness because every minute they were beholding the face of God, and how could you possibly behold God’s face with unforgiveness in your heart?
Today, Christianity is largely lived on another dimension altogether. In the city of Dar es Salaam, I know of a preacher who has left his wife and married a younger girl. He is an “apostle and prophet” and he told his congregation that God had led him to do that. He sent his wife and children back home to her parents. And his church is still packed to capacity. I challenge you to believe it or not; but it is true.
In the early days of Christianity, when the revelation of the cross was in the church, such a thing would not only have been untolerable. It would have been unthinkable.
“Christ crucified” is the SINGULAR cure for the contradiction of the flesh and the Spirit in our lives. Because we have been born again, our spirits are alive to God and they desire the things of God. But the flesh, un-crucified, is right there beside us, doing exactly what Ishmael did to Isaac.
28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. 29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. (Gal. 4:28-29)
“Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” (Gal. 4:30)
We are Abraham’s seed. If Abraham had to throw out Hagar and her son, then we also have to throw out the law and sin in our lives.
And so, I have discovered the solution to my dilemma. I must crucify the flesh. There is no short-cut. And there is no middle way.
Have a victorious Monday, everyone!