“O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24) How many times have you heard this scripture in sermons that justify the sinful nature of a person? Typically it goes like this: “Well even Paul called himself a wretched man, that he’s a sinner. And if Paul was like this, then what can we say about ourselves?” But what is Paul really writing about here? Is this the condition (the condition of a wretched man) of a person who is born again, born from above? Paul is writing about the condition of war, a condition where you are in constant battle between the law (which is good) and sin (which is bad). This is the condition of a person who is under the law. Christ came to free us from the law and from the wretched state, from sin!
We must walk openly and clearly in our faith – so that everything is crystal clear. It is important to nourish your faith. Here is an earthly example. When a person is dehydrated, he begins to feel ill, he even begins to see unclearly. When he then begins to quench his thirst and drinks water, strength and clarity return to him. It is similar in the spiritual. If some sort of lie lives within the person, he may not notice it, but he will be ill because of it. But when the correct word of instruction comes, he accepts this, and his faith and joy is renewed.
Let us reason what it means to “live by the Spirit” and what it means to “live by the flesh”. How is this expressed?
If you live by the Spirit, how is this practically experienced in your life?
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:1)
For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. (Romans 8:6-7)
The essence of the above scripture is, if I live by the Spirit, then I cannot live according to the flesh. In other words, either I live by the Spirit, or I live by the flesh. Is it possible for a person to be spiritual for half a day, and then suddenly, the rest of the day, become fleshly and an enemy to God? Why is this question raised? Because it is very important to understand: that my faith determines my life. If in my faith is any lie, then this lie can lead to death. Therefore we need to be sober/vigilant in how we walk and believe!
Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?
Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? Either a vine, figs? So can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh. Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him shew out of a good conversation his good works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. (James 3:11-14)
James is writing that it cannot be simultaneously one way, and another way. In other words, it is not possible for a fountain to yield both salt water and fresh water. And if it is a fig tree, then it cannot bear any other fruit but figs. In other words, if I became spiritual, then can I bear any other fruits?
Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him shew out of a good conversation his words with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. (James 3:13-15)
If I am spiritual, then Light will come out of me.
“This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual…” This may sound not so bad, “earthly, sensual”. But further in this verse, it is written, that all earthly and sensual is devilish. So what does it mean to be fleshly? We need to understand this very well, because if I understand this, then I can become free from this. To be fleshly/carnal – is always connected with the law. If the law acts, then whether you want it or not, you live by the flesh! In other words, if I want to be free from the fleshly, then I need to become free from the law. This is clearly written in Galatians chapter 5.
But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. (Galatians 5:18)
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. (Galatians 5:1)
In other words, to be spiritual – means to live in complete freedom, in liberty, to live the way it is in my heart!
But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. (Romans 8:9)
If I experienced Calvary, believed, God came into my heart, then what did I become? I became spiritual, and now I just need to start living in complete freedom, according to the Spirit.
Let’s take an example: A child was born and he was brought home from the hospital. Try to give him now the framework: you can only cry from 9 to 10 in the morning, you can only go in the diaper a certain time of the day, etc. The child will still do as he wants, naturally. A child creates a lot of concern, places the whole family around it, so why not give it a law to follow? But this is impossible to do!
If a person is under the law, then it is always connected with soulful efforts of the person: the person places himself into a frame to please God.
Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. (Galatians 5:4-6)
I became spiritual: I walk and live according to the Spirit. I hear and see in the Spirit. It may be that someone may say that you spoke not by the spirit, for example. If this happens, then, in spite of everything, your faith must be clear and firm: “I became spiritual.” How this occurs with a newborn child – no one will dare say that because a child did something wrong – he is not a person. But he is brought up, instructed, punished, and the child doesn’t think that because of this – he is not a person.
If you live by the Spirit, you have nothing in common with the flesh. It is important to understand what is life by the flesh. Life by the flesh isn’t determined by works – it is a lot deeper. There are only two states – a person OUTSIDE OF GOD – is a fleshly man, and a person WITH GOD – is a spiritual man. To live according to the flesh – is to not have God in you, no matter what good deeds you do! And when a person is a babe in God – he can still express himself “as if” not spiritually, but he is spiritual, and his faith needs to be firm, because he lives by the spirit and in this faith he must always keep himself.
If I only begin to indulge in the thought that “there is still a lot of carnal in me”, then I am already beginning to doubt that Christ is in me. Therefore, there should always be confidence and faith that I live by the Spirit and that Christ is in me.
All of chapter 5 of Galatians speaks of the flesh and the spirit. The flesh always opposes the spirit. To be fleshly/carnal – is a great power that acts in this world. The world lives by the flesh. The religion of this world and politics – the power of this world, also live by the flesh.
So where are those, that live by the Spirit? They are not of this world! Christ did not come to the authorities of this world, He came to the simple, ordinary people. Christ was persecuted by carnal/fleshly people, who crucified Him.
But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the spirit, even so it is now. (Galatians 4:29)
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. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free. (Galatains 4:30-31)
In other words, these two states are incompatible, they will always be in battle between themselves.
If you are still fleshly/carnal, then you need to start from the very beginning, because there cannot flow from one source bitter and sweet water.
Christ is not of this world. No where in scripture do we see that Christ had anything in common with this world.
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. (1 John 2:16-17)
If a person is sincere and honest to himself and wants immortality, he really wants to be with God, he will understand what is in him. He will look into the Scriptures as into a mirror, and he will see whether his faith and life matches!