Romans 8:12-13(NKJV) 12Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
The key to successful Christian living is to learn how to walk in the spirit. That simply means to live with our inner man in control as opposed to living with our flesh or our intellect in control. If we can do that we will naturally live in a way that is pleasing to God. We will find his will and purpose for our lives and fulfill the destiny he has for us. We will also have access to faith and the power of God to meet every need that comes our way. That is why Paul tells us in Hebrews 4 that we should make this the point of our Christian labor.
This week we have looked at the problem of how to control our flesh while we are growing in the walk of the spirit. We have focused on a number of things Paul tells us in Romans 8:9-13. To begin with, we must remember that the New Birth is real and causes us to be alive in the spirit. We must remember that Jesus experienced death for our sin. Therefore, we can see ourselves as dead with that death to sin, and alive with his resurrection to God. We must also remember that the spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is in us and that he will give life to our mortal bodies.
Yesterday we focused on the verses above and realized that we do not owe the flesh anything. It is so interesting how the flesh screams at us to feed it, entertain it, and give it everything it wants. What has the flesh done for us to deserve the attention it demands? It has gotten us in trouble, it has brought things into our lives that we could not get rid of when we wanted to. It has made us lazy, fat, selfish and destined for hell. I do not owe my flesh anything.
I do owe the Spirit. The realm of the Spirit is where God lives. It is where all he has given me comes from. It is where all the peace I will ever have resides. It is the source of joy. It is the place from which I draw strength to live today and it is the source of eternal life. I owe the spirit everything. If I never have anything here in the flesh, it only matters a few short years. What I have because of the spirit will be with me forever.
Just meditating on that will change how you deal with your flesh. If you are truly born again understanding what you owe Jesus and cultivating that knowledge in the midst of trial and temptation will help you overcome. However Paul takes it a step further.
We have focused in our study on the natural changes that come as we grow in walking in the spirit. I believe the goal is to come to a place where it is no longer necessary to struggle against our flesh all the time. I believe if we make a commitment to the Word of God and to the ministry of the Holy Spirit we will come to a place where there is very little struggle against sin. However, we will never get there if we simply allow sin to reign unchallenged in our physical life.
Sin robs us of our sense of God’s presence. It sets in motion things that will pay dividends we do not want to receive. Most of all it feeds the parts of our being that we are trying to change in order to learn to walk in the spirit. The end result we are looking for is a natural flow that will simply keep us from sin, but we cannot build that if we do not challenge and resist the sins that are in our lives now. (Hebrews 12:1-3) We owe this to God.
Look at Paul’s words from Romans 12.
Romans 12:1(KJV) 1I 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.
What should we do if we owe the spirit so much and owe the flesh nothing. Today’s verses say we should live according to the spirit. In Romans 12 it says we should present our bodies as a living sacrifice which is our reasonable service. It is reasonable to pay the debt we owe in the only way possible. We should conduct our lives focused on the spirit not the flesh.
What does this mean. It means we make choices to do the things that will strengthen and develop our spirit not our flesh. We choose to go to church not stay home. We choose to make time for prayer and reading the Bible. We choose to praise and worship God even when we do not want to. These things are not unreasonable they are reasonable.
We choose not to do sinful things. We choose not to listen to things that draw us away from God. We choose movies, books, TV and music that will help us grow in walking in the spirit not that feed our flesh. This is our reasonable service.
To live according to the spirit is simply to make a commitment before God that we will choose a godly lifestyle and do our best to stick with that choice. It means to form relationships that help do that not ones that hinder our ability to do that. It means to draw closer to God, particularly when we want to run away. All of this is reasonable.
Your flesh will tell you it is not. Your flesh will tell you it is too hard. Your flesh will pressure you to stay away from the things that will strengthen your spirit. Why will it fight so hard? Because it does not want to lose its control over you future. It will press you with present temptation and past experiences because it wants to keep control of your future choices.
But you do not owe the flesh anything. You owe the spirit.
Making these choices will be difficult. However, like taking physical medicine or undergoing surgery, in the end you will be far better off. You will come to the point where you will not have such struggles. Choosing to live after the spirit will strengthen you in the place that gives you victory. It will eventually free you to be what you really want to be, not what the flesh is pressuring you to be.
The thing is, God will not do what the flesh will do. He will not put pressure on you the way the flesh does. In some ways it might be easier if he did, but God knows that you must choose these things and when you do you will be strong enough to resist any temptation and walk in the kind of victory your heart really desires.
One more thing. Let me remind you again, you will fail. That is part of the growth process. Failing is not terminal. Quitting is. You cannot take your failures too lightly, but you cannot carry the burden of them either. Next week we will spend some time dealing with what to do when you fail. For now just remember that the only way you can lose at this is to either quit or simply not care about the sinful things in your life.
Caring will make you feel guilty. Good. That is how you are supposed to feel. Get up and go again. In the end, since the Holy Spirit is your ally, you will win.