6 Sept 2020
We have looked at “Born again to run with endurance and perseverance”. It is helpful to recall that “..He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him” (Ephesians 1:4). In Romans 8, the Apostle Paul wrote: “So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For 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” (Rom. 8:12-13). Paul elaborated this in Ephesians 2 when He expounded: “..put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph.2:22-24). Undoubtedly, Christians are called to live the godly life, subsequent to being born of the Spirit, and not to live according to the former manner of life.
The true godly life is not like the morning dew, which soon disappears (Hosea 6:4). Rather, it is like a fountain from which living water flows (John 7:38). It is in fact a life that never dies; it begins in this life and continues in the life to come, where it continues eternally. Those who do not persevere in practicing true godliness but abandon it and become entangled in worldliness again are like a dog that returns to its vomit and as a washed pig that goes back to wallowing in the mud!
There are three spiritual enemies of the believers who seek to practice true godliness: the devil, the world and our carnal flesh, whose wisdom Scripture calls earthly, sensual, and devilish (James 3:15). These are sly, fierce, and tireless enemies who seek to bring frail people to sin at every possible opportunity and to bring them back into the bondage of sin. Our spiritual enemies are always seeking to corrupt us in whatever we undertake or begin to do and in all our endeavours and plans. They oppose the practice of true godliness. If we sincerely desire to practice true godliness, we must pay careful attention to this, and we need to be constantly on guard. We need also to examine more closely these three enemies and be able to detect their presence, influence and activity and to counter them with God’s enabling and the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Carnal flesh (indwelling sin) and its influence on three major areas)
a) The mind
i) The carnal or fleshly mind
Such a mind is set against the wisdom and counsel of God and is described as being at enmity against God (Rom.8:7). It considers the practice of godliness as foolishness and pure ‘madness’ (2 KIngs 9:11; 1 Cor. 1:18). The carnal or natural mind will never accept yielding and subjecting all things to the service of God in order to give first priority to the practice of true godliness. Instead, it devises a certain way of Christian life which it imagines that God as well as man can be satisfied. It is willing to do certain things that God requires but everything that does not fit into its own self-approved program it rejects and considers as narrow-mindedness and ‘legalistic’. Fleshly or carnal people subject God’s Word to their own minds and manipulate it as they see fit, according to their own understanding, instead of subordinating and ordering their thoughts and minds so that they are brought into captivity to God’s Word (2 Cor. 10:5). They learn in vain because they apply their own vain understanding to it (Prov. 3:5). They have the appearance of godliness but deny its power (2 Tim. 3:5)/
ii) The enlightened mind.
The true Christian who has been born again by God’s Spirit and made a new creation receives an enlightened mind from God with which he clearly sees that his natural mind is a blind guide in spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:4). He also sees that if he were to be led by his natural mind, he would fall into the pit of ruin. The regenerate person also sees that man’s wisdom is pure foolishness to God and that we are mere children in the things of salvation. We should deny our natural mind and let ourselves be guided by the Spirit. We will not be happy and blessed unless we follow the Lord’s counsel, for a true spiritual life cannot be modeled after our own insight but, rather, must be formed according to God’s Word (Ps.119:6; Rom. 12:2).
b) The desires
i) Evil desires of the flesh
These are desires which not only resist the counsel of God but are also contrary to the guidance of man’s own mind. Therefore, man, influenced by the evil desires of the flesh, boldly does things that he himself acknowledges to be wrong, evil, unprofitable, and vain (Titue 3:9; Jude 10). Many have been brought under the acute pressure and bondage of detrimental cravings: some of drunkenness, addiction, some others of fornication, adultery, still others of greed or ambition. This happens regardless of whether there is little or much opposition to what they do and whether what they want is just or unjust. Even when there is little or much debate over it being right or wrong, they stubbornly persist and apply everything to pursuing that specific lust. This lust overcomes all reasons. These cravings of the flesh are extremely flattering and continuously press a man to get what they want. They are what Delilah was to Samson, despite his strength. They do not want to be persuaded and are not appeased until their lust has been satisfied. They are prepared to justify what they are doing with their so-called logic and arguments. The person who tries to appease a craving falls more and more under its spell by being drawn daily into satiating it; the more he does so, the more he becomes inflamed with its evil desires (Rom. 1:27). The result is that many souls are mortally wounded.
ii) Holy desires
The true believer, who has been transferred by regeneration into the kingdom of grace and light has been made a new creation, also receives new and holy desires. He gets a taste, so to speak, for spiritual riches. While his heart was once inclined to the lusts of the flesh, the delights of the eyes, or the pride of life (1 John 2:16), he now fervently desires spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 14:1). Above all, he wants to be zealous in keeping God’s statutes (Ps.119:5). He has the Spirit of prayer, working within him whereby he cries, “Abba, Father!” (Rom. 8:15), which helps him obtain many things. Holy desires subdue or at least restrict and weaken intemperate desires for money, property, pleasures and worldly splendour. They restrain the Christian from surrendering to wrong desires and stimulate him to resist evil desires with all his might. He now realises that they can cost him his life (1 Peter 2:11), no matter how friendly and flattering they appear. The love for spiritual riches gradually consumes the regenerate person and puts to death his love for earthly things and fleshly desires.
i) Depraved conscience
When a man acts badly through wrong thinking or the evil desire of the flesh, the carnal and corrupted conscience comes along to deceive him by saying that what he did was not really so bad and arguing that God will not reject him for it. After all, God is gracious. All men have faults, but God is merciful. God gives and forgives all. They further say that they may have certain faults yet they also have certain virtues to compensate for them. They believe that they are not the worst offenders and that God can easily overlook them and save them with the rest because, after all, they are not heathens but baptised Christians who regularly attend church.
This is how the depraved conscience flatters a poor man when he sins beyond measure. It rocks him into the sleep of indifference as if it were reasonably well with his salvation, when in truth it is far from being well. Indeed, a carnal conscience flatters even when it does not instruct others in a Christian way and fails to admonish or comfort where it is needed. It continues to tell the poor man, “Now look, it’s no problem. Everything will be alright in the end; all will be well.”
ii) A tender conscience
A true Christian receives a tender conscience. This makes him sensitive to spiritual and heavenly things (Ps. 119). Worldly people commit gross sins without feeling pain or sorrow (Prov. 30:20) because their consciences are debased and numbed (1 Tim. 4:2). By contrast, the truly regenerated have such sensitive consciences that they feel sorrow over any sin. True Christians are spared from carelessly and callously continuing in sin. When they have fallen into some sin, they have no rest until they are delivered from it. Their conscience is so clear and tender that they cannot bear even the smallest sin.
A tender conscience also allows the believer to experience the deep peace, comfort, and joy that can be found only in working for the Lord and in the development of true godliness. Just as a godly man feels grief and sorrow when he is overcome by sin,so he feels joy and comfort when he has been careful not to sin.
God willing, we shall look at the other two spiritual enemies of the believers in subsequent sharings. The next one to be considered is the world.
At this juncture, it is helpful to recognise that the carnal flesh is a spiritual enemy of the Christian and it can influence three major areas in our lives – the mind, the desires and the conscience and its influence may not be so easily detected and the enemy can use them effectively to ‘destroy’ the believer. Here is a call for prayerful vigilance in the Lord!