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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
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Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Denying The Flesh
As I laid my head on my pillow last night, my prayer was a breath of concern both about the day I had just had, and again, about the day that may come today. Lately I have been slacking off in my morning devotions, not that it has been a planned thing, but rather that I began to make poor choices at night, staying up later than is right, and suffering for it in the mornings, so that eventually I felt quite justified in sleeping in just a little.

I find and have found, and if I remain dense as I am, I am sure to find again, that once I give into the flesh, I am more inclined to do so the next time; and so it has been now for a few weeks. Like the man who gets on the sled at the top of the hill, he only chooses to sit down the once, and at first he is just barely moving, but as he hits the incline, the downward slide grabs hold, and his choice becomes more difficult to undo.

So it was when I woke this morning, ten minutes before my alarm, and again the same pull immediately gripped me - I could sleep in a bit, just a wee bit, I can in a moment set my alarm one half hour later, and get another forty minutes of sleep, and don't I feel tired? Surely I do. Yet what is this nagging in my soul? Here it is the a thought most unwelcome to my flesh, it is a remembrance of who I am in Christ, and remembering it, my desire to sleep is no longer a carnal just a carnal imperative, now it is a spiritual struggle.

That is one example of how a struggle between the flesh and the Spirit can begin. The flesh wants something (in this case more sleep), and God's Spirit wants something else (in this case, for me to get up). In this struggle something curious happens; I forget that what God wants what is actually best for me. That's the flesh's ace in the hole. If I can ignore the fact that God wants what is actually best for me, and somehow convince myself that the desire of the flesh is superior, or maybe justifiable - or at the very least (in a pinch) reasonable, I can quench the Holy Spirit who is in that moment working for my good.

Now from your perspective, dear reader, it may seem a ridiculous thing (having all of it labeled and laid out before you) to imagine that any right thinking believer would ever deny the work of the Holy Spirit. Surely anyone who hungers and thirsts for righteousness is never going to deny God's work in him... right? Well, the struggle is seldom (if ever) about knowing God's will and failing to do it - but rather about becoming convinced of where the line between the desires of the flesh and the desires of the Spirit is drawn. The moment I -know- where that line is drawn, I am driven in my soul to stand on the Lord's side of it.

The "crucified life" is one wherein the imperatives of the flesh are recognized for what they are, and thereby ignored in favor of what the Spirit commands. Not that there is some little (or big) voice that you hear in your ear telling you to do this, or to do that. Rather it as if God's word echos in your soul in such a way that when you hear the echo, you know who spoke it. Truth affects me in this way, I don't hold onto it as a mere collection of sentences that put together state facts - rather truth informs my soul, and its impression remains upon my soul so that in a moment of decision between what the flesh wants and what God wants, the impression truth has made in me will suddenly present me with a clear reminder of what God would have me do. I don't know that I could explain it very well to someone in whom there is no Holy Spirit - but you fellow Christians (the real ones) will know, I hope, of what I speak.

Thus in any moment where a genuine believer is called to decide between obeying his flesh or obeying the Holy Spirit, and assuming that this person's flesh is as sold out to sin as my own, there will be a battle, as the flesh attempts to cover over the will of the Spirit just long enough to have its way - just long enough to get you on the downward slope.

Christian, forewarned is forearmed. Learn to recognize this struggle, and rehearse this truth to yourself again - if God is God, then God's will for you is not only a command that must be obeyed - it is a command that is entirely for your greatest benefit. It is a lie forged by your deceitful flesh, to think that God's command is a burden, or difficult - the struggle is not really about obedience, it is about trust, when you don't trust that God's way is best, you end up desiring what your flesh presents as a "better" way. It is most adept at convincing you that even if God's long term plan is better than pursuing some short term pleasure, yet there is really little harm in allowing the occasional little pleasure. But, as I describe in the analogy of the slide - indulging even a carnal imperative is to get on a sled that is going against your best interest, once you are on, it is easier to stay on than to get off, and once you break a trail for yourself, it is easier again to walk it - either the one way, or the other.

So teach yourself, believer, to obey the Spirit of God. Fill yourself with His word, and spend time in prayer, do not forget to enlist His help in your infirmities, and wait on His deliverance - but when it comes don't neglect it - don't expect God to zap you, so that you suddenly have [1] no desire to obey your flesh, and [2] likewise have an irresistible desire to obey God. It ain't going to happen. Instead expect that when you ask God to help you He will (in the proper moment) make your path clear to you - and He will expect you to trust Him enough to walk on it.

It really is *that* simple, but it isn't ever easy. We walk by faith, that is, we trust that in a situation where our flesh invites us to walk path "A" and the Holy Spirit informs us that we ought to be on path "B" - that we choose to walk on path "B". If God gives us strength to walk path "B", we certainly don't feel it, so don't wait for some mystical moment to spiritually "urge" you along the right path, you have what you need the moment you see the path for what it is. Now you must choose to walk on it. If you do, that is like investing in God's provision, and if you don't, if you sit there knowing what you ought to do, but don't do it - that is like burying God's provision in the ground (don't do that!)

The key to walking in the Spirit is learning that it isn't some mystical thing, some other-worldly euphoria that comes upon us and lifts us up to some greater spiritual awareness, as though walking in the Spirit were a matter of being conveyed from point A to point B on the wings of divine ecstasy. Hogwash and poetry, that. Get all that gibberish out of your faith as soon as you can.

Faith is a conviction that God's way is not only going to work for you, but that it is best for you. A holy walk begins with a normal, everyday decision to walk in accord with what God would have you do. Your flesh does not, and never will, want you to walk in accord with what God would have you do, because your flesh is spiritually dead. Whatever your flesh wants you to do, be certain that it rises from that which usurps and rebels against life - it cannot be otherwise. Every moment the Christian lives he or she stands between life and death and every choice he makes strengthens one or the other.

It is imperative therefore, for you Christian, to choose for yourself in that moment of trial, whom you shall serve. Don't wait to be carried into the right decision by some external mystical energy - instead recognize that the only reason you see the right path is because you are enlightened, now having been enlightened, it falls to you to walk in trust by doing what is required of you. Don't wait for magical waves of energy to overpower you into doing what you know you should do, you have what you need - light to see, and feet to walk.

Finally, for those of you who, although set free in Christ, continue to regard yourselves as being still in bondage to sin, I say your problem is partly a faith problem and partly a theological problem. The reason you don't believe you are really free, is because you have a preconceived (and wrong) understanding of what freedom looks like. Do not make the mistake your desire to sin (which comes from your flesh) for "bondage to sin". That is a theological error. Your flesh will always desire to sin, that doesn't go away, and never will (in this lifetime at least). The man who is being sanctified is not one who is desiring sin less and less, but one who is desiring God more and more, such that his desire for God is better able to overcome the desires of his flesh. His flesh doesn't get any better, it is his "inner man" as Paul says, that is being strengthened.

Listen: if you tell yourself that you are in bondage to sin, when scripture says that believers are not in this bondage, you set yourself up for a world of doubt, and a bigger world of failure, because you will inevitably try and make real what you expect to be there. Either by convincing yourself that your sin is not really sin, or (more commonly) by trying again and again to make sinful perfection happen; you will set yourself up for frustration, and a weary, wretched struggle. Don't go there, and if you are there, get out of it.

Yes, the believer still wants to sin, but that isn't bondage to sin, that is called temptation, we live in carnal tents, and these tents have sinful desires. We cannot be free of these desires until we are freed from this flesh. Plain. Simple. What we have been set free from is sin itself. We are no more sin's slave than Christ is, for we are in Christ. We have been given all we need to fight the good fight, but we are expected to, having crossed the Jordon, take our sword from its sheath, and go in there a'swinging. The victory is ours already, the battle is not there on the field, it happened on Calvary. Okay, that's getting a little too metaphorical, let me make it practical (as my wife always reminds me):

Do this while it is called today, in that moment that you know right from wrong, do what is right. If you tell yourself that you cannot do what is right, name that for what it is - sin, and repent. If you are convinced that you can't repent, talk to someone who has. Their testimony will help you learn that repentance is something you can do, if you are in Christ, no matter how convinced you are to the contrary. Don't walk in the flesh, and justify yourself with the excuse that you are a slave. That excuse will not fly on judgment day, nor does it fly with any mature believer. You are not a slave, you are just waiting for God to lift your hand out of the bowl, and put it in your mouth for you - but that isn't going to happen. You actually have to do some things yourself. You have been given gifts/talents. Use them for goodness sake.
If obeying the Spirit is the ministry of life, then obeying the flesh, in a very literal sense, is ministering death, to ones self, and to others. Death here, is not to be thought of as the *expiring* of life, but as the absence (supplanting/usurping) of life.
posted by Daniel @ 5:30 AM  
  • At 8:54 AM, January 28, 2009, Blogger Daniel said…

    It was a double post day for me. If you are following the series on "double crucifixion" don't let this post cause you to miss today's entry (part XI).

  • At 2:29 PM, January 28, 2009, Blogger donsands said…

    "..there will be a battle"

    And from ever battle we learn of the three fold enemy, the world, the devil, and the flesh. And we learn of Christ's grace, and we learn of Jesus Himself, and become a bit more conformed into His image; a bit more fit fro heaven, and for His full presence, which is what life here is all about really.

    Some great thoughts. Thanks for the teaching from God's truth.

  • At 2:38 PM, January 28, 2009, Blogger Daniel said…

    Don, I am just glad someone read it. ;^)

  • At 3:27 PM, January 29, 2009, Blogger Marcian said…

    In this struggle something curious happens; I forget that what God wants what is actually best for me.


  • At 9:57 PM, January 31, 2009, Blogger Br'er Shaygetz said…

    "...so that eventually I felt quite justified in sleeping in just a little.

    Hmmm, never done that before...yeah, right.

    Thank you for your faithfulness to His calling.

    Blessings, grace and peace, BC

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