Saturday, July 2nd. Flesh and Spirit.
Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Titus 2:6
Yesterday, I posed the question, Why do we still struggle with self-control? Once we become Christians isn’t our flesh nature gone? Is my addiction to drugs, food, pornography, self-image, or pride evidence that I am not a Christian?
There are many who teach that we are made sinless and free from our flesh nature when we come to know Christ. There are verses that seem to support this. If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (I Corinthians 5:17). There are however, many verses that insist that our flesh nature is alive and active (Romans 7:18). Furthermore, the New Testament is filled with commands to cut off, put off, and crucify the old flesh nature.
Why would we have to put off or deny our flesh if this has already been done? Why does Paul say, I have been (past tense) crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:20)?
Has God done the work or do I still have to do it? Yes, to both. To understand this, we have to understand that as long as we are in these bodies, we are children of two worlds. We were born once into the flesh life and then born again into the spirit life (John 3:6). We now exist in two realities, the flesh life and the spirit life. That our fleshly bodies do not actually die when we come to faith is obvious.
So we are under the influence of our flesh until we die. We are not made perfectly healthy, skinny and free from disease when we place our faith in Christ. Likewise, God does not make me hate donuts, sex and drugs when I come to him. My destructive fleshly appetites are bound to my physical flesh. I will only be free from the influence of those desires when my flesh literally dies (I can however live free from slavery to those desires).
So what about those verses that say that the old self is gone and crucified? This very real work that has already been done is in our spirit life. The spirit life may seem less real to us now, but in 100 years, our flesh life will be but a memory and our spirit life will be our ultimate reality. In the grand scheme of things, our spirit life is immeasurably more genuine than our flesh life. It is in this spirit life that God sees us as righteous, clean, and free from sin. Jesus death on the cross means that before God, in our spirit life, we are seen as perfect for all eternity.
So we live in two realities. In our spirit life, God sees us as eternally saved and holy. As long as you have placed your faith in Christ, you have a spirit life that the flesh cannot steal from you. The flesh life however, does cause much misery and destruction in this reality. So am I destined to live enslaved to my flesh, failing over and over until I am finally set free at death? How do I get self-control now?Again, this is getting long, so those answers will have to wait until tomorrow.