Summary: After we come to Christ there are two natures that live inside of us - the fleshly nature and the new life given to us by God. These two natures don’t get along well at all - in fact they are at war with each other. Learn how to wage war against the flesh
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In early 2003 America prepares for war. Troops are massing in the Middle East in preparation to oust Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. Now whether war will happen or whether it is or is not a good thing is not what I’m going to talk about today – so you can settle down. What I am going to talk about is war – not war between nations, but war between natures – namely: the flesh and the spirit, the old and the new, the dead and the living. Like some Iraqi’s going about their business, some of us don’t realize that war is upon us inside of us. But a battle it is – and it must be fought and won with purpose and resolve.
Indeed, inside of us live two natures – before we came to Christ there only the flesh ruled, living after it’s desires – out for self gratification only and incapable of having a relationship with God. When we came to Christ Paul tells us in Galatians 4:6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." So then we have a part of ourselves that is spirit – a part that has a permanent relationship with God.
But when we come to Christ, the body, the flesh, doesn’t go away. It’s not like in the movie Pleasantville where as soon as people discovered “life” that they turned from black and white to color. On the outside you don’t seem any different, at first. So then these two natures have to live together until we go to heaven. But they don’t get along too well. The flesh still wants to gratify its desires, while the spirit wants to draw close to God.
It’s this battle that Paul focuses on in Romans chapter 7. In chapter 6 Paul helps us realize that we have died to sin by putting it to death on the cross of Christ, and that we should no longer offer ourselves as slaves to sin but as slaves to rightness. That is easier said than done – and Paul knows it. So here he compares the two natures and shows us a way to defeat the flesh and give superiority to the spirit.
First Paul sets the stage by talking to the Jews about the law – something they and he were very familiar with.
7:1 Do you not know, brothers-for I am speaking to men who know the law-that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives? 2 For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. 3 So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man.
So Paul uses a practical example of how the law ceases to have authority when there is death. You can be convicted and executed for murder if you are already dead – you can’t be sued to libel if you are dead – and etc.
Now the Jews would have thought that obeying the law meant that as long as I didn’t do anything wrong, I was okay in God’s sight. But Jesus came to reveal that the law isn’t physical – what I do or don’t do, it is spiritual – it’s about my attitudes. Jesus declared that by obeying the law you can’t have a good standing before God – that’s the point of it – in other words – give up on trying to win points with God by obeying the law.
4 So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.
You can’t bear fruit to God by obeying the law – by obeying any law really – the 10 Commandments, or some other moral code. Paul tells us that the fruit of our flesh is sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like (Gal 5:19-21). That’s because all flesh is self centered by nature. To bear fruit to God we must have His Spirit living and working inside us. Paul goes on in Galatians to say: 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law (Gal 5:22-23).