Classic Christianity – A Closer Look at Faith, Hope & Love P22 (06-08-20)
Now this faith in Christ is in conflict with the desires of the flesh. Do we really realize how wretched we are without Christ? Paul once thought he could obey the law. He thought he could conquer coveting. But he discovered that the more he tried to not covet, he coveted all the more. What is that? The flesh having mastery over you. He cried out, “Oh, what a wretched man I am! Who can save me from this? Praise be to God through Jesus Christ my Lord!”
So what do people try to do to conquer problems of the flesh, whether it be over-eating, drug addiction, bulimia, anorexia, alcoholism, or even to quit smoking? Can you stop? With enough will power and determination, as a non-believer, you could stop the behavior. But even if you did, does it solve the root problem of your behavior? All such behavior has one thing in common, it is sin-indwelling flesh at the core of the problem. Many psychologists are not believers and can only give you a solution from the world, to get you to stop your behavior by disciplining your flesh. The real problem is a problem of the heart.
But what did Jesus say was at the root of all sin? Is it not that sin is anything that does not come from faith? Is that not a heart problem? Jesus said it is not what someone puts in his mouth that causes sin, but what is within a man? What is in a man? Evil thoughts, evil desires, such things as slander, arrogance, envy, and all manner of things, and basically any of that stems from not depending on Christ to meet your real need of life and godliness.
But did you notice this sin-indwelling flesh, this wretchedness, that once you sinned before, the propensity to sin again increases? In your teens, if you kissed a girl twice, do you ever want to go back and just kiss her once and quit, or do you want more the next time. Sin is that way. How is it that a believer can go for ten years free of alcohol, and then a crisis or trigger event in his life occurs, and he gives into the idea of having just one drink to calm his nerves? What can happen and has happened? He gets back into the same problem he had as even a non-believer? What is the solution to that? You are aware of your wretchedness and the solution that Paul discovered is to boast in your weakness that the power of Christ may rest on you. He has discovered that when he is weak then he is strong. Why? He knows and has learned to depend on Christ. He comes to deeply apprehend the unconditional love, acceptance and grace of God in Christ Jesus.
That is why Paul wrote to the Galatians, walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Each person knows his own weakness and vulnerability of his flesh. He knows what things trigger his thinking to go astray. He fortifies himself in Christ, and runs boldly to His throne of grace in time of need, and he has learned to make no provision for the flesh in regards to its lusts. That is why scripture says the just shall walk by faith. We are weak but He is strong.
So Paul said he learned to boast all the more in his weaknesses that Christ may shine in and through him. Recall also that apart from Christ we can do nothing. The more we grow in Christ, the more deeper we come to understand that truth. We were designed to be in a loving relationship with Christ just as He had with His Father as He walked this earth as a man like us. He emptied Himself of His divine attributes for our sakes, though never ceasing to be God. He said, “I do nothing on my own initiative but I do what my Father has told me to do and what He has told me to say and how to say it.”
When Abraham believed what God said in regard to the fact he was to become the father of many nations, his faith in that truth, glorying in that truth, being persuaded in that truth, is why it says “it was credited to him as righteousness”
22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness
How do we get righteousness credited to us? The same way Abraham did, by believing what God had promised.
1 John 5:11
11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
Do you believe that?
1 John 5:12-13
12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
To those who believe, have faith in, rely in, depend upon, persuaded of, in order that you may know you have eternal life. What happens when you believe that? Righteousness is credited to you, given to you, imputed to you. You cannot earn His righteousness. It is a gift from God.
1 Corinthians 1:30
30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness – for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.
Our faith is in the one who raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Jesus said, “when you have seen Him who raised me from the dead, you have seen me. You have seen Him”. It is so simple. It is such a wonderful truth to realize that we have that marvelous privilege of walking by faith in what God has revealed and the ability to understand what He has revealed. That, to me, is the greatest thrill in the world, to know that I have the Spirit of God living in me and who has given me the ability to know the meaning of what He is talking about. I may get in the way of that. I am not saying that I just have everything in the bible understood. There are some things I really do not understand. I have to say, “Lord, you are just not ready to reveal that to me yet. When you are that would be great. In the meantime, I am going to rejoice in what I do know to be true. What I do know and what I am persuaded of is the grace of God given to me in fullness and abundance.”
Let us turn now to chapter 5 in the Take a Closer Look at Faith, Hope and Love series. Let us look at the faith lived out in our personal experience. We certainly read some marvelous examples in the word of God in regard to Abraham and Paul.
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
Once again, the book of Hebrews is talking about faith. So what is the sin he is talking about? He is talking about the sin of unbelief. That which is not of faith is sin. You will have people who will come up and say all lawlessness is sin, and there is a passage of scripture that says that. But what is lawlessness? It is denying what God said. In essence, lawlessness is the result of unbelief in what Jesus said. It produces lawlessness. In the New Covenant, where we are no longer under the law, then sin is identified is that which is not of faith. We get down to the root of that, once again, that the lack of faith produces desires of the flesh.
2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
Who is the author, the authority, of our faith? Jesus. Who is the perfecter of our faith? Jesus. What does that mean? It means from beginning to end, it is Jesus. Keep your eyes on Him. He is the author of our faith, the object of our faith, the perfecter of our faith, and as result of that, we can rejoice in Him.
For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
What kind of joy was set before Him? The same kind of joy that is set before a woman going through birth pains, and going through the torture of having babies. What keeps her going? The joy set before her of a baby being produced. As a result of that, she endures the pain. She endures it. She may, quite frankly, when talking about scorning its shame, when you think about what is taking place here, that is not something you want to see on television. Yet, she endures all those things for the marvelous joy of seeing a baby produced.
Jesus did the same thing. He endured the cross. He scorned its shame because of the birth of His children, the spiritual birth that was before Him. When you look at that, all you can say is, “Thank you for your kindness, your mercy, and your desire to pull us out of the pit we were in and to place us into your hands with the ultimate goal of being in heaven with you for eternity.”
We are going to be talking about faith lived out. What this chapter is dealing with is what are some of the attitudes that come from our faith in Jesus Christ. What kind of attitudes should we have if we truly have placed our faith in the one who loved us and gave himself for us, the one who said “I have given you everything you need for life and godliness,” the one who said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” the one who made all these promises to you? So He says, “cast all your cares on me because I care about you”.
2 Peter 1:3
3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”
1 Peter 5:7
7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
22 Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.
If your faith is on that truth, how do we approach the problems of life? Faith always views problems as an opportunity for us by God. So if I am going to put faith in Jesus, then I am going to see my problems not as a problem, but as an opportunity to trust God. As an example, when Paul was in prison. Those were not a prison like we have today, with television and workout rooms and that sort of thing. You are talking about being stuck in a hole, down in a cave of some kind. It was not a desirable place to spend the night, week or month. In the midst of that, what did he say in Philippians?
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
He was in a hole, in a prison. How can you say rejoice, Paul? The reason he could say rejoice in all things is because his joy did not come from where he was, but his joy came from who he was. So, his circumstances did not cause his nature. They revealed his nature, and his nature was the nature of Christ Jesus. He was participating in the divine nature that lived within him. That divine nature was saying, in the midst of where you are, rejoice again. “Again, I say rejoice.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
That is victorious Christian living, to be able to see the problem I am encountering as an opportunity to trust Jesus in the midst of my problems, not because of them, but in the midst of them. The victorious Christian living does not come from trying to sit around and diagnose your problems. Victory comes from clinging to God’s promises in the midst of your problems.
1 Corintihans 1:20-21
20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.
The world comes to you and says, “Let us analyze your problems and let us see what is wrong with you.” So we get to thinking that and do not acknowledge the truth of God. They do not have a clue that Jesus is your victory and your solution. The world does not know that. So the world comes up with a solution to a problem, to try to get you to understand yourself. So we get into introspection. We begin to come up with all kinds of ideas as to why we do things. Then you have a mother, and that will do it to you every time. We come up with such things as you were potty trained too early and all kinds of environmental things. Identical twins in the same home, with the same parents, the same everything, yet one is one way and the other is another way. We try to understand these problems in this psychological session is built around trying to understand humanity.
13 Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.
14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
What is so interesting to me is what the apostle Paul said, “I do not understand what I do”. If the apostle Paul does not understand what he does, why are we doing trying to understand what we do? But I will tell you what Paul did understand. He came to the conclusion that the things you want to do you do not do and the things you do not want to do you do anyway. That is what causes you to say, “I do not understand what I do. I do not understand me.” So do I need to be psycho-analyzed? No. This is what you need to recognize? This is what your problem is. “What a wretched man I am. Who will free me from this. Praise be to God in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Romans 7:18 (KJV)
18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
In and of myself is no good thing. In and of my flesh is no good thing. I have to understand that. I have to see my own human wretchedness before I will ever see the need to yield to His godliness. If I do not understand the depravity of my old sinful nature, why in the world would I ever want His new God-me? Why would I want it if I do not know mine is rotten to the core? Man has to come to the end of his own self sufficiency. In and of myself is no good thing. Our hearts are wicked and deceitful above all things and who can know them. That is testified in the Old Testament that you cannot know your heart.
9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
And in the New Testament, Paul says, “I do not understand myself”. He never sees what you need to do is go see a psychologist. He says to recognize the reason you do not understand what you do is because you are wretched. The only solution to wretchedness is godliness. The only source of godliness is Jesus.
Now we can identify ourselves without going through thousands of dollars and hours of time seeing a psychologist, who is just as messed up as you are, to explain to you how you are messed up, and drives up a high fee in the process. They go to school to study and are themselves so messed up to cope with their own deficiencies, so they go get some solutions that do not work for them yet they convince you that it will work for you. So off we go, denying what God says and functioning by faith in that.
You have all kinds of things that come up in this world today. We have drug addiction and alcoholism. What is the root cause of that? What does the bible say.
14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” 16 If any man has ears to hear, let him hear.
17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18 “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? 19 For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)
20 He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come – sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”
It is not what a man puts in his mouth that defiles a man. It is what proceeds out of his heart. So do I have an alcohol problem or a heart problem? The world says you have an alcohol problem. Jesus says you have a heart problem. You have to ask yourself, “which is it?” And you have to come to a conclusion on that. Which is it? Does the drug addict sticking stuff in his vein, putting drugs in his mouth, sniffing dope up his nose, or whatever it is, it is not what he puts in his veins that defiles him, it is what proceeds out of his heart. Do you have a drug problem or do you have a heart problem? You can do that also with gluttony, which is also in the lineup of sin. For a person who is gorging himself, like a ravaged animal, that eats and eats, does he have an eating problem? No, it is not what he puts in his mouth that defiles him. It is what proceeds out of his heart. You have a heart problem. Until you come to grips with that and are able to call sin what God calls sin, sin, why then you are going to be buying what the world says, and that is it is just an overeating disorder. God says you have a heart problem. You have a drug problem? You got an alcohol problem? That kind of makes sense. For you know you are drinking too much, or eating too much. That appears to be the problem. No, that is the fruit of the problem. But the root of your problem is your heart.
Now, we are able to deal with the root instead of the fruit. Now I am prepared. With all this stuff, which I do not understand what I am doing, God showed me what my problem is. I need to quit drinking, taking drugs, over-eating? No. I have a heart problem. I am wretched. Until you see your wretchedness, why would I turn to Him for godliness. It does not make any difference what it is. One kind of sin is not worse than any other sin. But just call it what it is. It is sin. I know we deal with things like drug addiction, but I do not see it as drug addiction. I call it a heart problem. We deal with alcoholism, but I call it a heart problem. You can call it an eating disorder, and that is fine, but I call it a heart problem. People involved in bulimia and anorexia, which are labels we put on people, you say, what is the problem? Is the person starving himself to death? No. He has a heart problem. My understanding, at least in counseling I have done, is a control factor. “There is one thing you are not going to control and that is what I put in my mouth.” I am not there to control something. Let the Lord control something. “I believe I need to be so unbelievably beautiful. I am going to be skinny as a rake so my self image will be wonderful.” I do not care how beautiful you are at 15, you are going to be ugly at 95 . That is a very poor way to base a self image.
Every single one of those things are heart problems according to the word of God. Not according to the psychological profession, but according to the word of God, those are heart problems that can only be dealt with by Christ Jesus. When we do not understand that, we are going to spend our lives trying to understand and analyze our problems and never coming to a solution. The only solution the world has to make my flesh to do what I want it to do is to clean up the flesh and discipline the flesh. That is what every solution apart from Christ is trying to do, discipline the flesh to get it to behave properly. You can get your flesh disciplined, not doing them anymore, but without a change of heart, all you have done is disciplined the flesh but you have done nothing for your spirit.
Years ago, before I ever became a Christian, I remember the day I started smoking. I was in Chicago, during the Republican convention, when Eisenhower became president. I was like a freshman or sophomore in college. I never drank and never smoked until that time. None of those things. I was there by myself. I was trying to get into a music gig. I was in the music business at that time. I made a small record. I was trying to get into that show business in those days. I look back at that and think, what was I thinking of. Back then that was exciting stuff. By myself in Chicago, in order, I thought, to look big and tough, since it seemed to work for John Wayne, I went and got some cigarrettes. That was the motivation behind it. That way, looking big and tough, people would leave me alone. It was fear. By then, it was also the fact that everyone was doing it. The popular ones seemed to be smoking, so I thought it was the cool thing to do. I smoked for a number of years. So, there came a point in time when I pitched those things. I was never worried about my health. I thought that nothing was going to touch me. But I read an article about cigarettes controlling you. I did not believe that article was true, until sure enough I found the article was true. I joined a health club. I quit smoking. I was drinking coffee two to three times a month. I quit drinking coffee because, whenever I did, I wanted to take a cigarette. I was not a believer. I quit because I made up my mind I was not going to be controlled by this thing. That was years ago. I must have been in my 20s back then. Today, I am about as obnoxious as you can get around smoke. I wish I had one of these 9-ton fans in a restaurant when someone is smoking in one. I just hated the smell and everything else. In the midst of that, I know full well, that if I ever took a cigarette, I would be tempted to take another cigarette. That is strange to me, as much as I hated that stuff. I know that to be true. I never tasted that, but I have dreams about that. I wake up so mad at myself. I know that to be true. Does that mean I am nicotene-aholic. It is just the awareness of the fact that if I have done something before, then I have a propensity to do it again. That is the way sin works. Sin does not go backwards. In your early teens if you kissed a girl twice, you do not go back and say I will just kiss her once. You are going to do that three or four times. Sin works that way. You take one drink, you do not want to half drink the next time. The same thing with drugs and the same thing with anything. Sin never lessons. It always gets more. That is what indwelling sin is. That is how that works. There is something in my flesh that has the power over my flesh. As a child of God then, I have to look at that and the reality of that and say that because I have done it once, it is in my memory bank, and I could do it again. That is why people say, “I have been freed from tha.” I say, “that is nice thinking but I got news for you, brother, you can do it again”. And many times they do. Many people have. We have people on our staff in that situation, who were involved in alcohol at one time and who called themselves alcoholics. They got sober for a time. They learned the vernacular, worked around here, and then went back again. Why? They do not see the wretchedness of the flesh. My flesh is wretched, and anything I did in the past, I am capable of doing it again. That truth is what keeps me saying, “I am not going to test this.” Why? I know my flesh. It is wretched to the core. If I did it before, I can do it again. So we learn to rejoice in our weakness. Why can I rejoice? My weakness keeps showing me my need for dependency. When we can understand that truth, we do not have to sit around to say, “I need to correct this weakness.” No, I am going to rejoice in my weaknesses and depend on Jesus to control that weakness. It is never going to be taken away. It is in a groove. We control it as we live in dependency. My weakness forces me in my mind that I want to live in dependency on Jesus for when I do not, this flesh will control me.
That is what Paul is talking about.
1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
Shall I go on sinning so grace may increase? God forbid. When you yield your body to something, it will master you. He learned something about his flesh. It can be mastered by sin. My spirit can be mastered by Jesus. Walk in the Spirit and when you do you will not fulfill the desires of the flesh. The desires of the flesh are not going away. He did not say, “clean up the flesh and it will be spiritual.” He said, “learn to walk in the Spirit and a by-product is you will not fulfill those desires of the flesh.”
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.
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