Monday, November 13, 2023

Fit For Duty

"Survival of the fittest" is a phrase first used by Herbert Spencer after reading Charles Darwin's "On the Origin of Species" in which he drew parallels between his own economic theories and Darwin's biological ones, writing, "This survival of the fittest, which I have here sought to express in mechanical terms, is that which Mr. Darwin has called natural selection, or the preservation of favored races in the struggle for life." In Christian terms, in a sense, we can term survival of the fittest as the struggle between the spirit and the flesh. The Apostle Paul reveals a very important point concerning these two entities, "For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish." (Galatians 5:17)

When the Bible uses the word flesh, it indicates the combination of the body and soul (mind, will and emotions). (Genesis 6:3; Romans 7)  Although at the moment when a person confesses Christ as Lord and receives Him as Savior the Holy Spirit takes up residence, many believers are still controlled by the flesh as though it did not die with Christ and was raised up again in Him. (Romans 6:4-5) The problem comes because they have not truly believed in the accomplished fact of Christ's death and resurrection for them. This does not mean that they are not saved, it simply means that they have not acted upon the Word of God and the call of the Holy Spirit to follow the principle of death and resurrection, that is, "walk in newness of life." According to the finished work of Christ, at the moment of regeneration all believers have died and have been resurrected with Christ. Accordingly, it is every believers responsibility to die to self and live to God. (Romans 6:11)

This condition is nothing new to the church. The Apostle Paul confronted this very issue with the church at Corinth, "And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?" (1 Corinthians 3:1-4) We see that the Apostle Paul divides believers into two categories; spiritual and fleshly or carnal. Today, many view the spiritual believer as abnormal or even fanatical, yet he is actually normal. It is the fleshly or carnal believer who is abnormal. The church at Corinth were believers, but they were fleshly or carnal believers.  

When we speak of regeneration, it is a birth by which the innermost part of man's being, as the Apostle Peter says, "the hidden person of the heart" (1 Peter 3:4), that is, the hidden spirit of a person, is renewed, recreated, and indwelt by the Spirit of God. When regeneration occurs, it requires time for the power of this new life to penetrate the flesh and bring it into dominion to the recreated spirit. Therefore, we cannot expect to find the strength of "the young men" nor the experience of "the fathers" manifested in the life of a newly born child of God. (1 John 2:12-14)  No matter how much the new believer may love the Lord or love the Truth, the facts is, he may not understand just how strong his flesh is. So, what are the reasons why many believers do not grow from babes? 

I believe it stems from three main reasons. One is that church leaders (Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, or Teachers) neglect to disciple them properly, that is, "teaching them to  observe (hold fast; continue in) all things" commanded by Christ (Matthew 28:20). This lack prevents the believer from moving beyond intellectual or theoretical knowledge, to experience, believing and acting on the Word of God. Secondly, it may be that the believer has convinced himself that spiritual advancement is not necessary. This is shear ignorance of coming to the reality of "that which is flesh is flesh and that which is spirit is spirit." (John 32:6) Thirdly, the believer is just unwilling to grow in their faith. This is a reflection of one who is stubborn and unteachable. No matter what the case, all are schemes of the devil to keep believers complacent and lethargic. It is not God's intention that believers remain babes "who are tossed two and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting." (Ephesians 4:14) 

Although the Bible does not expect a new believer to be spiritual instantaneously, however, if they should remain as a babe after several years, their situation is sad to say the least. Paul himself points out to the Corinthians that he had treated them as carnal, fleshly, because they were new born babes in Christ, but at the writing of his epistle to them, they should have grown into manhood. They had instead, wasted away their lives by remaining as babes, and were thus still fleshly. Although the church at Corinth was established in a sinful, hedonistic society, it does not necessitate as much time as we think then or today for one to be transformed from the fleshly into a spiritual believer.  It is apparent that Paul thought the same about the church at Corinth.

Two things that are necessary for believers to act upon daily, to break away from the works of the flesh as laid out in the Romans. Paul tells us, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." (Romans 12:1-2) We see what believers are to do concerning the body and the soul, that is, the flesh. This is an act of ones will, as well as the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit. As believers resist the flesh by an act of their will and yielding to the Holy Spirit, there recreated spirit will eventually have dominion over their flesh and the Christian experience will become more challenging and exciting. To sacrifice, means that something has to die, the flesh. To renew the mind is to fill it with the Word of God

If you struggle with the works of the flesh, begin to apply what Paul tells us in Romans 12:1-2 as well as asking the Lord to give you the grace to separate you from the struggles that you face in this life that try to steal your peace and joy. Remember, Jesus said, "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." (John 10:10) So, grab a hold of Jesus, let faith arise, be led by the Holy Spirit, and experience the abundant life that He has given.

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