Are We Mortifying the Flesh or Fortifying the Flesh?
License to Kill: Romans 8:12,13
“You uncover what is, when you get rid of what isn’t “
R. Buckminster Fuller
The difficulty with the passage before us, is not in its complex theology but it is in understanding the full scope of what is and how we are to rely on God to rid us of what isn’t
We review what we have learned so far and we see what a great God we serve…The work of the flesh in me is to present the Word of God in such a way that makes me look good rather than being concerned about showing how good God really is.
In this chapter we can outline seven works of the H.S….
The one we are going to concentrate on this morning is the debt that we have toward God to kill sin in the flesh.
In the financial world, there is a distinction made between good debt and bad debt. Bad debt is debt incurred on consumer items that are liabilities offering no monetary return on your investment.
Good Debt or Bad Debt?
Good debt, on the other hand is debt that offers a return and uses the leverage of debt to acquire assets that continue to produce cash flow over a period of time.
For example your home is not an asset because it costs money every month and may not even hold the value that you originally paid for it. It has an intrinsic, sentimental value but it is not really a monetary asset.
On the other hand, a rental home brings more money in each month than it costs to service and maintain. So such a purchase is an asset rather than a liability.
What we have before us in these verses is a good debt. It is a debt that can never be fully repaid. Yet it will always produce greater value back to us than anything that we can put into it.
In other words, the more that we mortify the flesh, the greater will be our experience of freedom from sin. This deepens our relationship with God
In these two verses, we can see five elements of victory: The power, the people, the privilege, the plan and the passion.
[Rom 8:12-13 KJV] Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
The Power For Victory
Any of us who have been Christians for a while know that mortifying the deeds of the flesh is probably the hardest thing we have to do. This came home to me shortly after I returned home from the Peace Corps. I was saved a little over a year at this time….(Meghan asks me to be her godfather)
One of the conditions of discipleship that the Lord Himself taught is that there must be a willingness to forsake all that we have if we are to follow Him. In Luke’s gospel chapter 14, He says very bluntly that if we don’t forsake all that we have including father, mother, brother, sister and even our own lives, then we cannot be His disciple.
He goes on to ask:
“Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand?”
[Luke 14:31 NASB]
In order for us to gain the victory over the flesh, we have to have the right resources. We cannot overcome the flesh while we are living in the flesh. Humanness cannot overcome humanness. We saw this in Chapter 7 also.
Unless we have forsaken our reliance on the flesh, we will never have the victory over the flesh. We can only have sufficient power if we are reliant upon the Holy Spirit. Defeat will come only if we fail to appropriate the power that is now resident in us.
How do we appropriate that power then?
Comparing Eph 5:18 with Col 3:16 we see the same results come from “be being filled with the Spirit” and from ‘letting the Word of God dwell richly in our heart” So the filling or the control of the Spirit comes as we learn to apply the Word of God to our lives.
Now it is obvious that merely reading your Bible and knowing the Word of God is not enough any more than possessing a sword or a gun is enough to defeat an enemy. We must know how to use it and this takes practice.
There is no magic spell, no instant wave or rush of power, no ecstatic utterance or ‘being slain in the Spirit’ that gives us the victory. It is a methodical process of failure and restoration that brings us to a place of victory over the flesh. Nor is it a one time occurrence, the flesh just keeps coming at us. (like a video game…or like the Normandy invasion, if you don’t persevere, you will lose)
Paul uses the term ‘brethren’ here to give us a sense of our camaraderie in the struggle. We all face the same foe to varying degrees. So there is a comfort in knowing that we are not alone in this battle. It is not helpful for us to be critical of one another when we fail.
On the other hand we can rejoice with those who do rejoice at any victory over the flesh because it is only the brethren who know the struggle. Too much of church experience is maintaining a facade of righteousness rather than sharing the Word of God with one another in a way that fortifies rather than tears us down.
The Privilege For Victory: Mentorship of the Spirit
This is why Paul then gives us the privilege of victory when he writes that we are not obligated to the flesh. We don’t need to feel guilty about not fulfilling every demand that the flesh puts on us. “You should be more like…”, “You musn’t be like…”, “You will never be happy unless you have…”
Rather, we have the privilege of being gently tutored by God Himself in the person of the Spirit of God. He starts us in the place of no condemnation where the un-winnable war between ourselves and God is over and puts us in the place of training and correction where we can know victory in the battle over the flesh.
We exercise the privilege of priesthood that gives us immediate and unfettered access to God. We find in that nearness to God an increasing desire to know Him more and know less of this world.
We become less like the 8 spies that came back from the land of Canaan with their reliance on the flesh wanting them to return to bondage in Egypt…and we become more like Joshua and Caleb who relied on God to make good on His Word.
The Plan For Victory: Kill it
We owe the flesh nothing.
The way of death and defeat is reliance upon the flesh. The evidence of life is the presence of power to say no to the flesh and yes to God. In other words, we live to do what God wants rather than what the flesh wants.
Our problem is that we each have pet sins that we cling to. We kill much but we save a little of the flesh back for ourselves. Like Saul who failed to destroy everything like God commanded. He kept back part for himself with the excuse that it would be used in worship. Yet this was unacceptable worship.
We cannot offer God corrupt flesh in place of obedience to His Word. “To obey is better than sacrifice and to hearken than the fat of rams” We will never know God’s power over the flesh until we stop polluting our worship with it.
In 1 Kings Solomon dedicates the temple with the instruction that when things start to go south, then every person needs to face up to God and know the plague of his or her own heart and look to God for forgiveness.
Too often our remembrance of Christ’s death is accompanied by the guilt of unconfessed and unforsaken sin. We harbor resentments, we harbor lusts, we harbor pride. In so doing, our worship is drowned out by the bleating of sheep from the flock of a defeated enemy.
This heart work is hard work…but only because we have such deep rooted reliance on the flesh. We have confidences in the flesh that we are not even aware of until the Spirit of God reveals them to us. Too often we ignore the promptings of the Holy Spirit and we grieve Him by trying to will ourselves to be better Christians and offer our efforts rather than the affections our heart back to God in worship.
So here is our Action plan for decreasing our self reliance:
Be Honest With God
[Psa 139:23-24 KJV] Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: 24 And see if [there be any] wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Be Steadfast Toward God
[Psa 57:7 KJV] My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise.
Be Diligent in the Study of God
[Psa 119:11 KJV] Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
Be Persistent in Communion With God
[Mat 26:41 KJV] Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed [is] willing, but the flesh [is] weak.
Be Obedient By The Power Of God
[1Pe 1:22 KJV] Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, [see that ye] love one another with a pure heart fervently:
Here is our motivation to war with the flesh, our passion for victory over our flesh…it is to avenge that which is opposed to God…to avenge that which is responsible for the death of Christ.