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Christ’s Victory Enables Us to Take Off the Old-Self and Put On the New-Self

 

 

    

While pursuing the growth of new life, we often lament about the three major enemies that hinder new life growth: Satan, the world, and our old-self.  Of the three, Satan and the world seem easier to deal with, but the old-self just won’t die.  The more you try to put it to death, the more alive it becomes.  It’s like fighting a losing battle.  It’s really frustrating!  We just can’t seem to get rid of the old-self behaviors, put to death the sins of the flesh, and live out the promise of the new life.  In this lesson we will discuss how to face our “inner self” (we will call it the “I”), so that we can be free of the old-self behaviors and sins.  As a matter of fact, Satan and the world use the “I” as their foothold to attack us.   The moment we believe in God, our old-self has already died with Christ on the cross.  Only when “I” succumb to the desire of the flesh, my old-self behaviors will reappear.  Therefore, the “old-self” is not a foe of the new life growth, but rather it is “I” who is the number one enemy.

 

A.      The old-self and the new-self:

If we call the life of Adam and Eve as created by God as “I”, then the “old-self” and the “new-self” are two different manifestations of “I”.  The “old-self” is the life from our parents and is controlled by our sin nature, so the “old-self” is a slave of sin.  The “new-self” is the new life born of the Holy Spirit; it comes from our believing in God and having our old-self died on the cross with the Lord and thereby freeing us from the control of the sin nature.  The new life comes from our being united with Christ (i.e. Christ is our life) and is a slave to righteousness.

 

a)      Before we become believers:

1.      We exist as old-self;

2.      We are enslaved by our sin nature and can’t help but commit sins.  We are all sinners.

 

b)      The moment we become believers:

1.      Our old-self is nailed to the cross with Christ (i.e. our life which is controlled by the sin nature is dead).  Through this death, Christ has set us free from the control of sins (Galatians 5: 1).   Henceforth, sin shall not be our master (Romans 6: 14) and we will not be enslaved by it.  We have complete freedom not to sin.  We become the new-self because God sets us free from the control of our sin nature and we are united with Him.  Being a new-self we should live our life through constant calling on the name of the Lord, exalting the Lord, and looking up to the Lord.  Being a new-self that’s united with the Lord, I can’t sin and will not sin (1 John 3: 9).

 

The reason that a person who has been saved yet still commits sins is because he still lives in flesh (some Bible scholars think that our flesh is weak and is a willing tool of sins).  That is to say, if “I” get into situations and rely on my own ability to do what “I” see fit, rather than to call on the name of the Lord or to exalt him, then I am in fact living in my flesh.  And without knowing it, “I” subject myself to the control of the sin nature (if we don’t let the Lord be our master, then we are slaves to sin; there is no other option.)  Consequently, all the ill conditions associated with my old-self will surface and cause “I” to commit sins.  The underlying key to this condition of committing sins is the choice that “I” made.  If “I” choose to rely on the Lord, exalt Him and look up to Him, then “I” will live to God.  On the other hand, if “I” choose to rely on myself then “I” will live to sin.  Therefore, choosing to rely on the Lord or to rely on yourself determines whether you will live in God or live in sins.  However, despite our fervor for the Lord and our willingness to live for Him, we nevertheless often still rely on ourselves to act thus exhibiting the sinful conditions of the old-self and creating disharmonies in our life.

 

2.      The new-self is a sinner saved by grace (see 1 Timothy 1: 15,16):

a.      God’s way of saving us is through our dying with Christ, “because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.”  (Romans 6: 7)

b.      We are sinners saved by grace: In God’s salvation plan our sin nature is not erased, it is still in us.  That’s why we say we are sinners under grace (i.e. the sin nature is still in us).  It also signifies that because of our faith, the sin nature cannot control us any longer; it is powerless even though it is still in us.

c.       Contrasting a sinner under grace and a sinner that has not been saved:

                                            i.         Both of them have the sin nature in them.  The term “sinners” in 1 Timothy 1: 15, 16 refers to those with the sin nature in them.  In Bible, the word “sinner” has two different meanings under different circumstances: one refers to a person who has committed sinful acts (see Romans 3: 9, 23); the other refers to a person with the sin nature in him (see Romans 5: 12).

                                          ii.         A sinner under grace:  Sin shall not be our master (see Romans 6: 14), in other words, we have the freedom of not committing sins.  “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5: 1).  Only if we indulge in our flesh can the sin nature control us (i.e. we follow our desires, do evils and commit sins; or subject ourselves to the rules of the law, thus unknowingly put ourselves under the control of the sin nature).  After we become believers, though we are sinners under grace but because Jesus assumed all our sins so we are sinners no more (see Galatians 2: 17).    

                                        iii.         Non-believing sinners: controlled by sins, are slaves to sins and cannot be freed from committing sins.  Therefore, they are creatures of both the sinful nature and the sinful deeds.

 

3.      The process of new life growth is to continually strengthen our faith, to get rid of our old-self and the sinful acts associated with it, and to put on the new-self (Ephesians 4: 22-24; Colossians 3: 10).  A believer of Christ though is a new creation but his old-self behaviors may still reappear from time to time.  This is because if we continue to indulge in our flesh’s desires (i.e. to rely on our own ability and to act out our own will) then we are once again subject to the control of our sin nature and causing our old-selves to resurface.  This is exactly what we referred to earlier: the sinful nature is linked to Adam while the Holy Spirit is linked to Christ.

 

B.      The salvation plan accomplished by Jesus Christ (recap):

a)      With Jesus’ blood to pay the debt of our sins and to justify us from the punishment that we deserve.

b)      Through the death of Jesus, God took care of the sins (the power of evil) that were enslaving us.  If we rely on Jesus’ blood alone, our old-self is still alive and we are sure to continue to sin because our old-self is enslaved by sin and has no freedom not to commit sins.  God’s salvation plan not only deals with our sinful deeds but also tackles the source of our sins – our sin nature.  How does God do it?

                                      i.      In His infinite wisdom, God’s salvation plan does not put our sin nature to death;

                                    ii.      Rather, God wants to free us from the sin nature and free us from its control.

                                  iii.      God’s way is: through Jesus’ death and by faith we are united with Him in death and thereby we are freed from the control of the sin nature.

1.      Lord Jesus’ salvation Plan (crucifixion, burial, resurrection, etc.);

2.      God’s salvation plan is not for us to go through physical death, burial, resurrection, etc.  Rather, because we are united with Jesus through faith so that His crucifixion, burial, resurrection, etc. also represent what we have gone through (see Romans 6: 2-5);

3.      Since we are united with Jesus our old-self has been crucified with Him (Romans 6: 6);

4.      Since we were crucified with Jesus we were no longer controlled by our sin nature.  “Because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” (Romans 6: 7)

This is the key to how we are able to be freed from sin: God allows Jesus to die by crucifixion and through His death and our faith we are united with Him in death.  That is to say, I died on the cross by faith and was freed from the control of sin.  “The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.  In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6: 10-11)

c)      Through Jesus Christ’s death Satan’s work was undone; the sins of men were resolved and we have regained what was lost since Adam’s fall.  In addition, Lord Jesus’ resurrection brought us something that Adam never had – eternal life offered by the tree of life – “that everyone believes in him may have eternal life” because “the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (John 3: 15, 6 Romans 7: 4 says, “You also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him (Lord Jesus) who was raised from the dead…”

 

Praise the Lord, when we died with Jesus we were also dead to sins; when we rose with Jesus we belonged to Him.  Hallelujah!  Sin shall not be our master to control our every move and we have become slaves to righteousness.  (See Romans 6: 14, 18)  Jesus Christ is our Lord.  For all believers we share a common Lord – i.e. Jesus Christ (See 1 Corinthians 1: 2; 8: 6); and we preach Jesus Christ as Lord. (See 2 Corinthians 4: 5)

 

d)      God not only use Jesus Christ and his crucifixion to tell us to gain life by faith but also use our “daily cross” to remind us to die to sin, that is, “death is at work in us”, so that our life may grow gradually. (See 2 Corinthians 4: 12)  Lord Jesus said, ”If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16: 24); “for we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4: 11); and “for your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Romans 8: 36)

 

 

e)      Lord Jesus ascended to heaven and sat on the right side of the Father; the Holy Spirit was sent to earth to be with us; and one day Jesus will return to take us with Him.

 

C.      The basis for believers’ victorious life:

 

Through his death on Calvary, Jesus Christ has defeated Satan, the holder of the power of death, and has conquered the world.  Likewise, through his death, our old-self is nailed to the cross with him and we are freed from sin, the power of evil.  Through resurrection, Lord Jesus has become the head of newly created men.  He has been given the authority to rule over the heaven and the earth, and all the fullness of the deity lives in bodily form in him.  By faith, we are united with him; and faith upon faith we are ever more tightly bonded with him.  Because of that we have also been given the fullness in Christ. (See Matthew 28:18; Colossians 1: 18, 2: 9-10)  Not only our sins are forgiven, we can also continually receive from all of his fullness; just as the Bible says, “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.”  (John 1: 16)

 

Therefore, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, his resurrection, and the union with believers through faith are the basis of believers’ victorious life.  On this basis we can defeat Satan; on this basis we can conquer the world.  Likewise, on this basis we can take off our old-self and its behaviors so as to put all our evil deeds to death and to always live out our new life.

 

D.     Why do we often fail to live out our new life?

 

Let’s examine the reasons why a Christian who is truly eager to please God, to obey the law and to lead a victorious normal Christian life, but unable to do so and can only sigh at his constant failures.  (Of course, those who indulge themselves and knowingly commit sins are on the wrong for sure and are not what we are discussing here.)

 

a)      Maybe we don’t understand God’s salvation plan for us:  Often times we are in error because we do not know the scriptures or the power of God. (See Matthew 22: 29)

                                   i.         Right after we have been saved we are attracted and inspired by Jesus’ love and want to do our best to please God.  I have been a believer for many years and deeply desire to glorify God by being a good Christian.  Thus, I have been in constant struggles while striving to reach this goal.   True, after we have been saved we should become good Christians.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

                                 ii.         However, the question remains: what path should we take to become good Christians?  I didn’t have any idea.  I read the Books of Romans and Galatians and even led group studies on those.  Looking back I found it ludicrous that I didn’t even have a clear understanding of the contents of those two books and yet was leading others to study.  For a long time I have been in the state of “beginning with the spirit but trying to attain the goal by human effort.”  Apostle Paul asked the church of Galatians, “Are you so foolish?” (See Galatians 3: 3)  In total frankness and shamefulness, I admit, “Yes, I was indeed so foolish.”

                               iii.         I only focused on the fact that Jesus died on the cross for me but failed to understand that he also made our old-self die on the cross with him.  What does it really mean to say, “Jesus is my life?”

1.      I only cared about how I should “act” to bring glory to God; I didn’t understand that my “old-self” should have been put to death (I have been crucified with Jesus).

2.      I often felt bad about my own wickedness; I wished that I could have a stronger will to be good.  I didn’t understand that “nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.” (Romans 7: 18)

3.      I thought that for my old-self to die I must rely on my own effort to make it happen.  I didn’t realize that it had been nailed to the cross with Jesus when we first believed.  The fact that we exhibit our old-self behavior is because even though we are saved, we are still living “in flesh” and not “in Christ”.  It is not by our effort to put the old-self to death but rather by calling on, exalting and praising God’s name (i.e. let God be the Lord of your life).  When you do that you will naturally experience the death of your old-self.  It is replaced by the life of Jesus in you and eventually you will completely put off your old-self.

4.      God is not telling us to try to be good, rather He wants us to totally trust in Him, to lift Him up high, to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit and let the life of Jesus do the work in us.

5.      After becoming a believer, although I changed the objectives of my ministry, but the source that drives my ministry hasn’t changed – I was still relying on my own effort.

 

b)      The “self-righteousness” and “self-centeredness” of men:

What sin did Adam and Eve commit?  They broke the covenant! (See Hosea 6: 7)  They were self-centered and not God-centered.  Therefore, after committing the sin they didn’t go to God and ask Him what to do; instead they came up with their own idea of using fig leaves to cover themselves up.  This behavior has been passed down from generation to generation that today all religions in the world are practicing the use of self-reliance, individual will power, and personal approach to do good, so as to atone one’s sins.  We, being the off-springs of Adam and Eve, though have been saved are still deeply rooted in self-righteousness and self-centeredness.  Although we may have the knowledge of God’s salvation plan but we often forget it and slip back into the habit of wanting to rely on our own efforts and strive to reach the level of what we consider to be “good.”  Indeed, as it is stated in 1 Corinthians 15: 46, “The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.”

 

c)      Referencing Romans Chapter 7, let’s examine the question of “Why do we often fail when we have all the intentions of meeting the requirements of the law?”

 

                                         i.            The Law

1.      What is the law?  Broadly speaking, it is the things that God wants us to do.  In other words, it is God’s requirements of the world to be righteous.  Everyone must rely on his or her own efforts to meet God’s requirements.  The law is born of the spirit, is holy and good, and cannot be abolished. (see Matthew 5: 18)  If one can obey the law completely, then “the man who does these things will live by them.” (Galatians 3: 12)

2.      No one could meet the requirements of the law, for what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature; and thus all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. ( See Romans 8: 3, 3: 23)

3.      “All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law’.” (Galatians 3: 10“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2: 10)

4.      The function of the law:

a.      Through the law we become conscious of sin (Romans 3: 20), but because we have been slaves of sin so we are unable to keep the whole law at all.  Consequently, the law becomes a tool to convict us of our sin.  (See Romans 7: 14-17, 6: 16; John 8: 34; Galatians 3: 19, and James 2: 10-11)

b.      The law is an intermediate step leading to Christ’s salvation plan.  When an Israelite committed a transgression, in order to remain blameless he had to offer sacrifices. (See Luke 1: 5-6; Philippians 3: 6)  The law is God’s way of dealing with human transgressions until “the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.” (Galatians 3: 19)  However, it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (See Hebrews 10: 4)

c.       The law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. (Galatian 3: 24)  Since the law is to convict us of our transgressions, it will not give us the power to overcome our sin nature and it will also not make us turn away from sin.  Therefore, the law makes us feel hopeless and drives us to seek a way out – that is, the way of salvation and eternal life.

 

                                       ii.            Christ is the end of the law (Romans 10: 4)

1.      Christ kept the whole law: Throughout his entire life Christ was able to keep the whole law.  He was born under the law and yet was without sin. (See Galatians 4: 4 and Hebrews 4: 15)

2.      Christ met every requirement of the law to be righteous.

3.      With His death Christ paid for the debt of our transgressions against the law.  Therefore, when sinners accepted Jesus Christ as their personal savior the law can no longer make demands of them: (a) Jesus Christ had paid for our debt by death; (b) We were already dead, our old-self was crucified with Jesus Christ; and being dead we had been released from the law. (Romans 6: 6 and 7: 6)  The believers are no longer bound by the law and we should not and must not try to be justified or become righteous by keeping the law.

4.      The law of Christ:  Lord Jesus had set a new law – the law of the spirit of life – to govern our heart so that we may attain the requirements of the law.  Lord Jesus completed the salvation plane for us and rose to heaven; our Father God, in Jesus’s name, granted us the Holy Spirit to implement the salvation plan.  Through our calling on the name of the Lord, the Holy Spirit enables us to be born again and to have a new life.  The Holy Spirit also becomes “the law of the spirit of life” in all believers’ heart to anoint, teach and lead us in all things so “that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:4)

Living under law:  relying on one’s own effort and the mortal life to try to attain God’s requirements

Living under grace:  Not relying on one’s own ability but relying on “Jesus is my life” and on the power of the Holy Spirit (i.e. to obey and rely on the Spirit to act) to achieve God’s requirements.

5.      God’s salvation plan saved us from “living under law” to “living under grace”:  Thus, “Christ is the end of the law” has two meanings:  On one hand, Christ ended what the law requires of us and we are no longer living under law.  On the other hand, Father God granted us the Holy Spirit so that the “law of the spirit of life” is working in our heart replacing the old written code; thus enables us to not follow our sinful nature’s desires but to live in accordance with the Spirit and thereby attain the requirements of the law.  Therefore, we are living under grace and God’s salvation plan not only does not nullify the law, on the contrary, it upholds the law. (Romans 3: 31)

 

                                     iii.            The law has authority over a man only as long as he lives. (Romans 7: 1)  That is to say that when we are alive we have the obligation to obey the law.

 

                                      iv.            Now that by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law. (Romans 7: 6)  When one dies he cannot and does not have to be bound by the law. (Romans 7: 2)

 

                                        v.            Our sin nature uses the law to tempt us:

1.      A dead man is free from sin:  Through Christ’s crucifixion our old-self has been put to death.  Sin can no longer be our master or control us.  However, our sin nature will not give up easily.

2.      It will tempt us to live as our old-self:  Although our old-self has died on the cross with Christ but anytime we live according to our sinful nature’s desires or relying on our own will and effort only, our old-self conditions will reappear.

a.      It lures us to commit transgressions against our will.  (We are not discussing the cases of knowingly and willingly committing sins here.)

b.      By holding up the requirements of the law, it entices us to obey the law.  That is, it lures us to “do good and be good” by our own effort, so that we are not exalting God and instead living in flesh.

                                                                                   i.         We are constantly facing the requirements of the law (i.e. the Holy Spirit in our heart is making demand on our new life).  For example, we should keep a fixed schedule for our daily devotion, or we should keep all bad thoughts out of our mind (lust, envy, pride, greed, blame, hatred, etc.).  Every moment of everyday we are confronted with the “should” and the “shouldn’t” requirements of the new life (or the law).

                                                                                 ii.         Whenever we are faced with the requirements of the law our sin nature will tempt us:  It will tell us, “That’s right!  You shouldn’t do this or you should do that.”  Hence we would try to come up with all sorts of ways to meet the requirements of the law, to make sure we steer clear of committing sins.  We even made up rules such as, “Do not handle!  Do not taste!  Do not touch!” (Colossians 2: 21)  And without realizing it, we slip back into living under law.

c.       It’s true, in my heart I like God’s law.  The question is: when faced with God’s requirements of the law, do we rely on ourselves to keep them or do we rely on “Christ is my life” to live our life? (Oh Lord, save me so that I may attain your requirements!)  Our failure is that we insist on relying on our own ability and will to act.  Our old-self has been crucified with the Lord so we are dead to the law.  We are apart from the law.  So if we continue to insist on obeying the law then we are living according to the flesh.

d.      The moment we live in the flesh our sin nature springs to life again.  (Note that our sin nature was never put to death, when we were united with Christ in death it was out of commission, in idle.  But now that we are living in flesh so our sin nature becomes active again.)  Right away, we are enslaved by sin and can’t help but commit transgressions.  The end result is death.  Romans 7: 9 says, “I died.” (All my old-self conditions reappeared.)  Please note “death” here means “separation from God.”  For non-believers, faced with God’s righteous law, “death” as a result of their sinful deed means the separation with God and eternal peril (in hell).  For children of God, because of the salvation of Jesus Christ, we shall never perish (meaning not go to hell).  Bible talks about our “death” after we have been saved which means a temporary broken relationship between the Father God and His children (see 1 John 2: 1).

Notice that our sin nature causes us to sin not because it tells us to do bad things rather it uses the law to lure us to do good on our own and thereby tricking us into living in flesh and controlled by sin.  The end result is a temporary separation from God (lost communication with our Father God and has nothing to do with going to hell).  This is what Apostle Paul referred to in Romans 7: 11 and 7: 13: “Sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death….. But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful".”  I believe we all have a lot of these kinds of experiences.  The more we want to do good the more we fail.  The key lies in the fact that “you want to do good” (We should distinguish between “you want to do good” and “you want to be good”.  “Wanting to be good” is right, but how do we get there?)  When you want to do good you are automatically control by the sin nature.  This is why we often fail.  Whenever you want to rely on your own effort you are living in flesh under the control of sin, and you are doomed to fail.

E.      Through Christ’s victory over death we put off our old-self and old-self behaviors:

a)      Review of “two roads”, “two trees” and “two foundations”:

Since ancient times, men have always been trying to do good by their own ways to meet God’s requirements and to be able to come before God.  “But how can a mortal be righteous before God?” (Job 9: 2)  God has paved a new and living path for us: that is by His grace and also through our faith we are able to go before God and become His children.  God prepared this road for us such that we are able to meet God’s requirement through our faith; this is completely different from the path of people relying on their own efforts to do good.  These two different roads stem from two different lives and are based on two different foundations.

                                      i.         Two roads:

Whenever we encounter situations in life, we habitually want to rely on our own efforts to think, to analyze and to deal with the situation.  This is completely different from the road of faith prepared for us by God -- “ask the Lord for help, seek the Lord’s will, and knock on the door of the Lord.”  That is, in all things we should pray and seek God’s guidance.  So the two roads are: (1) By one’s deeds – rely on one’s efforts to reach God’s standard; (2) Only rely on God and not oneself – calling on God’s name and taking the journey of faith to reach God’s standard.

                                    ii.         Two trees or two lives – different lives will take different roads and different roads will lead to different lives.  Only through calling on the name of God and getting connected to the source of the new life, will we be able to live out a new life and reach God’s standard.  If we rely on ourselves then we are in our flesh and will live according to the desire of the flesh.  We will never reach God’s standard.

                                  iii.         Two foundations:

If we act according to the words of the Lord (i.e. follow the will of the Holy Spirit and rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to act), then our action is based on a firm foundation and is eternal.  Actions borne of our own ideas do not have a solid foundation and will not last.

Through this quick review of the “two roads”, “two trees” and “two foundations” it should be clear to us that the act of putting off our old-self and old-self behaviors has to come from our new life.  It will never come as a result of our own “efforts, thinking or analyses.”  Rather, we must walk on the road of “faith, call on the name of God and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”

 

b)      Not under law but under grace:

The law is holy, good and just.  It is absolutely correct and its standard must be upheld without question.  Sin uses this very fact to lure us to obey the law.  The end result is that not only we fail to reach the requirements of the law but also causing us to be frustrated about our failures.  It is because we alone can never meet the requirements of the law that God set up His salvation plan to enable us to attain the requirements by living under grace (instead of living under law).  It is indeed a wonderful salvation!

                                      i.         Not under law:

1.      What is the righteousness of God?  What is under law?

The righteousness of God is God’s requirement of righteousness for all of us as expressed by the law.  To be under law means to rely on one’s own effort to achieve the requirement of the law.

2.      Due to our weakness caused by the sinful nature, the law is powerless to compel us to obey its requirement.

3.      Thus God set up the salvation plan so that the “righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known.” (Romans 3: 21)

4.      God set up the way for us to be justified by faith: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.  God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.  He did this to demonstrate his justice.” (Romans 3: 23-25)

5.      “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe, there is no difference.” (Romans 3: 22)  God did this to demonstrate that he is just and that He is the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (see Romans 3: 26)

6.      We have nothing to boast because “a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.” (Romans 3: 28)  “A man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.  So we, too, have put our faith in Christ that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.” (Galatians 2: 16)

7.      I am not under law (Romans 6:14); I died to the law. (Galatians 2: 19)

 

                                    ii.         Under grace:

1.      God enables us to be united with Christ through faith.  God’s salvation for us is a total salvation for he himself bore our sins so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness. (see 1 Peter 2: 24“Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (see Romans 6: 11)

2.      God not only freed us from the law (we died to the law) but also called on us to belong to Lord Jesus Christ who was raised from the dead. (see Romans 7: 4)

3.      Through faith we are united with Christ, Christ is our life (Colossians 3: 4):  We belong to Christ.  It is because of God that we are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. (see 1 Corinthians 1: 30)  God not only gave us the blood of his son, he gave us his son, all of him.  Christ is our life, he is all we have.  Hallelujah, glorious is God’s salvation.  For “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2: 20)  Through the life of our risen Lord, God himself enables us to attain the requirements of God.

4.      Indwelling of the Holy Spirit: Lord Jesus rose to Heaven and seated on the right side of Father, who sent Holy Spirit to dwell in the hearts of all believers.  Though in heaven, Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit dwells in us.  The Holy Spirit sent to us by our father God is full of heavenly wisdom and power, he guides our inner life according to God’s will.

 

                                  iii.         What does it mean to be “not under law” in our everyday life?

1.      We have said many times that “not under law” means to not rely on one’s own efforts to achieve the requirements of God’s law.  If the law is the righteous requirements of God for us then not under law means to stop trying to use one’s own efforts to please God.  Whenever we rely on our mortal body to please God, we put ourselves under law.

2.      Christ is our life.  He guides us to meet God’s requirements from within us.  On my own, I can’t satisfy the requirements of the law; however, with Jesus’ life in me I certainly will be able to please God in what I do.  Sitting on the throne, God is the law giver while Christ’s life in us is the law keeper.  Thus, God established the law and He himself follows the law; God issues demands and He himself fulfills them.

3.      We must totally give up on the idea of trying to rely on our own efforts to please God.  In our daily life, we often struggle trying to overcome sins on our own and of course we are sure to fail in the end; prompting us to sigh and say, “why am I so weak?”  When we sigh like that, it indicates we are relying on ourselves to conquer the sin.  It shows that we are not yet weak to the point of realizing that we are totally hopeless and cannot do anything on our own.  God allows us to experience many failures until we finally realize and admit that we can’t do it then His work in us is done.  Only when we say to the Lord, “I’m finished, I can’t do anything; my only option is to trust and rely on you to do everything in me.  I’ve given up trying to do it myself,” then He will show up.  When we encounter major crises in our life and are at our wit’s end; we are so desperate that the only thing we can do is to pray and often times, just like that the situation is resolved and peace and joy fill our hearts.  On the other hand, we often neglect to pray over our daily inconsequential things and instead relying on our own ability to deal with them resulting in arguments and disharmonies and of course, no peace and joy in us.

 

c)      Under Grace – follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit – take off the old-self and the old-self behaviors.

                                   i.            taking off the old-self behaviors and putting to death the evil deeds of the flesh are two aspects of the same thing.

                                 ii.            Jesus Christ and him crucified is the foundation of “following the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”

1.      Only after Jesus was crucified, resurrected, rose to heaven and seated on the right side of God the Father that God sent the Holy Spirit to earth to implement the salvation plan.

2.      The Holy Spirit indwells in the hearts of all who believe in the Lord.  When we believe, we are united with the Lord in status.  Because we believe Jesus was crucified for us and we also died with him; thereby we were raised with the Lord and received new life, became new men.

3.      The Holy Spirit indwells us and guides our inner life to do God’s will.  Through our trusting and obeying the Holy Spirit, more and more God leads us to rely on and look up to Jesus.  So that in us, the Lord will become greater and “I” become less.  Like Jesus said, “whoever loses his life for me will find it;” we can truly and gradually put off our old-self if the Lord is in us.  The more we are united with the Lord in death, the more we are united with him in resurrection, and with that we will gradually shed our old-self and old-self behaviors.

                            iii.            “Live in accordance with the Spirit” and “live by the Spirit” are mentioned in Romans 8: 5 and Galatians 5: 16, respectively.  “In accordance with the Spirit” means to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit and “by the spirit” means to obey the will of the Holy Spirit.  They essentially have the same meaning. 

1.      Live by the Spirit – i.e. to live by “the law of the Spirit of life”

We have repeatedly discussed the consequences of living by the Spirit – having inner peace as well as outward harmony with others.  The Book of James refers to the guidance of the Spirit as “the wisdom that comes from heaven” and 1 Thessalonians 5: 19, 21 say, “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire.  Test everything.  Hold on to the good.”  James 3: 17-18 say, “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.”  Colossians 3: 15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.”  We can summarize as follows:  To live by the Spirit means, under the principle of being pure (i.e. not against the truth), act in accordance with what brings peace in our hearts and harmony with others.  When we do that, of course, the end results will be peace and harmony.

2.      Live by the Spirit, rid the desires of the sinful nature and put to death our evil deeds:

A.      Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires.  This is referring to those who have been saved but still live as sinful men.  To have one’s mind set on something means to focus one’s attentions on something.  If a man lives according to the sinful nature then his attention is focused on the desires of the sinful nature.

a)      A sinful mind leads to death.  “Death” here means temporary separation with God; no peace and no joy.

b)      The sinful mind is hostile to God (Romans 8: 7):  “The sinful mind is hostile to God.  It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.  Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” (Romans 8: 7-8)  Therefore, if one wants to live in accordance with the Spirit, it is impossible for him to live according to the sinful nature at the same time.  These two paths are in direct opposite, hostile to each other.  A person who lives according to sinful nature has his mind set on “himself”.  He is sure to be self-centered.

B.      Those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  In accordance with the Spirit means to focus one’s attention on what the Spirit desires and will lead to peace in life.

a)      For those of us who are saved, we are no longer of the flesh but of the Spirit.  But there are two possible situations that can cause us to live by our sinful desires.  One is that we are Christians who do not seek to grow our new life and still act according to our own ways and desires like the non-believers.  The other is that we try too hard to be good Christians but end up being Christians living under law.  The law can cause us to live in sin.  However, because we are of the Spirit so inside us there is a battle: “the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.” (Galatians 5: 17)

b)      Those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the spirit desires.

We all have the free will to choose whether to live in accordance with the Spirit or to live according to the sinful nature.  The Holy Spirit inspired Apostle Paul to write out God’s will: “Live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Galatians 5: 16)  We must have a firm resolution that we want to please God; and also we should not rely on our own effort to do good; rather we should live in accordance with the Spirit.

c)      Although you may be controlled by the sinful nature, “but if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.” (Romans 8: 10)  That is to say, after we are saved and born again we have a new life and our spirit is alive; however, our body through the sin nature is controlled by sin thus our actions are hostile to God and our body is dead.  (A quick review of what we learned before:  To a born again believer what is the meaning of this death?)

Ever since our birth, we have been in Adam, therefore we were dead in our transgressions and sins.  But because of the salvation of Jesus Christ we are born again and made alive in Christ. (see Ephesians 2: 1)  To be born again means our spirit is made alive or our spirit is saved.  As for our body, because it was controlled by sin for long periods of time and became the instrument of sin; it is full of old-self behaviors and evil deeds.  So our body is hostile to God and is separated from God.  Here we talk about “the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness,” meaning after we become believers, for sure our spirits are saved.  But if we live according to the desires of our sinful nature (regardless whether it’s doing whatever you like or putting yourself under law) then we are still controlled by sin.  Our body and behaviors, being controlled by sin, are contrary to God because they are self-centered, not pleasing to God and hence our relationship with God is broken.

d)      The Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead – is the Holy Spirit.  Since Lord Jesus came to this world (the word became flesh), the Holy Spirit has been guiding him all his life until he was crucified, and then the Spirit raised him from the dead.

e)      He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. (Romans 8: 11)

                                                                                         i.            The Holy Spirit came to realize in us everything about Jesus.

                                                                                       ii.            That is to say, the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead will also raise us from the dead.  He has caused not only our spirit’s revival (i.e. rebirth) but also our bodily revival – as is written in Romans 8: 11, “…… will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.”

                                                                                     iii.            “Give life to your mortal bodies” has two meanings: (1) In our present life’s growth process, our bodies from being the instruments of sin gradually become the instruments of righteousness and eventually bear fruits (i.e. the deeds of faith) for God.  (2) When the Lord returns, our bodies will all be revived.

 

C.      How can our present mortal bodies be revived to become the instruments of righteousness?

The moment we become believers, it is an objective fact that God’s salvation is in effect in us: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5: 24)  Although we have the status of being crucified with Jesus but in reality we are still teeming with old sinful nature and evil deeds (our biggest sin is our self-centeredness), and is against God.  This is what we discussed earlier – “your body is dead because of sin.”  God’s perfect salvation plan is to save us from the consequence of sin through “living by the Spirit” instead of “living by the sinful desires”, thereby reviving our dead sinful bodies.

a)      God allows us to actually experience the crucifixion of our old-self with Him through our “living by the Spirit.”  In other words, through the repetitive process of following the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our daily life, our old-self is being put to death and being put off gradually.  We must distinguish the three different kinds of “death” mentioned in the Book of Romans.

The first kind of death is the result of sins and transgressions.  This occurs when one is controlled by sin and is a slave of sin.  This death means forever separated from God or forever death – forever perish in hell.  The body of such a person may still be alive but he is dead to God.

The second kind of death refers to one who has been saved, reborn and crucified with Christ, in other words he is dead to sin (or his self-life is dead.)  This death releases him from sin, “because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.”  Such individual is alive to God or through his being united with Jesus in death and has crossed over from death to life. (see John 5: 24)

The third kind of death refers to one who was saved and reborn but still lives according to the sinful nature.  When we do that, we will unknowingly slip back to being controlled by sin resulting in this kind of death – meaning a break in the Father and son relation. (see 1 John 1: 3, 6, 7; 2: 1,2)  It has nothing to with hell.  This death is also referred to by the following verses: “I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.” (Romans 7: 10“The mind of sinful man is death.” (Romans 8: 6 “But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.” (Romans 8: 10)

b)      The path God chooses for us is to live by the Spirit so that we are not controlled by sin and not indulging in sinful desires.  Galatians 5: 16 says, “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”

c)      Through living by the Spirit God saved us from “under law” to “under grace” so that we are not controlled by sin.  Galatians 5: 18 says, “…if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.”

d)      The path of living by the Spirit is completely different from the path of living by the sinful nature.  To live by the Spirit is to be united with the Lord; to live by the sinful nature is to be controlled by sin.  Thus, God’s way is through our living by the Spirit, he moved us from under law and freed us from sins; thereby we may put off our old-self, our old nature and our old behaviors.

e)      Live by the Spirit and put to death the misdeeds of the body:  Because of our living according to the Spirit, our old nature, old behaviors and misdeeds of the body are gradually being put to death as mentioned in Romans 8: 13.  “Put to death” could be interpreted as “cause to extinct.”  If we use a tree as an example to look at a human being, then our sin nature is like the root of the tree, our body (behaviors) is like the trunk, the branches and leaves.  If we want the branches and leaves to dry up and die off then we must sever the trunk from the root.  Then gradually the leaves will dry up and die off.  Therefore, living by the Spirit to put to death the misdeeds of the body does not mean we must extinct every single misdeed of our body by our own efforts.  Rather, it is through our living by the Spirit that we are freed from the control of sin (just like cutting the root off the tree trunk), and our misdeeds will gradually become extinct.  If we are not freed from the control of the sinful nature, then we can never shed our old nature or the corruptness of our sinful desires.

f)       The result of our living by the Spirit is not only to get rid of our old nature and old-self behaviors but also to put on the new-self behaviors.  The results of living by the Spirit are summed up in Galatians 5: 22-23, “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  Because of our persistent living by the Spirit we gradually move away from being “self-centered” to become “God-centered.”

g)      The righteous requirements of the law must be fully met in us – not through our own efforts or struggles, rather through our living by the Spirit (i.e. to live under the law of the spirit of life.)  The law of the Spirit of life has, through Jesus Christ, set us free from the law of “sin and death”, so that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (see Romans 8: 2-4)

h)      Our mortal bodies have been brought to life – Being under the control of sin, we are mortal and separated from God; but now because of our living by the Spirit we are dead to sins and alive to God and become the instruments of righteousness.  Romans 6: 13 says, “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.”

i)        What you sow does not come to life unless it dies – The Holy Spirit raised Jesus Christ from the dead, that is, He led Jesus to death first and then raised him from the dead.  Likewise, the Spirit is in us to continually guide us in real life to experience being united with Christ in death and in resurrection; and through this process the life of Christ grows more and more in us.  Hallelujah, praise God for His amazing salvation.

 

3.      Be on the path of “living by the Spirit”:

A.      We must have a fixed daily devotional time to be with God.

B.      We must have the attitude of mind to stay on the path of “living by the Spirit.”  That’s all you need, the attitude of mind, and nothing else.  However, you should verbalize this attitude of mind, with earnest and urgency, in your prayer to God.  The mighty power of God will surly answer your prayer and keep your will alive so that you may stay on this new and vibrant path – the path of living by the Spirit.

C.      Christ is my life so I shouldn’t rely on myself but on God to live.

D.     God causes all things to work together to mold us into the likeness of His Son, Jesus.

We must acknowledge God’s sovereignty – know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.  In order to be able to acknowledge God’s sovereignty, we should always practice (especially when we encounter difficult situations) using a triumphant voice, loudly proclaiming: “God is the Lord, if it is not his will nothing will happen to me.  He makes no mistakes.  Everything that happens to me is for the purpose of molding me into the likeness of his Son.  God is the solution to all problems; he knows how to deal with the situations at hand; etc.”  Proclaiming with a loud, triumphant voice can elevate our faith.

E.      The path of “living by the Spirit” is the path of “always calling on the name of the Lord”.  It is also the path of “living in accordance with the Spirit.”  “In accordance with the Spirit” means to follow the will of the Spirit and “by the Spirit” means to rely on the power of the Spirit.  Through praying and calling on the name of the Lord, the new life will work in us to enable us to walk on the “path of life” and to enable us to gain the mighty power of the Holy Spirit.  When we encounter God’s demands to us (whether they are from our surrounding environment, from reading Bible verses, or from our own thoughts, all things big and small that happen to us are God’s demands to us), first, we must have a receptive attitude to acknowledge God’s sovereignty; second, we should call on the name of the Lord: “Oh Lord, save me; let me rely on you completely and not on myself.  Let your life work in me to meet all your requirements.”  After we call on the name of the Lord we should not be anxious, just continue to wait on God to act with faith.  God has his own timing; sometimes things will be resolve immediately and sometimes it will take longer.  Don’t jump in and do it “your way” just because you don’t see a resolution of the problem.  For instance, when people don’t understand or misunderstand me then I will repeatedly proclaim “God is the Lord”, “God is the Lord”; followed by prayers: “Oh Lord, you know that I am weak; on my own I would be really angry.  Lord, I can’t help myself, I ask you to keep my anger away.”  Sometimes, out of habit, I would cry out, “Oh Lord, save me, save me, save me, save me from relying on myself.”  Amazingly, God would show me his mighty power at work.  Very soon, my anger is gone.  In this example, if I do not rely on my own struggle to suppress the anger then I am taking one step towards shedding my old-self behavior.  Another example, if I do something well and receive praises I might feel kind of proud.  But I know being prideful is not right, so in this situation what should I do?  Call on the name of the Lord and say, “Lord, I am powerless, save me from feeling prideful.”  It is just that simple.  That’s why Lord Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  May we all hear His voice today, “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalms 46: 10Psalms 147: 10-11 say, “His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.”  Hebrews 4: 10-11 say, “For anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work ….. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest.”         


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