Here is a question. As a born again believer what has passed away and what is new? That’s right, all things. What happened to your body of sin or old man? That’s right again, it died. Are you a slave to sin or righteousness? You got it, righteousness. How about your status, alive or dead? Yep, alive you are. Here is a tougher one. How about your conscious, what is its status? That’s right again, clean. We also have a new spirit and the Holy Spirit in us. We are a temple of God. We have the fullness of God in the love of Christ. The list goes on. I guess we really are a new creation. So what about this “flesh” business? Ever wonder about that? What on Earth is God talking about? Actually the on Earth part of the question is pretty telling.
In previous posts I have talked about flesh as self, self-effort, selfishness, born of Hagar, Ishmael… And now God has led me to this verse: Romans 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live (NKJV). I know what most of us have been taught. “Better stop living by that flesh or you are doomed!” Well maybe not that strong but it was probably something like that. Here is the key word – body. The Greek word used here is σώματος = somatos. It means, guess what, body. But wait, this is going to blow you away. It is from the root σῴζω = sozo. Did you get it? Sozo, to save, saved, John 3:17, Mark 16:16!
God created us with the instinct to survive. That is a protection mechanism, a desire to keep safe. The problem is when we became aware of self (after eating the wrong tree) preservation took on a whole new meaning. It became selfish. Since we are made in God’s image we also have a sense that we are eternal beings. Add selfish preservation to eternal creatures and you get some pretty interesting behavior. When we aren’t born again, our desire to protect, leave a legacy, survive, etc. becomes the very thing that sin is born from. Think of any sin and bet you will find self in the center. But now, as born again believers, our identity is found in Jesus, right? We know with all certainty that God will and does provide for us, protects us, gives us eternal life, right? We all believe that apart from Jesus we are nothing, right?
Here is the Lance Literal Translation of Rom 8:13: “When our lives are defined in human understanding we desperately want to be in control but we can’t save ourselves no matter how much we try. We can’t perserve our body since it will die and cannot be made immortal. We need to knock that off and live by the Spirit. The Spirit gives us life and will put to death those notions that we must be selfish to survive or even be safe. The Spirit gives life to our mortal bodies (v11, a mystery for later). When we live from that reality, our actual identity, we will have a full, abundant and FREE life!”
Check out Gal 5:24 and Rom 8:9 to see we are actually free from the desires of the flesh and already walk in the spirit. Are you ready to die to self(ish) and live His life? You might say “yes” to that question. But how about this one: are you ready to die for Jesus? I mean dead, no heart beat kind of dead. The totally surrendered life says, effectually, that is what has already happened. “It is no longer I that live but Christ in me…” Can you say that? I don’t intend hurt or even discomfort, but ask yourself those questions. We get to die to self, yes get to. We don’t have to be selfish, survivalist anymore. We don’t have to protect our identity, integrity, name, reality or even our very life anymore. God has it all well in hand. Birds and hairs come to mind.
Sometimes the Message really gets it right.
Romans 8:12-14 So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!(MSG)