May 2012 be the year that brings you closer and more intimate in every aspect with God. May the harvest of ministry be exceedingly bountiful and may God bestow upon all of you an extra measure of grace and peace.In a day or two (depending on where you live) it will be 2012. For some of us the New Year brings with it the excitement of something new and a fresh start. For others it is an opportunity to make changes and resolutions, but there are those that are still being held captive by their hurt, pain, suffering, choices, and wide range of other issues or baggage. I would like to think that this only applies to those apart from Christ, but so many of our brothers and sisters in Christ are essentially in the same position. This may be you or me.
What should be our response as Christians?
What is different about us? Why is this so important to know?
What about sin and the battle between the flesh and the spirit?
In Hebrews 12: 1-2 it says “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God”.
1. We are surrounded by a multitude of witnesses (GK-martyros- we get the English word Martyrs from this). These are not spectators watching us compete in the race, they are Old Testament saints that are bearing witness to what God has done, WE ARE NOT ALONE!!!!!! We were not designed to go at it alone. We need each other for encouragement, accountability, and to do the “one anothers”.
2. We need to lay aside all of the things in our life that prevents us from doing what God has called us to do. This can be any number of things. What is yours?
3. Lay aside sin that entangles us, we will look at this more in-depth in a little bit.
4. Run with endurance, where are you running? Where are you going? Is it God’s way, your way, or other people’s way?
5. The race that is set before us. God has a unique race for each and every one of us. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10). We are equipped by God for a specific plan and purpose.
6. Looking to Jesus, our eyes should always be on the one that has the solutions to all of life’s challenges and the road map for the race.
7. Jesus did all that He endured for us with joy, and now is in His rightful place.
Jesus accomplished all that He came to do. Because He did this there are benefits. Let’s look at a couple.
1. We are a New Creation. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17).
2. The Holy Spirit indwells us. Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? (1 Cor. 3:16)
3. No Condemnation. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1).
As believers, we are a new creation (what is new and what is not)? The Holy Spirit dwells within us to guide, direct, convict us of sin, and to empower us. Lastly, we are no longer condemned. We no longer have to fear death or sin. Do we allow Satan to tell us differently?
Spiritually we are new and perfect, because of Christ, but we still have a problem though. We also still have our old nature and the two are in constant conflict. The Apostle Paul shares his personal struggles with this in Romans 7. So what do we do? What can we do? On one hand you have the spirit (Gk-pneuma) and on the hand you have the flesh (Gk-sarx).
The Spirit vs. the Flesh
What needs renewing pull quoteIn Galations 5:16-26 it says “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will notgratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another”.
In this section of scripture we are told to walk in the Spirit not in the flesh. If we are honest all of us walk in the flesh at times. If you’re anything like me I don’t want to do it. I want to honor and Glorify God in all aspects of my life. I want to walk in the Spirit 24/7, but so often I fail to do this. I allow the flesh to get what it wants. In this life we are stuck with this body (flesh), which is why we will receive a new one.
How Can We Practically Enable Ourselves to Walk in the Spirit?
I believe the primary battle ground between the Spirit and the flesh is in the mind. Our thoughts and beliefs directly affect our actions and behaviors. Unlike the flesh or the Spirit we can have good and evil thoughts/beliefs in our mind. The flesh is completely evil and the Spirit is completely good. In Romans 12:2 it says “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect”.
1. We are not to be conformed to this world. The flesh (old nature) desires the things of this world. That will not change. If our natural desire and actions are conformity to this world then what do we do?
2. Be transformed (GK-metamorphoomai- we get the English word metamorphosis). This is the same word used to refer to the Transfiguration of Christ. No small thing. We need to transform from our fleshly/worldly desires to Godly desires. How?
3. Renew our Minds. This is what needs renewing. We can renew our minds through a variety of actions (Reading/studying/meditating on the Bible, prayer (ask God to do it), fellowship with other believers, worship (song, dance, quiet time), through the Holy Spirit.
4. By Testing you may Discern. How do we know if what we are thinking or doing is according to the Spirit? We put it to God’s Litmus test. Does it contradict scripture? Do you have Godly peace about it? Is the Holy Spirit convicting? Do other mature believers testify to it (through the Holy Spirit)?
5. Will of God. God’s will is never sin, evil, this world or its system. When we are walking in the Spirit we are doing the will of God.
6. Good, acceptable, & perfect. Which God is of course, but it is also what we are when we are walking in Christ-likeness (the Spirit). Our sacrifice to God is ourselves and everything that it involves. This is what pleases God. If you want to offer God a good & acceptable gift we need to be walking in the Spirit, not the flesh.
As 2012 comes, let us remember what is New & what needs Renewing. We are new spiritually and there is nothing that can change that. Since we are new there is no longer any condemnation. What needs renewing are our minds. This is something we need to do daily, hourly, minute by minute in some cases. Let us start the New Year by offering God ourselves; until that takes place nothing else really can be accomplished. This is our spiritual worship.
May The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
God Bless, and Happy New Year,