The Pull of the Flesh (part 2)

imageWe are not tempted because we are evil; we are tempted because we are human.  
Our Daily Bread, December 1, 2014

A couple of weeks ago, in The Pull of the Flesh (part 1), I pondered over why we Christians, after receiving a new heart from God upon conversion, still continue to sin. After all, is not Jesus Christ in us and working through us? Don’t we have the Holy Spirit leading and guiding us? In this post I want to continue with this topic.

Never Sin Again?
There is a Biblical account found in John 5:1-14 where Jesus heals a man and tells him afterwards to sin no more – to stop sinning! What? Do you believe this man actually did stop sinning from the on? Never sinned? Was there a particular sin Jesus had in mind He told this man not to commit? Was there a sin that caused this man’s disability? I do not believe so. Also, Christ healed this man before His crucifixion. In other words, this man did not become a Christian then and there. The Holy Spirit was poured out later, on the day of Pentecost, after Christ’s ascension (Acts 2:1-13), not at that moment for that man to use. So why did Christ tell this man not to sin again?

Does God always ask us to do the impossible? Yes, yes, I know, I know, “With men it is impossible, but with God all things are possible”(Matthew 19:26). But we Christians still experience sin in our lives. Many non-Christians have observed our weaknesses and reminded us that we are not perfect.

Of course, what the world says does not matter. It is what God sees in us that matters. Because of the sacrifice of Christ, we Christians are seen by God as righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21).

imageRighteousness among His people is not new. We see in the Old Testament where God wanted His people to be a holy people. He established a system of animal sacrifices that, when brought before the priests and offered to God, was an atonement for sin. But each sacrifice was mostly limited to one individual or family. It was limited in that it alone could not bring eternal salvation. These sacrifices pictured Jesus Christ who was to come in the flesh.

So, when Christ died on the cross, He literally took away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

Also, sin and salvation are separate issues. Salvation is a free gift from God to those who believe. For the most part, sin is our missing the mark. As long as our heart is toward Him, repenting and confessing, we still are saved! Salvation is not a final score card, but a free gift. Sin, however, is what happens because the pull of the flesh still exerts enormous pressures on us Christians.

Now, let’s say that I were to tell you that I do not sin. That would have me be deceived (1 John 1:8). In other words, God’s Word tells us beforehand that we will always sin.

Yes, Jesus Christ did say that out of heart of man come evil thoughts, murder, adultery etc. (Matthew 15:18-20), but that is the old heart before conversion. We Christians have been given a new heart. Yet, Christians still sin! Why? The pull of the flesh.

Sin That Leads To Death?
In 1 John 5:16-17 it states:

If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.

But wait. Wasn’t the sin that leads to death already committed at the garden of Eden? Yes, and we are all dying as a result. So, should the pull of flesh now be our excuse, our alibi, for our sins? Should we dismiss sin as a trivial matter of living this life! I will not say that. Should we believe that since we have a pull toward sin, there is really no “bad” sin? No, I do not mean that either. Sin is sin. And Christ died in our stead paying the price of sin.

The Corinthian church had a member who was sexually active with his mother-in-law (1 Corinthians 5). Was that sin coming from an evil heart? I will say, no. But he was a Christian and sinning. Paul brought him back into the congregation after he saw godly sorrow and repentance being shown from him and the church. Christ died on cross for him as well as for all of us.

image

The Resurrection of Jesus. Painting by Carl Heinrich Bloch ca. 1870

Why Not New Bodies?
Why are not Christians given new bodies right away – at conversion? New incorruptible bodies will not have or not able to produce adverse pulls and vices. The pull of the flesh will be gone my friend! But we, although born again spiritually, do not have new bodies now. Why? Because God wants us to manage our bodies at this time. We are still to maintain them as well as we can and also with God’s help.

Also, also and also, God wants to demonstrate His grace on all of us. Grace is a huge topic. It is part of His creation process now going on. And, because of grace, we Christians are a new creation.

In the meantime, we do not yet have a new glorified body. And because of this we will continue experiencing temptations. Jesus Christ had the same body while on earth as we now have. He had the same pulls and temptations of the flesh as we do (Hebrews 4:15). Yet, He was the only one who was God in the flesh. While on earth, He had to be both God and man in order to be the all-encompassing sacrifice for all of mankind.

Therefore, there will always be this tug of war within each of us as we live in this age. Our new heart will be countering the ways of our flesh. But, in order to be totally sinless, we must have a new body!

We will receive a new body when Christ returns to earth. At that future moment, Christians who have died will rise out of our graves (from land, water, outer space, or wherever they died) and those of us yet alive will receive  new spiritual bodies (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Wow! Great days are soon to arrive and be forevermore!

Anyway, this also is a huge subject that I still greatly need to study and understand. And I know I will not fully comprehend it all until my change comes. This is a great subject to discuss before congregations and in your small groups. Why? Because we Christians who want to do good must depend on God’s throne of grace.

Yes, we Christians do indeed want to Do What the Lord Say Do (click here for the song post) but we will always fall short. And, yes, at conversion we receive a new heart that is pulling (desiring) us to do good, but the flesh still remains with us constantly gravitating us away from it. We want to stop the sinning, but the flesh will have us struggling at times. It is not true that the Christian’s heart is evil, but it is the flesh (growing old, decaying and dying) that is operating that is influencing the heart, mind and soul right now.

The Devil Made Me Do It 
Please note: We are not to make cheap excuses for sinning and blame the flesh, or the world or even Satan. We Christians, for the most part, are still ultimately responsible for our actions. We still need to seek forgiveness and move on. We are not to do as Eve in the garden of Eden and say, “The devil made me do it” as we overcome.

Instead, God wants us to be focused on Him. Not on our sins. Not on our weak selves. God wants us to know that He will always love us as His children and it is best always love Him no matter what we go through.

I better stop here. I know I rambled a little. I have one other key item I wanted to discuss but need to meditate on it more and, God willing, post it around holy week a few weeks from now.

 

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