If all we need is a prescription for spiritual medication, then why does that medication not immunize us from the deficits arising out of our weaknesses, wounds, sins and shame? If God is so strong, then why do I remain so weak? And sinful!
There are three reasons. As we look at these three reasons, we will uncover the third and fourth prescriptions that the Great Physician offers to enhance the well-being of eternal spirit beings.
Why do we remain so weak?
First, until we get to heaven, we still have our sin nature. Our sin nature and natural instincts flow in our blood genetically, biologically, psychologically and experientially. We have a dark side and it is called our flesh. This flesh is not going anywhere until we can finally undress at the door into eternity and forever leave its corruptible nature behind.
In light of this, we must remember that God made us both flesh and spirit. Although we have been born into a new spiritual reality through Christ, our flesh still begs to be fed. Sin still beckons us. It crouches at the door of our heart, mind, soul and strength desiring to master us.
We see this reality in the story of Cain and Abel. Cain did not trust God so he gave God a sacrifice of fruits – after all, he needed to provide for himself. If he gave too much to God, he might not have enough for himself! Abel, on the other hand, fully trusted God and in the spirit of James – Show me your faith without works and I’ll show you my faith by what I do – he gave God “fat portions”from some of the firstborn of his flock.
God exalted Abel because he humbled himself before God; he was willing to dive deep into the goodness of “God’s Economy” so God’s goodness overflowed into his life. Cain exalted himself out of a “Human Economy” desire to hoard strength and now he was humbled…and angry!
God responded to Cain, Why are you angry? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door: it desires to have you, but you must master it. (Genesis 4:1-8) Cain could not get there. Abel could. So Cain in his jealous rage murdered Abel. Sin begets sin. Brokenness adds to brokenness. Flesh multiplies flesh.
In this story (and in our own lives), we see that there is a conflict within: one in which our flesh battles to overcome the eternal spirit being within us. Jesus once said, The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. (John 6:63) That it counts for nothing does not mean it is powerless – it is quite powerful in how it begs us to feed it. It is determined to win us over. But like Abel, we must master it. But we have already established that we are too weak to do so.
Thus, in addition to God’s Salvation and God’s Strength, He sends us His Holy Spirit to live inside out hearts to have communion with our spirit. God’s Spirit will testify with our spirit that we are his. Further, He will comfort us and guide us into all truth. Further still, He will give us life to counter the fleshly temptations that draw us toward sin and death.
The Third Prescription
In light of all this, the third prescription for us is to live by God’s Spirit. So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature*. For the sinful nature* desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature*. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. (Galatians 5) And what is the fruit of the Spirit that we might know and live by Him? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sin nature* with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5)
So we are to live by the Spirit or keep in step with the Spirit…
The Apostle Paul helps us understand this better when he says, Those who live according to the sinful nature* have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of the sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8)
*sinful nature = flesh
The phrase ‘set on’ means ‘to mind’ the Spirit. The Greek for ‘to mind’ is phroneo which means to direct one’s mind to a thing or to direct our allegiance to one side or one person. We choose to be on the Spirit’s side instead of the side of our sinful nature or flesh. The meaning implies drastic measures to take care that we mind the Spirit in whatever way necessary. Recall that Jesus said that if something causes us to sin, we are to cut it off. We are to take drastic measures to remove or discard or flee from that which causes us to sin.
Second, until we get to heaven, we still have an Enemy of our soul. In our modern technological and consumeristic form of Christianity, Satan becomes almost mythical. In fact, there are movements within evangelical Christianity that see Satan as mythical. No wonder we are not overcoming the flesh. John Eldridge in his wonderful book Waking the Dead implores the church to take the reality of Satan very seriously.
The Fourth Prescription
Thus, in addition to God’s Salvation, God’s Strength, and God’s Spirit, the fourth prescription for our spiritual well being is Spiritual Warfare. We don’t take Satan very seriously and he is hammering the church right now. We are only too aware of the many ways in which our churches are filled with great weakness that leaves us succumbing to our human brokenness and flesh nature. We need to enter into spiritual warfare to resist Satan.
One of Christ’s followers once said, You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Moments later, this follower named Stephen was stoned to death. Instead of resisting the Holy Spirit, we need to resist Satan. The problem is that it is much easier to resist the Holy Spirit than it is Satan; or so we think.
James instructs us, Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (James 4:7-10) The word for resist in the Greek is anthistemi which means to set oneself against, to oppose, to withstand. While this looks like an offensive move to go attack Satan, that would be a huge mistake. It actually implies a passive dependency upon the Lord and this matches James’ statement that we humble ourselves so that God can lift us up.
We don’t take on Satan directly – in spiritual warfare, we come under God’s strength and He will win the fight every time. Why does Satan flee? Certainly not because of us! He flees because of Christ! If we are not retreating to Christ’s Spirit, we will not be able to withstand Satan. If the church is so widely succumbing to the sinful nature, it means that we truly (regardless of our words) are not retreating to Christ’s Spirit to resist Satan. That in many of our churches we rarely hear spiritual warfare preached only underscores why the church is so widely succumbing to the lure of selfishness and sin.
Remember, God WILL deliver us if we will humble ourselves! His strength WILL be made perfect in our weakness. So if we are not experiencing HIS perfect strength, then we are not fully humbling ourselves so that He can give us deliverance. Listen to the way Peter expresses this point:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast. To him be the power, for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5)
That is so rich because it shows us that Satan is offensively seeking to destroy us and that we have no chance against a roaring lion unless we humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand so that HE can deliver us! King David once wrote, He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” He continues, If you make the Most High your dwelling place…he will command his angels to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the (roaring) lion…you will trample the great (roaring) lion. (Psalm 91)
God loves this kind of dependency and humility. He answers David, Because he loves me, I WILL rescue him; I WILL protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I WILL answer him: I WILL be with him in times of trouble, I WILL deliver him and honor him. With long life I WILL satisfy him and show him my salvation.” (Psalm 91) Even King David in all his power knew the source of strength and deliverance and salvation: the Holy Spirit. We need to stop resisting the Holy Spirit in order to find success in resisting Satan.
Peter also points out something so critical for us to understand: all our brothers around the world ARE undergoing these SAME kinds of sufferings. We are not alone in our brokenness nor in our temptations. However, when we get on Double Life Highway, we are often tempted toward secrecy and isolation. In the double life, remember that we do the most dangerous thing: we pull away from others and thus we fail to see others sharing the experience of our sufferings. We think we are all alone. This is a lie…
Third, until we get to heaven, we still have our weaknesses, wounds, and worldly worldviews. We still have our sin nature (flesh). We still have an Enemy of our soul. And finally, we still have our broken identities. I have already gone to great depths earlier in this series to elaborate on our extensive human brokenness, so I will refrain from doing that again here.
The point here is to stress once again that unless we humble ourselves toward the Holy Spirit, Satan will rule us through our weaknesses, wounds and worldly worldviews. We typically will NOT humble ourselves toward the Holy Spirit when we are deceived into thinking we are all alone battling sin – especially when we are failing at it! Once we think we are the ‘only one’ struggling with a particular weakness, wound, sin or shame, Satan has the foothold he needs to rule our lives. Remember again that this is not about the really evil people; this is about us!
Satan’s three greatest weapons are SECRECY (when we hide our ‘true selves’ from God and others), FEAR (when we fear God and others will condemn or judge us), and CONFUSION (when deception leaves us uncertain about who we are or who God is). If we stay here, Satan will win most battles that we try to wage against his schemes and the lusts of our own flesh.
We have to bust out of this box, my friend. But how? Join me next time as we search for an answer to this question. We are on the verge of uncovering a very critical step in gaining more joy in this life. The Great Physician’s final three prescriptions for spiritual medicine to enhance the well being of eternal spirit beings are coming right up…
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