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Spirit Over Flesh

Spirit Over Flesh

As we’ve been going through the book of Romans, we’ve seen that the Holy Spirit is responsible for accomplishing the change that’s needed in our lives. Having this access to God, through the Holy Spirit, is a very powerful thing. It affects our lives in a number of ways if we’re willing to walk in it.

According to the Apostle Paul, this knowledge should have an effect on us.

Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation — but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it.

Romans 8:12

This verse literally says that we don’t owe anything to the flesh. We’re under no obligation to keep it happy and comfortable. To have the best life, I must cultivate my spirit.

I talk a lot about the need to pray in the spirit. When I pray in the gift, I build up my most holy faith (Jude 1:20). This is the faith that’s resident in my spirit. It’s a faith that goes beyond what I know about the Scripture or the situation I’m in.

There are times when there may not even be a Biblical verse that covers my situation. What do I do then? I pray in the Spirit. This helps me to trust God when there seems to be no earthly reason to put my faith in Him. It’s a faith that goes beyond what my mind can understand.

This is the kind of faith that’s needed to allow the changes to take place in me.

For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live…
Romans 8:13

This is a very interesting verse. If you just skim through it you’ll miss what it says. We need to remember what Paul has taught us thus far.

We understand, according to the Scripture, that we’re dead to sin and alive to God. Elsewhere in Romans we’re told to count ourselves dead.

This is based upon the truth that we were crucified with Christ, and this death separates us from the dominion of sin. That’s NOT what the above verse is telling us about. This verse is very different because it contains the word, “if”. This verse is telling us something we either could do or we could choose to ignore.

There’s a battle that rages in my being. Even though I’m saved, my flesh is still subject to its sin nature. I find that even though I’m dead to sin in Christ, I continue to fall to the temptations that come before me. Paul wrote about this struggle that we all face. How do I overcome this dilemma?

Many people try differing methods to bring about the victory. Some try to live right in their own strength. I’ve found that if I live trying to use my flesh to overcome my flesh, by shear will power, I’ll fail miserably. The above verse tells us that if I use my flesh, then death will reign in me. The problem is, to use a computer term, there’s a virus in the software.

The good news is that I can use the power of God’s network. I can use my spirit to put to death the misdeeds of the flesh. This is a truth that we’ve missed in the modern church. You can use your spirit to change your flesh.

In simple terms, you can download God’s anti-virus program and it will change the way you live. This is a powerful change because you’re allowing God to change you from the inside out.

We have to come to the understanding that I can take authority over the flesh by the power of the spirit. This is the key to a whole new level of living.

Question: How has prayer in the spirit changed the way you live?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 

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The Weakness of the Flesh

The Weakness of the Flesh

We’re continuing through Paul’s letter to the Roman church. He’s bringing them, step by step, through the process of salvation, from sinner to a deep spiritual walk.

At this point he’s dealing with the possibility that although Christ set you free from slavery to sin, you can still sin voluntarily.

I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.

Romans 6:19

This is a very important verse in understanding our problem with sin. Paul is talking on the human level about the choices we make.

The phrase, natural selves, is really the word, flesh or sarx in the Greek language. He makes it clear that our flesh is our weakness. This begins a new level of teaching at this point in his letter.

So far, Paul has been talking about our body or soma in the Greek. There’s a distinction between these two concepts – body and flesh. In the battle against sin, our flesh is the area of our weakness.

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 5:16-17

As in Romans, the phrase sinful nature is the word flesh in this verse. The flesh is the nature and will of the body. It is contrary to everything God wants for you. That’s our greatest weakness.

So in the pages of Scripture, the term, flesh, refers to the wants and desires of the body. That’s why Paul has referred to it as the body of death.

Getting back to Romans, chapter 6, Paul says that our new life should be the same as our old life. The only difference is who we’re offering our body to as a slave.

Exactly like you offered up your members to serve impurity, going from lawlessness to lawlessness, now offer them to righteousness.

We find that once we take first step, it’s easier to take second. So I must offer up my members as servants of righteousness. That will lead me toward holiness and deeper into a walk of righteousness. The fact is that I can force my body to obey God even if my flesh doesn’t want to.

When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:20-23

Now Paul asks another question. Looking back, what fruit did you hold by the things you’re now ashamed of? At that time in your life the point you were aiming at was death.

Now you’re liberated from the reign of sin. You can be a voluntary servant of God. Now the fruit that you produce leads you toward holiness. More than that, your life is now aimed at a perpetual, forever-life.

In the last verse, Paul summarizes what he’s said so far. The wages paid by sin are death. Please understand, wages are not paid immediately. On the other hand, God’s gift is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Question: What are the difficulties in voluntarily serving God?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2021 in Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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Spiritual Battle #1 – The Flesh

The spiritual war that we find ourselves in has many fronts.  Over the next few posts, I want to talk about them.  The first, and probably the fiercest, is the battle against our own flesh.

The truth is that our flesh puts a ceiling on what we can do for God.  It doesn’t matter how much you want to do God’s will.  Your flesh is your greatest hindrance.

Too many Christians want to take on the devil before they even have a victory on their home turf.  I believe that the enemy gets blamed for some things that we bring on ourselves.  This is the first struggle that we need to face.

Look at how the Apostle Peter describes it.

Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.
1 Peter 2:11

This is actually a verse that’s rich in description.  We miss it in the English translation.  It literally reads, hold yourself away from the longings of the flesh which is on a military campaign against your soul.

This verse says a lot.  The first thing I see is that my flesh has a will, with desires and longings.  As a matter of fact all the parts of my being – body, soul, and spirit – have a will of their own.

“But I’m not a bad person.  I don’t have any evil intentions.”

Please understand that evil is not the big problem.  That’s not all there is to this struggle.

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 5:17

Your spirit wants to serve and please God.  It wants the Lord’s best for you.  Your spirit desires to see you do great things in the name of Christ.

Your flesh wants just the opposite.  It doesn’t necessarily want you to do evil.  It only wants you to keep from fulfilling God’s plan for your life.  Distraction is one of its chief weapons.

Another thing I learn from Peter’s letter is that my flesh is actually on a military campaign.  Why exactly do you go to war?  Simply put, to win a victory; to dominate and crush your enemy.  That’s the goal of our flesh in regard to our spirit.

But even more than that, a military campaign speaks of something bigger than just a simple “hit and run” exchange.  My flesh is in it for the long haul.  I have to realize that this war is not going away until I receive my resurrected body at the return of Christ.

Too often we get complacent because we see a momentary victory over the flesh.  We think we have everything under control so we get a little lazy.  We stop doing the things that brought us to this level.  We quickly find out that the flesh wasn’t gone, just waiting for a better opportunity to rise up.

How do we overcome in this struggle?  First, I can tell you from experience what doesn’t work.  I’ve tried will-power, New Year’s resolutions, guilt, and self-discipline to tame the flesh.  These are all wasted efforts.

If we’re going to truly walk in victory over our sinful, human nature, then we have to understand the strategy.  Scripture is clear about how this is accomplished.  If we’re going to walk in freedom, then we have to do it God’s way.

Beginning in my next post, I’ll outline the scriptural way to attack and overcome the flesh.  But don’t expect a one-time, do it and forget it solution.  This battle must be fought with consistency for your whole life.

Question: What methods have you tried to overcome the desires of your flesh?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Are We There Yet?

Do you ever get impatient because things seem to take longer to accomplish than you expected?  I’ve found that to be especially true in my spiritual life.  Why is that?

In my last post, I finished my look at the Fruit of the Spirit.  Now we’ll move on to the rest of the book of Galatians.

In this letter, Paul says something that I think we never fully understand what he’s implying.

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.
Galatians 5:24

The Apostle Paul makes this statement or others like it, throughout his writings.  But do we understand what he’s telling us?

We read that our sinful nature (also called our old self or the flesh) has been crucified.  Because of that truth, some have said that their old nature is dead.  But that’s not entirely true.

The trouble is that being crucified is not the same as being killed.  Crucifixion is a long, slow, agonizingly painful process.  It’s not as simple as being shot in the head.

To say that our old self is crucified means that it’s still hanging on to life.  It still has hope that you’ll change your mind and take it down from the cross.

Another problem we find is that the flesh, even while it’s being crucified, never stops talking.  It continues to try and exert influence over your actions.  Dealing with the old nature is never a one-time decision.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
Colossians 3:5

The phrase put to death in this verse literally means to deaden.  This speaks about the process of making something dead rather than death itself.  Dealing with our flesh is an ongoing project.  It’s not something you can accomplish overnight.

I only wish that there was one prayer I could recite and be done with it.  The truth is that it’s an ongoing battle that will-power or good intentions alone will never win.  Then where does the victory over the flesh come from?

For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live…
Romans 8:13

This verse also talks about the process of putting something to death.  You can never kill the misdeeds of the flesh, but you can deaden them by the spirit.

Victory over the sinful nature can only be won in the spirit.  That’s one of the reasons that prayer in the spirit is so important.  The more time spent in God’s presence, the deader the influence of the flesh.

It’s unfortunate that so many people teach the will-power method.  They tell you to just choose not to do what the flesh wants.  You can usually tell who these people are.  The older they get, the more permanent the frown is on their face!

I, personally, want to be free from my sinful nature – but I want to walk in the joy of the Lord at the same time.  The answer is the walk of the spirit.  That’s why Paul sums it all up with the following statement.

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Galatians 5:25

Cultivate your spiritual walk.  That’s the only way to beat the sinful nature.

Question: What’s your experience with the walk of the spirit controlling the flesh?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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Freedom and the Flesh

We’ve been given perfect freedom in Christ.  But just how far does that freedom allow us to go?  There are many who preach the Law so that Christians won’t live for themselves.  What’s the Biblical view?

You, my brothers, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.
Galatians 5:13

In order to understand our freedom, we need to see the greater context of Scripture.  There’s a flow to how the Holy Spirit revealed the Word to the church.  Knowing this will give us added insight.

The first mention of our liberty in Christ was when the Holy Spirit revealed it to James.  In his book, he simply referred to the Word of God as the perfect law that gives liberty (James 1:25).  But it’s in the letter to the Galatians that we see the first explanation of that freedom.

Actually, in this verse, we see the first revelation of how freedom and the flesh relate together.  So this gives us the foundational truth we need to understand.

The first thing I see is that we are called to be free.  That’s important.  Our freedom in Christ is a positional freedom.  That means I have to respond to it if I want to see the manifestation in my life.

If I want to walk in freedom, I need to cultivate my relationship with the Holy Spirit.  He’s the One that will turn my position of freedom into something I can experience on a daily basis.

Now we can go to Paul’s next statement.  He says that we must not use our freedom to indulge the sinful nature.  When I read this verse in the Greek language, I see an important truth.  Paul says; don’t start off in your liberty with the flesh as your goal.

Motivation is everything.  What’s your first thought when you hear the word, freedom.  Do you think, “Great! I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, and God won’t care!”?  If that’s your thinking, then you’re too immature to walk in God’s freedom.

The point of this liberty is that I’m free to serve God while He’s cleaning me up.  I don’t have to wait until I’m perfect.  I can listen for His call and obey Him.  As I’m serving the Lord, if I make a mistake I can repent and move on.

Freedom is knowing that I please God just as I am, right now.  As I grow and mature in Christ, I’ll continue to please God.  It’s not based on my performance, but on His work in me.

That brings me to Paul’s third point.  When I’m walking in freedom, I can serve God by serving others.  I’m not worried about how God sees me.  I can do what I’m called to do without any hindrance.

Because I know that I’m loved by God, I’m free to love others.  I don’t have to worry about whether they’ll accept me or not.  I’m already acceptable to the Lord.  That’s true liberty.

Trying to follow the law is just the opposite.

The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
Galatians 5:14-15

When I’m performing for acceptance from God, everything becomes a competition.  I have to prove that I’m better than you.  That means I have to pick on your faults and emphasize my strengths.  A group of people with those attitudes will never do anything great for God.

Choose freedom.  Cultivate your walk with the Spirit and let Him do His work in you.  And always remember that God loves who you are right now.

Question: How has God’s love changed your view of yourself?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2017 in Faith, Legalism, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Spiritual Surgery

 

surgeryI’ve been posting about how we deal with our old sin nature. In my last post I said that water baptism was the first step in this process. Through it we identified with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Romans 6:11

Here Paul tells us that in the same way we trusted Christ in baptism, we must count or literally inventory ourselves dead, indeed, to sin.

This goes right along with our baptism. In verse 3 of Romans chapter 6 we were baptized into His death. Now in verse 11, there’s something that Paul is hoping you’ll move into by faith. Paul describes this step to the Colossian church.

In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
Colossians 2:11-12

This is what we want to concentrate on – the putting off of the sinful nature. According to Paul, this is a surgical procedure that can only be done by Christ.

It isn’t a work I can perform. It doesn’t matter how much will-power I put forth. Only Christ, Himself, can bring it to pass in my life. I must submit under the blade of the divine Surgeon.

There are two prerequisites to this surgery. The first is baptism and the second is faith in the power of God. This means that I can’t look to myself and how well I can obey God. It’s all about how much I trust His power working in my life. How much am I willing to surrender to Him?

It’s the same as in the natural world. If I don’t trust the surgeon in a medical procedure, then I will not allow them to put me under the anesthesia.   I’ll only let someone I trust have that much power over my body. Do we trust Christ enough to consent to His life changing work in us?

No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.
Romans 2:29

There’s another key point to this work of Christ in us. It can only be done in the spirit. It’s not something that I can physically accomplish. Neither is it a choice that I make in my mind.

The change is required in my heart. The old self has to be removed. How can my sin nature remove itself? It would never willingly choose to do that.

To get the old sin nature out of our heart requires outside assistance. That’s why it’s a work that only Christ can do, and it must be a spiritual work.

It’s for this reason that an understanding of the Word of God as a sword is so important.

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12

The sword of the spirit is the scalpel that performs the work in our heart. In the past I’ve emphasized that the things of the spirit can only be received through prayer in the spirit. This is the work that needs to be done in us. It’s a work that must be done in the spirit. Only prayer in the spirit will accomplish the change that’s necessary in our hearts.

In order for God to do this work in us, we must yield ourselves to Him. As in any surgery, we must willingly go under the knife if our healing is to take place. This is true for our spiritual surgery as well.

Question: How has Prayer in the Spirit changed your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 

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The Curse of the Cross

Cross SunsetIn my last post I talked about our call as believers to crucify our old sinful nature. That means going to the cross. Why does the cross have such a repulsive connotation to so many Christians? It’s almost like we avoid talking about it.

The resurrection of Christ is exciting. We love to hear about the return of the Lord. But the cross…

I think that we really don’t understand the true impact of the cross of Christ. Listen to this verse and think about the events that took place.

From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” – which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.
Matthew 27:45-52

What exactly happened on the cross!!? What kind of power was released? It’s beyond human comprehension. That day forever divided history and caused ripples throughout time and space. We need the Holy Spirit to make real to us the depth and importance of this event.

The apostle Paul gives us some insight into what happened that day.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”
Galatians 3:13

It’s important that we understand the significance of the cross. What happened there had its roots in the Old Testament. In the above passage, Paul quotes a verse from the book of Deuteronomy. It says, in effect, that anyone who is hung upon a tree is under God’s curse.

This is imperative for us to understand. The cross speaks of a curse. This is a foundational principle.

But there’s a problem here. Jesus Christ wasn’t under a curse.

He was the only begotten Son of God – born without sin. More than that, He lived a sinless life. There was never a point where He missed the mark and needed to repent of anything. Christ was totally perfect in all His ways.

The truth is that it wasn’t His curse. The curse belonged to us. Look at a verse just before the one quoted above.

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

We were already under a curse because of our sin. This was the curse that needed to be dealt with. The cross was the place where it all came together.

I want to continue talking about what happen on the cross for a few posts. I think that it will help us to trust God to a greater degree.

Question: How does the work of Christ on the cross figure into your everyday life as a believer?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2014 in Power of God, Revival, The Gospel

 

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