We are the Body

Analogies, Church Life, Thoughts
The United States of America has a long history of embracing personal liberty and self-determination.  From its pioneer spirit to its entrepreneurial energy to its capitalistic economy, America has been an immigrant magnet to those seeking an independent life.  There appears to be a spirit here, even beyond our materialism and consumerism, of freedom and independence. Fast forward two hundred thirty-six years from its founding and nearly every political debate in the USA today is essentially about the balance between our libertarian ideas of personal freedom and the role of central government in promoting the common good (or not so good).  Where the balance lies in a democracy like ours, I will leave to the political types.  My interest is what happens when the individualism so celebrated in our country enters…
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Crucifying the Flesh in Community

Church Life, Thoughts, Walking in the New Nature
"Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.  Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart" (II Tim 2:21-22).  Another way we "crucify the flesh" in practical terms is by pursuing righteousness in the company of our fellow believers. Paul makes clear in II Timothy 2 that to become a useful tool in the hands of the Master, or to extend the thought, to crucify the flesh and thus be prepared for every good work, we must flee youthful lusts and pursue righteousness.  This flee and pursue pattern is very similar to Paul's put off the old nature…
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Crucifying the Flesh by the Spirit’s Power

Thoughts, Walking in the New Nature
"If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit" (Gal 5:25).  Another tool in our war with the flesh is following the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  If we "walk by the Spirit" - conduct ourselves as ones influenced and led by the Spirit of God - we will not satisfy the desires of the flesh (Gal 5:16). I think one of the lifelong learning opportunities God has given us as His children is learning to hear and follow the voice of the Holy Spirit.  It is stepping back from the brink of temptation to say, "What is the Spirit saying to me at this moral fork in the road?"  It is following your Spirit-trained conscience.  In John chapter 16, Jesus said that the coming…
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Crucifying the Flesh by Love: One More Thought

Love is ..., Thoughts, Walking in the New Nature
When our younger children were teenagers, I asked them one evening, "Do you think we have a lot of rules in our home?"  They looked at each other and finally Bethany answered for the group, "Well, we seem to really just have one big rule:  Do whatever Mom and Dad say."  It was an interesting answer and I immediately wondered how they would always discern - following the one big rule idea - what Mom and Dad would say in any given situation. Years later, I realized what Bethany was saying.  The idea of children obeying their parents as one big rule is both biblical and practical, and on the practical side it looks like this.  One of our core values as parents was to establish a relationship with our children. …
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Crucifying the Flesh by Love Unleashed

Love is ..., Thoughts, Walking in the New Nature
Another way we "crucify the flesh with its passions and desires" is to unleash the love God has put into our new hearts.  "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome" (I Jn 5:3).  "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (Jn 14:15).  As children of the Heavenly Father, we keep His commandments - "crucifying the flesh" - out of a love relationship with the Godhead. I don't know what your childhood was like, but I have a distinct memory of being motivated to obey my parents out of a love relationship.  That is, I did not want to disappoint them or abuse the trust they put in me.  As we grow up, we transfer that "obedience out…
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Crucifying the Flesh by Faith

Faith is ..., Thoughts, Walking in the New Nature
It is one thing to preach, teach, and discuss the need to "crucify the flesh".  It is another matter altogether to put the idea into practice.  That is, how do resurrection-empowered saints "crucify the flesh with its passions and desires" (Gal 5:24)?  At least three ways come to mind as we read the New Testament. The first is to "walk by faith" (II Cor 5:7), another New Testament phrase that needs some explanation.  "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Heb 11:1).  Faith is believing everything God has said is true even when temporal evidence - what we see, hear, and touch - would suggest otherwise.  Faith is believing God is active along the lines of His promises even when His work remains…
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Galatians 5 and the War with the Flesh

Thoughts, Walking in the New Nature
The Apostle Paul gives a succinct summary of our war with the flesh in Galatians 5:16-25, "But I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.  For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law" (Gal 5:16-18). Your flesh, your old self, your body of sin was put to death; "crucified with Christ" (Rom 6:6).  But like the bad guy in a horror movie, he never quite goes away for good.  He somehow keeps coming back from the dead, as it were, to…
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The Ambiguity of Dead Flesh

Thoughts, Walking in the New Nature
In my continuing study of Scripture, I have become more comfortable holding apparently competing spiritual concepts in my head.  Whereas previously I wanted to track spiritual ideas down to a concrete and logical conclusion that fit neatly into a theological system, I have come to realize that much of God and His ways lie beyond easy compartmentalization. For example, Paul writes of the Jews of his day, "But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ.  But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away" (II Cor 3:14-16). Think about the phrase, "their…
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