7 The Delusion of Immunity to the Flesh

By John Thiel, Removing Delusions and Fallacies Series, mp3

Scripture reading: 1 Corinthians 9:25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they [do it] to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 27 But I keep under my body, and bring [it] into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.   

Am I immune to my flesh if I am a truly born again Christian? The object of this series is to remove delusions. This was triggered by an important statement of the Spirit of Prophecy:

Let those who have been deluded give up all their fallacies. The love of Jesus will not endure such rivals. {20MR 307.5}

Fallacies, delusions, are rivals to the love of Jesus. We are to give them up. And the delusions that we fall under can be twofold.

To talk of Christ without the Word leads to sentimentalism. {Ibid.}

When you are sentimentally enjoying talking of Jesus, but it is not according to the word, it is a delusion.

And to receive the theory of the Word without accepting and appreciating the Author makes men legal formalists. {Ibid.}

This is another delusion – legally claiming that we are right and formal in our religious exercises. These are delusions; we must put these away. And the delusion that we wish to address now is one that is often concluded by reading certain statements of God’s word like the following:

A Fatal Delusion

The work of redemption involves consequences of which it is difficult for man to have any conception. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9. As the sinner, drawn by the power of Christ, approaches the uplifted cross, and prostrates himself before it, there is a new creation. A new heart is given him. He becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus. Holiness finds that it has nothing more to require. {COL 162.4}

So people conclude from this that “when I have got a new heart, when I become a new creature, holiness finds that it has nothing more to require, and I am now in a position where I am converted and there is nothing more.” But this is a false interpretation of that statement. The Spirit of Prophecy shows us that we should not come to this kind of conclusion; and when we read the Spirit of Prophecy we must remember what is written in other places lest we come up to wrong conclusions. Speaking of those who draw such conclusions, the Lord says:

They get the impression that when they take the first steps in conversion,–repentance, faith, and baptism,–this is all that is required of them. But this is a fatal error. {5T 412.2}

It’s a real delusion, a fatal one.

The arduous struggle for conquest over self, for holiness and heaven, is a lifelong struggle. There is no release in this war; the effort must be continuous and persevering. Christian integrity must be sought with resistless energy and maintained with a resolute fixedness of purpose. {Ibid.}

The belief that once I am converted, once I have a new heart, that is the end of what is required of me, and that everything will be fine hereafter, is a terrible delusion.

After their baptism there are many who act as though they had graduated, as though there was nothing more to learn or to do; but baptism is only the beginning of our work. We are to go on to perfection, reflecting the light of Christ more and more, and bringing all that it is possible of the spirit and power of Heaven into our lives. We are to seek the salvation of souls around us. {ST, June 24, 1889 par. 10}

To think that from the time that I have been converted and truly received a new heart, that the battle is no longer on, that now I am there; this is a delusion.

Going Unto Perfection

The apostle Paul deals with this reality. Speaking here of his new heart conversion where he has really committed himself to God and turned away from his old ways, he says:

Philippians 3:12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

Jesus has an objective in His mind for me and I want to reach that objective, he says, I want to get it clear;

Philippians 3:13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but [this] one thing [I do], forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

What Jesus wants me to have I am still striving to reach to its fullness. Let the word of God speak to you:

The life of the soul cannot be sustained, except by the right exercise of the affections heavenward, Christward, Godward. Repentance and faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins are essential, but not all that is required. {OHC 338.3}

So repentance and baptism at the beginning of our Christian walk are required, but

The Christian’s life is now but just begun. He must, as exhorted by the apostle, “go on unto perfection.” {Ibid.}

He is not yet perfect; he is going on unto perfection.

He must bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. If we believe in Jesus, we will love to think of Him, love to talk of Him, love to pray to Him. He is supreme in our affections. We love that which Christ loves, and hate that which Christ hates. {Ibid.}

But as this is the case, there is something that we have to continue to press towards, because there is something inside of me which is going to cause me grief. As I love the things that Jesus loves and hate the things that Jesus hates, there is something that is going to cause me grief.

Corrupt and Sinful Habits

When we lay hold of Christ by faith, our work has just begun. {AG 292.4}

Although I have a new heart and a completed holiness that is accounted to me, although holiness has nothing more to require, what is the ongoing work?

Every man has corrupt and sinful habits that must be overcome by vigorous warfare. Every soul is required to fight the fight of faith. If one is a follower of Christ, he cannot be sharp in deal, he cannot be hardhearted, devoid of sympathy. . . . He cannot be overbearing, nor can he use harsh words, and censure and condemn. {Ibid.}

Now that I am born again, I have certain things in me, corrupt and sinful habits, that must be overcome. And those corrupt and sinful habits are stirred to our memory by reading those things above. I cannot be hard-hearted, or devoid of sympathy; I cannot be sharp in deal, I cannot use harsh words; I cannot censure and condemn. We have come to a point where we believe we have given our hearts to Jesus, but have we been faulty in some of these areas?

Followers of Christ will not exhibit characteristics that are cheap and selfish, but in word, spirit, and action they will reveal the tenderness of Christ. . . . A domineering, overbearing spirit is not of God and should not be exercised toward believers or unbelievers, however lowly may be their station. Christians are required to represent Christ in all their dealings with those for whom He has given His precious life. {HP 293.2}

When have I exercised these things? And all of sudden we become fully aware of our condition and we ask ourselves, Is there still something in me that needs to be dealt with?

As we read and contemplate details in the Spirit of Prophecy, there are many people that have said to me, “Ellen White’s writings make me feel miserable! It says here that a Christian doesn’t do these things, but I’m a Christian and I do; so I feel as though I’m not a Christian…” This is something that we really need to understand. Perplexities come upon us because I love the Lord, I have received a new heart, I just love the things that Jesus loves and I hate the things that He hates; and yet there is something that is triggered off inside of me that I hate. There is something triggered off inside of me that I abhor; but it’s there, it’s in my experience; it comes up as a reality in me.

This is what Apostle Paul describes. And here is another delusional ingredient. When I read what Apostle Paul says, I think, Oh no, that doesn’t belong to the born again Christian. I hear this actually brought before the people’s minds by certain teachers.

Romans 7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.

You can see from this statement that the wrong things that Jesus hates, I also hate. I hate it, but I do it! What’s going on here??

Something in My Flesh

Romans 7:16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that [it is] good. 17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but [how] to perform that which is good I find not. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. 20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

Now he qualifies it and makes it clear:

Romans 7:21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:

Is this the condition of an unconverted man? Does an unconverted man delight in the law of God? Does he have an inward man that is a pure heart that loves the law? Here is a person who delights in the law of God; it is his meditation day and night, as King David said. There is something inside of me, an inward man, that delights in it; but there is something else in my flesh. Here it is:

Romans 7:23 But I see another law in my members,

He doesn’t use the word flesh now; he says: in the members of his body.

Romans 7:23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

This message is about the delusion of immunity to the flesh. It is a delusion to think that just because I have the new heart I don’t have problems with the law of sin in my flesh. He then says:

Romans 7:24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 

This then is the delusion. The delusion lies here, that a person who is born again does not have battle with the flesh. It’s a delusion. The idea that this person of Romans 7 is an unconverted man is a delusion.

Those who live nearest to Jesus, feel most deeply their own unworthiness, {RH, March 6, 1888 par. 4}

Who feels unworthy? Who feels what Apostle Paul is talking about? Those who are nearest to Jesus.

…and their only hope is in the merits of a crucified and risen Saviour. Like Moses, they have had a view of the awful majesty of holiness, and they see their own insufficiency in contrast with the purity and exalted loveliness of Jesus. {Ibid.}

Here is where the delusion lies, to think that when I am close to Jesus my flesh is not going to be a problem. Oh yes, it is. Our flesh will always be in our face.

It is a fatal mistake to think that there is nothing for you to do in obtaining salvation. You are to cooperate with the agencies of heaven. We are exhorted to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” {RH, March 6, 1888 par. 6}

As the hymn goes, One thing I of the Lord desire, to be pure; but as I go on I discover that, Pure I am not. So, I tell Him, wash me Thou. If it requires fire, whatever is needed, wash me; because I am conscious of the fact that there is something in my flesh that constantly needs to be dealt with.

You want to take hold of the work intelligently; {Ibid.}

We need to intelligently engage in the work of being sealed. What is the sealing? Settling into the truth both intellectually and spiritually. We want to understand intelligently what is going on in this work of becoming perfect in Christ Jesus.

…and when you discern spiritual things, you will see that there is a warfare before you. {Ibid.}

A Warfare Before Us

And it is a warfare to which there is no end; even when Jesus comes, His living saints will hear Him saying to them, My grace is sufficient for you. There is no end to that so long as we are on this sinful planet.

There is a cross to be lifted in the pathway, a wall to be scaled before you enter the eternal city, a ladder to be climbed before the gate of pearl is reached; and as you realize your inability and weakness, and cry for help, a divine voice will come to you from the battlements of heaven, saying, “Take hold of my strength.” “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” {Ibid.}

O how I love that voice that has spoken to me time and time again to encourage me not to give up. Because as a born again Christian I will discover my mistakes, and the closer and closer I come to Jesus, the more I will see my defects, and my flesh will be something that is abhorrent.

Apostle Paul says, “I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.” Where is that law? “I have an inward man that loves the law of God,” he says, “but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” “I’m struggling here, and I’m not succeeding.” This war and battle is here addressed:

Galatians 5:13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only [use] not liberty for an occasion to the flesh,

There is a flesh in us; but am I free now to let my flesh reign? No. Don’t use it like that.

Galatians 5:13 …but by love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, [even] in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 15 But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. 16 [This] I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

Either way, if you want to let the flesh rule, the Spirit makes you uncomfortable. If you want to let the Spirit rule, the flesh makes you feel uncomfortable.

Who Is Thus Plagued?

Who is the one who has this battle to fight? Is it the unconverted or the converted man?

The Christian will feel the promptings of sin, for the flesh lusteth against the Spirit; but the Spirit striveth against the flesh, keeping up a constant warfare. {SL 92.2}

That’s it. We are not under a delusion; we understand from God’s word that when I give my heart to Jesus and He gives me a new heart, I enter an experience and discover what Apostle Paul wrote; I discover the warfare. The Spirit loves the word of God; but the flesh is fighting, and it goes on and on. The Christian will feel that, we are told. This is reality; this is intelligent truth:

The word of God plainly presents before us this truth, that our physical natures will be brought into warfare with the spiritual. {4T 215.1}

This is a truth that people don’t like to hear. They like the fairy tale story “They lived happily ever after when they became converted.” That is a fairy tale story. The reality is that the Christian will feel the battle of the flesh, the physical nature brought into warfare with the spiritual.

The apostle charges us to abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul. Every perverted appetite becomes a warring lust. {Ibid.}

So our physical nature is the one that we are at war with because we have a new heart.

When we lay hold of Christ by faith, our work has just begun. Every man has corrupt and sinful habits that must be overcome by vigorous warfare. Every soul is required to fight the fight of faith. {AG 292.4}

We are required to engage in vigorous warfare! With what? With the physical nature, with corrupt and sinful habits. A habit is something that has been installed into our physical nature so that our nature does things automatically. I often use the illustration of a person who is a long-time smoker, and who has always had his cigarettes in his top pocket. Now he decides that because he knows it is wrong to smoke he throws the cigarette packet out; but every so often through the day he automatically reaches for his packet – it’s a habit. The impression of the flesh is that “I want to smoke”, and it happens without even thinking. But he hates it now, yet it’s a habit. So in our walk with God, when we have a new heart, there are habits to wear off in our life; and those habits will come as impulses and impressions.

The following scripture is precisely what the apostle Paul is helping us to identify intelligently here:

1 Corinthians 9:27 But I keep under my body [my physical nature], and bring [it] into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

My physical body is where the law of sin is. And what is the law of sin in my members? My DNA that I have received from procreation by my parents and grandparents and great-grandparents. My deoxyribonucleic acid has been passed and accumulated; there are many different hormones that are installed in there, and they come up as a feeling, as a thought, to me, and a lot of people are ignorant of this. This is why my sins and my past are constantly in my face, because they come up as part of me. They come up as an installed reality, and I cannot prevent them from arising in my thoughts; they will be there. Just when something is happening around me that causes something to trigger off in me, there it is, right in my face, as part of me.

Thoughts and Feelings

There are thoughts and feelings suggested and aroused by Satan that annoy even the best of men; {2MCP 432.2}

How does my flesh manifest itself to me? It’s in my face with thoughts and feelings. They arise, and especially so when things trigger it off. And this perplexing, heavily discouraging reality causes the soul to exclaim, O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

I need deliverance. I am so wretched. What is the answer? I have this problem, this battle between the Spirit and the flesh; how can I actually get rid of this and conquer this? Apostle Paul says,

Romans 7:25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

People read this so shallowly, and they think, Oh well, magic has happened; through Jesus it’s going to go. No; Jesus is my example, I will learn from Him how to conquer this. It is through Him; this is what Jesus said. He said, I am the door. You walk through a door; you walk through a process that Jesus laid out for us.

The same subject of Romans chapter 7 continues in chapter 8. Which way am I going to go in the battle between the Spirit and the flesh? Will I walk according to the flesh or according to the Spirit?

Walking After the Spirit

Romans 8:1 [There is] therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

So the issue is, it doesn’t matter if the flesh puts it in your face, as long as you don’t walk after it.

Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 

How?

Romans 8:3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and as a sacrifice for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:

What did Jesus do? He came in the same flesh; the same flesh that is in my face is also in His face. And what did He do with it? He condemned the sin if the flesh,

Romans 8:4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.

When I have the mind of Jesus I do not mind the flesh. I hate the flesh, but it’s in my face, so what do I do? I thank God through Jesus; He has given an example there.

Looking Instead to the Character of God

That He [Christ] might by His own example condemn sin in the flesh, He took upon Himself the likeness of sinful flesh. Constantly he beheld the character of God; constantly He revealed this character to the world. {AG 322.3}

What did He do? As this terrible thing was there by feelings and thoughts that arise in the flesh, He looked away from the flesh to the character of God. By beholding we are changed. When my thoughts and my feelings arise within me, I can conquer those thoughts and feelings by looking in contrast to the character of God. This is what Jesus did. He gave an example to condemn sin in the flesh. We are to condemn it like Jesus did.

This should be the Christian’s consolation. Christ, as man’s representative, has overcome the world, the flesh and the devil. So by the Saviour’s help may the children of men overcome all the powers of evil. {ST, January 24, 1878 par. 14}

Oh yes, Satan comes along and suggest, but he also arouses; and when he arouses the flesh, when he triggers the flesh, it comes up as part of me; and Jesus felt that. As our High Priest He is touched with the feelings of our infirmities. What a consolation. This should be the Christian’s consolation. Christ, as man’s representative, has overcome; He has shown us the way. I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Is your flesh constantly in your face? Was it in the face of Jesus? Praise the Lord, it was.

Satan is continually changing his temptations. Every day we shall be placed in different circumstances; and in the untried scenes that await us we shall be surrounded by fresh dangers, and constantly assailed by new and unexpected temptations. {BLJ 20.5}

Constantly assailed – it is in my face all the time; Satan brings circumstances about. My circumstances, my interrelationship with people, I am confronted with a new experience that I haven’t met before and that triggers my flesh. It’s in my face again – a thought and a feeling. Satan is assailing us constantly.

It is only through the strength and grace gained from heaven that we can hope to meet the temptations and perform the duties before us. {Ibid.}

Temptation is something that is triggered in the flesh. And there it is constantly. What about Christ? He is right there beside me.

A Comforter in That Very Condition

Not without hindrance was the Commander of heaven to win the souls of men to His kingdom. From the time when He was a babe in Bethlehem, He was continually assailed by the evil one. The image of God was manifest in Christ, and in the councils of Satan it was determined that He should be overcome. No human being had come into the world and escaped the power of the deceiver. The forces of the confederacy of evil were set upon His track to engage in warfare against Him, and if possible to prevail over Him. {DA 116.1}

In this warfare there is no release, and there was no release in the warfare for Jesus; it was constant. We meet it constantly; it’s in our face all the time, and as we look at Jesus there is consolation. He met it – the world, the flesh, and the devil – and we meet it. And now I have an intelligent example, watching Jesus. What did Jesus do when this was in His face?

Jesus Himself, while He dwelt among men, was often in prayer. Our Saviour identified Himself with our needs and weakness, in that He became a suppliant, a petitioner, seeking from His Father fresh supplies of strength, that He might come forth braced for duty and trial. He is our example in all things. He is a brother in our infirmities, “in all points tempted like as we are;” but as the sinless one His nature recoiled from evil; {SC 93.4}

As those thoughts and feelings were in His face, His divine nature recoiled from that, like a spring.

He endured struggles and torture of soul in a world of sin. {Ibid.}

If you are a born again Christian the torture that Jesus experienced you will experience. The torture of this thing in my face, my human degeneracy comes as thoughts and feelings, and Jesus there is my Comforter. The Holy Spirit is a comforter because He takes of Jesus and shows it unto us. And as I behold my struggle, I see Jesus in the same struggle, and He endures it.

His humanity made prayer a necessity and a privilege. He found comfort and joy in communion with His Father. {Ibid.}

Comfort and joy in communion with the Father while He was tortured, and while He was struggling. And here I have Jesus, my Brother in my infirmities. And as I am learning of Him and I make a failure here, I come to Him and plead for forgiveness; and I ask myself, What happened there? Oh this is what happened there. I am looking to Jesus and I am finding comfort and strength. And when the thing comes up again from a different angle, because Satan brings me through different circumstances, I say, Hello, there it is again, right in my face; what was it again? Oh, thank you, Lord. Victory. Victory after victory becomes ours if we do what Jesus did.

There are thoughts and feelings suggested and aroused by Satan that annoy even the best of men; but if they are not cherished, if they are repulsed as hateful, the soul is not contaminated with guilt, and no other is defiled by their influence. Oh, that we each might become a savor of life unto life to those around us! {2MCP 432.2}

To have this beautiful, loving way towards each other when this thing is in my face, when you annoy me no end. Your failings and your strange ways can annoy me no end. I might think, I am more perfect than you; stand back, I am holier than thou. But no; this is a delusion. The fact is that, if that stirs me and I exercise it, then I’m not holier than thou at all.

Through Jesus Christ and following His example, when the flesh is stirred, when the impact of my heredity, the law of sin in my members, is stirred and brought into my face, I may gain the victory. I have the face of Jesus; He is doing the same. And we are to keep Jesus ever in our face. And through our bad experiences Jesus is brought into our face, if we focus on this knowledge. This is

Intelligent Salvation

So we are to watch, to look at the character of God. How are we to watch Him?

Hebrews 5:7 Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; 8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; 9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;

He went through the ropes, the experience; He was being made perfect through suffering under the torture of sinful flesh, like you and I when we become born again. We look at that, and as we do, we see ourselves in Jesus, and Jesus in us. This is what we are told to do:

Hebrews 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of [our] faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

Don’t you feel like fainting when this ugly self is there in your face? Look at Jesus; consider Him who endured all this. And as you see Him struggling and crying with strong crying and tears so that He would not give in and fall for this unChristlike impulse, you are reminded,

Hebrews 12:4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.

This is what is required, that we will, like Jesus, struggle as He did. As the hymn says, Be it by fire, or whatever it be, let me be pure; even unto blood, even if it means that there is death to my flesh. Yes, the flesh has to die. I die daily, says Apostle Paul.

Inspired to Follow His Example

Beholding Jesus we have the intelligent lesson. This is the answer. I thank God through Jesus Christ. But more than the lesson, I have the inspiration; I am inspired to do what He did. I have the motivation; I am emotionally comforted. I have an emotional release: Jesus is beside me in what I am going through; He is my Brother.

Together with Jesus and the apostle Paul we engage in this work as God’s true born again Christians. This is what Jesus did, this is what Apostle Paul did, and this is what we are called upon to do:

2 Corinthians 10:3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:

Or, we do not war the way the flesh wants to do it;

2 Corinthians 10:4 (For the weapons of our warfare [are] not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)

And now what is the work?

2 Corinthians 10:5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

Bringing into captivity the thoughts and feelings that arise from the flesh. If I do not cherish the thought and the feeling, if I don’t retain it but immediately recoil from it, as Jesus did (because I see Jesus there and it’s a contrast), in so doing I put away the delusion and fallacy. This is what we are told to do, to put it away. How do you do it? Through this instruction.

It is my prayer that, having explored this tapestry of truth, we may go and do what Jesus did; and we will be made perfect even as He was.

Amen.

Illustration designed by Kjpargeter – Freepik.com

Posted on December 10, 2017, in Divine Service Sermons, Removing Delusions and Fallacies Series and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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