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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Flesh - The Difficulty of Holiness

Galatians 5:17 - 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.

As believers we have the Spirit of God living in us. The Spirit of God brings with him the nature of God of which holiness is the prominent characteristic. Any love or desire we have for holiness, any success we have in achieving holiness is because of God’s presence in us by his Spirit. His Spirit brings with him an unquenchable love for all that is pure, holy, and spotless. His Spirit brings with him an intense hatred of all that is impure, unholy and spotted. To the degree that we love that which is holy and hate that which is unholy is merely a reflection of His presence in our lives.

Being redeemed marks the beginning of hostilities between good and evil in our hearts. God’s Spirit bringing his influence into our lives and the ongoing presence of our flesh ensures that the battle will be enjoined everyday. The whole discussion about holiness, piety, and separation is rooted in what is often an unspoken reality; that is we struggle. If we did not labor under the influence of the flesh there would be no disagreement about separation and how it is reflected in the life of a believer. In heaven there will be no argument because we will “be like him for we shall see him as he is.”

Holiness is not difficult to achieve because we do not have a good, understandable, and reliable standard. Holiness is not difficult because the whole world lieth in wickedness. Holiness is not difficult because of the deception of the wicked one. Holiness is difficult because of our own flesh. The standard would be perfectly applied if it were not for the flesh. The world would have no allure if it were not for the flesh. The devil could not tempt were we not susceptible to temptation.

My premise is this. We are our biggest obstacle to achieving holiness! Holiness is difficult to achieve because of the reality of the flesh.

It is important first of all that we understand the nature of the flesh.

What is the flesh?

The word "flesh" in the New Testament is translated from a Greek word that means flesh (as stripped of the skin), i.e. (strictly) the meat of an animal (as food), or (by extension) the body (as opposed to the soul [or spirit].

Two of the eight times the word “carnal” is used in the N. T. it is translated from the same word as flesh. The remaining six times it is translated from a word that means, pertaining to flesh, i.e. (by extension) bodily, temporal. In fact the Greek root word from which the word “carnal” is translated is the Greek word that is translated “flesh”. One time the word “carnally” is used in the N. T. and it is translated from the same word that is translated "flesh". Three times the word "fleshly" is used in the N. T. Two of those times it is translated from the word that is normally translated “carnal”, the remaining time it is translated from the word normally translated “flesh”.

Conclusion: to be fleshly is to be carnal! The flesh is the natural part of man. It pertains to his body. It is the desires and needs we have because we have a body. It seems that it would involve such things as self-preservation, sustenance (eating/drinking), sleeping, shelter (protection), and sex (procreation).

It is not to be denied that when we hear and use the word "flesh" we normally have something evil in mind. We think of it in a spiritual context. This is not misguided. The New Testament places the idea of "flesh" in a spiritual context. I think what is important is that we stay rooted in a basic understanding of what flesh is lest it become some nebulous concept that we cannot really define. It is the body and its accompanying desires and needs. It is not in and of itself evil!

Where did the flesh come from. It may come as a surprise to many because of the context in which we normally think of the flesh that it comes from God.

Genesis 1:26,27; 2:7 - And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. . . . And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

My heart always stands in awe when I stop to contemplate God's creation of man. He took the dust of the earth and the Bible tells us that he formed a man. He fashioned and shaped him. God made, if you will, a clay man. Have we not all done that as a child?? When the lifeless man, not dead for he had never lived, lay there on the ground God bent over him and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. The man quivered as life rushed into him. His heart came to life, his lungs and other organs began to function. His eyes fluttered. He sat up, stood up, before his creator. What an awesome day that must have been. And God said it was very good.

There is something else important to keep in mind about what was happening here. Had God chosen to do so he could have imparted life without a body, without flesh. Bodies are not necessary for life, for we continue to live after the body has died. We were provided with bodies so that we could interact in the concrete world in which God placed man. Adam was created with the flesh, he was created with a carnal aspect. Consider the following results of having been created with a body, flesh.

The man was created with a desire and commission for procreation.

Genesis 1:27,28 - So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

The man was created with a need to eat and presumably drink in order to sustain the body, the flesh.

Genesis 1:29 - And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

Man was created with the capacity for sleep.

Genesis 2:21 - And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;

It is likely that the desire for shelter and self-preservation was a latent component of this newly created man. Remarkably, in the pre-curse world these were for all practical purposes non-issues. This was before the day of "tooth and claw". This was before the day of uncomfortable and even dangerous weather patterns. My whole point here is that Adam and Eve were in the flesh. Adam and Eve had a carnal aspect to them.

The problem arose when the flesh was empowered. They were given a single restriction!

Genesis 2:15-17 - And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

You will notice the restriction was in an area of the flesh. Eating, what they could and could not eat! It touched on the essence of self-preservation for eating was necessary to their survival. It is also important to note that eating was a legitimate operation of the flesh. But, there was a restriction placed upon what they could eat. The restriction was not put in place because it was not edible, but because of the effects of eating it. If they ate they would be granted a knowledge that would be a destructive influence in their lives. They were charged with reigning in their flesh. They were now required to submit their flesh to duly constituted authority.

This single restriction that set boundaries on their flesh resulted in a colossal failure!

Genesis 3:1-6 - Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

The whole temptation was centered on an area of the flesh, what they could eat and not eat. It was never a question about it being lawful to eat, it was lawful to eat. The question arose about what was lawful to eat, and more importantly the sinister reasons God had for forbidding them to eat from a certain tree. The temptation could never have been effective it was not directed at the flesh. Eating was a lawful activity within certain boundaries that had been established by the Creator.

She was being convinced to violate those boundaries and satisfy the flesh. But if she ate of that particular tree she would be satisfying the flesh in an unlawful way.

The serpent in verse four removes the threat. You will not die he says. So she need not concern herself with self-preservation. The serpent in verse five increases the desire. He informs her that they would be as gods knowing good and evil. Not only did she not have to be concerned about self-preservation if she ate she could expect an enhanced self-preservation. All of this is only effective in the context of the flesh. If she had no body, if there were no carnal aspect to her existence these events would never have happened.

In verse six the deceiver had convinced the woman to make her flesh her God. He is in effect telling her go ahead, pacify the flesh, you know you want to! After all it was good for food! There was no reasonable reason why we should be denied this tree. It was pleasant to the eyes. It was a tree to be desired to make one wise. All of these things are fleshly consideration.

She took and ate, and fell……….a long way. She had made the flesh her God. She had loosed the boundaries. The floodgate was opened. The flesh was now on the prowl to satisfy itself. Having abandoned the only thing that truly satisfies (fellowship with the living God) man was set in the endless pursuit of satisfying a flesh that can never be satisfied.

Having chosen the flesh God sees to it that difficulty attends their way.

Genesis 3:16-24 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living. Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them. And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

He promised the woman difficulty in childbirth effecting procreation. He promised the man difficulty in getting the earth to yield its fruit effecting their ability to sustain themselves. He made them coats of skin establishing the increased need of shelter. He banned them from the garden creating greater difficulty in achieving self-preservation.

What has been the result of this colossal failure? The New Testament makes it clear in several places. It may do us well to linger over these passages and consider the ugliness of the flesh loosed!

Galatians 5:19-21 - Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

Romans 1:29-32 - Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

1 Corinthians 6:9,10 - Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

Revelation 21:8 - But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

What a tidal wave of death and destruction was unleashed by one bite from the forbidden tree. A virtual spiritual tsunami. What we need is a saviour that can snatch us from the black waters of carnal living and put spiritual grace and discernment in our hearts that we might rest safe on the rock of holiness; safe from the debris that continues to be carried aloft by the swelling tide of human flesh and carnal living.

Having spent some time attempting to gain an understanding of the flesh let us now move to consider the believer's relationship to the flesh.

Let us begin by honestly admitting our difficulty with the flesh! I know of nothing that will help us be honest with ourselves like examining the words of the great Apostle to the Gentiles in Romans seven.

Romans 7:14-24 - For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 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. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 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. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

I think one of the first things worth mentioning in this passage is where the problem is. It is not the law. The law is spiritual. The problem is with us, we are carnal. It is for this very reason that pulpit are full of men decrying the use of the law to provide moral direction for God's people. They do so under a banner of liberty that is illegitimate and that makes grace into an opportunity for occasion for the flesh.

Who among us cannot identify with the struggle that Paul presents? We all know that when we determine to do the right thing we often do the wrong. When we determine to refrain from the wrong thing we often find ourselves doing that very thing. Paul claims it is no longer "I that do it". Is this a denial of personal responsibility. Well, I don't think so. I believe he is expressing the fact that just because he does not always do right does not mean that there is not a real part of him that wants to. In fact he makes the powerful declaration that "in me (that is in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing." Why because now the flesh is determined to live beyond the boundaries. It does not want to be controlled. It does not want to be subordinated. It does not want to be deprived of its long standing supremacy. It is never satisfied and it can never be pacified.

It is interesting that Paul declares that this violent contest that is waged in the heart of the believer is so well substantiated that it rises to the level of law. For he declares in verse 21, "I find then a law, that , when I would do good, evil is present with me." He is using the word law here like we would use it when we say the law of gravity. That is a phenomena about which there are no known exceptions. After years of observation, it always happens. Throw something off the top of a building and it always falls down, it never falls up. Thus we have the law of gravity. What Paul had discovered was a spiritual law. Simply stated it is that when we would do good evil is present with us. Are their exceptions? I know of none, at least in my own experience. I never commit to doing good but that I don't feel the evil that is present.

Every true believe is like the Apostle Paul in that we delight in the law of God after the inward man. This is why I think we should be careful about discounting the law, ruling out any precept, principle, or pattern we find in the law. God's moral precepts do not change. They are like Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever! It is right that God's people would delight in the law of God and they should be troubled by their carnality that creates difficulty in obeying the moral precepts.

Paul's conclusion is a cry of universal despair. "O, wreched man that I am!" Wanting so bad to do the right thing, live the right way, to be holy, to be pure of heart, to be spotless, to be like Christ (holy, harmless, separate from sinners), and yet the flesh continues to rage for supremacy! "Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" This is our longing. To be delivered from not only the penatly of sin, not only the power of sin, but from the very presence of sin. One Day!!!

The fact is, as believers we wrestle with the flesh. It demands attention. It insist on being catered to. It is never satisfied. It continually asserts itself. It pursues pacification.

The reality of the flesh is subdued only by the believer's relationship to Christ. This necessitates turning our attention to the previous chapter of Romans, chapter six.

I love Romans six for I know that within these 23 verses lies the keys to unlocking my spiritual victory. It provides the direction for gaining the victory over the flesh. It is, as I like to say, the believer's Emancipation Proclamation!

Romans 6:1,2 - What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

The premise is laid out for us in the opening two verses. It begins with a question, "What shall we say then? Say to what? Say to the closing declaration of the previous chapter.

Romans 5:20,21 - Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.

What shall we say to the fact that were sin abounded grace did much more abound. What is to be our response to such a grand and glorious truth? Paul follows the initial question up with another. "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?" If grace much more abounds where sin abounds then can we make the argument that we should continue in sin so that grace will have an opportunity to much more abound? May sound foolish but I wonder at times if that is not exactly the argument some are making when you quote the law as God's moral standard and they say, Oh, we are not under the law but grace. Oh, I see, so grace affords you the liberty to transgress the law?? Interesting conclusion, but wrong! In fact it could not be more wrong.

In response to his second question Paul does us the favor of answering it himself. And it could not be more emphatic. God forbid! No, not, under no circumstances should we continue in sin. I would remind you that the Bible defines sin for us. We do not have to go looking elsewhere. Sin is the transgression of the law. So in fact one could put it this way. Shall we continue transgressing the law that grace may abound? The answer is God forbid. God forbid what? That we should continue transgressing the law or sin. In fact Paul continues and establishes the basis for his dogmatic denunciation of such a perverted view of the relationship between sin, law, and grace. He establishes the basis by asking yet another question. "How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" Great questions, don't you think??

Romans 6:3-5 - Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:

It is clear that Paul is using metaphorical language here by his use of the word "like" and "likeness". Also the use of the metaphore "buried with him by baptism into death". Thus Paul is teaching us that our baptism is a picture, a representation of the spiritual reality that took place when we repented of our sins and believed the gospel. In salvation we were identified with the death and resurrection of Christ. Paul's argument is that if we were planted in the likeness of his death then we should likewise be in the likeness of his resurrection. The passage goes on to bring added clarity to Paul's meaning.

Romans 6:6-11 - Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

What happened when we were saved. Actually, quite a lot happened. More than most people recognize at the time. For one the body of sin was destroyed, it was rendered powerless. In doing this it was made possible that we should not serve sin. It is not that we would never sin, but that our relationship with sin was dramatically atlered. Now, we would not serve sin.

The reality is as simple as this, "He that is dead is freed from sin."

Again we are pointed to the reality of Christ. Christ died once unto sin and he now liveth unto God. What is the connection of this reality to our own lives. Well, it enables us to reckon things a certain way. The reality of what Christ had done should alter the way we see ourselves. We are to reckon ourselves to be dead unto sin but alive unto God. We are to enjoy in substance what Christ accomplished in reality. We do have a responsibility to "reckon" it so!

Romans 6:12-16 - Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?

These verses express to us how the foregoing truths are put to practice in our daily lives. First of all we are not to let sin reign in obeying it in the lusts thereof. Where does all lust originate. The flesh. In other words we are not to live unto the flesh but unto the Spirit. That is well and good but it still begs the question how do we keep sin from reigning? How do we control the flesh? It all comes down to yielding. We all know what it means to yield if we drive an automobile. To yield means to give way. We refuse to yield our members as instruments of unrightouesness. But it is not merely enough to refuse to do the wrong thing. We must yield our members as instruments of righteousness. We must engage in that which is holy. We must live righteously. To simply say we are not going to be unrighteous or unholy is to create a vacume that will not go unfilled. It is a matter of, as Paul says in another place, of both "putting off" and "putting on".

In fact it is interesting that Paul here uses grace as a basis for arguing that sin shall not have dominion over us. We will not be dominated by transgressions of the law. Why? Because we are not under the law but under grace. Being liberated from the law for justification we have been empowered to obey that very law. In fact Paul is very determined that no one misunderstand him on this point and yet countless still do. He asks a question as though he could hear down through the centuries. "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law, but under grace?" In other words shall be transgress the law because we are not under the law but under grace. Countless preachers today, in so many words, say yes. Paul said, "God forbid." Today if you say what Paul did you are labled a legalist and a Pharisee. This is what happens when people do not study their Bibles but instead spend all their times reading what others are saying about the Bible.

Remember this. What ever we are serving, as believers, whether righteousness or unrighteousness it is because of that to which we have yielded. We serve unrighteousness because we give way to unrighteousness. We serve righteousness because we give way to righteousness. And yes righteousness and unrighteousness is defined, at least in part, for us in the law.

Let us conclude by considering our capacity to govern the flesh. We will do so by quickly evaluating a few verses.

Galatians 5:24 - And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

I see this as the condensed version, the pocket version of Romans six. In beloning to Christ we have crucified the flesh. That is we have put it to death. We are not left speculating about what he means by flesh. Affections and lusts. It is the flesh that suffers affections. It is the flesh that gives ocassion to lusts. In Christ both of these aspects of the flesh have been put to death. Reckon it to be so.!

2 Corinthians 7:1 - Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

What is one aspect of perfecting holiness in the fear of God? Cleansing ourselves of all filthiness of the flesh. This would be in contrast to the spirit. Thus we have both the outside and the inside being addressed in this verse. I hear it till I am almost sick. "It is what on the inside that matters" And what exactly is this supposed to imply? That there are people who do not think that the inside is important. There may be someone somewhere who believes this but I have yet to meet them??? Is it meant to imply that the outside does not matter? If so, this is simply wrong. I think what the Bible teaches us is that the outside is a reflection of the inside. Consequently both need to be cleansed of their filthiness. The argument cannot be made that one is obedient on the inside when they are disobedient on the outside.

Romans 8:12 - Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.

This is a good principle to remember. We do not owe the flesh anything. We have no responsibility to live after the flesh. In fact the Bible tells us that to be carnally minded is death. The flesh is always seeking to cut a deal. It is always willing to compromise. It just wants a little bit more. Once is has been surrendered it will seek just a little bit more. The process continues until we have abandoned anything that even resembles pity and holiness and instead of agonizing over our imperfections and the presence of the flesh within us we beging to justify it and then defend it and then promote it. God help us to realize we are not debtors to the flesh.

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

Herein lies the appropriate understanding. We do walk in the flesh. It goes with us everywhere. We got out of bed this morning with the flesh. We went about our day with the flesh. We will go to bed with the flesh. The flesh is ever present. But........we do not war after the flesh. The word "war" comes from a Greek word that is a military term and actually invovles the idea of following a commander in a military campaign. Thus the principle is that while we have the flesh with us in everything we do and everywhere we go we have no obligation to allow it to assume the role of a commander. The flesh is not to do the dictating but is to be dictated to.

Galatians 5:16 - This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

In light of the previous verse let me just say this. Our walk in the flesh should be governed by our walk in the Spirit. If this is the way we will order our lives then we will not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

Romans 8:3,4 - 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 for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

You see the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in those who walk after the Spirit and not the flesh. This is possible because Christ came and condmened sin in the flesh. He conquored sin and we enjoy the benefit of that victory when we accept him as our personal saviour. Verse four is clear. The spirital man fulfills the righteousness of the law. I have yet to figure out where people get the notion that under grace the standard has been lowered. Again, such is not the case and this is an aggregious error for which there is no excuse. In fact Matthew five should dispel such a notion once and for all. It is there for just a couple of examples where Jesus reminded the people that the law had said thou shalt not kill. But Jesus raised the bar. He told the people that if you are angry with your brother without cause then you are in danger of the judgment. He reminded the people that the law had said they should not commit adultery. But he again raises the expectation by informing them that whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has commited adultery already in his heart. There is not indication whatsoever that under grace less is expected but at every point along the way we are reminded of how much more is expected under the new covenant. And when you think about it, it makes absolute sense that it would be that way.

Galatians 5:13 - For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

We have been called to liberty. Liberty from the law for salvation. Here is where most people go awry with their understanding. Because we are free from the law for justification purposes does not mean we are free from obeying God’s moral precepts. It is familiarity with the law that helps us see many things from God’s perspective.

We have been called unto liberty. Liberty from sin. Liberty, if we are not careful, can be abused to make excuse for the flesh. Grace is marred by the unholy marching under its banner. Baptist pulpits all over the country are justifying all manner of unholy, sinful living taking refuge in a liberty that does not exist. The justifying is often done in the halls of silence by those who are fearful of lifting up their voices like a trumpet and showing Israel their sin. What we omit from our preaching is often more destructive than what we include! Would to God there could be a genuine return to the "old paths" where in dwelleth rightouesness. Unfortunately we live in days much like the days of Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 6:16 Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.

Holiness is difficult because of the flesh. It is not impossible because of the Spirit. When we feel the intense struggle in the pursuit of holiness and the unwillingness to make the commitment that needs to be made to get the victory just know that it is with our own flesh that we are doing battle.
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