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Flesh VS Spirit 

Peninsula Community Church 

April 29, 2018 

Flesh VS Spirit 

Romans 8:3-9 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

Last week we talked about not being condemned by our past failures and issues. We discussed the fact that we are free from sin and from the past as a result of the work of Christ on the cross. This week we will continue to look at how this transpires and how we can be assured that we are no longer condemned. From our discussion last week, we found that Romans 8:1 tells us that we are free from the guilt of sin, while Romans 8:2 tells us that we are free from the power of sin.

As we will see today, our mindset makes all of the difference and our focus will determine where we go and what we do. Our focus will determine what we will achieve or not achieve in life. Notice that in our passage today, we find that the law was weak because of the flesh. Therefore, if our focus is on the flesh we will fail to be what God has called us to be. We will be guided by a law that is weakened by the very flesh that we focus on. 

To understand this, we must recognize that the law was weakened by the flesh for two reasons. First, the law was weak as it is an outworking of the flesh that drives us to do things that we do not desire to do, and we do not do what we should do. It is the carnal nature that is the focus of Paul’s words in Romans 7. Let me explain what is meant by the flesh. The flesh is that part of us that recoils when we try to do what is right. It is that part of us that came alive when man sinned and disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. From that time until now, it is the part of us that is at war with God’s desires for us and the purpose of the Spirit within us.

As I was preparing for this message I came across this. We know the work of the flesh in us when, like the disciples, we should be watching and praying, our flesh really wants to sleep. When we should be sleeping, our flesh finds Facebook browsing and catching up on email fascinating. When we should be diligently teaching our children (Deuteronomy 6:7), our flesh would love to watch a relaxing, family-friendly movie. When we should be meditating on Scripture, our flesh becomes a fountain of ideas for reorganizing the room, improving the yard, or critiquing political candidates. When we should be focusing on our work, our flesh brings up that focus-dominating fear and what we could be doing for fun. When we should be cutting our calories, our flesh demands a sugar-laced snack. When we should be eating because we have become undernourished due to believing the lies about how our weight relates to our value, our flesh screams shame-filled things to stop us. When we should be relishing the joy and freedom of sexual purity and fidelity, our flesh desires to imagine or view defiling, lewd images. When we should be humbly resisting premature conclusions regarding a potentially offensive concern or comment, our flesh immediately turns defensive and suspicious, proposing fantasy scenarios that will indulge sinful anger with a feeling of righteous indignation. Have you ever experienced that? Do you know how that feels? That is the struggle of the flesh.

The second reason the law was weakened by the flesh is that the law had no power to bring change. It could guide us, it could teach us, and it could point out sin, but it could not give life. It was powerless to bring peace, and it was powerless to help us please God. The law could tell us what is wrong, but it could not bring change. Have you ever had that person in your life that loved to point the wrong in your life and uncover your failures, but were unwilling to aide in changing or overcoming those issues? That was the problem with the law. It pointed out sin, but it did nothing to relieve it. 

The one positive thing that came from the law is that it taught us we need a Savior. It taught us that following the rules alone is not good enough. We need a Savior. It taught us that towing the line is not productive, because we fear failing and coming up short, which happens when we try to follow the legalism of the law. We can do all of the right things and still fall short of what was intended. We need a Savior. 

That is why Paul’s next statement is so powerful. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  Notice that Christ came in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin in order to accomplish what the law could not do. The law required righteousness. The law required us to tow the line. The law required us to keep in step.

The law had a requirement for righteousness which could not be fulfilled any way but through Jesus Christ. That is why He who knew no sin took on all of our sin past, present, and future. He fulfilled the righteous requirements of the law. What the law could not do, God did by sending His Son. At first glance, we might miss the depth of this statement. God sent His Son. This meant that He existed before. He is eternal and came to earth to save that which was lost. 

What we know is that the righteous requirement of the law was fulfilled in Christ. We are now empowered to follow Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. The law could not defeat sin; it could only detect it. Only Jesus can defeat sin, and He did just that through His work on the cross. The question then is is where will we focus our attention? What will we set our minds on? Will we focus on the spirit or will we focus on the flesh? By focusing on the flesh we become obsessed with the rules and the dos and don’ts and we miss living life. We will be focused on just getting by, rather than living life to the fullest. By focusing on the flesh, we miss the opportunity to walk in freedom. On the other hand, if we focus on the spirit, we live in freedom and power. 

Why is this? For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. As Paul noted, the flesh is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law because it cannot. In the flesh it is impossible to please God. That was the plight of Paul in Romans 7, but it is his victory in Romans 8. 

With that in mind let me make an observation or two. We must remember that the fruit of the Spirit is not produced through legislation but by what the vine is connected to. That is why we must be in Christ. That is why we cannot legislate morality, but we must live a spirituality that comes by living a life fully connected to Christ. How many have ever passed a fruit tree and have heard it groaning and moaning to produce fruit? That is not the case at all. That is because fruit is produced from the connection it has to the vine. It does not worry about its fruit, it just stays connected. So are you connected? How do we connect? 

For the guys who were at the men’s retreat this year you might remember Garret Barbush’s message. At the close of his message, he gave us some perspective into how we can set our minds on the spirit and stay connected which leads to bearing the fruit of the spirit. First, we must be confident of our position in Christ. In John 10:10 we find that a full life is a contented life. It is a life of balance. Jesus came to be our life, so you can make a difference as a believer. If we do not remain in Him, we will not be fruitful and we will not make a difference. Instead, we will be tempted to live by the flesh and not the spirit. As believers, we are in Him and we should rest in that.

Second, be aware of God’s desire to be in constant fellowship with you. We will abide in Him only as we are aware that He wants to abide with us. We know this because He chose us. In John 15:16 we find that “He chose us to bear fruit in us.” He chose us to bear fruit and we do that best when we are in fellowship with Him. The result is that we keep our minds set on Christ. 

Third, be intentional about spending time with God. In Matthew 22:36-37 the question is asked about what is the greatest commandment? How do we love God with all of our heart and soul? If we were loving God the way He wants, we will be changing culture. We will be bearing fruit because it is the defining mark of a believer. We must spend time together. We do this through prayer and solitude. 

Fourth, be in God’s word so we get to know Him. We are ineffective without His word. Without His word, we fail to understand what He wants for us. Without His word, we are left to our own demise. Without His word, we become disconnected and discontented. 

My challenge today us to take the next 30 days and focus fully on the Spirit. Spend time in the Bible and in prayer so that we become more connected to Christ. At the end of the thirty days report back and let me know how you are doing. My guess is that you will find that you are doing much better than you hoped or thought. 

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Who is Your Master?

Peninsula Community Church

Who is Your Master?

May 7, 2017

Galatians 5:16-24 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

When I was in high school back in 1973, I witnessed an amazing event take place. You see for most that year there was a short skinny kid named Jimmy who had been picked on and had been abused emotionally and even physically in many ways. It had begun as fun but now it was a daily exercise from many in the school. While many were engaged in this brutality others had begun to feel sorry for Jimmy but felt powerless to do anything. That all changed one day, however. It was regular day for the most part. As I headed to my next class, I noticed a crowd had gathered outside the gym and they were shouting at someone in the middle of the group.

As I got bit a closer, I realized Jimmy was in the middle of the group. In front of him was one of the biggest, toughest guys in the school. He was slapping Jimmy, and each time he did, people would cheer and laugh. It seemed that Jimmy was being beat down. But something happened in that moment that changed everything. From somewhere deep inside of Jimmy, he suddenly stood up taller than ever before, and before we knew it the big, tough senior was on the ground. He had blood pouring from a broken nose and and he was in the fetal position grabbing his stomach where he writhed in pain. You see what no one knew was that Jimmy was a black belt in karate. He had enough that day and he finally retaliated for the first time.

For some of us, we are living like Jimmy. Every day we are beaten down, pushed around, and ridiculed. We feel defeated and we feel we have lost control of our lives. We feel mastered by both external and internal forces of our lives. We find that we are being subjected to unnecessary and undeserved abuse physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But like Jimmy we don’t have to live defeated, but instead we can be victorious. We can leave the enemy with a broken nose writhing in pain. The fact is Jimmy had the power to deal with his enemies within him the hole time, he just never used that power.

You see no matter what you experience whether it be anger, insecurity, feelings of failure, or other issues, you have the power to overcome each of these. To overcome, we must come to the place where we recognize we are in a battle. We must understand there is a war going on within us and the winner of the battle will master us. Paul describes this war as one between the flesh and the Spirit.

I did not know this until this week that May 4th has been designated as Star Wars Day. As you might remember, Star Wars is a movie that deals with the battle between good and evil. In this passage, Paul reminds us that a real battle is going on within us. This battle is not some conflict that happens on a movie screen that is resolved within an hour to two hours. It happens within our hearts and souls on a daily basis.

Paul defines this battle by way of the symptoms manifested as a result of the battle. He describes these manifestations as the fruit of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. When you go to the doctor he/she will ask you a series of questions. Most of the answers we give are really just symptoms which point to an underlying problem. What Paul describes here are the symptoms of a life being mastered by the flesh or the Spirit. The symptoms of walking in the flesh are sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. Juxtaposed to these symptoms are the symptoms manifested by one who is walking in the Spirit. They are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. These are a matter of the condition of our heart.

Paul understood the concept of symptoms and understanding when it comes to the question of who masters us. That is why in verse 17 he states there is a necessity to walk in the Spirit. Paul reminds us that by walking in the Spirit, we will not gratify the desires of the flesh. The truth is we have been set up for failure in so many ways. For some, we have been raised in such a way that has negatively impacted us spiritually and emotionally.

All of us at different times have allowed the flesh to master us, but there is a difference between being mastered by something and having a short time failure. For example, when it comes to anger there is a difference between getting angry and having ongoing fits of rage. Of course, we can insert whatever issue we deal with here. It might be fear, envy, jealously, strife, and rivalries. All of these can control our life and how we respond to others but they don’t have to.

As I have talked to some of you over the last few weeks one of the issues we have discussed is anger. Some of you express anger through fits of rage while others use the silent treatment. When we deal with anger, or any of the other issues found this passage, there are a few thing we must recognize. First of all, fits of rage or anger can be a learned response. We respond in anger because that is what we learned through experience. Therefore, when things don’t go the way we want, we get angry. I know this because I was one who learned to respond to things in anger because my stepdad would do that.

Secondly, anger can become our “go to” when we are frustrated or we do not get our way. Because it is our go to method of dealing with things, it is easy for us to go negative. We find that anger is a result of unmet expectations which is based on a false concept of expectation. We also get angry when we feel our is identity is being tested or is being diminished by another. When our anger goes unchecked, it is so easy for us to respond with anger because it has become the norm for us. The fact is it can be easier to get angry rather than deal with the problem before us. But though it is the norm it does not have to be that way.

Paul closes this verse out by saying that those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. By the spirit’s power we can crucify the flesh’s work in us. In practical ways how do we do this? First, we must have a desire for change. Without a desire for change, we will not be positioned for change. We will allow ourselves to be battled and the flesh will win every time. A desire for change begins with taking very thought captive and bringing our thoughts into obedience to Christ’s will and desire for us (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Secondly, we must saturate ourselves with the Word of God. The Word of God gives us guidance and details how we should live. David stated that he had stored up God’s word in his heart so he would not sin against God (Psalms 119:11). That is what we need to do. For example, this week I shared with someone a particular Scripture that could guide their life. I suggested they write the scripture down and post it on their mirror, in their car, or any place they would see the Scripture on a regular basis. Then every time they feel anger or they experience any fruit of the flesh, they could go to that Scripture, read it, and by the power of the Holy Spirit live it out.

Thirdly, we ask the Holy Spirit to establish in us right thinking. We take every thought captive to the glory of God (2 Corinthians 10:5). How we think determines how we will respond to the stimuli in our life. When we have our thinking under control, we will find that the flesh will be gratified less and less and the fruit of the spirit will be revealed more and more. You see fruit is the outcome of how we live and how we think. If we allow the flesh to master us, we will have flesh like fruit. If we allow the Spirit to master us, we will manifest spiritual fruit.

Fourth, I would suggest we learn the power of the pause. When we feel we are getting angry we need to pause and ask the question. Why am I getting angry? Why am I flying off the handle? You see there is something to be said of counting to ten, twenty, hundred, or even a thousand. Whatever it takes we must do. When we slow down and think through why we are angry, most of the time there is no real answer. We are just angry. For that reason James commands us Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:19-20) The desire of James is that we become less reactive and more active in our responses to life’s issues.

Finally, we cannot and must not forget the power of prayer. We begin our day by asking the Heavenly Father to help us overcome these things. We pray for God to guard our hearts, help us to take every thought captive, and we pray that our emotions are guided by the Holy Spirit. Then whenever we are driven to walk in the flesh, we ask for God’s help to overcome in that moment and to empower us to walk in the spirit.

So today let me ask you, “who is your master?” “Who controls you?” It is your choice!

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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No Longer Condemned

Peninsula Community Church

August 21, 2016

No Longer Condemned

Romans 8:1-5 – There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

I love Romans 8. I love it because it is regarded by many Christian scholars as the greatest chapter of all the Bible. In fact, in reading many of the commentaries on Romans, Chapter 8 has been described as “the mountain peak” of Scripture and “the chapter of chapters for the Christian believer.” Many commentators quote a German author by the name of Spencer who many years ago said “If Holy Scripture was a ring, and the Epistle to the Romans a precious stone, Chapter 8 would be the sparkling point of the jewel.”

For me personally, Romans 8 and in particular Romans 8:1 is one of those passages that have been used in my life to stake a claim to Christ’s promise of hope and the abundant life here on earth, as well as the life to come. You see, for such a long time I felt condemned on several levels. For one, I believed that if I just followed all of the rules everything was going to be ok. Boy was I wrong. I followed the rules, did what was right, and yet things continued to fall apart in my life. The result was a sense of failure and a sense that God could not do what He said.

Not only was I being condemned by my actions but I was also being condemned and judged by those around me. Although it was not always a reality, I felt that people would discourage and judge me rather than build up and encourage me. I allowed the voices of others to determine what I would do and be, rather than being obedient to Christ’s plan for my life. The downside is that I became more concerned about what people thought about me than being obedient to God. When I failed to live up to what people thought I should be, I began to sense a huge level of condemnation and judgement being imposed upon my life.

When I came to Christ I felt a bit betrayed and lied to as the pastor implied that everything would be great if I just followed the rules. The rules were different but the emphasis was on keeping the rules and not on a relationship with Christ. As a believer, I turned to Scripture but because of my religious background and the teaching I received, I was once again condemned because I never felt I could live up to the all of the rules and the requirements that were laid out. I was being counseled that I needed to follow all of the rules and be obedient. That all sounded good and it sounded right so I began to attempt to follow the rules and be the obedient person I needed to be. The problem however is that I would read the Scripture to see what the rules were rather than to determine who God was. The result was that my life sounded much like the words of Romans 7. The things I wanted to do I didn’t do and the things I didn’t want to do I did (Romans 7:13-20). It was a battle royal for my mind and my heart.

The battle continued to rage within me until I grew in the Lord and in my understanding of the Gospel. I came to a couple of conclusions that began to change my life. I would like to share these with you. First of all, I discovered that the law/the rules were weak and were powerless to accomplish what I needed (Romans 7:5-6; Romans 8:3-4). My study and my understanding led me to see that the law was a good school master (Galatians 3:24 ASV). It was a good teacher but it was powerless to make a difference in my life.

I love the commercials from Life Lock Security company. You may have seen them. In particular I love the one where there is a bank robbery in progress. Those in the bank look to the guard on duty to help them. His response is that he is not a security guard he is only a security monitor. Because he was only a monitor he was powerless do anything about the robbery. I love what happens. During the robbery, he leans over to those on the floor and says “oh yeah, there’s a robbery.” The law in itself was a good monitor for sin and was good at pointing to sin in our life but it continued to be powerless to do anything about the sin. The work of the law was critical in that it served to detail the boundaries of our life. We need boundaries and we need guidelines but those guidelines do little to change our heart or our mind. We need something different. We need Christ.

That brings me to second thing I learned. To live a life without condemnation is a choice. The choice is centered and focused on how we live. Paul offers us two choices. We can live by the spirit or we can live by the law (Romans 8:4-8). You see the law according to Paul brings sin to life. We must understand that the law did not create sin because sin was was a part of man’s life long before the law was given to Moses by God. In fact we see sin full blown in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3).

In our final moments here I would like to look at this phrase. But I would like to look at this phrase in reverse in order to build a case for God’s grace and the freedom that comes as a result of His work on the cross. Paul statedTherefore there is now no condemnation.”

We begin with the term condemnation which is defined as (1) the expression of very strong disapproval or (2) the action of condemning someone to a punishment. It is to be condemned or judged. Condemnation is a legal term in that you are given sentence equal to your crime. Paul has already declared the penalty for sin was death. Remember his words. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). But through Christ there is eternal life thus the penalty of sin of has been paid. It is for that reason there is no condemnation for us. No sin a believer can commit; past, present, or future – can be held against him if that sin has been forgiven, since the penalty was paid by Christ and righteousness was imputed to the believer. And no sin will ever reverse this divine legal decision.

The second word is this passage is the word “no”. In Christ, there is NO condemnation. In the New Testament when writers wanted to emphasize a particular word, they would put it at the beginning of the sentence. That was their way of saying, “This is important.” In the Greek the first word is not “therefore.” The first word in the Greek is the word “no.” The fifth word in our translation is first in the original because Paul wants to emphasize in the strongest possible way that there is no condemnation. That’s why he took the word “no” and moved it to the front. There is therefore, no condemnation. You might translate it this way: “There is no condemnation—none whatsoever—for the believer in Christ Jesus. Secondly, Paul uses the strongest word possible for the word no in the Greek language.

Do you know what that means? We may stumble, we may fall, we may trip, we may make a thousand mistakes, we may sin and we do, we may get off the path, we may go astray, we may have a thousand problems, but for the believer in Jesus Christ, there is, therefore now, no condemnation because God has said it is so. You can struggle, but you’re not condemned. You can fall, but you’re not condemned. You can trip, but you’re not condemned. You can stray off the path, but you are not condemned because God has said He will not condemn those who are in Christ Jesus.

The third word in this passage is the word “now”. The gift of no condemnation comes to us as a gift but a gift that must be received. Now speaks of a future hope but a present reality. The word now “distinguishes two conditions of a man, namely, his condition under the law, and his condition under grace,—that is, his natural and his supernatural conditions. For by nature we are children of wrath, but now God has rendered us accepted in the Beloved. This benefit was effected the moment you accepted Christ as your Savior. The “now” contrasts the believer’s new state with the old, which had passed away. Hallelujah!

And finally there is the word “therefore.” The word therefore is a powerful word that must not be taken lightly. It is a word that directs our attention to something that comes before. In this case the word points us back to what Christ has done for us. I love the way Romans is laid out. He begins in Romans 1 & 2 by defining the life without God. H continues to show us why we need Christ and He shows us the way of escape And the power of change that comes to us.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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