You may be under the impression like I was that the battle against sin is the lifelong battle. It is what we are fighting against and is the goal of our Christian life. Jesus did not speak of sin as the ultimate battle, however, but rather spoke a much more difficult conflict.
The Denial of the Self
“If anyone wants to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his soul-life (lit.) shall lose it; but whoever loses his soul-life for My sake shall find it.” Matthew 16:24-25
The Lord did not actually call us to stop sinning. If you read my last post, The Victory Over Sin, you can see that our body of sin was actually dealt with on the cross. All we need to do concerning sin is have faith in the accomplished work and reckon ourselves dead. The real call of the Lord was the denial of the self, the flesh, the soul-life.
“Many Christians are quite disposed to leave Ur of the Chaldees, but few there be who can see the need to sacrifice on Mount Morih what God has given.”¹
This quote really encompasses what I want to share with you. Leaving the world behind, as Abraham did with Ur, seems like an obvious demand from the Lord (difficult as it may seem). However, when asked for their God-given Isaac, how many will rush to the mountain with wood and a knife?
God has no desire of the old creation. All, good and bad, go to the lake of fire. Yet how many of us believers say to ourselves “my will be done, for I know how to serve God?” What is the Lord’s estimation of our flesh?
“My Spirit will not strive with man forever, for he indeed is flesh” Genesis 6:3
Our flesh, which is our natural man, is entirely of the old creation. God will not strive with it, nor will he work alongside it. Our entire soul needs to be denied for the sake of God and His purpose.
The Lord as our Example
“But emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, becoming in the likeneses of men” Philippeans 2:7
“And He said, Abba Father, all things are possible to You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.” Mark 14:36
“The cup which I drink you shall drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized you shall be baptized.” Mark 10:39
If we want to see how this actually looks in practice, we need look no further than the Lord’s life on earth. He lived a crucified life. You may think that the Lord was crucified at 33 years old, but in reality, the Lord was living by the cross for His entire life. He emptied Himself of all He had right to. He chose to deny His own sinless will for that of the Father’s. He did not live according to His own need, desire, or opinion, though they were righteous, but rather lived according to God.
We must see that we have the same calling today! Do you think that you know what God desires? Logic tells us that Paul should go to Asia and reap a great harvest, but God’s will was for a man in Macedonia (Acts 16:6-10). Logic tells us to not go into the city that blasphemes God, resists the gospel, and desires to assail you, but God had other plans in Corinth (Acts 18:6-11). We know not the will of God, for we serve according to our fallen flesh and dead knowledge. We need to live and serve by another life.
Completion by the flesh?
“Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Galatians 3:3
Really the book of Galatians is centered on this topic I am discussing. Flesh here is by no means the sinful deeds that we usually think of when we hear it. The Galatians, though they were foolish, at least knew that they can’t be perfected by sinning. They were attempting to follow the law!
We were saved by the Spirit, and our call now is to walk by the Spirit. This is not a simple thing to do. It takes a lifetime. When man fell, his spirit lost its place as the leading part. Our soul now leads us in all decisions. We try to work and even serve God according to our mind, emotion, and will. The real question is, could we do what we are doing without the Spirit’s provision? I believe that for most, the answer to this question is yes.
God is a God of resurrection. This was the hope of Abraham with Isaac (Heb. 11:19). This is our hope in Christ (Jn. 11:25). Our life as believers is a pursuit of knowing Christ, the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His sufferings, and being conformed to His death (Col. 3:10). This means denying ourselves completely and fully, seeking God as the One who leads us and raises up our old man. If we do not offer ourselves on the altar, God has no way of raising us up in His life.
If you desire to deny your soul-life and live by the spirit, a good way to start is by praying a prayer like this:
“Lord Jesus I want to deny myself. All my soul is of the old creation. I know that you only desire that which has passed through death and resurrection. Lord I confess that I have nothing of value for You. We offer ourselves to you as dead men. Lord raise us up. Allow us to walk by the Spirit. We want to give no ground to the flesh. Jesus we deny our soul-life, that you might lead us in our spirit!”
Watchman Nee, The Spiritual Man, The Cross and the Soul