Are You Being Perfected by the Flesh?

Are You Bewitched?
Galatians 3:1-3

“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”

The Purpose of Jesus’ Crucifixion

So, what was the purpose of Jesus’ crucifixion? The Scriptures teach that Jesus died on that cross that we might die with him to sin and live to him and to his righteousness. He died that we might no longer live for ourselves but for him who gave his life up for us. And He shed his blood for us on that cross to buy us back for God (to redeem us) so we would now honor God with our bodies (1 Pet 2:24; 2 Co 5:15,21; 1 Co 6:19-20).

They also teach that when we believe in Jesus with God-given faith that we are crucified with Christ in death to sin and we are raised with him to walk in newness of life in him, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Our old self is crucified with Christ in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we will no longer be enslaved to sin but to God and to his righteousness (Rom 6:1-23; Eph 4:17-24; Rom 8:1-17).

We also learn that God’s grace, which brings us salvation, instructs us to say “No!” to ungodliness and fleshly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for our Lord’s return. For Jesus Christ gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Tit 2:11-14; Eph 2:10).

By Flesh or By Spirit

The key word here, to me, is “flesh.” For obviously, if we read the passages of Scripture noted above, and others like them, we realize that God did not do away with all his commands or with his requirement for obedience to his commands. He redeemed us from all lawlessness, so he didn’t save us so we would become lawless. We just don’t have to obey all the Old Covenant liturgical, ceremonial, sacrificial, purification and dietary laws and restrictions which were required of the Jews under the Old Covenant.

Now we obey Jesus and his commands (New Covenant) which include all his moral laws which were required of his people under the Old Covenant. But he summarized the law and the prophets into two commands, the first of which is to love the Lord our God with our whole being and to love our neighbors (all people) as ourselves, for if we do these things we will not sin against God or against other humans but we will walk in obedience to the Lord (Matt 22:37-40; Matt 7:21-23; Jn 14:15-24; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10).

And then if we go over two chapters to Galatians 5 we read there that we are to walk by the Spirit so that we will not gratify the desires (cravings) of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh. And the works of the flesh are sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, enmity, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. And we are warned that if we practice such things that we will not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; 1 Co 6:9-10).

So, we don’t become lawless by faith in Jesus Christ. God still has commands for us to obey. We still have to obey the Lord, and we still have to forsake our sins as part of believing faith which saves. But we are not saved either by legalistic requirements (by externals) or by good works done in our own flesh hoping to appease God while we still continue living in deliberate and habitual sin. And we are not saved by a mere profession of faith but by faith proved genuine by what we do in submission to Christ.

By Faith in Jesus Christ
Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Now I hear a lot of people say, “All I have to do is believe.” One man said to me one day, “I don’t have to repent. I just have to believe.” So when they say “believe” they are talking about some emotional decision or some verbal confession of Christ as Lord or some mere acknowledgment of Jesus and who he was/is and of what he did for us on that cross, according to what they are taught. Some of them prayed a prayer to receive Christ and were promised they were now saved and guaranteed heaven no matter what.

But this faith which saves is not of our own doing. We don’t get to decide what faith looks like. This faith originates with Jesus Christ, and it is gifted to us by God, and it is perfected by Christ, and we can’t even come to faith in Jesus Christ unless God the Father first draws us to Christ. And the word “faith” means to be persuaded, in this case to be persuaded by God as to his holiness and righteousness, of our sinfulness, and of our need to die with Christ to sin and to live to him in walks of obedience to his commands.

[Jn 6:44; Eph 2:8-10; Heb 12:1-2; 2 Pet 1:1; Tit 2:11-14; 1 Co 10:1-22; Heb 3:1-19; Heb 4:1-13]

And “not a result of works” obviously does not mean that no works are involved in our salvation and in our walks of faith for we are saved for good works which God prepared in advance that we should walk in them. What this is saying is that we can do nothing in our own flesh to earn or to deserve our own salvation. We can’t make up our own definition of faith, either. Even our faith to believe in Jesus comes from God, not from us.

So we can’t just profess to believe in Jesus and then claim for ourselves full forgiveness of sins and the guarantee of heaven when we die. This is not what the Scriptures teach. They teach we must die with Christ to sin and we must be raised with Christ to walk in newness of life in him. Sin is to no longer have mastery over our lives but Jesus Christ is to be our only Lord and master. And we are now to obey him with our lives.

For if we continue in deliberate and habitual sin we will NOT inherit eternal life with God. If we want the hope of salvation from sin and eternal life with God it must be according to what the Scriptures teach. Daily we must be putting sin to death in our lives and we must be walking according to the Spirit in obedience to our Lord and not according to the flesh. And we must continue in these walks of faith and obedience until the very end of time.

[Lu 9:23-26; Jn 6:35-58; Jn 15:1-11; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10,19-20; 2 Co 5:10,15,21; Tit 2:11-14; Jas 1:21-25; Rom 12:1-2; Eph 2:8-10; Php 2:12-13; Col 1:21-23; Col 3:5-10; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; Heb 10:26-27; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Matt 7:21-23; Ac 26:18; Rev 21:8,27; Rev 22:14-15]

A Believer’s Prayer

An Original Work / July 31, 2012

With my whole heart, Lord, I pray
To be Yours, and Yours always.
Lead me in Your truth today.
May I love You and obey.
Lead me in Your righteousness.
When I sin, may I confess;
Bow before You when I pray;
Live for You and You always.

Love You, Jesus, You’re my friend.
Life with You will never end.
You are with me through each day,
Giving love and peace always.
You will ne’er abandon me.
From my sin You set me free.
You died on that cruel tree,
So I’d live eternally.

Soon You’re coming back for me;
From this world to set me free;
Live with You eternally.
Oh, what joy that brings to me.
I will walk with You in white;
A pure bride, I’ve been made right
By the blood of Jesus Christ;
Pardoned by His sacrifice.

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