Jon Moffitt: Before we get going, I just wanted to say that the membership continues to grow and as it grows, we have more financial ability to do more things. Thank you for your support. We’re going to have additional ways for you guys to help support us and provide more content. We can let it leak out right now that very soon we are going to be doing a new class. It’s something we’ve never done before where the three of us are going to do a four-part series on Covenant Theology. We’re pretty excited about that. That’ll come out here probably sometime this fall.
But again, with more finances that come in, we have more ability to produce more stuff. So, we’re all pretty geeking out and nerding out about that. We all love Covenant Theology so we get to provide that for our members. I’m pretty excited about that.
Another one of Paul’s wonderful commands, “Walk by the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh,” could be used as an argument for the victorious Christian life. The more you walk by the Spirit, the more you’ll be mortifying the flesh. What does Paul mean when he says that?
Jimmy Buehler: Again, I always want to keep in view that there are individual aspects to verses like that, but we also want to keep in view the corporate realities as well. Whenever we see phrases like this we can tend to over-spiritualize some of these things in that we think it’s some magical process. What I would like to point out is there are a lot more common-sense things in the New Testament than we like to give credit for. You see this everywhere in 1 Corinthians where Paul’s says something like, “Have you all lost your minds? What is wrong with you?”
There are some commands like, “Do not take your father’s wife,” and it’s like he’s saying, “I can’t believe I have to write this to you, but here I am.” I get this a lot because I’m a high school teacher by day. There are times I love my students but there are times when I go, “Guys, I can’t believe that I have to tell you to not lick my whiteboard right now, but here we are.” So when we think about walking by the Spirit so that you will not gratify the desires of the flesh, there are certain things… even yesterday I was reading about the Jerusalem Council in the Book of Acts where they’re talking about circumcision, high-level, who can be in and out of the church. One of the practical things that the Jerusalem Council tells the Gentile churches is that, “It’s a really good idea to abstain from sexual immorality. Just so you know. We just ask that you do these things and it’s going to go well for you.”
Justin Perdue: Why are they saying this? Because the Gentile context that these people were coming from is one where sexual immorality was commonplace. It was not seen as a big deal. It was just what people did. So we have to remember that when the apostles are writing into Gentile context, they’re writing to people that don’t have the framework of God’s Law. They have the natural law, they understand some sense of right and wrong and that they’re made in God’s image and all that, and they’re without excuse, Romans 1, but they do not have the special revelation of God to know that certain thing that they did all the time before were actually bad. So the apostles are just trying to make that plain.
Jimmy Buehler: Paul says the works of the Spirit are evident: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. He says these things are objectively good. Where these exist in the corporate gathering of the church, it is a good and beautiful thing that should be celebrated, right? So when we walk in the Spirit not to gratify the desires of the flesh, we celebrate the things of the Spirit; we don’t celebrate the things of the flesh.
So within the church where there is jealousy and enmity and strife, we don’t look at that and say, “Hey, this is okay. This is normal so we should continue down this road.” Paul’s reply would be something like, “No. We don’t walk in that way because of what God has accomplished for us on our behalf in Christ. We walk in the Spirit. We walk in love and joy and peace and patience and guidance.” They are implications of the gospel but they are not the gospel themselves.
Jon Moffitt: a fun question I’ve asked.
I asked it to the men’s Bible study because it’s used and it’s an amazing promise.
Everybody here on the podcast, we hate the flesh. Paul says, “The desire of the flesh is against the Spirit, and the desire of the Spirit is against the flesh. For these are opposed to each other to keep you from doing the things that you want to do.” I want to be holy m. If I could just be perfect, life would be amazing. But it’s not that way. So then Paul says, “The way in which that you pursue this is that you walk by the Spirit.”
There are all kinds of instructions that are given. Some will say that’s your Bible reading, some will say that’s your prayer life – or the spiritual disciplines. I don’t think so. If you look over at the end of Colossians 2, he gives the same instructions and he says, “Listen, you’re trying to control your flesh through asceticism and all kinds of outward actions, but you can’t control the indulgence of the flesh this way.”
Paul, instead of telling them to walk by the Spirit, he gives an example. And he says, “Looking unto Jesus, who is sitting at the right hand of the Father.” looking to your representative, looking to your justification, your sanctification, and glorification. Another way he’s saying this is to walk by the Spirit is to live every single moment with the reality of what the Spirit has been to you.
You are in union with Christ because of the Spirit’s indwelling nature in you. When you live within that reality, that’s what helps motivate you to fight back against the flesh.
Justin Perdue: Galatians 5:16 is the verse that we’re referencing: “But I say walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”
You just read verse 17, Jon, which is great clarification. But then in verse 18 Paul says, “If you’re led by the Spirit, you’re not under the Law.” That sounds just like Romans 6 where we’re told that we’re not under the Law, but we’re under grace. So the union with Jesus is obviously paramount in Paul’s mind. He’s going to continue to go on down below this and say those things in verse 24, “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.’ What he means there is not what we often hear that if you’re really a Christian, you’ll have crucified the flesh. That’s not what he’s saying. What he’s saying is this has happened in Christ Jesus. Your flesh has been put to death, and then you have been united to Christ.
Then he says in verse 25, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” What’s he going to say now? He’s going to talk about not becoming conceited, not provoking one another, being gentle in restoring each other. “Bear one another’s burdens” comes right after that. Don’t think too highly of yourself lest anybody think that there’s something when he is nothing; he deceives himself. That’s where he goes in describing what it even looks like to walk in the Spirit in the context of Galatians 5 and 6.
That’s never said in the broader context of the evangelical world where when we hear “walk by the Spirit”, we don’t ever hear “union with Christ.” We don’t ever hear, “Don’t become conceited.” We don’t ever hear, “Gently restore people. Bear one another’s burdens.” That’s not what’s ever communicated. It’s always a very personal, individualized, read your Bible and battle sin, be disciplined, etc. That’s not what Paul says at all. Not that those things are bad, but that’s not what Paul describes walking by the Spirit as. It’s union with Jesus. It’s looking to Christ and honestly, it’s humility and loving your brothers and sisters.
Jon Moffitt: Sometimes we decide what we want to talk on and one of the things that we always try and focus on is clarifying and really needling down. There are so many new listeners. There are so many people that are coming into this conversation that we have to circle back and pick up some things that we haven’t talked about in a while.
So many people feel like failures. They feel as if everything they’re doing is not enough. They feel that they’re disappointing their spouses, they’re disappointing their children, they’re disappointing their parents, they’re disappointed in their whole life because they can’t live up to the expectation.
Here’s what the gospel is. The gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ has met every expectation. That is the good news of the gospel because God expects you to live an absolute glorious, perfect life of loving him without failure. That’s what He expects, and He will not lower His expectation for anyone ever in all of humanity, and He has proven that through the existence of hell.
When God looks at you, he doesn’t wink His eye and say, “Well, you know, he’s giving it his best shot.” That’s not good news. That’s bad news. God looks at you, and when He looks at you, He sees you clothed in – and this is why we walk by the Spirit – clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. That’s why God accepts you. That’s why you have confidence. That’s why you have assurance.
1 John 3 he says, “What we will be, we are not yet.” He’s looking to the glorification of our bodies. He’s saying we aren’t there yet, but in anticipation of who we will be, we purify ourselves as he is pure – meaning that we don’t lose motivation because we are imputed with Christ’s righteousness because we wear his clothing. It becomes our motivation because that’s the glory of Christ. Yeah. The glory of Christ is so magnificent. We want to be just like him – like a little child who looks up at their parent and is really impressed by them. “I want to be just like that.” We look up to Christ and say, “I want to be just like that. I want to be that loving. I want to be that kind. I want to be that gracious, that dedicated to the Father, that motivated. But I’m not that.” I can fall forward failing towards Christ because I’m safe and secure in what I am because I am declared righteousness. I have not been made righteous; I’ve been declared righteous. Now I have the motivation to move forward.
Jimmy Buehler: Something that I’d like to point out to the listener is that if this kind of mindset is new to you – if you are transitioning into a more confessional context, a more confessional mindset – where the objective realities of the gospel are in the forefront and not in the background, realize that there is a significant amount of work mentally that needs to occur in your own brain. It’s going to take time to transition from an “I receive rest and assurance in my works and what I do for Christ” to “I receive rest and assurance in resting in what Christ has done for me.” That doesn’t come overnight.
When I began my transition into this mindset, and there are days when I have to catch myself from having the victorious Christian life mindset. Then I have to catch myself and say, “Well, that can be taken from me in a moment.” All it takes is a tragedy or some.
I saw a quote the other day and it said that we are just one bad decision away from becoming front-page news. When you realize how frail and fickle your life is, in light of that statement, you begin to think, “I certainly can’t find rest, hope, and assurance in what I do for Christ because that can be taken from me in a moment.”
What we’re putting forth is: the gospel must always exist in the foreground. The transformation of life – status forward – flows out of that gospel reality. The objective realities of the gospel in the foreground.
Jon Moffitt: And whatever level of transformation that is, we don’t know. That’s up to God.
When Paul gets angry at the maturity of the believer, he’s not talking about moral maturity. He’s talking about their spiritual level of faith and dependence upon God. That’s what he’s angry at. “I should be giving you the meat of the gospel, the deeper truths, but you’re all so focused in on self that I can’t even do that.” He’s not talking about moral improvement there.
Justin Perdue: Everybody is sanctified and grown at different rates, and even individuals are sanctified and grown at different rates in different seasons of their lives. Why that is not ours to know, that is the work of God – that’s in His mind, it’s in His purposes, and He has not told us all of those things. We know that He is faithful to sanctify and that is not a one-size-fits-all reality in terms of our experience. It is a one-size-fits-all reality in terms of the definite nature of the fact that we will be conformed to Christ’s image ultimately. But what that’s going to look like day-to-day is going to vary.
I think a reasonable perspective on some of this, in thinking about the Christian life, is to be humble always that any transformation that occurs in my life is God’s work, not my own doing decisively. I participate like I participate in life by being alive.
I know we say that a lot, but I’m doing something because God is doing something. It’s His work in me, so I’m humble but grateful to God for any transformation I see. I’m also grateful to God in those good seasons – when I have those moments where the battle against sin right now is not as intense as it has been in certain seasons of my life, and I’m thankful to God for that. That’s a good perspective. At the same time, be realistic enough to know that the hard seasons are coming. The water will get high again, and things will get hard again. The question is, “Where is your hope and stay in that moment when everything around you is falling apart, and your mind and your heart are all over the place?”
Again, we hold to what we call Confessional Theology because we are looking outside of ourselves to truths that have been revealed by God in His word, to be trusted and rested in. That’s the hope that we have in the bad seasons. It’s a very grounded, very realistic, humble perspective on the Christian life that I think is just more stable. It allows us to call things what they are. We don’t fall into these traps, like we were alluding to earlier, where we have to deny our own sinfulness, we’ve got to put on a decent face and not tell people that we’re struggling because that would call into question the legitimacy of our faith. We can be honest with each other in the church, and it’s amazing how the Lord uses that. There are all kinds of good from this.
Jimmy Buehler: Something I like to say to newly married couples, or particularly people without children is, “Just enjoy your holiness while you still have it. Wait until you get kids.”
Jon Moffitt: One day we are going to do a podcast just for newlyweds. We haven’t been married long enough, but we could do one on new parenting and newlyweds, because I’m telling you, from all the conversations we’ve had, we’ve made the worst mistakes you can make.
Justin Perdue: And we’ve all had the realizations like Paul. I used to have some righteousness according to the Law. I used to be so disciplined. I was up early in the morning with my Bible and my coffee, probably with. Classical music or hymns playing in the background. It was beautiful. It was beautiful. And now…
Jimmy Buehler: Here I am.
Jon Moffitt: My wife will text me, “I just need 10 minutes alone. Could you please come get our son?”
Sometimes my wife will come home from grocery shopping and I observe that she has been in the van for 20 minutes. I’ll text her, “Is everything okay?” She replies, “Yeah, it’s quiet in here.”
Anyway, for those who can relate, thank you for listening. We honestly do pray that this has been encouraging to you. Our greatest desire is to help worry Christians find rest in Christ and to assure themselves in Christ. We have enjoyed the conversation. We are thankful for Theocast that we get to have these conversations and we look forward to bringing you a new topic next week. Stay tuned.