TO BECOME members of the class that we have been called to, and are running for, it is necessary to become overcomers. Nothing is more important to us than overcoming. In this, and some succeeding articles, a number of suggestions will be presented that will help us to overcome; that will, if followed out, help us to make our calling and election sure. The secret is given in our text: “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.” Although we are to overcome the world and the adversary, we will limit our subject to our overcoming the flesh. Our subject then is: “Walking in the Spirit, the Preventive of Walking According to the Flesh.”
I. GENERAL EXPLANATIONS
Please note that our text primarily applied to the Little Flock, who were spirit begotten. Although we are not members of a spirit begotten class, the principles and methods will prove helpful to us as we seek to overcome our fallen flesh.
A. Explanation of Terms
The term “the flesh” means: (1) human nature; (2) our inherited disposition [Originally, father Adam and mother Eve had perfect faculties in heart, mind, and body. Our Lord Jesus possessed this same perfection. None of us come into the world in this condition, but rather in a depraved state (Psalm 51: 5). Thus, all our religious, selfish, and worldly faculties of our hearts and minds have in some manner and in various degrees been distorted. We lack the image of God, the original perfection that Father Adam and our Lord Jesus possessed as perfect human beings.]; and (3) the acquired disposition [The tendency of the natural fallen disposition is downward. Being under the control of the selfish disposition, they cultivate increased depravity. The acquired disposition is developed by: (1) our surroundings, our environment; and (2) our training, both of which are imperfect. Scriptures that describe our imperfect disposition include: (Romans 7: 18; 8: 3-7)].
WHAT IS “THE SPIRIT”?
(1.) The term “the Spirit” refers to the New Creature, that which was begotten by God following consecration, during the time of the High Calling. It was not a new set of faculties, but rather, a quality that was imparted to the faculties; a quality of spirituality, a quality that was capable of knowing and aspiring to spiritual things. It is also referred to as the “new man” (Ephesians 2: 15) and “Christ” (Romans 6: 3).
(2.) The term “the Spirit” refers to the new spiritual disposition. The new will laid hold on the faculties of the hearts and minds of the spirit begotten and used them for its own purposes. As this process continued a new spiritual disposition was acquired (Romans 13: 14).
The primary purpose of the New Creature was to become like God and Christ. The second purpose was to commend God to others, by reflecting His character (2 Corinthians 3: 2).
Paul uses a figure in the first part of the text: “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” “Walk in the Spirit, and [then the rest will take care of itself] ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.”
The fleshly life is a journey. The natural disposition shows itself very early in infant life. As selfishness exerts itself, the more does this fleshly walk show itself. The Bible uses this term of a journey to designate the fleshly life (Matthew 7: 13). It also speaks of those who walk therein as having figurative feet (Proverbs 5: 5). This walk is a very easy pathway. All the person has to do is to give in to his inclinations, natural or acquired, which makes the way easy. He learns seven different steps on that journey: (1) self- and world-indulgence [He gives way to self and the world, to do the things that are self- and world-pleasing, and for self-aggrandizement.]; (2) meditation on natural things; (3) watchfulness in natural things only; (4) longing for natural things only; (5) working for natural things only; (6) developing only a natural character; and (7) avoiding often, even to the extent of wrong-doing, various forms of suffering.
On the other hand, when we look at the Spirit, we find that it is also a journey (Matthew 7: 14). For the New Creatures and all the other consecrated classes, this journey is over a very difficult way, for every tendency of the natural man must be resisted, as it would express itself in the seven steps that the natural man takes in the fleshly journey. Consequently, New Creatures had to, and the other consecrated classes must take seven different steps in his journey: (1) deadness to self and the world; (2) meditation on the Lord’s Word; (3) watchfulness; (4) prayer; (5) spreading the Lord’s Word; (6) developing a character in harmony with the Lord’s Word; and (7) enduring evil for loyalty to the Lord’s Word.
B. Explanation of Methods
The Spirit and the flesh are in opposition to one another (Matthew 26: 41). Character, among other ways, is developed by subjecting the heart to the influence of the thoughts held upon the heart. How is the fleshly disposition developed? The fleshly disposition, laying hold on certain thoughts, subjects itself to their influence, and thus is developed into a character in conformity with those thoughts. For example, the man who has as his ambition the desire for wealth holds pertinent thoughts by his will upon his heart. These charge his affections and become the dominating power in his life by his subjecting himself to their influence. Then, by continued submission of his disposition to these thoughts, he more and more acquires a habit or a disposition of love for wealth; and then, by his activity in seeking more and more to acquire wealth, this disposition is crystallized in him. The same method develops all one’s other natural qualities.
SUBJECTING THE DISPOSITION TO GOD’S WORD
The Spirit uses the same method but walks in the opposite direction. The new will selects the pertinent knowledge from God’s Word, holds that knowledge upon the affections until they are brought into subjection to that knowledge. In all the activities of life it seeks to make these affections subject to that knowledge, and in this way makes these affections partake of the same disposition as is in this knowledge. In other words, a method for developing the ability of walking in the Spirit is: Subjecting the Disposition to the Influence of God’s Word by Holding Its Pertinent Parts upon the Heart and Mind.
One of the most important passages in the Bible is 1 Corinthians 1: 30:
“But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.”
If we are fully abiding in the Lord Jesus, who is made unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, and let the new will exert itself as has been indicated, it displaces the will of the flesh. In these two methods: (1) subjecting the heart to the influence of God’s Word, and (2) displacing the evil by the opposite good, we find two simple and powerful methods on character development. It is impossible to walk in two directions at the same time. The Apostle says in out text, “Walk in the Spirit,” but he does not add, “do not fulfil the lusts of the flesh” But he says something will follow of itself, namely, “Ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.” The evil is displaced by the opposite good!
The conscious exertion of the new will, after it lays hold upon Christ for needed strength, and upon the pertinent thoughts of the Word, subjecting the heart to their influence, is the most important thought in this article. The next in importance is the displacing feature. If we allow ourselves to drift through life, we will not become overcomers. But conscious exertion of the new will within the sphere of God’s Word cultivates a character fitted for eternal life. That is what enabled the Little Flock to become joint-heirs with Christ, a King and a Priest in the next Age, and inheritors of the Divine nature. And that is what can enable us to make our calling and election sure to a place in the earthly phase of God’s Kingdom. It is only those whose love for righteousness and God is so strong that they are willing to keep everything else in the background and keep the conscious exertion of the new will in the foreground, who will eventually overcome.
(to be continued)