We believers have three great spiritual enemies:
1. The External Enemy or the World in Ephesians 2:2. The “world” is the world system organized against God and Christians. Because of this enemy, Paul exhorts us, “Be not conformed to the world.” John also exhorts us, “Love not the world.” When I think of the world I think of most of what Hollywood produces. Hollywood is not just an entertainment industry but an industry organized against God. Just read Plugged In movie reviews of most movies and see how most are not family friendly because of crude language, sexual content, and negative content.
2. The Infernal Enemy or the Devil in Ephesians 2:2. The Devil is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Both of these enemies (the world and the devil), however, are external and limited. The devil is not omnipresent. We don’t have invite the world into our living room through our TV or Internet. So this makes our third enemy most dangerous.
3. The Internal Enemy or the sinful nature in each of us or what Paul calls the “Flesh” in Ephesians 2:3. I think I read this outline in J. Vernon McGee somewhere.
The old sinful nature is the “flesh” with which we were born. The sinful nature is the source of so many evil desires. The old nature’s opponent is the new nature with which we were born again. The new nature is empowered by the Holy Spirit who is the source of good and godly desires. Paul chronicles this conflict in Romans 8:5-13.
Unlike the World and the Devil, we cannot ever not be in the presence of our “flesh” or sinful nature. Someone described the Christian as a “Walking Civil War.” It is almost as if we have a split personality. A Doctor Jekyell and Mr. Hyde raging inside of us every waking moment.
How can we overcome the evil nature within us? How can we not be ruled by sinful Mr. Hyde? Paul provides two vital steps in releasing the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome our “flesh.” First we must possess the Holy Spirit (8:5-11) and then we must yield to Him (8:12-13).
1. We must Possess the Holy Spirit to Overcome the Flesh (8:5-11)
In verses 5-11, Paul paints a stark contrast between the saved and unsaved as verses 5 and 9 make clear.
There are only two kinds of people according to Paul in these verses. Not Democrates and Republicans or the 1 percent and the 99 percent. But the saved who possess the Holy Spirit and the unsaved who do not possess the Holy Spirit. It is a clear case of the “Haves” and the “Have nots.” If you are saved you have living in you the Person of the Holy Spirit who is able to give you victory over sin. “Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). There three contrasts between the unbeliever and the believer in verses 5-11.
A. The Contrast of Desires in 8:5.
When Paul wrote “do mind” he meant the desires, obsessions, and passions that drive your life.
Some people are obsessive over technology. One couple this weekend is having a “Black out.” They are turning off all of their technology: cell phones, laptops, and TVs. That means no calls, except for emergencies, no movies, no Facebook. I’m sure they are in withdrawal at this very moment covered in sweat.
Other people are obsessive over sports. One youth pastor wrote: I have a friend that loves tennis. There’s nothing wrong with that, but he doesn’t realize what he’s become. He wears tennis stuff. He reads tennis magazines. He talks about tennis all the time – even his hair looks like a tennis ball (Wayne Cordeiro, A Personal Relationship, www.preachingtoday.com).
What are you passionate about? Are you passionate about the things of God as much as you are about the things of this life? Are sports, technology, work, and recreation more important than time with God, His Word, His people, and His ministry?
B. The Contrast of State in 8:6
1. The Lost are walking dead zombies: Alive physically, but dead spiritually. Paul did not say the unsaved would die sometime in the future but they are now dead. George Bernard Shaw wrote, “Most people die at 30 but are not buried until 60.” The lost are separated from God who is the source of life just waiting to be buried.
There are three kinds of death in Scripture and all three have some form of separation.
a. Spiritual death is spiritual separation from God. We are born spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1) with no salvific relationship with God.
b. Physical death is separation of soul and body at death (James 2:26).
c. Eternal death is the separation of the sinner in Hell from God for all eternity. John in Revelation calls this death the second death (Revelation 20:14).
John MacArthur said, “Years ago I conducted the funeral for a baby girl killed in an automobile accident. Before the service the mother kept reaching into the casket, taking the lifeless little body in her arms and caressing her and crying softly to her. The baby, of course, could no longer respond to anything in the physical realm, because there was no life there to respond. The unsaved person is a spiritual corpse and consequently is completely unable, in himself, to respond to the things of God” (The MacArthur NT Commentary, Romans 1-8, 417).
2. The saved have God’s life and peace. We have eternal life and “peace with God” which Paul says is the result of justification in Romans 5:1 and 10. For the believer the war with God is over. The unsaved are still enemies with God because of the next contrast.
C. The Contrast of Lifestyle in 8:7-11
1. The Lost are in a constant state of hostility(“enmity”) with God. For this reason the lost do not have “peace with God” but are still combatants. This constant state of rebellion (“not subject to the law or Word of God) may not be an overt shaking of a fist in the face of God but just the continual “NO!” to Christ as Savior. Therefore the lost cannot please God (8:8). The writer of Hebrews 11:6 agrees, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” What makes this lifestyle of rebellion so tragic is that we along with the entire universe were created to bring Him pleasure (Psalm 19:1).
2. Paul makes a strong contrast in 8:9, “But, you (believers) are not in the flesh but in the Spirit.” Paul in 8:9, 10, and 11 focuses on the past, present, and future ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
a. In the past at conversion (8:9), the Holy Spirit took up residence in us. He “dwells” or lives in us. Jude would later declare similarly, “These (unsaved people) be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit” (verse 19).
b. Presently (8:10) the Holy Spirit dwells in our mortal body. Our body is dying because of the sin of Adam. In 5:12, Paul spoke of the consequence of the Fall of Adam. We die because we are Adam’s descendent. “But” at the same time, the Holy Spirit gives us eternal life because of the death of Christ and His imputed righteousness. Paul assured us believers that our salvation is eternally secure because Christ was condemned in our place in 8:3-4. Our bodies are dying because of the sin of Adam but our souls are eternally alive because of the obedience of Christ.
c. In the future, the Holy Spirit will resurrect our mortal bodies (8:11). Because our bodies are dying does this mean our bodies are unimportant to God? No! God is going to resurrect our bodies. Paul mentions two more times that the Holy Spirit dwells or lives in us. That is both comforting and convicting.
I read about a mother who was preparing dinner one evening, when her little boy came running into the kitchen.
She asked, “Well, what’s Mama’s little darling been doing all day?”
He replied, “I’ve been playing mailman.”
“Mailman,” the mother wondered out loud, “how could you do that when you don’t have any letters?”
“Oh, I had a whole bunch of letters,” he said.
The little boy answered, “All those letters I found in the bottom drawer of your dresser all tied up with ribbons . . . I put one in every mailbox on our street” (James Merritt, Friends, Foes, and Fools: The Wisdom of Proverbs for Fathers, page 40).
We are so afraid that people will find out what we say or do. The Holy Spirit hears every word and sees every action. He lives with us.
We must first possess the Holy Spirit by trusting Christ as our Savior. Next we must yield to the Holy Spirit who lives in us.
2. We Must Yield to the Holy Spirit (8:12-13)
Because the Holy Spirit lives in us, Paul can apply in 8:12-13, all he has said, “Therefore we obligated not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if you live after the flesh, you shall die, but if you through the Spirit do mortify (put to death) the deeds of the body, you shall live” (8:12-13).
The Scottish theologian David Brown wrote, “If you don’t kill sin, sin will kill you.” It is our responsibility to put to death the sins of our body with the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Therefore we cannot make excuses for our sin or blame someone else. We must confess our sins and yield to the Holy Spirit. He is called “Holy” for a reason.
Conclusion: Paul asked the Galatians an interesting question in 3:2, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit by works of the Law or by the hearing of faith?” He was equates getting saved with receiving the Holy Spirit. That is a unique way to witness.