Requiem For The Old Man
Dr. E. C. Bragg
Every believer has experienced the tyranny of sin and the self life working to defeat the Holy Spirit's ministry within him. In helplessness he may have even wondered if he could ever hope to have Christian victory.
Such is the experience Paul describes in Rom. 6:24: "0 wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" But praise God, the apostle goes on to answer his own question in his next statement: "I thank God through Jesus Christ, our Lord."
God's will for every Christian is victory over sin. "Sin shall not have dominion over you," the apostle writes in Rom. 6:14. The image conveyed in the Greek is that sin shall not rule the believer; it shall not he his king.
Victory over sin is not something achieved but something received. It comes through sharing the life of Jesus Christ. The same Lord who purchased our forgiveness on the cross gives the victory we cannot win ourselves as we receive His risen life. Only as His life is lived out in us do we find freedom from sin.
Let me say it again. The secret of Christian victory lies in the enablement of Jesus. It is the work of the heavenly Joshua who is able to lead His present-day people into the spiritual Land of Promise.
When this takes place, the wonderful positional truth of Gal. 2:20 becomes part of our experience. "I have been once and for all co-cruelfied with Christ; nevertheless, I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me. "We. can then say with Paul, "For to me to live is Christ ... " (Phil. 1 :21).
Every Christian should have such victory, but not every Christian does. A careful reading of Paul's instructions to the saints (or set apart ones) shows clearly that one may be saved, yet not controlled by the Holy Spirit. The Scripture says plainly that every believer is indwelt by the Spirit (Rom. 8:9), but it is one thing to have the Holy Spirit indwelling and another thing to have Him filling the whole temple.
Victory is what happens when the Holy Spirit fills and takes over every department of the believer's life. At salvation we receive all of Him, but once we have been saved He wants all of us. Nothing can be omitted.
"This is the will of God." 'Paul writes, "even your sanctification. "And then he adds, "For God hath called us ... unto holiness" (1 Thess. 4:3,7).
There are two aspects to the believer's victory over sin as outlined by the apostle Paul. Both should be well understood.
First, we must join with God by entering into judgement of our old natures. Paul -tells us to "put off ...the old man" (Eph, 4:22, Col. 3:9). The same thing seems to be in view when he says "mortify the deeds of the body" and "mortify .. , your members which are upon the earth" (Rom. 8:13; Col. 3:5). This is man's part.
Man's responsibility includes all those things God asks of us and which He will not do for us. All too many are waiting for God to do what He has commanded them to do-to act in some area where they already have control. They would like to see Him take away some habit which they still want, remove some provision to gratify their old natures which they themselves have made or restrain them when they do not want to be restrained.
As in salvation, God works first. In salvation He warms and melts our resistance until the soul in contrition yields and believes. It is so in giving victory. It is all His gracious influence, which presents the claims of Christ and presses home our need. But He cannot go far unless we want His help.
Clearing the way, acting by faith to do what He has commanded us to do, and what we can do, is our part. it is preliminary. The second step toward victory over sin involves the asking and receiving filling with the Holy Spirit.
Once we ask, the doing is God's part. It is the Holy Spirit who actually "puts to death the deeds of the body," frees us from the law of sin and death, transforms and renews the mind, and fills the believer.
Only God can do these things. We might as well say, "I'm going to help God make a world," as to assume that we can help Him with these things.
MANY CHRISTIANS never experience the life of victory because they never take these basic steps. They are blocked by basic hindrances. Especially do they resist the Holy Spirit so He cannot do His work.
The New Testament warns against two fatal forms of such resistance. First, believers are commanded to "grieve not the Holy Spirit of God" (Eph. 4:30). The Greek used here carries the idea of "offending" or "making sorrowful." Only the saint can grieve the Holy Spirit. The unsaved person does not even know Him.
The Holy Spirit is grieved by our stubbornness, by our indifference, our slowness to respond. He is grieved by uncleanness in our lives-by lying, stealing, unseemly speech. The Holy Spirit is our hope and help in sanctification. We should fear to grieve Him.
Second, the believer is warned to "Quench not the Spirit" (1 Thess. 5:19). The Greek for quench pictures extinguishing a fire by water or putting it out by smothering.
For the saint, quenching means extinguishing the Holy Spirit's fire. To do this is to forestall His holy work, to draw a line and say, "Thus far and no farther shall you go in working in my life." Here is a primary reason for stagnating saints. The Holy Spirit knows what He could do for and in us, but many refuse to let Him. They offend, make sorrowful, quench.
Grieving or quenching are general hindrances, but there are other specific hindrances which may keep you from taking the first steps - your part-toward Christian victory.
The first is ignorance. As there could be no saving faith until the facts of the gospel were known to be believed, so there can be no victory without understanding of God's will. One may be ignorant that God has victory for him or he may excuse a carnal life. He may expect to go on sinning.
A second hindrance to victory is indifference. A longing heart is what we need. God will never turn away a hungry soul, but the Holy Spirit will never fill an unwilling vessel (Matt. 5:6). The report of the twelve spies who searched out the Promised Land was to show that it was a good land and to create a hunger for it (Num. 13). We need believers whose lives display the fruit of the good land. Most saints believe the wilderness is all there is in this life.
A third hindrance is uncleanness of life. There must be a full, frank reckoning with those things in our lives about which God has spoken through the years. All too many are waiting for God sovereignly to take away some habit or pet sin which they continue to protect or coddle.
Do we lack strength? God will help us, but He will not act against our wishes.
A fourth hindrance is an unyielded life; the lack of an honest, full, irrevocable consecration. The Holy Spirit must have all of us before we can have all of Him. How many hold back here, fearing to give God their all. But you and God cannot rule the same temple. If He is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all.
Many are like the patriarch Jacob.Preparing to meet Esau at Jahbok, he first sent over his possessions, then Leah and her children, then his beloved Rachel and her sons. But not until Jacob had wrestled all night with God and was touched in his strongest attribute did he cross over and commit himself to God's keeping.
God doesn't want yours, but you. The old Jacob nature will make any sacrifice if only you will let him live.
A fifth hindrance is lack of appropriating faith. Hebrews declares that unbelief was the primary reason Israel did not enter into God's promised rest (Heb. 3:17. 18; 4:6). It warns us of falling short "after the same example.
We must be willing to claim what God has promised. There is a vast difference between claiming and asking. I ask for bounty or largess, but I claim what is rightfully mine by inheritance or promise. If God says the infilling of the Holy Spirit is His will for me, then I can claim it by faith. I need not beg.
Some never claim. Others wait hoping to grow into the fulness of the Spirit. forgetting that they did not grow into salvation. I t was by a definite step of faith that they believed the promises and were born of the Spirit. Likewise it must be by faith that, when we have met God's conditions. we trust Him to fill us with His Spirit.
ASSUMING that we want Christian victory and that we have dealt with such hindrances as may confront us, we are ready to take the initial step of putting off the old man and putting on the new.
The New Testament makes it clear that the death and resurrection of Christ accomplished wonderful and basic things for every believer who has put his faith in Christ. These things are his positionally. Not because of anything he is or does or can do. but because he is a believer.
The opening verses of Rom. 6:1-11. for example. tell us that "we." that is. our old sinful natures, are positionally dead. The old body of sin. our old nature. has been" destroyed" or annulled, though in our personal lives this nature seems very much alive. In spite of fears or feelings we are to "reckon" or believe that this is so.
How can we do this? Paul sets out several progressive steps:
1. As God reveals the old man and the fact that he is already dead in God's sight (rendered powerless). we are to accept this viewpoint (Rom. 6:11). This is an act of faith. It means siding with God against oneself.
2. By the Holy Spirit who indwells us, and who is the great antagonist of the old man, we are to "put to death" or "cut off" the deeds and practices of the old nature ("flesh," "body" in Rom. 8:13). Col. 3:5 says "mortify ... your memberswhich are on the earth" and Gal. 5;24 speaks of those that have "crucified the flesh."
3. By an act and attitude of faith we are to put off or lay aside the old man. This means renouncing all we are by nature--our old life. deeds, ambitions.
4. Similarly. by an act and attitude of faith we are to put on the new man "which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him" (Rom. 13:14; Col. 3:10). This means we are to count on and yield to the new life from Christ which we are promised.
5. Walking by faith. we are to stop making provision for fulfilling the desires of the old life (Rom. 13:14). This means we are to stop clearing the way for it to express itself and grow. We are to trust Christ's work on the cross to free us from the power of sin, to count on the presence and prompting of the Holy Spirit and follow the Spirit's direction in our lives.
The believer should have six negative attitudes concerning the old flesh life. He should put no trust in it (Phil. 3:3; Rom. 7:18); make no provision for it (Rom. 13:14); not sow to it (Gal. 6:8); not mind. prefer.or delight in it (Rom. 8:5); not walk after it (Rom. 8:4). nor serve or yield to it (Rom. 6:6, 12, 14-22).
As we act by faith. the Holy Spirit will make real the effects of Christ's death and the power of His new life in us. He will prompt us to walk in "love, joy. peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meek-ness, temperance ... " (Gal. 5:22, 23)
ONE STEP now remains, a simple asking and taking from God the Spirit's fullness.
At salvation, when you met God's conditions, you had to rest upon His promise and believe that He would save, so here. with self on the cross, the vessel searched and cleansed and handed over to God, you must take Him at His word to fill you with the Holy Spirit.
"What about tarrying?" someone may ask. The command to tarry was before Pentecost. The disciples were told to wait the coming of Holy Spirit. But in our day He has already come.
We need not beg the Holy Spirit to come. He indwells every believer. We do not need to plead with God to make Him willing. He is more willing to give us the Spirit than we are to give good things to our children (cf. Luke 11:13).
Waiting on God is often necessary to prepare us, the vessels, for filling. We may need hours of heart-searching in God's presence, dying out to self, yielding to God's will. But this is preparation.
Having done this, we can only claim the promise of the Spirit's filling. At our extremity. after we have obeyed every injunction of God, come to the utter end of self, in simple rest of faith. we will find the infinite fullness of God.
He must fill with His own wonderful Self. God must supply the holy fire of the Holy Spirit to consume and purify, sanctify and fill, anoint and empower, to equip and use the yielded vessel. He does the finished work. He is both the Agent and Content of the filling.
I am not worried that He will fail on His part. after I have done mine. As one saint has said, "What I give, God takes; what God takes He cleanses; what God cleanses. He fills; what He fills He uses."
Jesus said to His own just before His crucifixion, "It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away. the Comforter will not come unto you" Uohn 16:7). The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit to complete the work of salvation in us is better than the personal physical presence of Christ Himself.