Two things here.
One: Sin has powerful emotions attached to it.
Two: These emotions or motions are both spiritual and physical.
Which makes our struggle against sin such a terribly fierce battle.
In Hebrews, it tells us to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us…” (Hebrews 12:1). That word, “beset“, is an interesting one. It sounds like a commonplace or simple word. As if our sin was nothing more than a simple fly or gnat that irritates us. Something we could just easily swat away.
However, beset actually means to combat on every side or to lay under siege. This is like a vast, terrible army surrounding people in a castle. As an enemy bringing all the machines of war against them — seeking their total annihilation.
Yet, that verse in Hebrews tells us to “lay aside” the sin that so easily defeats us.
So how does that work? How does one just “lay aside” something that so violently and overwhelmingly seeks to destroy us?
In the Spirit
Let’s look at another verse. “For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.” (Romans 7:5). Note that there is a timeline here. When we were in the flesh speaks of something in the past. A condition that existed in the past.
That condition was when we were lost without Christ; before we knew the indwelling of His Holy Spirit.
However, “Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Sprit of God dwell in you.” (Romans 8:9) Paul is simply saying that if you don’t have the Spirit of God, you are lost.
So, do you know Christ as your Savior? Then you are in the Spirit and not in the flesh. Having the indwelling Spirit means you are in the Spirit. This is not talking about behavior; it is talking about a state of being.
As in being alive or dead.
And, just to be clear, we do not lose the Spirit and then regain the Spirit as believers. He is there within us forever. We have been sealed with the Holy Spirit and He continues with us for all eternity.
Does that surprise you?
Yet God declares it to be so.
This is all about what God says versus how we feel.
It is also about what God says about us versus how we feel about us.
The Emotions of Sins
Sin has a cycle about it. It has emotions and feelings with it that we become used to. They are deep and powerful feelings that are accompanied by thought patterns and cycles that become habits for us. They act like a drug. A drug that causes memories of good feelings and bad. And which causes fear as well.
This is why the world calls all these things addictions. And they are right, to a point. Trouble is, they don’t have the ability to understand spiritual things. Not biblically, sound spiritual things. And so they are unable to truly understand the problem, let alone the solution.
This is why psychology is so terribly flawed. It is based on a belief in man as an advanced animal. With just mind and body. The soul and spirit of man is set aside. God is set aside. So they are totally unable to correctly diagnose the problem nor find a solution.
The flesh is really what we are talking about here. Flesh has to do with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. All of which focus our attention on ourselves.
That hideous self — one day performing well and one day performing poorly. But, at the end of the day, still just self. There is no future in self. Just deception about it. And, ultimately, a whole bucket full of bad feelings from all our vain attempts to improve it.
The problem is, we are so easily deceived by the performance and feelings about ourselves. We forget that self is not our reality now. Self does not determine who we are or what God thinks of us.
Living in a New Reality
Christ is our reality now. What Christ has done and who Christ is has become our identity. Not anything that we can bring out from within ourselves.
Paul tells us to walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16) And this only makes sense. Because, if we now live in the Spirit (Galatians 5:25), it is stupid to try to walk in the flesh.
In other words, we are now alive in the Spirit. It is who we now are. Why then do we believe that the flesh can help us to live this new life?
This tells us something about the flesh that we are not normally taught.
That the flesh has as much to do with HOW we do something as WHAT we do. Just because someone has been able to control his outward flesh by great dedication to some “Christian” behavior strategy, does not mean he is walking in the Spirit.
If the source of my “good” behavior is anything other than an honest, sincere dependence upon the righteousness of God, by His Spirit, then I am walking in the flesh. Flesh can produce “good stuff” too. And not just the garden-variety carnal stuff we are all so familiar with.
The Apostle Paul said, “for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23) This means if we try to do good stuff for God in our own strength, it is sin. We are not to walk in our own flesh or self anymore. We are to walk by faith.
This is why Paul warned the Galatians, “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” And then he goes further saying, “He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Galatians 3:3,5)
Do you see what he is saying here? A dedicated Christian can be just as fleshly and carnal as a Christian doing some really bad outward stuff. Because the source is still the same. The source is self and all that it can produce.
If you know the Lord, then understand that God sees you as perfect in Christ. You are not expected to go out and live this life out of something in yourself. Because there is nothing good there.
It is Christ in you that is good. Not yourself. (Colossians 1:27)
It is the Lord Jesus Christ in us that we need to focus on. Trusting a different reality than we have known before. Trusting what God has declared to be true rather than what our feelings and outward performance tell us.
Trusting God Who calls “those things which be not as though they were.” (Romans 4:17)