But we do have a great deal of confidence in the flesh. We divide it into the good and the bad. Certain things in the flesh we are compelled to distrust because they have gotten us into trouble. Certain other things we have gone so far as to acknowledge as weaknesses, faults, possible danger points. But there is another good sized portion of the flesh that we rate rather high and in which we trust without reserve. It may be our refined and cultured tastes; the opinions and judgments which are the product of our educated minds; our generous, noble, philanthropic feelings; our high standard of morality; or, like Paul, our ancestral heritage. So that when we make a cross section of our “flesh,” taking good and bad together, it seems in our sight to measure up fairly well; at least we can see no reason for such a wholesale condemnation of it as God makes.
But let us put this best product of the flesh to the test. Let us take it from a home in which love reigned and sweet companionship was its daily portion, where books lined the library shelves, beautiful pictures adorned the walls, snow while linen covered the table, and from a community life which offered everything needful to satisfy the intellectual, social, aesthetic and spiritual desires and needs. Transplant this life to an interior village on the mission field to live within a house with several people of varying temperaments and tastes, with limited household appointments, with untaught, untrained servants, with nothing without upon which to rest the eye but mud walls and dirty narrow streets, surrounded by jarring voices and unpleasant odors, and a furlough seven years off – would this best product of the flesh stand the test and come off more than conqueror? More than one missionary has left the mission field even before furlough was due and for no other reason that that “the flesh” broke down under the test.
Or let us put it to a different kind of a test. Perhaps “the flesh” boasts of that Godlike quality of character called love. So choose the deepest, purest human love we can find and place it alongside of the love of 1 Corinthians 13. Is it a love that in nothing or at no time seeketh its own, that is absolutely free from the slightest taint of jealousy? Does it suffer long and is it always kind or is there sometimes not a feeling of secret irritability toward the one most deeply loved? Has it unfailingly been so charitable that it has never taken account of evil? Would it not have to blush with shame at its jealousy, envy, snobbishness, intolerance, selfishness, impatience and irritability? Has our “flesh” never broken down under this divine test?
May we make one more analytical test of “the flesh.” This time let it be a chemical analysis made in God’s laboratory. Here is a man who boasts of his generosity and is considered one the best givers in the city. He lavishes expensive gifts upon his family and gives costly dinners to his friends and subscribes largely to campaigns when the newspapers print the list of donors. But he grinds the most possible labor our of his employees for the least possible pay, he quarrels with his tailor over his bill, and he robs God of even the tithe which is His by right. Here is a woman who rides triumphantly upon the social wave as one of the most gracious and charming women in the community. But she nags her husband, is impatient with her children and scolds her servants. “The flesh” always has its blind side.
But I can almost hear someone rise up in defense of “the flesh” and say, “But is it not natural to resent wrong? to dislike some people? to crave certain things? to stand up for your own rights?” Yes, it is natural and that is just why it is sinful. That is just what “the flesh” is, it is our natural life; including all we call highest and best as well as all we deem worst and weakest. What God asks us to do is to take the cross section of “the flesh” we have made and condemn it all, to believe in its utter impotence to do good and in its mighty power to do evil.
We must consent to the crucifixion of the old man. Having condemned “the old man” as a hideous, hateful, heinous thing we are prepared for the next step God asks us to take. He has declared “the old man” worthy of crucifixion, in fact, he has already accomplished his crucifixion with Christ. Now God asks the believer to give his hearty consent to this transaction and to consider it an accomplished fact in his experience. Again this would seem like an extremely easy thing to do. In theory it is, in practice it is not, for “the old man” will fight like a tiger for his life.
“Self will make any concession if allowed to live. Self will permit the believer to do anything, give anything, sacrifice anything, go anywhere, take any liberties, bear any crosses, afflict soul or body to any degree – anything, if it can only live. It will consent to live in a hovel, in a garret, in the slums, in far away heathendom, if only its life can be spared. It will endure any garb, any fare, any menial service rather than die.”
But God says nothing short of the crucifixion of self will do.This was the second step which the Apostle Paul took to life on the highest plane – he gave his whole-souled consent to his co-crucifixion with Christ Jesus and considered it something now past.
Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me; and the life that I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
“The Cross only severs what you consent to part from. The severing of the Cross is not an actual experience, unless the will of the believer desires and consents to the actual separation in fact and practice.”
Have you consented to your crucifixion with Christ? There can be no reservations, no holding back part of the price. The whole “I” must be counted dead. God asks you to put your signature to this statement, “I have been crucified with Christ.” If you have never done so, will you do it today?
We must cooperate with the Holy Spirit in keeping the old man crucified. What Christ has made possible for us the Holy Spirit makes real within us but only with our intelligent cooperation. God states very clearly in His Word what our part is and it is the duty of every believer to know and to do his part.
(1) Reckon yourself dead unto sin.
Romans 6:11, “Likewise reckon ye yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our lord.”
(continued with # 4)