Something within our flesh is always reminding us of the fall of Adam, always reminding us that we are fallen creatures. Yet, when we received Christ Jesus, we were born-again. The scriptures tell us that our lives are now redeemed from the fall! (Galatians 3:14, Hebrews 9:12, Romans 3:23-26)
But why is it that our minds always fall back on our deficiencies? Why are we constantly aware of our lack and our neediness? I believe it's because of what we think. It's because of what we focus on.
Instead of being focused on our new status and identity in Christ, as sons and daughters of the Father, joint heirs with Jesus, our minds think about what what we still lack. We think about our guilt, our sins, our faults, thereby condemning ourselves. We live in the flesh, and walk in the flesh, instead of keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus and walking in the Spirit. That's what I believe is wrong with our thinking!
When we fix our minds on Christ and what He's done, we change our thinking from that of poverty and lack to that of abundance and ease. Our lives begin to reflect our change in thinking simply because we are remembering who we are in Christ. We are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.
In Romans 7 we have an opportunity to see Paul wrestle with his own thoughts. It's as though the Lord knew we would all have this same occupation with our flesh, this same suffering and wonder, "how can I fix this? Why do I keep doing what I don't want to do?"
Romans 7:14-17 says, "We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me."
Have you ever felt like that? I have many times. What I want to do I do not do, but what I hate, I do. Maybe it's giving into anger or emotional outbursts. Maybe it's overreacting to situations that later, with a cool head, you have the ability to discern what should have been said instead of what was actually said. Maybe it's self-reliance or pride, overeating or drinking in excess. The flesh is all of these things and more.
A month ago or so I was struggling to come up with anything to write about on my Instagram account. I have been only allowing the Spirit to lead me when I come up with Instagram posts, but on this particular day I wasn't feeling the Holy Spirit lead. Instead of being mindful of that and going to the Lord in prayer, waiting for Him to move, I rushed ahead and tried to create something based on my knowledge of the Word. The result was that everything I came up with fell flat, and it had an element of self-effort. There was nothing Spirit-filled about what I created. It lacked the Grace of God!
I spent a few weeks in turmoil about this, spinning everything in my head until I finally came to the end of myself and surrendered my "knowledge" to Jesus. I submitted my heart to Him and relinquished my pride, my ego, and "my wisdom." The truth is, there is nothing good in me. The only part that's good is the part that Jesus occupies. My spirit is filled with His Spirit!
And that's the part that's completely redeemed and is always at work redeeming my body, soul, heart and mind. But the minute I take my eyes off of Him, is the minute I fall back into depending on myself and my flesh.
I think Paul knew that we would have this same issue, because he wrote it down so that years later we could see there's a struggle with our fleshly thoughts, desires and emotions.
I want to pull out the text in the Amplified version for you, because it brings some great clarity to what Paul is actually referring to within these few verses:
"We know that the Law is spiritual, but I am a creature of the flesh [worldly, self-reliant—carnal and unspiritual], sold into slavery to sin [and serving under its control]. 15 For I do not understand my own actions [I am baffled and bewildered by them]. I do not practice what I want to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate [and yielding to my human nature, my worldliness—my sinful capacity]. 16 Now if I habitually do what I do not want to do, [that means] I agree with the Law, confessing that it is good (morally excellent). 17 So now [if that is the case, then] it is no longer I who do it [the disobedient thing which I despise], but the sin [nature] which lives in me." (Romans 7:14-17)
I'm going to break this down, because it will help us understand what it is within us that we hate. First off, it says the Law is spiritual. What does he mean? Well, the law was given through Moses by God. The Law is perfect, there is nothing wrong with the Law. It's absolute perfection! The problem is, we're not perfect. If we were able to keep every commandment within the Law (not just the 10 commandments, the entirety of the Law which is 613 commandments), then we would be perfect. We would have no need for Jesus to save us.
The Law is spiritual because it's God-given. So this is what Paul is saying, "I know the Law is spiritual (perfect, given by God), but I am a creature (an animal) of the flesh and I don't have the ability within me to adhere to it."
Paul is all of us, we can't keep the Law. We can't earn our place or our right into heaven. We can't work hard enough or be good enough in and of ourselves. We're simply not smart enough, wise enough, or knowledgeable enough! Whenever we try to be good enough in some area of our lives, we become animals to our flesh. Look at Hollywood, they are literal slaves to whatever whim comes along. They are sold in slavery to sin.
Now it's easy for those of us who are born-again to scoff at how other people live in sin until we also start to depend on our flesh and fall into sin too.
If we at all depend on ourselves, we will become worldly and unspiritual just as Paul did. How many pastors have you heard of that fell off the pulpit into the arms of another woman? I can think of a few famous ones, and a few not so famous ones. How did that happen? It's because they took their eyes of Jesus and thought they could depend on themselves. We can't afford to take our eyes of Jesus. If we do, the cost will be great.
I love that the Amplified uses the word habitually in verse 16. Whatever we give habit to will become second nature to us. The way this version says, "Now if I habitually do what I do not want to do", then what happens is that "it is no longer I who do it [the disobedient thing which I despise], but the sin [nature] which lives in me." Essentially what Paul is saying is that if he keeps giving into sin, then he forfeits who he is and gives into the sin nature. He lets sin have dominion and control over him and his life.
When we receive Christ Jesus we are born-again. We have died to sin and death, and we are born into the spiritual realm, born into God's family. When Paul says, "it is no longer I who do it", he's referring to who he is, as a born again son of God.
It's like the prodigal son who left his father's home and decided to live in sin, squandering away his inheritance, title and sonship. He leaves what he knows and he habitually chooses a sinful lifestyle. He's still a son of a wealthy landowner, but he's not living like one. He's still a son with a father who loves him and wants him to come home, but he has forfeited that life for one of debauchery and immorality. Even when he lives with pigs in the mud, he's still a son of wealth! The prodigal son choosing to live like a sinful orphan doesn't make him a fatherless child.
At some point, the prodigal son probably started to feel like his sins, feel like a pig in the mud. He was so lost in his senses he was willing to hang out and eat with them! But how he felt didn't change his identity. Just because he feels like a pig, it doesn't make him an actual pig! His feelings don't have the power to change his identity.
We live in a day and age when our feelings have become our very identity and we forget that our feelings are just that, feelings. They change and they fluctuate. But we focus on them and give them permanence instead of giving Truth its rightful place and a permanent fixture in our lives.
In essence what Paul is saying is that he's still a son of God, but he's given into his sin nature. So he says it's not me, it's my sin nature. Because even when we sin, it doesn't change who we are in Christ. It's no longer us, our redeemed selves that lives in sin, but the sin nature within us, our flesh, that is doing the sinning. See, we have been redeemed from the curse of the law, so when we fall back into old habits from before we were saved, it's not our new identity! It's our old self, our old sin nature that's acting up!
So, How Do We Stop Ourselves From Sinning?
Ahh, good question. Do we tame it? Do we suppress it? Do we get emotional and depressed about it and condemn ourselves? Do we punish ourselves by feeling guilty and then think we're paying penance for our old natures?
I'm so glad Paul answers this question for us so we don't have to figure it out ourselves.
"Wretched and miserable man that I am! Who will [rescue me and] set me free from this body of death [this corrupt, mortal existence]? 25 Thanks be to God [for my deliverance] through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind serve the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh [my human nature, my worldliness, my sinful capacity—I serve] the law of sin."
Romans 7:24-25 (AMP)
Jesus Christ is our deliverer! We look to Jesus to save us! Whatever part of us is acting up and corrupted, we surrender it to Jesus and ask His saving grace to take over in that area of our lives.
We can't save ourselves out of our own misery and sinful nature, only Jesus can do that, but we have to actually go to Him.
In the story of the prodigal son, the father didn't go to his son and pull him out of the mud. The son finally came to his senses, realized he couldn't save himself from his poverty, and went home to his father's house. His intent was to be a servant, and his father reestablished him, reminding him he is a son.
The same thing happens today for you and me. When we finally get to the end of ourselves, to the end of our self-sufficiency and self-reliance, when we finally stop trying to save ourselves and we run back to the Father and say, "save me from myself! Save me from my sin!" It's then that Jesus and His grace begins a new work within us. He won't force Himself on us, He waits for us to ask to be saved.
We have to pull ourselves out of the mud and go home. We have to come to our senses and recognize who we are, that we don't belong like pigs in the mud.
We don't belong in a place where we live in our feelings. We don't belong in a place where we surrender to sin. We don't belong in a place where we forfeit grace and try to earn our own righteousness under the Law.
At some point, we have to stop trying to save ourselves and recognize that only Jesus saves. Only Jesus is a Savior.
You Are Royalty
I heard a story once about how Queen Elizabeth acted as a child. Apparently she had a very mischievous nature at times. One person recounted that she climbed on the dining room table as a kid and ran up and down the length of it during dinner.
Elizabeth wasn't supposed to be become queen. She was born to the second son of a king. She wasn't in direct line for the throne. When her uncle abdicated his position as king in 1936 Elizabeth was suddenly next in line to rule behind her father.
Up until this point, she had acted as a regular child (albeit a princess), playing with her horses and dogs and enjoyed childish things. The day she realized her uncle had abdicated, she started to behave differently. She recognized her destiny had changed and she started acting more grown up, dignified, stately. She had a sudden shift in her mindset, in her thinking.
We are like Queen Elizabeth. Before we receive Christ we are like her as a child. We act like a child, we think like a child, we behave like a child. We have been created by the King of kings, but we aren't in direct line to the throne.
After we accept Christ as our Savior our destiny changes. We are no longer headed for hell, living like worldly paupers. Now we are royalty. We are sons and daughters of the Most High God. He takes us on, and adopts us into His family. We have a new Father, and a new identity. We are princes and princesses, and our Father is King.
Some time ago the Lord gave me a vision. I was in the middle of speaking to my Father when suddenly in the Spirit I was in the throne room of God. I saw myself standing before the Lord while I was praying, and I was dressed like a princess with a crown of gold on my head. I recounted the full vision in my article Make Jesus Your Person, but I say that here because at some point we all forget who we are.
We forget that we are royalty, born-again saints of the MOST HIGH GOD who is our FATHER! And when we forget, we often find ourselves back in our old pigsty, hanging out with the pigs and getting muddy.
When you realize this has happened and come to your senses, the key is to get out of the mud and go home. But we also need to do as Queen Elizabeth did in order to not end up back in the mud with the pigs, we have to change our thoughts, change our mindset, change what we think about. We can't think like the paupers we once we were, we have to start thinking like the royalty we now are.
Paul said the same thing in verse 25 "So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind serve the law of God." (emphasis mine)
The Greek word for repentance is metanoeō, and the definition is "to change one's mind." That's it. Change your mind, change what you think.
Our English word for repent means "feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one's wrongdoing or sin." I find it fascinating that our English word doesn't match up to the Greek definition of repentance.
The Holy Spirit inspired text used the word metanoeō, because God doesn't want us to grovel, feel shame, guilt or regret over what we've done. We're not supposed to wallow in self-pity over our actions. The actual definition of Philistine is wallowing in the dust or ashes, self-condemnation. The Philistines were enemies to the Israelites and they are our enemies today. Wallowing in self-pity or living with a guilty conscience is an enemy to the freedom Christ bought for us!
If we feel guilty or condemned over our mistakes, it's like we feel our sins need to be punished twice. Jesus already took our sins and guilt on Himself at the cross. Our sins were already punished in His body! All we're supposed to do is receive His forgiveness when we sin, and then change our mind about how we've been thinking and living.
"Every priest stands [at his altar of service] ministering daily, offering the same sacrifices over and over, which are never able to strip away sins [that envelop and cover us]; whereas Christ, having offered the one sacrifice [the all-sufficient sacrifice of Himself] for sins for all time, sat down [signifying the completion of atonement for sin] at the right hand of God [the position of honor],"
Hebrews 10:11-13 AMP
Elizabeth wasn't born to be queen, but through a series of events she ended up as one. You and I, we were actually born to be royal. We were made to be in communion with the Lord, and because of the blood of Jesus and His death on the cross, He has made a way for us to become sons and daughters of God. (John 1:12, 2 Corinthians 6:18)
Whenever you don't feel like a prince or princess, change what you think. You are one. Stop living in your feelings and start thinking about what is true: you are a daughter and son of the King of kings. You are sanctified. You are holy. You are righteous. You are forgiven. You are worthy. You are.
Who you are in Christ doesn't change, your status doesn't change, but what you think does. If you start to feel depressed, sorry for yourself, anxious, guilty, then look at what you're thinking about. When these emotions and feelings come, take a step back and look at your thoughts, really look at them.
We often let our thoughts become like runaway horses without a bridle, a wild buck untrained. We don't take ownership over what we think, and we don't take our thoughts captive. Then we wonder why we're a slave to sin, to every feeling and emotion that comes our way!
It takes discipline to capture our thoughts. It takes purposeful intention to realize that we can choose what we think about. We can either choose to have a slave mentality or a royal mentality. We can choose!
I was pondering these words when the Holy Spirit brought this scripture to mind:
1 Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
3 Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
4 Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
5 Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Psalms 103:1-5 (NKJV)
The Hebrew word for mouth here is `adiy, and it means in the sense of trappings; finery; generally an outfit; specifically, a headstall. A few months ago I studied these verses and this one word sat heavily within my spirit. I couldn't get it out of my mind.
I prayed about it over and over, and pondered it and meditated on it, but nothing came to me.
I looked up the word headstall, which means the part of a bridle or halter that fits around a horse's head. Even that didn't help me. I understood that it meant our mouth's need to be bridled like a horse, but something about the phrase was just out of reach to my understanding.
While I was thinking about this topic of changing our mindset, that we allow our thoughts to be like runaway horses without restraining or training them, suddenly the Holy Spirit gave me this word of knowledge: "The Lord satisfies the mouth of those who take ownership of their thoughts and bring them captive to Christ. Your mouth will be satisfied with good things, and your youth renewed when you bridle your thoughts. Train them as you would a wild horse, and capture them with the Truth."
The headstall is the Word of God! If you look up what a headstall is, it will say "it is a part of a bridle or halter that encircles the head." The Word of God, Bible verses, must circle around in our head if we want to be satisfied with good things!
I was sitting in awe of the word of knowledge the Holy Spirit had given me when He breathed this word into my heart: "the key is found in verse 2: "forget not".
We're so good at forgetting aren't we? We do well for a few days or weeks, maybe months, but then we find ourselves wandering. Again. I love the lyrics from the song "Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing" because it exactly describes what our hearts are like.
Oh, to grace how great a debtor Daily I'm constrained to be Let Thy goodness like a fetter Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it Prone to leave the God I love Here's my heart, oh take and seal it Seal it for Thy courts above
We are so good at wandering, so good at leaving our God even though we love Him. The most wonderful thing is though, Jesus is our perfect sacrifice, our perfect lamb. So every time we find ourselves in the pigsty, we don't have to feel shamed that we ended up there. Again.
Instead, all we have to do when we come to our senses is what the prodigal son did. Get up, get out of the mud, and go home. The Father will run to us with open arms, and the blood of Jesus washes away the remaining mud from our pigsty stay.
Beloved, before we sign off for the day, I want you to read this wonderful blessing over yourself. Remind yourself every day. Write it down and hang it up where you know you will see it daily. Bringing our thoughts captive is a daily exercise, a daily practice. This is how we renew our minds about who we are in Christ.
I am royal
I am a son/daughter of the King of kings
I am joint heir with Jesus Christ
I am saved by grace!
The Lord is MY Father
I am fearfully and wonderfully made
I have a purpose on this earth and God has a plan for my life
I was not an accident, I was made for a reason
I am holy, worthy, altogether lovely
I am royalty
Writing to you with joy,