Friday, November 16, 2007

Flesh vs. Spirit

(To prevent misunderstanding and discord: What I have to say here is based upon my own experiences under the teaching of Dennis Rokser, and in no way am I saying that every person under his teaching perceived things the same way I did. I pray that that is not the case. However, I do know that I am not alone in my perceptions.)

Galatians 6:8 "For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life."

In starting this blog, I think it is important that those reading it know where it is that I stand, and where it is I'm coming from.

That being said, I have been turning over and over in my mind lately a disturbing similarity between the teachings of traditional Calvinism, and the teachings of Dennis Rokser when he uses the phrases "in fellowship" and "out of fellowship" in relation to the Christian life.

My biggest problem with the theology of Calvanism, as well as the way Dennis Rokser presents walking the Christian life, (even though one is focused on salvation and the other on the life of the person already redeemed,) is that both systems make the acts, thoughts, and purposes of the imperfect human their focus.

My conclusion to this sad fact? It is inevitable that people - who in following these teachings completely focus on themselves and their flesh - will become discouraged. The Calvinist will be continually faced with his or her own shortcomings, and face the fear that someday they could fall completely into sin and realize they were never saved in the first place. For the believer following a formula based on the struggle to be "in fellowship" verses "out of fellowship," they too are always focusing on their own sins and shortcomings, being impressed upon by the fact that they can never truly measure up to what it is that God wants. And the minute they feel that maybe they are "in fellowship," immeasurable guilt washes over them, because they recognize the pride they felt in "finally doing God's will."

What is the solution, to both of these problems? Turning one's eyes away from our own imperfection, and placing our focus fully on the Person and complete work of Jesus Christ. That is how someone truly realizes that they have eternal life in their salvation, as Jesus Christ cannot do any job half way and then call it finished. As a loving God, who promised Abraham, and David, and every one of their descendants, that their seeds would live forever, (and as believers, we are now included in that seed,) He could not orchestrate a perfect plan for salvation that did not offer complete, and eternal salvation without leaving His promise unfulfilled, and thereby contradicting His character as a God of ultimate truth.

And what of the believer, who is constantly struggling to match the terms they think God has pressed upon them? By looking onto Jesus both the "author" and "finisher" of their faith, they turn their eyes away from their own flesh, and let God do the battling. What strength do we have in ourselves? So many Christians make the Christian life so much more complicated than it has to be. This truth doesn't make the Christian life any "easier," I am not offering a formula to an effortless walk, but it gives the believer the opportunity to be filled with God's perfect joy as they simply trust the LORD to work through them.

What so many people don't realize, is that the very first thing God wants from His children is to have a relationship with them. That is why the human race was created in the first place, and God was cheated out of 4,000 years of fellowship with the people He created and loved, with the exception of a very few. Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, King David, Isaiah. All these men knew the LORD, and fellowshipped with Him intimately, and God revealed to them His will. And in response to this fellowship, God then gave them wisdom and understanding of who He is, as well as the strength to carry out His will in their lives. The day of Pentacost brought the Holy Spirit to all the brethren in Christ, making it possible for God to enjoy a relationship with every single one of His children, and they with Him.

Here is the point: once a relationship is established between the Heavenly Father and His beloved child, only then can the child live by faith, walking with her Shepherd, the one who gave up His own life to ransom her soul.

And there is no longer a need for her own weaknesses to be her focus, because they are not God's focus. His focus is the same on every child. He sees them as He sees Christ. As Galatians 2:20 says, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." This verse is not just a prescription for doing the will of God, ("I live by faith in the Son of God,") but proof of our identity in Christ. When God looks at us, He does not see our flesh. He sees His Son, Jesus Christ.

No, God does not want us to completely ignore our weaknesses and sins, confession of when we do fail is vital to continuing in God's will, (1 Peter 1:9,) but He does not desire us to live in a spirit of guilt and self-deprication because of our failure to do His will. And attitude such as this is not only one that denies the complete work of the cross, (as Christ came not just to save sinners, but to bring us into a living, moment by moment relationship with His Father,) but also undermines the power of the Holy Spirit within us, and ultimately is a walk of sight, not of faith. If we are walking focusing our own human eyes on our flesh, and the results thereof, there is no way we can walk by faith, trusting the Spirit within us to work God's will in our lives. That is how the fruits of the spirit are produced in a believers life, through complete focus, trust, and satisfaction in the COMPLETE work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Our acknowledgement of what His death and resurrection will bring us in eternity is what stamps us as God's children. Our acknowledgement of that Stamp, the Holy Spirit, (Ephesians 1:13 "In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation -- having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise,") and acknowledgement that Christ did so much more than to pay our sin debt is what brings us into a relationship with God.

For years, I focused on myself, constantly wondering if I was "in fellowship" or "out of fellowship." I wonder if the believers under Rokser's teaching know that these phrases are never found in the Bible? Because logically, a person is never "out of fellowship." We're either communing with the Holy Spirit, or we're communing with the flesh. There is no inbetween. Walking in the Spirit and doing God's will has nothing to do with one's own performance, but with one's relational status, whether or not the believer is enjoying intimate, moment by moment fellowship with their Heavenly Father. This may seem very daunting, but it is very simple. All that is required is absolute and complete surrender of our own strength, and trusting the Holy Spirit completely that He is capable of bringing us the desire, the ability, and the power to grow closer and closer to God every day. That is the Christian life. Becoming as much like Christ as possible. Not in what He did, but in what He knew. He knew His Father, and the more we know Him, the easier it will be to understand Him, know what He wants in our lives, and the more strength we'll have to do it. Not because we are "overcoming" our flesh, but because the Holy Spirit does it for us. If we had to overcome our flesh, we would have to be focused on it. God simply demands that we completely ignore our flesh by focusing on Him, because the more attention we give it, the more power it will have over us.


Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

I am afraid I am not familiar with Dennis Rosker's teaching.

Have you read Zane Hodges' commentary on the epistles of John?

He argues that they show how our behaviour affects our relatiosnhip with God and how a Christian who harbours sin shows a lack of fellowship with God.

The alternative interpretation of 1 John, the one taken by Calvinists makes the test of right fellowship a test of whether one is really a believer, thus introducing works salvation by the backdoor.

I agree with you that it is dangerous to become preoccupied with the failures of our flesh. A lot of Christians get into real guilt trips because of their failings, leading them to doubt their salvation. That seems to be a product of Calvinism.

I think the key to the Christian walk is faith- faith not just in the gift of eternal life, but the completed work of Christ in providing sanctification and death to the old self.

Every Blessing in Christ


IndweltDaughter said...

Thank you very much for your encouraging comments Matthew, I'm glad we agree on what the Christian life is based on: faith, same as our intial salvation.

I haven't read Hodges' commentary on John's epistles, but I think I will likely check it out. 1 John has always been a passage that has confused me a little bit, as I can see how the Calvanist comes to the conclusions they do from reading that passage, even though I don't agree with those conclusions. "Works salvation by the backdoor," as you call it, contradicts everything I know to be true about my gracious, loving, and merciful Heavenly Father, and I'm thankful we can fellowship around a walk by faith together, pointing towards the wonderful person and work of our Savior Jesus Christ, who is the only reason a walk by faith is possible.

I'm looking forward to fellowshiping with you around our commonality, and "siblingship" in Christ in the future. (Did I just invent a word?) :)

Many blessings, your sister in Christ


Elizabeth said...

It is interesting to find out what the word FELLOWSHIP " means,and where the word was used in the bible.Meaning: partakers of, part of, share..We are partakers of the H.S. Put in Christ by God forever..Most christians have a wrong view of this word..God put is in Christ, we can never loose this fellowship..A closer look into I John: the first 3 verses is JESUS, which they declare unto "you", so that they can ALSO have fellowship , these persons didn't have fellowship, because they were unbelievers, didn't believe Jesus came in the flesh..