Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Real Life Haunting of Long-Crucified Flesh

A couple of weeks ago I battled a ghost.  This was no regular ghost in that it was not a spiritual being fighting a physical one.  Rather, it was the complete opposite as it was my own flesh doing battle with my spirit.  There is a very good reason God gives us this admonition through Paul:

For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be [in the likeness] of [His] resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with [Him], that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For [the death] that He died, He died to sin once for all; but [the life] that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 6:8-11 NKJV

I included its context, but I really want to focus on verse 11.  " Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. "  The wording is interesting.  Paul just got done telling is that the old man is dead but now he is telling us to reckon, or consider, us dead to sin.  We should already be dead to sin if the flesh that sinned was crucified with Christ, right?  I mean we all know people who are dead.  We do not need to remind ourselves of that.  We just know it.  They have gone onto their eternity and have gone out of this world forever.  We do not need to reckon them to be dead, they just are and we just know it and accept it. 

At least that is how it is supposed to work.  If this person was near and dear to us, sometimes we can catch ourselves still talking to that person.  There is nothing wrong about that (unless you believe they will talk back), it is just a natural part of missing someone who was close to us for a very long time.  Some (and unfortunately this even includes Christians who should know better) believe that this person is still part of their lives and can still be reached through some kind of medium.  Many scam artists have made much money on this sort of thing.  Others, of course, believe in ghosts where people they once knew haunt or affect their lives in positive or negative ways.  Now there is no place in Christianity for any of these ideas.  We do not speak to dead people through mediums or any other vehicle.  The Bible is absolutely clear on that.  The Bible is also clear that there are no such things as ghosts.  There are only two places where our spirits can go after death, and haunting a house is not one of them. 

We all know its not a good thing to live as though a dead person were actually still alive.  If you do, you are either insane or you are living under a false set of beliefs.  I am sure that just about everyone reading this knows that and accepts that.  I am also sure that just about everyone reading does this very same thing with our old man.  If we were not prone to live as though the old man with with his old slavery to sin was still alive, God would have not seen it necessary to remind us to reckon that man dead.  You see, whenever we live as our old selves or fall into our old temptations, we are living as though that old dead man is alive. 

I was in that same kind of situation recently.  The man I used to be was capable of some pretty cruel behavior.  If I felt wronged, my general response was a scorched earth attack where it did not matter who else was hurt in the process (including myself) as long as the offending party was also hurt.  The issue was an incompetent and quite frankly dishonest mortgage company delaying the closing on the condo we have sold.  In fact, there were six attempts before we actually completed the transaction.  That said, on Monday when we were literally supposed to just be waiting for our check to be delivered, another delay came up.  I was livid.  I was angry.  I wanted to lash out.  I wanted to pull the entire deal just so that mortgage company would lose business then go on to file every complaint possible with that mortgage company.  I would have hurt myself, my wife, the buyer, and the realtors involved, but it did not matter, it also would have hurt the mortgage company.  My wife reminded me that I am not that person any longer.  She did not use the same words, but she reminded me like God reminds all of us through Paul that we need to reckon that old man to be dead. 

I think this is something we all do from time and time and a lesson of which we all need to be reminded.  Let's face it, we once loved that old dead man.  Before God revealed to us the depravity of our condition and our need for a savior, we thought living a worldly life of sin was fun.  Whether it was sex, revelry, intoxication, crime, homosexuality, or anything else people get caught up in, there was a time we were very happy with it.  I know that I used to look forward to getting drunk as though it was a good thing.  As for my vengeful streak, it was fun plotting, planning, and winning, and whatever hurt I caused I justified as acceptable in the grand scheme of things.  There was a time I loved that life but then God showed me that what I thought I loved was just there to mask the misery of what I was missing.  I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and that old man died.  I wish that was the end of the story, but familiar situations bring familiar temptations and even though that old man is dead, I think we all sometimes feel that we want him back.  Sometimes, in fact, we act as though he is back and very much alive.  We have memories, we have habitual responses, and we have the same temptations that we have always had.  What we did not have then is the Holy Spirit living in our hearts and the freedom by the power of Jesus Christ to not fall into those temptations. 

The next time you are faced with some old temptation that reminds you of a life you no longer live, remember why you came to Jesus in the first place. Remember the depravity of your condition and just how far Jesus has taken you from that former life.  Above all, remember that old man is dead.  That man was a slave to the flesh and was leading you to nowhere but eternal destruction.  He is dead, crucified with Christ, never to come back again.  Its time to forget that person you once were and grow more and more into that person God is making you to be.  It is time to bury that old man once and for all and be that new creation in Jesus Christ. 

if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.  Ephesians 4:21-24 NKJV

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