Life Of The Spirit - Life Of The Flesh - Part 2
Are you growing spiritually?
Why do you want to be spiritual?
Are you earnestly aspiring to the birthright as a child of God?
Why are you seeking that right?
Do you desire God for God Himself?
Or, do you long for God in order that He may bless you?
In other words, even in our desiring after God and for spiritual things, it may be
that we have an ulterior motive.
We genuinely desire these good and commendable things.
Plainly, it is for ourselves.
Self is still at the center.
Nothing is wrong with the desire, but the motive behind the desire is not pure.
We say that we seek after God and this is right and proper.
We say that we aspire after spiritual things and this is only right.
But how do we come by these things?
By what means do we try to obtain them?
Will we try to achieve them in our own cleverness and by our own strength?
We say we love God, but how do we, in truth, love God?
We love Him, not in His way, but in ours.
We think God should be served in this way or that way, and that is how we are going to serve Him!
We do not wait upon the Lord and serve Him in His way.
Instead, we serve Him in the energy of our flesh.
We must see the futility of the flesh, and depend completely upon the power of the Spirit of God.
Our emotion, our will, and our mind seem to be reaching out for God and for the things of God.
But our emotions need to be purified.
Our mind needs to be renewed.
Our will needs to be redirected.
In all of our fleshly activity, self is still at the back of it all.
Self is doing the searching, the seeking, and the striving.
But thank God -- He is wrestling with us!
When we, like Jacob, wrestle with man, with circumstances,
and try to get on top of everything, God is wrestling with us behind the scenes.
We may seem to prevail, but it is merely the prevailing of the flesh.
This is achieved at a great price in terms of many afflictions.
God brings us into the "many afflictions" so that He may deal with the Jacob in us.
God wishes to purify us from our selfish purposes and activities.
Like Jacob, our prevailing over men and circumstances is not through our selfish and clever ways,
but it will be through God's prevailing over us by disciplining us and bringing us under His will.
God is attempting to bring us to a point where we will see, as Jacob finally did, that we must give in.
God will bring us to a point until there is no strength left in us.
So, unless the Lord blesses, everything else is vain.
Our prevailing over God is, in reality, our being overcome by Him and in our clinging to Him for His blessing.
Like Jacob, our prevailing lies in our defeat, in our being crippled,
in our being reduced to weakness -- out of such weakness, God will produce a prince.
Have you been brought to this place in your life?
Probe a little into your own experience!
Have you ever stopped to examine the meaning of all this?
- Why not ask why God has allowed so much suffering and affliction to cross your path?
- How is it that your apparent victories consistently turn into evident defeats?
- How is it that one moment it seems you are on top, but the very next moment you must flee for your life?
God has been dealing with you until you mature.
God is transforming you.
God is purifying you.
God is allowing every one of the sufferings to come so that we may perceive and understand
that it is never in our cleverness nor in our strength that we can prevail.
It is only in our defeat in our giving in to God that we really prevail and grow into maturity.
For this reason, God permits us to be afflicted.
Our way is hard and thorny.
There will be times when we are reduced to desperation in order to experience how the Lord comes in.
As we decrease, He is increased in us.
As Jacob disappears, Israel appears.
We must be able to see this!
Let us turn to the next portion of the psalm.
We find the writer has created a singular metaphor to describe his many afflictions.
"The plowers plowed up on my back; they made long their furrows."(Verse 3)
Have you ever seen a farmer plowing in the old-fashioned way?
He uses an extremely sharp steel plow.
As the farmer plows his field this instrument of steel knifes its way into the ground,
turns up the clods of soil, lays bare the field, and makes long open trenches.
This is a picture of the dealings of God.
Our soul is liken to the ground of a farmer's field.
God often allows different people and circumstances and events to come into our life.
It was said of Joseph that "his soul entered into the iron." (Psalm 105:18, ASV)
- These cut into our soul like a steel plow in the ground.
- They dig deeply into our back and make deep furrows.
- They cut, they turn up, they lay bare the soul, and make our soul to bleed.
That is close to the experience being described here.
The cross cuts deeply and enters into our soul, disturbs us, and lays us bare and bleeding
before God and before man.
It reveals our thoughts, our feelings, and uncovers what is in our volition.
The iron and steel have made their way into our soul.
This is a painful experience!
We know why the farmer plows the field and makes those long, deep furrows.
He does not do this for idle pleasure.
He has a purpose in doing it.
He plows the field and opens the trenches and cuts the deep furrows
with the idea of sowing seeds with the hope of eventually reaping a golden harvest.
Plowing is for planting and for harvesting.
The deeper and longer the furrows, the better it will be for planting more seeds and reaping a greater harvest.
So let us take notice that this is not something negative, but it is performed for a positive purpose.
The answer is right here!
- How often do we brood over our afflictions?
- How often do we pity ourselves?
- How often do we sit and cry?
- How often do we ask why? Why? Why?
- Why does God allow these things in my life?
- Why is it that my supposedly victories always end in defeat? Why?
God plows our soul in order that He may sow His eternal seed in abundance,
and that He may reap a golden harvest out of our life.
Do you see how that was true for Jacob?
Do you see that out of his many and deep afflictions, all Israel eventually is developed.
Look at the dignity he possessed in his old age.
He was able to bless the Pharaoh of Egypt and to worship God on the staff of his crippling.
This is a most positive purpose.
Now the psalmist begins to speak of the wicked and of his end.
"The Lord is righteous: he hath cut asunder the cords of the wicked."
The Lord may permit the wicked to prosper and to prevail for a time.
The wicked may be able to extend and bind his cords around the righteous,
but it cannot be for long; for the Lord is righteous.
He will cut asunder the cords of the wicked!
We cannot be sure whether or not this is a continuation of the metaphor.
If it is, we can correctly conclude that the cords spoken of here represent the ropes,
which tie the plow to its victim that is, to the cow.
In the olden days, when plowing, the farmer attached his plow to the cow by ropes.
So the writer declares that these ropes or cords are broken they are cut asunder.
In other words, we are set free.
It is true that God may allow the wicked to have a grip upon your life and to make your life miserable.
But it is only for a period of time.
In His own time, God will sever the cords which bind and will set you free.
The "wicked" in this second series of the Songs of Degrees represent our flesh.
So, do not look for the wicked in others.
The wicked is our flesh: and the flesh, however it manifests itself, is wicked in the sight of God.
The flesh has control over our soul, and our soul becomes its victim.
We suffer and suffer and suffer because of our flesh.
Why do we need to suffer so often?
It is because of the flesh.
The flesh is behind our emotions, our will, and our mind.
It is because of our flesh that we suffer.
Nevertheless, it is but for a time.
When the work of God is fulfilled in us, He will cut the cord and set the spirit free!
We will be free for God and free for His purpose.
Our spirit has gained the ascendancy.
"Let them all be put to shame and turned backward that hate Zion." (Verse 5)
Zion stands for the authority and the throne of God.
The flesh is contrary to the law of God.
It constantly confronts God's authority.
Our flesh hates Zion; but it shall be put to shame and turned back.
"Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God,
but the things that be of men." (Mark 8: 33)
"Let them be as the grass upon the house tops, which withereth afore it groweth up." (Verse 6)
We must remember that the roof of the house is flat.
It is made of mud.
The people beat the mud until it becomes thoroughly hard, and that becomes the roof of the house.
Because it is made of mud, grass will grow very quickly on the housetops.
Even though the grass may suddenly sprout upon the housetops, it will just as rapidly wither
because there is no supply for it.
The shoots of grass wither very quickly.
It is not even necessary to pluck the grass from the house top.
This is a perfect depiction of the life in the flesh.
Peter reminds us that "all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass.
The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever."
(1 Peter 1: 24, 25)
Paul reminds us that all the works of men are as grass
-- "wood, (grass), stubble each man's work will become manifest." (1 Corinthians 3: 12b, 13, RSV)
There are times when we may think the flesh is as powerful as were the giants in the land of Canaan,
and that the spirit is as a grasshopper by comparison.
This is due to our lack of vision.
If we have a more excellent spirit, and view things from God's viewpoint,
we will realize that all flesh is as the grass upon housetops.
Now do we see that the flesh is just like this grass?
Do we see how the flesh tries to lift itself high above everybody?
This is precisely what the flesh tries to do.
The flesh tries to get on top of everything.
The flesh wants to be above all.
Yet, this very elevation becomes its annihilation.
The moment of its greatest height and honor is also the moment of its most terrible downfall and destruction.
Both grass and flesh shall wither.
The shoots of grass are superficial and are prone to die because of a lack of supply.
This will also be true for the flesh, if we "make no provision for the flesh" it shall soon dry up.
The flesh, like the grass, should be underneath and not above.
This is the only rightful place for the flesh.
Only then may it continue to be useful.
"Wherewith the mower filleth not his hand; nor he that bindeth sheaves his bosom." (Verse 7)
The condition of the wicked is such that it flourishes fast, but it also dies fast.
It seems to gain the upper hand, yet there is nothing to fill the hand of the mower.
There is not enough grass for one to hold onto and cut it is entirely withered.
It cannot fill the hand of the mower nor can it fill the bosom of him
who bindeth his sheaves: in short, there is nothing, absolutely nothing!
Christian: the flesh and its every work is vain.
The flesh has nothing to satisfy your heart.
It all ends up in nothing.
- It is vanity of vanities.
- There is no fulfillment.
- There is no realization.
There is nothing in your hand, and there is nothing in your bosom.
Vanity is written upon the flesh because that is the life of the flesh.
Finally, in verse 8, we read:
"Neither do they which pass by say, The blessing of the Lord be upon you:
we bless you in the name of the Lord."
You remember the story of Ruth (Ruth 2: 4) when Boaz came to his field, and said to his reapers,
"The Lord bless you."
His reapers responded with, "The Lord bless you."
This was the custom in the East at that time.
Whenever anyone was having a harvest, and his reapers were busy harvesting in the fields,
those who were passing by would invariably say,
"May the Lord bless you! Bless you with His abundance, bless you with His riches!"
For the life of the flesh there cannot be such blessing of the Lord.
This psalm has shown to us the tremendous contrast between a life in the Spirit and a life in the flesh.
The life in the flesh may seem to be in ascendancy for a time.
It may seem to prevail like Jacob for a while.
We must remember that Jacob's prevailing was his defeat in terms of suffering and affliction and trouble.
The life in the flesh will always end up in emptiness.
It will always end up in frustration, in dissatisfaction, in non-fulfillment, in nothing, in a word vanity.
By contrast the life in the Spirit is a life which transcends.
May this be our life before the Lord, and may we be found among those whose life is in the Spirit.
- It is a life which prevails.
- It prevails with God and with man.
- It is a life that makes use of all the sufferings and afflictions and turns them into glory.
- It is a fruitful and purposeful life.
- It is blessed of the Lord.
- It brings glory and honor to God.
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at hleewhite@AOL.com