The promise of a new covenant is given in the Old Testament, both in Jeremiah and Ezekiel. We read: “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean. I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and a new spirit within you. I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes and you will keep my judgements and do them”(Ezek.36:25-27). Jeremiah 31:31-33 also gives the same promise.
Ezekiel is talking about God putting a new spirit in man, obviously in the place of his spirit which died in the garden of Eden. Then He is also promising to put His Spirit in man. The result is that man will be able to walk according to God’s statutes and His laws.
The prophecy of John the Baptist that Jesus would baptise with the Holy Spirit is recorded in all the
four gospels. Jesus established the promised new covenant in His own blood (Matt. 26:26-33). Jesus Himself taught about the Holy Spirit, whom the Father would send (Jn. 14:16-17, 26, Jn. 16:7,8,13-15); the Holy Spirit would abide with us for ever, would dwell with us and will be in us. He will teach us all things, and will bring to our remembrance Jesus’ teachings. He is the Spirit of truth and will guide us into all truth. He will tell things to come and convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgement. In Acts 1:8 we read: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses…..”. The promise of the Holy Spirit to believers was fulfilled in Acts 2.
Romans 8:1 says that “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. How do we know who are in Christ Jesus? Those who are in Christ Jesus are those who walk according to the Spirit. They do not walk according to the flesh. God did something to save us, because the law could not save us. “So there is now no condemnation awaiting those who belong to Christ Jesus. For the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed us from the vicious circle of sin and death. We are not saved from sin’s grasp by knowing the commandments of God, because we can’t and don’t keep them, but God put into effect a different plan to save us. He sent His own Son in a human body like ours—except that ours are sinful—and destroyed sin’s control over us by giving Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. So, now we can obey God’s laws if we follow after the Holy Spirit and no longer obey the old evil nature within us.
Who are the sons of God? “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:14). If a believer does not obey the Spirit, but is living according to the dictates of his/her heart, the Holy Spirit is grieved. Paul warns us against grieving the Holy Spirit.
Led by God’s Spirit
Those who are led by the Spirit of God are empowered to obey God’s commandments. Praying the sinners’ prayer, responding to the altar call, or filling up a form at the end of a revival meeting are all work of the Holy Spirit, but that is only the first step in one’s spiritual walk. Babes in Christ need to grow up spiritually by drinking the pure milk of the Word. If the baby is not hungry for milk, something is wrong. It may be still-born, or it may have been crushed by the thorns, or dried up for lack of soil, as the Lord said in the parable of the sower. The proof of healthy growth is bearing fruit. So we need to check and see what fruit we produce. Let us not be deceived into believing that we are on our way to heaven, while continuing to live our lives on our own terms, and not in obedience to the control of the Holy Spirit.
A believer can know the things of God only through his spirit, which is in communion with the Holy Spirit. Without the Spirit of God indwelling a person, one cannot have a real relationship with God (1Cor.2:10-11). If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His (Rom.8:9).
Led by the flesh
Walking in the flesh need not necessarily mean to be living in the ‘listed sins’. It could be struggling to obey the commandments of God in one’s own strength. That was the problem with the Jews. They were trying to keep the law in their own power (Rom. 9:31-32).What the law contains is God’s standard of righteousness, as clearly spelt out in Exodus 20-23. His standard of righteousness has not changed over the years. He is the same unchanging God. He is the same yesterday, today and for ever. Grace has not annulled the law, and grace does not make us lawless. The only change in the new covenant is that we who are saved by His grace through faith, are empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit to obey the commandments. It is not a legalistic obedience in one’s own power, but obedience by faith with His power. One can obey God’s commandments only by submitting to God’s righteousness by faith and being empowered by His Holy Spirit. In case we sin unintentionally, God has given us 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
For those living under the bondage of establishing one’s own righteousness, obedience is a burden. They try to obey because they have to obey. But those led by the Holy Spirit obey the law because they want to obey. Obedience to God becomes the aim of their lives (2 Cor. 5:9). They cease to struggle, and living by the Spirit becomes a joy for them. They have cast out the bondwoman and her son (Gal.4:30); that is the human effort to please God. James calls it the ‘Law of liberty” (Jas.1:25, 2:12). Every act of obedience is an experience of joy and not a burden. Sadly, very few Christians enjoy this kind of life; a life of obedience by faith. They do not look for loopholes in the Bible to fulfil their carnal desires. For example, there are many who try to justify their drinking habit by saying that Jesus changed water into wine. Those who live their Christian lives by faith start in faith, and go on every day in faith, as we read in Romans 1:17 ‘from faith to faith’. They have a strong, living, love-relationship with the Lord. They do not obey grudgingly, but joyously out of love.
A lot of false teachings are floating in the air, deceiving many into living in the flesh and in sin. Though we are saved from sin and condemnation by God’s grace through faith, that should not make us lawless. Jude warns against taking God’s grace for granted, quoting many examples from the Old Testament regarding the judgement of the ungodly. If it is a ‘free for all’, as today some seem to believe, why are the apostles warning us, not to be deceived?
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law (Gal. 5:18). Paul lists the works of the flesh, which are adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries and the like (Gal.5:19-21). The last part of v.21 says unambiguously that those who practise such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Instead, those who walk in the Spirit will produce (v.22) the nine fold fruit of the Spirit in their lives: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Be not deceived
John writes that those who live in unbelief and sin shall have their part in the lake of fire (Rev.21:8). The deception is the belief of those who practise such things that their names are written in the book of life and that they are on the right royal way to heaven. It is to such people also that the Lord will say, “I never knew you, you workers of iniquity.” A true child of God cannot and will not continue in wilful deliberate sins (Jn. 8:44). It only shows who his/her true father is!
So, let us not take God and His Word for granted. His Word is truth (Jn.17:17) and it is by His Word that we are sanctified. Let us live in the Spirit, walk in the Spirit and glorify God with our lives by living a life of obedience, looking forward to hear from the Lord “You good and faithful servant”.
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