Paul Defines Man’s Struggle
Ever since Adam first sinned in the Garden of Eden, mankind has known striving and it has been with great difficulty that he has sought to enter into the Sabbath rest of Yahweh. A great war has raged as the Spirit has made known unto man the mind of Yahweh, yet man’s flesh has desired to go a different path, a path of its own choosing. Within the saint of God there is always this struggle present. The spirit of the saint agrees with the revealed will of God, yet the saint’s flesh wars against it.
Sabbath rest could be defined as a place where mankind finds contentment with the will and desires of Yahweh. Paul describes the struggle to find this place of contentment in the following scriptures.
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish... I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.
Good and evil in this passage are not the same as the good and evil that arose from eating the forbidden fruit. This is not a good and evil of man’s own choosing. Paul defines good here as “the law of God.” It would be helpful here to define the law of God as His rule. Yahweh alone has the right of determination. Anything He declares to be good or evil must be so. Any command He issues must stand. He declares His mind and it is made known to man by His Spirit. Paul states that “in the inner man” he joyfully concurs (or agrees) with the law, or rule, of God.
Although the inner man may find perfect agreement with those things Yahweh reveals to be His will for mankind, there is a part of man that does not share this agreement. This is the flesh of man. The flesh of man was cursed when Adam sinned. The flesh of man always desires to seek and to satisfy its own longings. The flesh of man does not want to give up its own will and desires so that the will and desires of God can be fulfilled. Paul further describes this conflict to the Galatian church.
Galatians 5:16,17, 24
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please... Now those who belong to Yahshua the Messiah have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Paul is describing here a state of rest and a state of striving. The Spirit makes known the mind of the Father to the saint. If the saint responds in obedience then he has entered into Sabbath rest. However, the flesh must be overcome to enter into this rest. The flesh must be put to death for it opposes that which the Spirit reveals to be the mind of the Father. As we have seen, this opposition need not take the form of an apparently evil deed. All the flesh needs to do is propose another path other than that which the Father has revealed to be His will.
Many a saint has balked at the will of Yahweh in their life. Perhaps He has revealed that His will is something other than what their flesh desires. Yahweh may reveal that it is His will that a man sell all of his goods, give the proceeds to the poor, and embark on a path of faith following the Spirit wherever He leads. A man may say, “This does not appeal to me. I want to have my nice things. I will choose to keep these things. I will attend church regularly. I will give much money to the programs of the church. I will teach Sunday School. I will provide for my family. I will live a moral life, but I will not do this thing the Father has revealed to me.” Such a man is walking in disobedience and sin, no matter how righteous he appears on the outside.
How many saints fall into this pattern? There are myriads who appear to be the most faithful of church members, they are good and decent people to all external observation. They are active in their local fellowships. They have set their hands to do many good things, yet they have failed to do that which the Father has revealed is His will for them. They go on year after year in this pattern, finding acceptance within their peer groups and receiving the praise of man. They may even endure persecution due to the moral and righteous activities they have chosen to participate in, but none of it finds favor with Yahweh if it is not that which He has led them to do by His Spirit.
This is the great peril of the flesh. It is not just evil that it sets itself to pursue, but it seeks to define its own righteousness. A man may think that he merely needs to live a good life, to live a godly life, but it is a false godliness. It is a godliness that derives from Satan’s temptation to “be like God,” for such a saint has determined for themself what life they will live and what sacrifices they will make.
The saint of God must crucify his flesh and the desires of the flesh in order to enter into the obedience the Father demands of him. This is not easy, and for this reason it is infrequently practiced. The masses of Christianity are not content with the Father’s will for them. They prefer to choose a path that is more acceptable to their flesh. All the better for them, they think, if they can offer acceptable service to God and not have to deal too harshly with their own flesh. What they have not discerned is that there is only one acceptable service to God, and that is complete obedience to His revealed will.
Paul spoke about coming to this place of contentment where he found Yahweh’s will to be perfectly acceptable to him. To come to this place he had to crucify his flesh.
II Corinthians 12:10
Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
How many saints and ministers can make a similar confession today? How many are content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties? How many would be content if in the fulfillment of the ministry Yahweh entrusted to them they had to endure humble means, going hungry, suffering need?
It is evident that the church today is not content that these things should be the Father’s will for them. They have devised doctrines that proclaim that this will never be the lot of the faithful saint of God. They have devised doctrines that state that it is always the Father’s will that saints should prosper, they should have plenty to eat, they should never suffer lack. Many have gone so far as to accuse any who do endure these same things that Paul endured as lacking faith, or walking in disobedience. Did Paul suffer these things due to disobedience? Did he suffer these things because he did not have as much faith as the “name it and claim it” crowd today?
These doctrines have been devised because the flesh of man does not want to be crucified. It wants to make some compromise with the Spirit. The flesh says, “I should not need to suffer in order to accomplish Yahweh’s purposes.” However, the clear testimony of scripture is that the flesh must not only suffer, but it must be crucified. It must be put to death.
In my own walk of obedience to the Father’s revealed will I have found that it has led to fellow ministers separating from me and rejecting me. Those whom I considered fellow laborers have condemned me and turned away. It has led to similar rejection by my own family, and I have found that it has led me to be placed outside of the main camp of Christianity. In pursuit of obedience I have endured the loss of many physical things. I have not been able to gather to myself houses and lands and many material comforts. I have not been able to seek to satisfy both the flesh and Yahweh. I have had to choose one over the other.
Did not Yahshua clearly foretell that all saints would have to make such a choice?
"No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other, or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."
Many saints have made a decision as to which master they will serve, and they do not even realize they have done so. Many have chosen a course of compromise. They have not said with Yahshua, “I live to do the will of my Father which is in heaven.” Instead they seek to serve God and to hold onto the things that satisfy the flesh’s longing. In the end they do not satisfy the Father at all, for they have failed to fully count the cost of following Him.
Paul did count the cost. He lived to do the will of Yahweh and he was content with whatever circumstances to which this commitment led him. Paul knew contentment when he had a sufficiency, and when he knew lack. Paul knew contentment when he was well fed, and when he was hungry. Paul lived to do the will of the Father and he did not seek to coddle his flesh. On the contrary, he ruled over the desires of his flesh and put these desires to death.
I Corinthians 9:27
I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.
Some debate who the author of the book of Hebrews is, but I have little doubt that it was the apostle Paul. There is too much of his other writings in this book. Paul constantly described by his example, his life, and his epistles the great struggle to enter into the Sabbath rest of God. In the book of Hebrews he comes out and clearly defines the issue of Sabbath and he gives the readers a true understanding of its meaning. To Paul it was certainly more than a list of rules and regulations describing a cessation from labor one day out of the week. To Paul it was the great struggle of mankind. It was the conflict between Yahweh’s will and man’s will.
There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall through following the same example of disobedience.
Paul learned the secret of contentment. He learned to crucify his flesh that the will of the Father might be accomplished in him. Paul buffeted his body and kept it in subjection to the will of the Spirit. In the book of Hebrews Paul speaks much of the great struggle of mankind to enter into the Sabbath rest of God. He speaks much of the example of the Israelites who came out of the bondage of Egypt, yet they failed to enter into the promised rest of Yahweh. These same people are given as an example to the church today and the saints are warned against following the same example and falling short of their calling.
Of those over the age of 20 who left Egypt, only two men entered into the land of promise. The church should be warned lest the same percentages apply to them as well. Many have received spiritual salvation and have been loosed from the bondage of the flesh, yet many remain as though they were still enslaved. They seek to satisfy the flesh and to serve God at the same time, not realizing the impossibility of such a proposition.
Paul, by his life and words, demonstrated that the great struggle for the saint of God is to overcome the flesh and find contentment with the will of Yahweh. As we will see, this was the struggle for those Israelites who wandered in the wilderness for forty years.
This is an excerpt from the book Sabbath.
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