Liberated from Carnality
If I were to take my pen and toss it into the air, would it keep going up? No, there is a force at work, and my pen is no match for the gravitational pull of the planet beneath it. No matter how much effort I put into my throw and no matter how high the pen then goes, it will ultimately fall to the ground. The strongest force prevails. What goes up must come down—that is the principle of gravity.
In the spiritual realm, forces are at work as well. In Romans chapter 7, the Apostle Paul referred to one of them: the principle of sin. In this passage, Paul was describing himself when he was a religious sinner, and the conflict that raged within while he was in that condition. He said, “I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin” (Romans 7:21-25). The desire to do right was in Paul’s life, but the power to do right was lacking. The strongest force prevailed. His best intentions were no match for the body of sin within him.
Protestant religions acknowledge the fall of Adam and refer to our foreparents’ sin as the “original sin.” They recognize the power of carnality—also called the “old man,” (meaning the former man), the “Adamic nature” (referring back to Adam), or the “sin nature.” One cannot dispute that the nature of sin exists. As a sinner, Paul was baffled by his behavior. He could not understand why his actions and behavior came out wrong, even though he wanted to do right. After he was converted, he realized that a force had been at work. He called this unseen force the “body of sin”—it was sin personified. In his own strength, he could not overcome the sin nature within him.
While the underlying condition that Paul described and struggled against as a sinner is invisible, the evidence of its existence is obvious. The carnal nature is dominating; it is debilitating; it is deceptive, and it is destructive.
The carnal nature is dominating. In Romans 7:14 we read, “For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.” It is like a master subjugating his captives and keeping them in captivity. That is how Paul felt—that he was sold out and held captive by that body of sin within him. As a slave is dominated by his master, Paul was dominated by his sinful nature. And so are we, when we are in a carnal state. We are controlled and oppressed by our carnal nature.
Fighting against the sinful nature is like a man struggling to extricate himself from quicksand.
Fighting against the sinful nature is like a man struggling to extricate himself from quicksand. Perhaps he waded into it unwittingly, but he has been trapped, and now the more he struggles to free himself, the deeper he sinks into the mire. The power of the quicksand is stronger than he is. His only means of escape must come from outside himself. As sinners, we are trapped by the nature of sin with which we were born. It takes Jesus to extricate us—He is the only remedy for carnality. He alone has the power not only to forgive our past wrongdoings, but also to eradicate the very nature of sin within.
The carnal nature is debilitating. Paul knew well that he ought not to be doing what he hated. He did not want to do it, but he did it anyway. In Romans 7:15, Paul acknowledged, “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.” In Romans 7:17 we read, “Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” Paul wanted to do right, and I suppose he did at times, but then some evidence of the sinful nature would spring forth that could not be suppressed and he was defeated once more. He found himself in a state of spiritual paralysis, lacking the power to live in the manner he knew that he should.
Before being saved, I had a foul mouth. I recognized that my bad language was unbecoming. However, trying to control what I said was futile. I could refrain for a time, but eventually I would slip up. That is the law of sin; what exists within will come out.
One of our pastors tells of his dad’s struggle with tobacco addiction. His father tried to quit smoking. He would throw his cigarettes out the window, saying he was not going to smoke anymore. No doubt he meant what he said; he truly did want to quit. However, the next morning he would be crawling around out in the bushes outside the window, trying to find that pack of cigarettes he had thrown out the night before. He was controlled by his craving!
The carnal nature is deceptive. In Romans 7:11 we read, “For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me . . .” In the Garden of Eden the serpent deceived Eve who then found a willing accomplice in Adam. Satan promised they would become like gods, but instead they only gained knowledge of evil with the condemnation and heartbreak it soon brought. From then until now, sin has continued to promise what it cannot deliver. It makes the unlawful appealing without revealing the outcome.
Just as the serpent preyed upon the innocence of Adam and Eve, Satan similarly beguiles the entire human race. In Romans 7:9 Paul seems to be speaking of when he was a child without real understanding of what sin was. We read, “For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” As an example, consider the child who misbehaves without a moral decision to knowingly defy God. A toddler may act in anger, throwing a bottle or toy across the room. He is being naughty, but he is not purposefully rebelling against God; he does not yet understand that such behavior is sin. However, his actions are evidence of the carnal nature within.
In time, even youngsters come to grips with the fact that God has expectations. At some point there will come a realization after they have done wrong that they have displeased God. “The commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” The child who once lived freely without condemnation is suddenly confronted by his own bad behavior and its moral implications. The understanding of what is right and wrong in God’s sight brings one face to face with that nature of sin. Innocence is past. Paul expressed this by saying that he “died” a spiritual death. He became separated from God, and began to feel the guilt and condemnation of sin. However, in time an awareness of the remedy came, which is what Paul was confronted with in his Damascus Road experience.
The carnal nature is destructive. Completing Romans 7:11 we read, “For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.” Sin slays. It destroys and defeats. It ruins relationships and tears up homes. There is nothing good about it! We need to realize that even if we have not seen the disastrous consequences of sin yet, those results will come. We must take advantage of the remedy.
I grew up on a farm in Roseburg, Oregon, and on our property we had what Dad called Canadian thistles. These thistles were of a different variety than others which my brothers and I could easily hoe out by the root, permanently eradicating them before they went to seed. The Canadian thistle variety had an underground root system that extended unseen for several feet, and it would spread throughout the area. Even if we dug down below what was seen on the surface, before long a new crop of thistles would emerge, sometimes several feet beyond the original impacted area. What a picture of how the sin nature yields a crop of sin, even when every effort is made to control it!
The farmer down the road had a solution to our Canadian thistle problem: an herbicide referred to as “2, 4-D.” When sprayed on the thistles, that solution permeated the root system completely, and permanently destroyed the weed. However, 2, 4-D will not work on the carnal nature. That takes the Blood of Jesus!
We thank God that the Blood is available. It is not necessary to continue in the life of defeat that Paul described in Romans 7. Paul experienced the solution. It began on the road to Damascus when he was struck to the ground by a bright light and heard a Voice from Heaven. The Lord had to render him helpless so that He might help him. That event was the mercy and the grace of God!
We do not need to go through life doing fairly well part of the time, but finding that every so often some action springs out that is not right.
Subsequent to the Damascus Road incident and having his sins forgiven, Paul experienced sanctification. In the rest of the Book of Romans, Paul makes it clear that there is victory in Jesus! We do not need to go through life doing fairly well part of the time, but finding that every so often some action springs out that is not right. That carnal nature, the “old man,” can be destroyed. The remedy offered by Jesus is the eradication of the nature of sin. Paul describes this as a crucifixion—a means of bringing about death. In Romans 6:6-7 we read, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.” It is not a temporary disabling. Victory over sin is complete and entire. We read Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonian 5:23, “The very God of peace sanctify you wholly.” The sin nature is dealt with completely. Jesus suffered and died outside the gate of the city of Jerusalem. He took our sins, and they were nailed to the Cross. When we capitalize upon what He offers, we die with Him.
In Romans 6:1-2 Paul asks, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” Once our past sins have been forgiven and we have recognized the depth and the severity of our former sin condition, why would we want to go back to that old life? Of course we would not! Sin is distasteful; we abhor it. We flee from temptation that would lead us that way.
It is not our fault we were born in sin and possess a sin nature; we are not responsible for that. However, we are responsible for taking advantage of the remedy. We start by taking decisive action in changing masters. In Romans 6:16 we read, “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” The word yield is mentioned five times in Romans 6:13-19. It suggests a transfer of ownership—as if we were disposing of a piece of property. When that is our purpose, we go to the title company and sign the paperwork, relinquishing ownership of that property. In the spiritual realm, we transfer control and ownership of our lives from ourselves and the enemy of our souls to God.
Having described the futility of trying to be religious while still in bondage to the carnal nature in Romans 7, in the next chapter Paul goes on to describe victory over the former controlling force. There is another force at work, and the power in the Blood of Jesus is greater than anything the enemy of our souls can lay upon us. In Romans 8:1 we read, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Paul is looking at the totality of sin—both committed sins and the carnal condition with which we were born. We repented of our committed sins and they were forgiven. We were dominated by the old man and his deeds but now we are consciously and willingly under the control of the Spirit of God. We have victory and freedom from condemnation because we have been liberated from the carnal nature through sanctification.
Continuing in Romans 8:2-3 we read, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” Paul had previously referred to the law of sin; now he refers to the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus which had made him free from the law of sin and death. What was it that the Law could not do? It could not change the heart. The Law was written on a table of stone. It was first revealed to the Jewish people, but even before it was formally written, it was evident in the consciences of mankind that certain acts and thoughts were displeasing to God. The Law lacked the power to change the heart.
Continuing in verses 4-5 we read, “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.” There is no half way. We are either pleasing God or displeasing Him. We are either living under the control of carnality or under control of the Spirit of God. Verses 6-7 read, “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”
Today, as in Paul’s day, there are spiritual forces at work. If we find ourselves fighting against the enemy within, we must go back to the Lord and ask Him to eradicate the old man, the sin nature. We must say, “Lord, sanctify me wholly. Eradicate that old man. Let him be dead with Christ and liberate me to be free—not only from the committed sins, but also from the war within.” Satan brings us down, but the Lord will lift us up. If a conflict rages within, submit and yield to God. Make a decision and say, “Lord, I am going to relinquish control of my life to You.” God will help you and bless you and save you and sanctify you. He will make you holy and give you freedom from condemnation.
Thank God for the victory that is possible through Jesus Christ our Lord!