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For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (ESV)
When and How Christ Says
Holy Cross Day
14 September 2015
When I was a young college student, I was shocked when a professor spoke about sexual lust in terms of power of one person over another. He was of the opinion that the sins of the flesh could be reduced to a matter of power over the other. I had never heard such a frank and thoughtful description of the sexual depravity that lurks in the hearts of all. Sexual lust was simply the form of power expressed in terms of the libido. What our professor had understood was that the depraved human heart was uniformly bent toward what Paul called "the flesh." The Apostle did not intend to limit such a judgment merely to sexual sins, as though once we are clear of sexual immorality we will have defeated the desires of the flesh" (Gal 5:17).
Unfortunately, since Augustine western theology has tended to reduce the Bible's prohibitions of fleshly desire to sexual desire. The result has been to separate some sins from others, as though the "biggies" are of a sexual nature. This tames the law and reduces its killing power, because it reduces some sins to the level of veniality. We don't have to sweat the little sins. Such a division causes Pharisaism within us. Even Augustine recognized this, when he quipped that once he grew old and was no longer plagued by misdirected sexual desire that he found himself to be plagued then by pride! Pride is the desire to have power over others in terms of personal honor. Both misdirected sexual desire and pride are signs of the total depravity of the flesh; a flesh we carry with us to our grave. The Christian will live in this battle every day; even on his last day; for even to the end he will fight to have power over his own life and will decline to give it up when called by the Lord. Only the Lord's decisive will ends the struggle, when He sends the angel of death; thus putting an end to our grasping for power, which is not ours to have. Surely the Lord gives and surely the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21)!
The battle must be joined, though, until the Lord ends the war. Come, Lord Jesus! This is a cause of stumbling for the weak in faith. They doubt that those who are still battling against lust could ever be counted among the children of God. However, those who still live in the spiritual battle against the flesh are truly the children of God. It seems counterintuitive, but as long as the battle is being fought, no matter how difficult and full of crosses it may be, we are still in the care of the Lord. Think about it, as long as the war is still going on, it hasn't been lost. Once hostilities have ceased either you have triumphed and are the victor or you have lost and are fully in the clutches of your enemy. Since our victory only comes to us when the flesh has been laid in the grave of death that means that the battle din we experience every day is the closest to peace and quiet we shall ever be this side of heaven. The ugly silence of the heart by spiritual death means that we are in the clutches of our enemy. Lord, save us from this peace and quiet; which is the graveyard of the soul!
The outcome is not in doubt because it is assured to us by Christ's victory over death through the cross. He has silenced death's quiet by speaking from the death of the cross the triumphant battle cry, "It is finished." (Jn 19:30). The battle is over when Christ says and how Christ says. Not before and in no other way.


Martin Luther

"'For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do" (Gal 5:17). When Paul says that the desires of the flesh are against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, he impresses upon us at the same time that we are to be conscious of the desires of the flesh, that is, not only of sexual desire, but also of pride, anger, sadness, impatience, unbelief, etc. He truly wants us to be conscious of them in such a way that we do not consent to them or gratify them (Rm 13:14), that is, that we do not think about, say, or do what our flesh suggests and to which our flesh impels us. If it moves us to anger, we should, as Psalm 4 teaches, 'be angry' in such a way that we 'do not sin' (Ps 4:4). It is as though Paul wanted to say: 'I know that your flesh solicits you toward anger, envy, doubt, unbelief, etc. But by resisting in the spirit, do not sin. But if by deserting the leadership of the spirit you follow the flesh, you will gratify the desires of the flesh, and you will die' (Rm 8:13). Thus this statement must be understood as applying not only to sexual desire but to the whole realm of sin, etc."

Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 5.17
Collect for Holy Cross Day
Merciful God, Your Son, Jesus Christ, was lifted high upon the cross that He might bear the sins of the world and draw all people to Himself. Grant that we who glory in His death for our redemption may faithfully heed His call to bear the cross and follow Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

For Walter Friend, that the Lord Jesus would grant him strength and healing in accordance with His will and that those who see to his needs would be given wisdom and fortitude
For President Obama, that he might be upheld in every good deed and that he would sustain the freedom of religion and direct the executive branch to do the same
For the officers, employees, and supporters of the Lutheran Church Extension Fund as they labor to provide loans to extend God's kingdom through Word and sacrament ministry, that Christ might be glorified through their labors
Art: Dürer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 

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