This guest post comes from LE Maxwell’s book Crowded to Christ (highly recommended). Oh for the flesh to have no pull upon our lives and rather, as Paul exhorts, live by the flow and source of the Spirit of God continually. May you live a Spirit-filled and sourced life.
The flesh has almost infinite forms. It may not always appear devilish, deceitful, and hateful; on the contrary, it may be cultured, educated, refined, and religious. In fact it may so play possum as to lead you to think that it is dead. It thrives in any soil, and under the shades of earthly sorrow as well as in the sunshine of prosperity. Whatever its behaviour, however, it is still changeless flesh, “unimprovable, incorrigible, incurable … There remains then, no remedy but that which God has provided – condemnation, crucifixion, death with Christ” (Mantle). The only trade-mark becoming to the flesh is the death-mark of the Cross.
… Self is the last idol to fall…. Self-love is so blind, so subtle, and so strong that it will lead a man into a fool’s paradise and leave him there till the searchlight of God locates him and spoils his vain opinion of himself. Until a Christian is thus located and given a death-dealing self-disclosure, he will know little of God’s mighty inward redemption from the power of flesh…. Not until we feel our deep need and tragic defeat can we say in faith, “Thanks be unto God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ – I live no more, but Christ lives in me.” Thus, when Israel was pounced upon by Amalek, her only help was from heaven, through the intervention of Another. Moses’ uplifted hands signified victory given, heaven-sent and free. “This is the victory that overcomes the world [including the flesh and the devil}, even our faith” (1 John 5.4).
On this first occasion of Amalek’s relentless antagonism against God’s people, Heaven’s doom was prononced upon the Amalekites. “Because the hand of Amalek is against the throne of the Lord, therefore the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation” (Exodus 17:16). Likewise, in his last charge to Israel Moses said, “Remember what Amalek did unto you by the way, when you were come forth out of Egypt … Therfore it shall be,… that though shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; you shall not forget it” (Deuteronomy 25.17-19).
With these pronouncements in mind, notice in 1 Samuel 15 the commission given to King Saul: “Go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not” (v.3). Thereupon Saul went forth and gained a wonderful victory. So fully did he obey that he “utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword” (v.8). Nevertheless, he did not utterly destroy all, even though his victory had been so sweeping that he boasted of complete obedience. True, “every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly” (v.9), but in this he did only what most Christians do when it comes to the flesh – namely, he destroyed the worthless and kept alive the good; for “Saul and the people spared Agag [the king], and the best of the sheep,… and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them” (v.9). The average Christian sees at once that he should destroy the wicked, the worthless, and the vile, i.e., all lust, drunkenness, murder, adultery, and such like. Saul’s subtle temptation is ours – to keep alive the refined forms and virtues of the flesh, the attractive bearing, the cultured kindness, the studied smile, the fair show in the flesh. How difficult for the saint to see that the flesh in every form, though it be cultured, and religious, and kind, is as doomed to the stroke of death as all obviously wicked “works of the flesh.” The whole of our “old man was crucified with Christ.” It is not over a part but over the whole of our old natural life that it is written, “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affects and lusts” (Galatians 5.24).
… Someone has well said:
The last enemy destroyed in the believer is self. It dies hard. It will make any concessions if allowed to live. Self will permit the believer to do anything, give anything, sacrifice anything, suffer anything, be anything, go anywhere, take any liberties, bear any crosses, afflict soul and body to any degree – anything if it can only live. It will consent to live in a hovel, in a garret, in the slums, in a far-away heathendom, if only its life can be spared.
… Obviously [Saul] had never put the sword to his own vainglorious self-life. As Samuel showed Agag no mercy, even so the Cross does not stop short of an inner crucifixion of self, thereby laying the axe to the root of the tree. God spared not His only Son, as in Christ He executed you and me.
If Christ would live and reign in me,
I must die;
With Him I crucified must be:
I must die;
Lord drive the nails, nor heed the groans,
My flesh may writhe and make its moans,
But in this way, and this alone
I must die.
– Selected –
Take heed, dear fellow believer, and be well warned against pampering a proud self-life.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
L.E. Maxwell founded the Prairie Bible Institute (Alberta, Canada) in 1922. Serving as professor, principal, and president during his fifty-seven years at the school, he wrote several books including: Crowded to Christ, Born Crucified, and Embraced by the Cross. The above selection was taken from Crowded to Christ, pages 70-74.