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Why do God’s people sometimes do bad things? Most of us know someone who used to walk in the Spirit (as best as we could tell) and now they are openly walking in the flesh. Since most religionists think people are saved by their good deeds, it is no problem to brush them off as becoming lost again. We do know that there are counterfeits and that some people have never been saved, such as those in Matthew 7:21-23. I want to discuss those who have been genuinely saved and then turned aside.

Paul admonished God’s saints at Corinth:

“Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” 2 Corinthians 7:1

The first thing that glares at us is that Christians have problems, both in the spirit and in the flesh. In another letter Paul said it this way:

“For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” Galatians 5:17

Christian people are in warfare and at times they lose! They surrender to the filthiness of the flesh and the spirit.

Notice that we are to cleanse ourselves from this filthiness (most of us will admit to being imperfect, none of us want to admit to being filthy) of two types of sin; i.e., sins of the flesh and sins of the spirit. Our sins can fall into different classes, such as social sin, inward sin, spiritual sin and scriptural sin. The social sins such as homosexuality, adultery, theft, drunkenness, etc. are usually detected easily and carry much embarrassment and social disgrace.

What is not as easily detected from the human vantage point is the sin of greed and covetousness. Many religious leaders (in all denominations) have fattened their wallets from the sacrificial giving of the saints. Their lifestyle is that of the rich and famous and they keep asking for more while promising the giver that God will bless them. Only God knows how many lies have been told and false promises made by “wrongly” dividing the word of God. There is a just and perfect Judge Who will right these wrongs. This certainly qualifies as “filthiness of the spirit.”

Many interpret scriptures for selfish purposes. Scriptures on tithing, giving, Sunday, sabbath, music, mission programs, creation, salvation, baptism, etc. are often given from a particular denominational slant or used to validate the minister’s position. It is amazing that when problems in groups or churches arise, the chosen subject is always “unity of the brethren.” It never seems to occur to the leaders that the problem may be due to their dishonesty or misapplication of scripture. As a rule, to the instigator of the problem, unity becomes more important than truth.

The subject of truth is really reflected in the “filthiness of the spirit.” It is almost impossible to get a definition of truth from today’s theological leaders. Over fifteen years ago I struggled with this problem. I wrote many well-known conservative leaders, both pastors of churches and editors and authors. Only one directed me to a Book! All others had no bottom line in any language that they adhered to as “Thus saith the Lord.” This really amazed me at that time. I thought surely they would refer me to a Greek text or a Hebrew text. I believed these men who spoke and taught with such great authority would have an Authority. They were their own authority and if one translation (Greek or English) didn’t say it like they wanted it, they found another!

As we read our Bibles we find that David committed adultery, Noah got drunk, Samson was a womanizer, Peter denied Christ and Abraham lied, all after they began a close relationship with God. (You can find the filthiness of the flesh or the spirit in every important character in the Bible, with maybe the exception of Joseph.) We are all just sinners saved by grace. There are times when God’s people will challenge the entire ministerial alliance and call down fire from heaven (as Elijah did.) At other times we are cowardly and run from a woman (as Elijah did.)

Men will fail us. We will fail others. Do not put your trust in man for he will always fail us. If we are honest, we must to admit that we have often failed ourselves. Neither should we demand perfection from others, for they cannot attain it anymore than we can. What we can do is heed Paul’s command to continue cleansing ourselves from the filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit. That should keep us pretty well focused on Him, not ourselves or others.

Keep Looking Up!

Leland Maples

(Northside Bible Church is reposting a blog from Leland Maples celebrating the ministry that he maintained for Christ.)

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