Friday, March 2, 2018

Another Duality: Old Man vs. New Man (Simul)

My upcoming book Faith that Sees through the Culture to be released on June 13th, 2018 by Concordia Publishing House also addresses the biblical duality of old man vs. new man, the simultaneous battle that every true Christian knows from within. Since it is an internal battle, however, it might seem odd to treat this duality as a factor of our lives interacting with culture. When we spoke of the two kingdoms, that was a different story right? From outside of us and within the culture comes to us the Church (Right Hand Kingdom) and Family and Government (Left Hand Kingdom), but what of the internal battle? The internal battle is between the Christian's new, born-again spirit (Jn 3:3-6) and the lingering sinful flesh (Ro 8:3). St. Paul describes a real confrontation: "For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do (Ga 5:17)." Contextually, the reference to Spirit appears to be The Holy Spirit who abides with the Christian, but having said this the born-again new man is in complete agreement with the Holy Spirit and against the sinful flesh. Secondly, Ga 5:17 is not presenting a Manichaean dualism in which the powers of good and evil are essentially equal cosmic forces. God the Holy Spirit is stronger than the resistance and rebellion of the sinful flesh. Nevertheless, the Christian is still fully aware of the internal battle. To the extent -- in fact -- that he or she can relate to St. Paul's cry, "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death (Ro 7:24)?" For the Christian who becomes equipped with the Word of Christ, however, they learn that it is precisely in his or her interaction with the what is outside of them that impacts the internal battle. That which feeds and excites the sinful flesh comes from the world; and that which feeds and excites the new man comes from the Word of God (extra nos/[that which comes from] outside us) especially as it comes to us from the holy ministry of the Holy Church. Knowing this, our relationship with the culture is radically impacted. This does not mean that we now become separatists who avoid interaction with the world. Not at all. It does mean, however, that we become aware of how we may be impacted and affected going into certain environments designed to appeal to the flesh. We enter into these realms wise, alert, and on guard; prayerful, watchful, and discerning. At times, we will realize that the environment is just too severe and when we must flee immorality (as when Joseph fled Potiphar's wife), but at other times we will find ourselves with the opportunity to counter evil with good; to be salt of the earth and light of the world (Matt 5:13-16); to steer a company to service over greed; and to treat people with dignity (esp when undeserved) instead of be peacemakers and to walk in the Spirit. The internal battle will also lead us to place a much higher premium regarding life together; to seek other Christians, members of the Body of Christ who will bring the gospel of Jesus one to another; especially when gathered in Divine Service, in Bible Study, or simple fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ who will not only laugh together while enjoying a game, but also encourage each other in the faith. Yes, our internal battle does indeed affect how we live in the world; it affects how we live, move, and have our being in the culture. It is for us to navigate while realizing opportunities for the gospel and love; and resources to strengthen us so that while living in the world, we are not taken over by it. Soli Deo Gloria!

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