Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Warm greetings from all of us here in Maryville, Tennessee, to all of you during this
period of time that is winter for some and summer for others.
Time is sure flying by, and before you know it we will be observing the Passover and
Days of Unleavened Bread once again.
Speaking of the brevity of this human life, how are you using the time God has given
you? Are you using it wisely?
In Psalm 90:12, the prayer of Moses is recorded: “So teach us to number our days, That
we may gain a heart of wisdom” [New King James Version throughout]. How? By spending
our lives developing the mind of Christ. Why? So that we can learn to do good, something only
God in us can do.
Have you ever done something bad and wished you could have the chance to do it over
again? Or maybe, you saw a horrible disaster take place in your life and wished you had the
power to change it.
A few great disasters have occurred during my lifetime. The bombing of Pearl Harbor
by the Japanese was one; the Holocaust during WWII was another; and the destruction of the
9/11 attack on this country was another.
But there was another disaster that most of the world did not even notice. It was the
apostasy that happened in God’s true church beginning in 1974 when the Day of Pentecost was
changed from Monday to Sunday, causing God to withdraw His Holy Spirit from the Worldwide
Church of God (WCG)—the Spirit that gave the brethren the power to overcome sin.
This disaster caused many tears, heartache and misery among God’s called-out brethren.
It caused many families to split up and the children of members to lose faith in their parents’
religion. That is what happened in our family. Would it not be great if we could go back in
time and correct these events? My wife and I have often thought: What could we have done
differently to keep our family together as the church was disintegrating around us?—not
realizing that the apostasy was part of God’s plan.
Remember the popular movie, Back to the Future, with Michael J. Fox? It was about
time travel—something that is impossible in the flesh, but it was exciting to imagine the
possibilities. Michael and his scientist friend found a way to travel back in time to correct a
disaster which occurred in his family. This was not the first time that time travel was used in
a story. In 1843, Charles Dickens used it in the story, The Christmas Carol.
If time travel were possible in the flesh, what would you change in the history of your
life to create a better outcome? Would you try to be a better person by correcting the mistakes
of the past? What if Adam and Eve had not eaten of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and
Evil? Would we be the better for it by escaping the curses placed upon mankind because of
their mistake? Can mankind really be good?
I believe the answer lies in Matthew 19:17, where Jesus said to the rich young ruler after
he had asked Christ what good thing he could do to have eternal life: “Why do you call me
good? No one is good but One, that is, God.”
Many times I have heard a child pray, “Please God, make me good.” I think as adults we
make this same mistake, asking God to make us good, not realizing that He cannot or will not
answer. God will not make us good because only by having God in us can we be good.
In Jeremiah 13:23, God in this way inspired Jeremiah to write to His people in Jerusalem
because of their great pride—a pride in themselves that caused them to believe that they could
be good in the flesh without the help of God. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard
its spots?”—meaning, is it possible for a man who is black to change his skin from black to
another color, or can a leopard change its spots to stripes? The implied answer is No! It is not
possible! But if it were possible, Jeremiah continues in verse 23, “Then may you also do good
who are accustomed to do evil”—meaning, it is impossible really to do good according to God’s
standards separate and apart from God.
Pride in ourselves can cause us to become self-righteous, which is like filthy rags to God
(Isaiah 64:6). Only God can remove pride from us, which clings like a girdle or a sash. That
is the message in Jeremiah 13 to those who are lifted up with pride in themselves, a pride which
can cause us to resist the Words of God (Jeremiah 13:10). This mystery can be understood only
by the called of God, His saints.
[T]he mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now
has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the
riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the
hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all
wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I
labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily (Colossians
This mystery of Christ living in us is the hope of glory, because only Christ living in us
can cause us to do good in perfecting God’s righteousness. Flesh of itself cannot become good.
Neither can flesh be good except Christ is living in that flesh through the indwelling of God’s
Spirit. This means we must crucify the life of the flesh that is in our human nature and ask God
for the indwelling of His Spirit to make us good as God is good.
We are so programmed to sin that we cannot help ourselves. Paul realized this and
speaks of it in Romans 7:14–25:
For we know that the law is spiritual [referring to the Ten Commandments], but
I am carnal, sold under sin. [Meaning that sin had such power over him that he
could never overcome in the flesh. Flesh of itself cannot overcome sin.] For
what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice;
but what I hate, that I do [Paul is saying: I do not understand myself at all, for I
really want to do good, but I cannot]. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree
with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that
dwells in me [Paul agrees here that the spiritual law of God is good, but it is
against his human nature to obey because of the law of the flesh]. For I know that
in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but
how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not
do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now If I do what I will not to do,
it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil
is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God
according to 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 will deliver me from this
body of 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.
Paul is saying there is nothing within his flesh that can cause him to do good in obeying
God’s spiritual law. This means there can be no progress in the salvation process as long as we
are trying to overcome sin in the flesh alone by will power. The flesh here means our evil,
corrupt nature that is within us from birth.
To confirm the hopelessness of the flesh, the apostle mourns that although he has the
desire to do right, he does not have the resources in himself to translate his desire into action.
This is the trouble we can all experience when we cast our anchors inside our own boats instead
of in Christ, leaving us to drift about.
Although Paul delights in the spiritual law of God after the inward man, he finds no
power to accomplish the good. In other words, he is trying to accomplish what God has
declared to be an utter impossibility—namely, making the flesh subject to God’s holy law. He
finds that the flesh minds only the things of the flesh and is enmity against the law of God to
Paul feels as if he has been burdened down with a decomposing body strapped to his
back. That body, of course, is the old nature in all its corruption. In his wretchedness, he finally
has to admit that he is unable to deliver himself from this offensive load of bondage. Then
finally, after much discouragement in trying to overcome sin in the flesh, he realizes that there
is deliverance which comes through inviting Christ to live His life in him. This causes Paul to
burst out with thanksgiving for his deliverance. The very deliverance Paul now explains is in
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do
not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the
Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has 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 did by
sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He
condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be
fulfilled in us who do not walk 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, the things of the Spirit. 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, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in
you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if
Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of
righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in
you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies
through His Spirit who dwells in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not
to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh
you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will
live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
So sonship is promised to all those who are willing to live according to the Spirit, by
putting to death the deeds of the flesh through the power of God’s Spirit, and allowing Christ
to live His life in you.
Are you willing to give up this life in the flesh in order to inherit eternal life? The fear
of death in the flesh can cause us to panic and to reject the path that leads to spiritual life,
choosing rather to suffer longer by trying to save ourselves in the flesh.
Matthew 16:25 says, “For whoever desires to save his life [physically] will lose it, but
whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” What Jesus is saying here is that if you are
hugging your physical life for selfish purposes you will never find real fulfillment in Christ; but
if you are willing to sacrifice that life as Christ did for others, you will find your life as a Son
of God and live forever in the God Family.
How can we know that we have God’s Holy Spirit and that Christ is living His life in us
to do good?
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God;
because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the
Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh
is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the
flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard
was coming, and is now already in the world. You are of God, little children, and
have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the
world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the
world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not
of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error
(1 John 4:1–6).
Are we proving Christ has returned in the flesh by the way we live our lives, or do our
actions reveal the way of an antichrist? If we say we know Christ, should we not be walking
as He walked? (1 John 2:6)
According to 1 John 2:18–23, there are many antichrists in the end time who say they are
of God, but because they went out from us they have identified themselves as antichrists in that
they deny that we are of the true Christ.
Mr. Raymond Cole has said many times in his “Faith” sermon series that those who deny
that Christ has come in the flesh—by living lives that are antichrist—are not of God. By this
you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses, or demonstrates, that Christ has come
in their flesh, (by their good behavior) is of God. On the other hand, those who live contrary
to God’s law are antichrist.
If we can think spiritually now for a moment, we can travel back in time by God’s grace
and correct the tragedies and the mistakes of the past by asking for and obtaining forgiveness.
David did this in his prayer of repentance, recorded for us in Psalm 51, verses 10–12. “Create
in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from
Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” Notice David did not ask God to
make him good in the flesh, but he asked that God would renew a right, steadfast spirit in him
to make him willing to obey God in the spirit. With that help, he could do the good by
maintaining the paths of righteousness—which he could not accomplish in his flesh alone.
Note what God caused Jeremiah to write in Jeremiah 17:5: “Cursed is the man who
trusts in man [himself] And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the Lord.”
I believe many of God’s people today are struggling to do good in the flesh alone,
because they may have departed from the Lord’s help, not realizing it. If this is the case, you
can only experience a life of discouragement, despair and hopelessness. So why not travel back
in time and ask God for that first love of the truth that you had years ago—that excitement to
study God’s Word and to learn how to follow His ways. God will surely give it to you if you
So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock,
and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks
finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any
father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give
him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a
scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask
Him! (Luke 11:9–13)
It is truly significant that the gift God is most willing to give us is the gift we most need
in order to experience victory over the flesh. This gift of the Holy Spirit is the power that
enables us to live the Christian life, and that is why God is so anxious to give this power to those
who ask in faith, so they can truly be good as God is good.