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Walk in Newness of the Spirit and not Oldness of the Letter

August 18th, 2012

The fifth message I have shared with my mishpocha, we continue to look at Paul's preaching within Romans, continueing on from his point regarding being under grace and not under the condemnation of the law in Romans 6. Grace empowers us to overcome, and Messiah's death has set us free from the bondage of sin and death. How then are we to walk? Paul tells us clearly within Romans 7...



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“But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter”(Romans 7:6)

The last two times I preached I went over some of the phrases of Paul that according to Peter are sometimes difficult to understand. We looked at the dividing wall of Ephesians 2:14 which was really about some of the customs that divided Jew and Gentile in the first century, and how by receiving the Holy Spirit, it was proven to the Apostles that Gentiles were cleansed simply by faith alone, just the same as them. And then we looked at that popular phrase Under the Law, found in Romans 6, which basically means that you are under the condemnation of the law, and Tim Hegg reviewed this for us a couple weeks ago. After we understood what under the law meant we were able to understand Romans 6 really well, and what I want to do this week is continue the thought that Paul is teaching here by going into Romans 7, because there is a lot here that is not only relevant for all Believers, Torah Observant or not, but really where we as a congregation are going. Last week Pastor Andrew continued to talk about that theme of walking in HaShem’s blessing by obedience, but it begs the question of HOW do we walk in obedience in order to experience that blessing. Paul, as he continues his line of thought from Romans 6 into Romans 7 goes in to those very details and there’s a message in there that I think can help us all break free into revival. Pastor Andrew keeps saying that there's going to be a break out of the Spirit here, and I can feel it too, but one barrier I know that can be holding us back is... our carnal nature. And with that carnal nature comes theological baggage. What I mean is, there are some things that when not fully understood they can be a barrier to us experiencing more of HaShem's freedom because the Adversary is very crafty and a theological expert in that he can take HaShem's truth and twist it around just enough so that while we think we're all smart and understanding His word really well... in actuality, the blessing is being withheld; and we are not, in fact, walking in obedience, even if we think we can theologically prove otherwise (Okay, where am I going with this? Just wait and see…)

7 Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? 2 For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. 3 So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man.

4 Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law [that is, dead to consequences of breaking the Law] through the body of Messiah [as it said before, we are crucified with Him], so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead [so in other words, we're raised in His righteousness, born again from the beginning, from a time when there was no sin], in order that we might bear fruit for G-d. 5 For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. [this is talking about before we were born again; when we were spiritually dead because we were in union with sin as opposed to Messiah] 6 But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. (Romans 7:1-6 NASB, emphasis added)
So what does this mean? Does this mean forget the Torah and just go wherever the "spirit" is leading you? That's not very safe, because how are you going to know it's the right spirit, right? But Paul actually uses this contrast elsewhere, so let's turn to 2 Corinthians chapter 3 for a moment

1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some, letters of commendation to you or from you?2 You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men;3 being manifested that you are a letter of Messiah, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living G-d, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts [contrast between material and spiritual; temporal and eternal].

4 Such confidence we have through Messiah toward G-d. 5 Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from G-d, 6 who also made us adequate [in other words, we’re inadequate on our own, but when we have G-d, then He makes us adequate] as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:1-6)
So, does the letter of the Torah kill? Because that's what it's saying, right? And my answer to you is: yes, absolutely! But then you might say to me "but the Torah itself says 'this is your life and the length of your days"" and that's also very true. And if you don't think like a Hebrew yet these two seemingly contradicting statements may be very annoying for you, but let me give some explanation here. The Torah defines for us right and wrong... the Torah defines what sin actually is. And so in the face of Torah as Paul says very strongly in Romans, we have our sinful nature revealed or made plain. There is no hiding from our sinful nature when we look at Torah because the Torah will convict us of everything we do wrong. And if we were to stand before a righteous judge and it is clearly laid out that we have broken all these laws, guess what? We're guilty. And if the punishment is death, guess what else? We're dead. Only if someone were to come and pay that fine and take the punishment for us would we be off the hook, and praise G-d that that's exactly what happened. We sure didn't deserve it, but that's what grace is: unmerited favor, getting what you don't deserve, and for us that's eternal life.

But in that manner we can see and understand how the letter of the law actually kills. But that's not the Laws fault, that's our fault. We can't go downtown and say "it's not my fault, the speed limit was too low". You think the judge is going to take pity on you? But the Torah only kills in a roundabout way. In actuality, it is our disobedience to Torah which is sin that kills us. Deuteronomy 30:20 indeed says that the Torah is our life and the length of our days, and we know that our obedience to Torah results in blessing. So coming back to the question of the day then is, how do we obey Torah? Deuteronomy 30 is a very powerful chapter, it's one of my favorites in all of Torah and I might say that a lot because I have a lot of favorite things, but it's true. Let's just flip there for a moment and review a passage I've taken you guys to before,

11 “For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘ Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ 14 But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it. (Deuteronomy 30:11-14)
So it's in our heart so that we can do it. Now isn't that interesting, especially considering this was said long before Jeremiah proclaimed that the heart is deceitful, and long before Yeshua came rebuking saying that out of the heart comes all those not-so-wonderful things that defile a man. So right at the beginning we read that Torah is in our hearts that we may observe it. This of course is speaking to those living inside the covenant. To those outside, those nations that we are to preach the gospel to, what is the stereotypical thing that is usually done when bringing someone to Messiah? There is the sinners prayer, and you invite Jesus into your heart, right?

But what does Scripture actually say? Scripture usually makes reference to the Holy Spirit as being what comes inside of our hearts and lives or dwells inside of a Believer. And Messiah says in John 3:36 that "It is the spirit that gives life". So we have Scripture telling us that the Torah is our life and that it is in our hearts, and then we also have it saying that the Spirit gives life and it is in our hearts. So there is this relationship with the Spirit and the Torah that is very important to understand and I think it was best understood by people who saw it demonstrated to us in the person of Yeshua the Messiah. He is truly the embodiment of this concept, the Word made flesh, right? But we're to be imitators of Him and walk in the manner He walked, so we really have to pay attention to Paul's rants that are trying to help us be like Messiah.

First, there is a very plain, or peshat meaning to this text that works into the deeper meaning of what Paul is trying to get across. When we talk about the letter of the Law, we can look at things in a very superficial manner and turn things into a ritualistic mathematical formula where it's like - "If I do such and such religious practice I can get this particular output that benefits me, and here now is my little printed receipt showing that I have gotten my ticket to heaven". This is sort of what Cain was doing with his obligatory sacrifice to HaShem in Genesis 4. But we know that's not how it works. There is no power in the liturgy or ritual in and of itself. Power and authority comes from only one place: HaShem. The Word of G-d is sharper than a two edged sword only because it is the Word of: HaShem. When we take HaShem out of the equation we are left with basically nothing. And HaShem is Spirit, so without the Spirit we are therefore left with basically nothing. So the Torah and the Spirit are two concepts that are inseparable. Without one the other will go hay wire somehow. And in application this becomes very evident because it is impossible to fulfill or properly understand the commandments without the Spirit. Everyone got that? If you don’t get anything else from today, mark that down, because this is really what the basis of Paul’s teaching is, and he is in fact teaching nothing new, but we’ll get to that in moment.

There is an ancient Gospel called the Gospel according to the Hebrews which all the church founders say was used by the Jewish Believers in Messiah in the second, third and fourth centuries. It may have been an earlier version of the Gospel of Matthew, we're not sure because no copy has survived to us other than quoted fragments. But one particular fragment quoted by Origen amplifies the story of the rich youth and I think it really shows how the letter of the law without the Spirit cannot be a means to actually fulfilling the Law at all.

"The second rich youth said to him, “Rabbi, what good thing can I do and live?” Yeshua replied, “Fulfill the law and the prophets.” “I have,” was the response. Yeshua said, “Go, sell all that you have and distribute to the poor; and come, follow me.” The youth began to fidget, for it did not please him. And the Lord said, “How can you say, I have fulfilled the law and the prophets, when it is written in the law: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself,' and many of your brothers, sons of Abraham, are covered with filth, dying of hunger, and your house is full of many good things, none of which goes out to them?” -Gospel According to the Hebrews (as quoted by Origen in his Commentary on Matthew 15:14)
Now praise Adonai that our congregation doesn't struggle with this one, and we have 150 orphans that are very grateful because of it. But when we read further in the text of this story within the Gospel of Matthew, we read something interesting. Messiah comments on how difficult it is for a rich man to enter heaven, and the Apostles remark "who then can be saved?" Messiah replies - "with man this is impossible. But not with G-d! With G-d, all things are possible." So, it is impossible for us to do it in our own strength without G-d. When it says in the text that "it would be easier for a camel to pass through an eye of a needle then for a rich man to enter heaven" the word for camel in Aramaic can also mean a thick rope. And some people think that this was the original reading to the text, and that the imagery is supposed to be that as HaShem works in your life, he unravels the rope until it is humbled down to a single thread which can then be passed through the eye of a needle. And that unraveling process is the stripping away of our old self, that old man, all so that we can pass through on the narrow path and inherit eternal life. But notice how we don't do it, but He does it. This is very important, because there is a tension here between HaShem's work in our life and our compliance to that work, our willingness to submit to Him.

Now without HaShem we can look just like that rich youth. We can be religious until the cows come home but it won't do us or anyone else any good. Just because you wear tzitzit does not mean that you are living a holy, sanctified life. In fact, I would say, if your behavior doesn't reflect the righteousness of HaShem, take those tzitzit off right now, because if you look down at those and aren't convicted of His righteousness and the fact that it should be in your life, no matter what the circumstances of your life are, then you aren't actually fulfilling the Biblical commandment of tzitzit at all. You're playing dress up! And we don't want to dress up like Yeshua, we want to BE like Yeshua in the very core of our being. When hardship comes our way we want to say "Blessed by Your name O Lord, though I'm walking through the valley of the shadow of death, You are with me! Your Rod and Your staff, they comfort and guide me!" We can't one moment be all zealous for Torah and then the next moment cast it off because things aren't going the way we wanted them to. If that's what's happening then our sin is merely being exposed and we have to get on our face before G-d and ask for renewal, so that we can walk in newness of the Spirit, and not simply try and follow the letter of the Law according to our old fallen nature, because that doesn’t work, our old fallen nature is aroused to do bad when it looks at Torah. Not good. So it's not going to work that way, and it was never intended to work that way. So to think that it does, we better pay attention to what Yeshua warned everyone. I mean, I love Torah, but, when I look at Yeshua's rebukes in the gospels, I can't help but think that if He was here right now He would be giving those same rebukes to the Torah Observant movement.

Now, I don't think too many people here wear tefillin, but in the Shema you can take the words "and you shall bind these words upon your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead" very literally, and wrap tefillin during your prayer and study. For those who don't know, tefillin are those little black boxes that contain parchments of Scripture in them, and one is placed on your arm and the other on your forehead so you are literally putting those words on your hand and on your forehead like the Scripture says. In a plain sense, that's the letter of the Law. But if this is not helping you to dwell upon, internalize and walk out the Torah which would be evidenced by the fruits you bear, showing that the Spirit is working within you, then why are sitting there wrapping leather around you? To emphasize this point I actually made an additional blessing for myself for after putting on the tefillin which goes,

Praised are you O Lord our G-d, Ruler over the universe, Who set us apart through Your commandments and instructed us to place these words around our arms, close to our hearts, to symbolize our desire to serve you; and around our heads, so that we may remember to keep Your Word and sanctify Your name.
You see, the commandment of tefillin, although many view it as a very literal interpretation, actually goes far beyond its outward act and MUST if we are to actually fulfill the commandment. And this is also what Yeshua taught, didn’t He? Don’t clean the outside of the cup but clean the inside? It’s not about merely an outward appearance but an inward change, right? But don't think that this is teaching a “New testament” only concept, because that is actually pure Torah Judaism. Let’s go to Deuteronomy 6:17-18,

"You should diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your G-d, and His testimonies and His statutes which He has commanded you. 18 You shall do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD, that it may be well with you."
Did you get that? On the one hand we are to diligently keep the commandments, His testimonies and statutes, but then we are also to do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD. The Rabbi's in the midrash teach that this is talking about the letter of the law and the spirit of the law (ah, see, it's not just a new testament concept!). And they say that one is not to just simply walk in an outward appearance of following the Torah but rather that they are to go beyond the simple outward observance to truly do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD. That everything within Torah should be helping you to do just that. And this is exactly the point. Yeshua gives an interesting rebuke in Matthew 23:23 when He says,

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.
Notice how He says without neglecting the others. So following even the smallest, simplest precepts of Torah is by no means a bad thing, but when it is done at the expense of the weightier matters of Torah, then you know something is amiss and that you're not actually fulfilling the commandments. People sit there arguing about calendar issues, two house theology, sacred names, and so on and so forth, when none of that debate actually results in the bearing of any fruit. And if it were not for the fact that those debates take people away from the weightier matters of Torah, the real fruit bearing that our Messiah emphasized, then I would say, okay no problem. But it does draw people away. It did for me, and I’ve seen it happen to other people as well. Messiah said you shall know them by their fruits... and we can be as theologically accurate as we want and still miss the mark if our theology isn't bearing us any fruit. That's part of why Paul says walk in the newness of the Spirit, that is, the renewal of yourself according to His Spirit, and not according to our old nature which stumbles as soon as it is faced with a Torah precept. Because our fallen nature is sinful where as the Torah is righteous!! And sin and righteousness, they don't mix! It's impossible!

Now, let me take some time to clarify myself here. I don’t mean to belittle theological debates, because some things are indeed important, and when we are walking in the newness of Spirit, we will definitely have that desire to walk seriously within our faith and do things correctly. That’s not the issue. But the adversary, as crafty as he is, can still try and use that against us so that we miss the mark.

A good example I can use for missing the mark is once again the tzitzit. I can pick on the tzitzit because I wear them all the time. With the tzitzit, Scripture commands us to put in a thread of techelet, which is often translated as blue, but was most likely more of a turquoise, aqua sort of blue. In any case, must wear fringes, and must have blue thread. Okay? But there's a problem: we lost the dye for the exact shade of blue. So now everyone begins arguing about what shade of blue the techelet was and from which source it came from.

First we have the group that says "well the Rabbi's say it was from this snail, the murex snail; in Hebrew it's chillazon." One Rabbi thought he found it and it's now being sold in Judaica stores as Radzyn techelet, but now the Rabbinical authorities have said "no no, he got the wrong one, we have now found the real p'til techelet" and that's also sold at Judaica stores, although at a much higher price. But then you have people saying no, it can't be from the murex snail, the murex snail is unclean and HaShem would not want us to touch an unclean animal in order to get our techelet dye. Look, we found this little piece of fabric from ancient Egypt and it has blue dye from the woad plant. We chemically analyzed it and it's actually identicle to the dye from the murex snail, it simple comes from a kosher source. But then the orthodox say "no, the Rabbi's must be right" and then some Messianics will say "the unclean snail represents the Gentile who, through Mashiach, is going to be made righteous, just like the techelet is supposed to represent. It's actually prophetic!". And they keep going on and on and on... but WAIT! Hold on! What is the point of the techelet in the first place? The techelet is supposed to be the same color as the ocean, which reflects the sky, which we call heaven, and heaven represents what? HaShem, who is righteous, and so when we look at them we are to be reminded of His rightouessness and how we are to walk accordingly and serve Him only. That we are actually a Kingdom of Priests and have a mandate to be holy. And only when this is our primary focus do the other details even become remotely important. But if this is not our focus, then the only thing that is driving us to debate this issue is our own theological pride. And that is then holding us back from HaShem's true blessing through the commandments, because we are not in fact walking according to the commandments at all.

So, when it comes to any issue of Torah, we need to ask ourselves, where is our focus and what are we looking towards? We are a Torah Observant congregation; and that's good! It's good to look to the Word of G-d and diligently perform it. But as we look to the Torah we should actually be looking to... Messiah! When we look to Messiah, we will not miss the mark, because Messiah IS the mark! Did you know that? Seems obvious, but there is a theological significance here I want you guys to see. In Romans 10:4 most of your Bibles will say that "Christ is the end of the Law"... the word for end is telos, as in telephone, or television, and denotes something being sent and projected from one point or end to another point or end, and when it has "teloed" itself it has reached it's goal and this is the other meaning of telos: goal (if you have an NASB your footnotes will tell you this). And this is a goal in the sense of: I've reached the end of the race, I've accomplished my goal. So really we should not be reading that Christ is the end (as in termination) of the Law but rather that Messiah is the goal of the Torah... when we look to Torah we should see, act, walk, talk and basically be like Him! And you know what? Just like the whole spirit VS letter of the Law issue, this actually isn't a Christian teaching either! Let's go to Numbers 33 for a moment...

What do you see in Numbers 33? You see 56 verses saying that Israel went from this place to that place, and from that place to that place, and so on and so forth for 40 long years. Most of us might take a look at this chapter and say to ourselves "you know… maybe I'm just gonna skip this one". It's like those long lists of so and so begat so on who begat so on so... and so on. But no single word of Torah, even that which may seem redundant, is without importance to us, and you'd be surprised what the Jewish sages have to say about this long list of the journey that Israel took in the desert. I want to read you a story that Rashi gives us. He says,

"The son of a king was sick and the doctors said that in order to be healed he must travel extensively from one climate to the other. So the king traveled with him from one place to the other to find the climate that would be best for him and finally he left the son in a particular place and the son was healed. When returning home they retraced their steps and the father kept saying, ‘this was where we stopped once but the weather was bad and we could not sleep. Here my son’s illness became worse. There we became cold, etc. In much the same way, when the children of Israel came out of Egypt they were very sick and HaShem took them from place to place until they journeyed for 40 years in the desert and were healed" (this is what Judaism teaches; in Me’am Loez; Yalkut Sh’moni)
Now, the Rabbi's, who I should mention, interpret the Scripture a little differently than evangelicals, they say that this journey represents the beginning and the ending of Torah. And at the end of this journey, what happens? The children of Israel are now refined and cleansed, or, healed from their sickness you could say, and it is then that they are ready to enter into the Promised Land - their inheritance, which prophetically speaking, represents the Kingdom, right? And in Judaism, who is there to defeat your enemies and usher in the Kingdom of everlasting peace in the Promised Land? Messiah! Therefore when you finish the refining journey and reach the end of Torah, you reach Messiah. Therefore Messiah is the end of the Torah. This isn't Christianity folks, this is Judaism I'm teaching! And Paul, an expert in Judaism, writes that Messiah is the end or the goal of Torah, why? If we continue to read in that verse it says “For righteousness to everyone who believes.”

See, if we would simply believe HaShem, which, in the original languages actually denotes walking out what it is we think about in our head, if we would believe and thus allow Him to guide us through the Sinai wilderness (which prophetically represents this fallen world), then we too can be cleansed, renewed and made just like Messiah. But in reality, it requires one to surrender. We have to surrender our life to Him, and that's when He can use us. Pastor Andrew preached this last week in talking about submission, and this isn't an easy task because it not only requires faith, but perfect faith. The Thessalonians were praised by Paul for their faith when he says in the opening chapter,

"We give thanks to G-d always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our G-d and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Master Yeshua the Mashiyach"
And Paul goes on to say,

"And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in G-d has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything."
In other words, they had world famous faith!

But even with all this praise of their faith, Paul still proclaims in chapter 3 verse 10,

"we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith".
So while their faith was indeed great, it was not perfect, and as such Paul commissions them at the end of his 1st epistle by saying,

"Now may the G-d of peace Himself sanctify you entirely".
When we say sanctify, we mean to be made holy, and holy means to be separate or set apart for His sake. And not only for His sake but for our sake because Hebrews 12:14 says "Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness (or sanctification) without which no one will see the Lord!" Now how does this sanctification come? Well it comes by the very concept I'm talking about, perfect faith. Paul in Acts 26:18 recalls that when Messiah appeared to him on the Damascus road that he informed Him that sanctification comes by way of faith in Him; in Messiah Yeshua.

Now, for some of you, the Torah radar might be raising up and you say "but when we say the blessings we say 'asher kidd'shanu bimitsvotav' - who sanctifies us BY the commandments". So which is it, does sanctification come by way of faith in Messiah or does it come by way of the commandments? Well, for those of you who have taken or are taking the Freedom in Messiah course with Audrey, you know that when we are IN Messiah, we are walking in freedom, in sanctification or separation from the things in this world that are sinful and thus separate us from G-d. But when we say "asher kidd'shanu bimitsvotav" in the blessing, that "bi" in the bimitsvotav, BY the commandments; well, the "bi" can also mean "in". And in fact, that's the more common translation of this partical in Hebrew. So we in our blessings could say "blessed are you HaShem our G-d, King of the universe, who sanctifies us "IN" the commandments". And if Messiah is the living Torah and you are in Messiah, then you are also in the commandments, and Paul is trying to tell us in our passage in Romans that the only true way to observe Torah is by faith according to the renewal of the Spirit. We are only in Romans 7 right now, but this continues into Romans 8 where he actually really amplifies this reality; and then regarding the stumbling of Israel Paul says in Romans 9,

"but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works." (Romans 9:31-32)
Without faith we do not even arrive at the Torah. See, we are Holy when we follow Torah, but following Torah is not what makes us Holy. FAITH makes us Holy and then our faith allows the Spirit of G-d to work in our life and He causes us to walk in His statutes and His commandments, which is proof that the Word is indeed very near to us, in our mouths and in our hearts that we may observe it (Deuteronomy 30) and this is how we thus serve in the newness of life, the renewal of ourselves in the Spirit, in His Spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter - that is, according to our carnal nature that knows what is wrong and thus wants to do it; because it feels good, right? We wouldn't want to sin otherwise, so let's be honest and say that there is some sort of satisfaction, no matter how temporary, from sinning. Therefore, the letter of the Law is a stumbling block to that carnal nature as it shows it all the things that it actually WANTS to do. The fallen nature wants to sin, right? But when we talk about faith, faith means trust, and we have to trust that there is a better way, an eternally joyful and forever rewarding way. We may not be able to see or comprehend it quite the way we want to, but that is what faith is. However, we can logically understand that in our carnal nature no good thing dwells as Paul will go on to say, and if we can understand that, we can perhaps figure out that the only way to be saved is to thus give ourselves over to HaShem completely. The pertinent question then is do we trust Him enough to give ourselves over to Him completely? To sanctify or separate ourselves to Him? To give our lives over to Him and be renewed in the very core of our being? Our carnal nature is what we metaphorically call the old man or the old nature which we often see referred to in Scripture as "the flesh" - this is our disobedience to the Torah, and this is what is "becoming old and decaying and is near to disappearing"... that's what the book of Hebrews says. Some people think that's talking about Torah, but there is nothing wrong with Torah, Torah defines sin, and it is sin that we must get rid of. But it's not completely gone yet; as it says in Hebrews 8:13 it is near to disappearing. And this is why at the end of Romans 7 Paul writes about the conflict of this old nature with that of the spiritual nature which comes from being born again by faith.

Okay, so we've talked about a lot of concepts and have jumped all over the place a little bit. Having done that, let's maybe go back to Romans 7 and put it all into context.

Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man.

Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Messiah, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for G-d. For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.

What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “YOU SHALL NOT COVET.” But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful.

For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of G-d in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to G-d through Yeshua Messiah our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of G-d, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. (Romans 7::1-12, emphasis added, personal commentary in bracketed italics)
So whether we sow to the flesh, which reaps corruption, or we sow to the Spirit, which reaps eternal life, it all comes down to our faith. How much we're willing to trust Him and let Him renew us so that we can walk in that newness of life. You know, the Israelites when they went to go possess the land with Joshua at the head, and in case you don't know, Joshua's name in Hebrew is Yeshua (Y'hoshua), and that's prophetically no coincidence - but when they went to go possess the land HaShem says to them "go in and possess the land which I have given you". The land was given to them, it was already theirs. All they had to do was go in and possess what was already theirs and simply TRUST... have FAITH that it was theirs and therefore walk in the victory that HaShem had for them. So Scripture says we are redeemed by His blood; washed, cleansed, and sanctified by Messiah and that we are commissioned to walk in a newness of life, have a renewal of our mind and know what the perfect will of G-d is by having the Torah written upon our heart so that we may know and obey it. This is the victory that's been won and the freedom we have been given. The question is, are we going to accept that? Are we going to trust His work, have faith in His work, and simply walk in that sanctified victory? And you know something; this doesn't actually have to be a long process. Some people say that we spend our lifetimes being sanctified, but I say we can spend a lifetime walking sanctified; all we have to do is make the cognitive choice to trust Him and just start walking. That oldness of the letter revealed who our weak carnal man is, but there is victory over that in Messiah and we can walk in freedom according to the renewal of the Spirit if we would simply surrender to Him. Yes, it's a battle, yes we may stumble here and there, and Paul makes that clear when he talks about the warring state between two natures, but as the Spirit of the living G-d comes inside and changes our hearts and makes us holy, we will despise all of those carnal behaviors. We will not want to lie or steal or lust or try and get away with anything, no matter how small, that is contrary to the Spirit of our G-d, that nature of righteousness. All we have to do is surrender. Like Messiah said in the garden, "not my will be done Father, but may Your will be done".

So, in summary, what does it mean to walk in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter? In simplified terms, it means we can only follow Torah when our spiritual man is born from the beginning and we have the Holy Spirit, otherwise it doesn’t work, because it is impossible for our fallen human nature, or “the flesh”, to walk in righteousness. So to follow Torah, we need the Holy Spirit. And in application, this means we will not be following merely an outward observance of the Torah, the mere letter of the law you could say, but it will be something that truly lives inside of us and this will be evidenced by the fruits we bear, not by some fancy theological justification. And so this is the manner in how we can walk in obedience in order to experience His blessing. The next step then is to actually do it, and for that we must begin to look at actual Torah commands and begin to approach them with this understanding, this frame of mind. We need a humble, submissive attitude where we say “Lord, empty this vessel so that Your Spirit can fill me” and then we will allow Him to guide us into the righteousness of His commandments as they are internalized and written upon our heart, just how the Scriptures always proclaimed they should be from the very beginning. So, as the month of Elul is upon us, during these 40 days of repentance leading up to Yom Kippur, the very same days that john was preaching repentance in the wilderness, let us really reflect upon our submissiveness to HaShem, and then as we approach our faith walk, our Torah Observance, may we approach it according to the renewal of ourselves by the Holy Spirit and experience the sanctified experience of walking not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit; our spiritual man, born from the beginning, in the Messiah Yeshua, our Master the living Torah. Amen. Let’s just ask HaShem’s blessing upon the word this morning….