In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Flesh gives birth to flesh. Spirit gives birth to spirit (John 3:6). The two have nothing to do with each other. For one can’t come from the other. Flesh doesn’t give birth to spirit and spirit doesn’t create flesh. The only point of contact for the two opposites is you. For you, dear Christian, are two. A “flesh you”. And a “spirit you”. One is born from below, from the flesh of your mother and father. And one is born from above, from the new birth of water and the Spirit (John 3:3-5). But this creates a dilemma. Which one is really you? Satan would have you believe that the true you is “flesh you”. Satan and the world try to nurture “flesh you”, encourage it, give it strength. The Triune God, from whom you have been given a new “spirit you”, is declaring to you that the true you is God’s you—the you given life from His Son as His Spirit was poured into you giving the eternal life of God to you, a new life born of God with the Father.
The Triune God gives you this new you through Holy Baptism. According to God the new you is you. According to your experience you are not so sure. For you live with these two sets of conflicting desires and actions. And so often “flesh you” takes over, overpowering “spirit you” with the help of the Satan and the world. For “flesh you” hates “spirit you”. “Flesh you” wants to own, control and submit you to its will and its will alone. It thinks it is free to do as it wills. But “flesh you” is blind to the fact that it is merely a puppet whose strings are pulled by the Father of lies.
“Spirit you” is aware that he lives from Christ and Christ alone. “Spirit you” has no delusions about control in this world. “Spirit you” recognizes that he is a servant or slave of the risen One (1 Peter 2:16; Philippians 2:5-7); that “spirit you” has been yoked together with Him whose yoke is easy and burden is light; who is gentle and lowly in heart; who gives rest to your soul (Matthew 11:28-29).
But right now these two live in you. And “flesh you” knows nothing of “spirit you”. “Flesh you” doesn’t know where “spirit you” came from. Doesn’t know where “spirit you” is going. Just knows that “spirit you” is there. (John 3:8). “Flesh you” resents “spirit you’s” actions, but understands nothing of the Spirit. For that which is from below has nothing to do with that which is from above. The things of the Spirit can not be understood by the flesh (Romans 8:6-8, 13; 1 Corinthians 2:14; James 4:4). When the Father gives such understanding, it is not that “flesh you” finally understands, but that “spirit you” has been born in you (John 3:3; 6:44). The true you has been born of the Spirit from above (John 3:3, 5-6).
For though that which is from below is dead set against that which is from above (Romans 8:5-7; James 4:1); though the flesh hates the spirit (Galatians 5:17); though the world is set on the flesh (Romans 8:7; James 4:4) and can not understand that which is of the Spirit nonetheless the Son was apostled into the world, sent from His Father, not to condemn the world, but to save it! (John 3:17)
Save it by washing away the flesh. Just as God washed away and destroyed wickedness in the Flood. Giving new birth. Giving you His Spirit. Giving it to any and all who believe on His name (John 3:16-18; 20:31; 1 John 3:23).
Lutherans often call this the simul (from the Latin phrase simul justus et peccator, meaning “simultaneously justified and a sinner”). Simultaneously you are a sinner and declared righteous by God. These two exist in you. What is wonderful for you is that there is a day because of Christ Jesus where you will no longer wrestle with these two pulling you in different directions (Romans 7:21-25), but you will Rest In Peace. For the real you, the “spirit you” will live and the “flesh you” will be gone.
Our simul is a reality of life as a Christian. It is fraught with the blessings of God and the curses of our fallen nature. Meanwhile, God’s “simul”, His three-ness and simultaneous one-ness is only blessing for Him and you. The blessing of Almighty God: the Father who created you and sent His Son; the Son who saved you from sin; the Spirit who gave you the Son’s salvation. All three are equally important blessings. For they are all part of same blessing: everlasting life with the Father.
This simul of ours is a blessing to understand. For then you have no illusions about what “flesh you” is capable of in terms of how wicked you truly are. And that humbles you before God. But as much as it seems that that fact might lead you to despair the Triune God is utterly saved and completely righteous! This is your present reality. You who are completely wicked are totally saved and utterly righteous with a righteousness not your own. What freedom to know that your salvation does not, and can not depend on “flesh you”. In fact, the Triune God has created, saved, and birthed “spirit you”. It is all His action. All His salvation of you. You contributed nothing to it. Therefore you can be assured of it for it depends on Him, not you. That means, eternal life that can not be taken away, despite how “flesh you” rants and rails against “spirit you”; despite how you can not accomplish the good you wish to do; despite the fact that sin seems always to be lurking at every corner to devour you. The simul teaches you to trust in the Triune God and Him alone for your salvation. For the Son did not come into the world to condemn the world but to save the world! The Holy Spirit has birthed “spirit you” to eternal life to the glory and praise of God the Father who willed it for you.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON