Eric Alexander on Living "Life in the Flesh"
Over the past year I have been editing material for a forthcoming Eric Alexander book. I continue to come across sections with which I resonate with regard to thoughts I have had about Scripture or the reality of the Christian's experience. I came across one such section today in a lecture Rev. Alexander gave at a Keswick conference many years ago. Expounding on Paul's phrase "the life that I now live in the flesh" from Galatians 2:20, Rev. Alexander wrote:
I wonder, if you ever find yourselves discouraged by the kind of Christian who gives you the impression that their Christian experience is just one long spiritual picnic, from one thrill to the next. There are some very un-biblical choruses that give that impression. I'm amazed at how many people in the evangelical world come to me, when some truth has been explained, and say, "How do you reconcile that with the chorus which says . . ." Well, there are some very unbiblical choruses which give you just the impression that living the Christian life is one long experience of bubbling effervescence. We are never cast down or never troubled; it is joy, joy, joy all the time. And there are some people who come to conferences, hoping that they might get some kind of mystical blessing that will produce this in their experience.
The Bible's teaching is that, so long as we are in the flesh, living out the resurrection life of Christ here in this vale of tears, we will always have this tension and conflict. People who are looking for the kind of blessing we have been speaking about are really looking for a translation to gloryâ€”not for a transformation of character here on earth. The Bible describes the Christian as a saint, not as an angel.Â When you begin to look at the sheer realism and honesty of the Bibleâ€”and how important it is for us as Christians to be utterly honest about our own experienceâ€”there are a great number of testimonies given that are not true to experience. We are saying what we think ought to be true, or what we would like to be true, or what would be very spiritual if it were true; but we are not telling the truth about ourselves. The Bible, however, is gloriously honest. It presents the picture of a man like Elijah, for instanceâ€” "subject to like passions, as we are." That is the glorious thing about God's work in the life of man. When you come to the life of Jesus, you discover that His life was not all effervescence and bubbles. Jesus knew what it was to weep over Jerusalem. Jesus knew what it was to have disappointment in His ministry. "He could do no mighty work there because of their unbelief." He knew some of the real agonies of spiritual loneliness; and even at one point he knew what it was to cry from a heart that was torn, "My God. my God, why . . . ?"
Listen to the language of the apostle Paul as he seeks to describe the normal Christian life. Not the defeated Christian life, but the normal Christian life. What has God chosen us to be? Paul's answer: He has chosen him to be a soldier. Therefore the character of our life is, we are to fight the good fight of faith. â€œWe wrestle,â€ he saysâ€”and look at the catalogue, the description of our wrestling that Paul gives to usâ€”â€œnot against ordinary enemies like flesh and blood; we wrestle against principalities and powers, the world rulers of this present darkness; against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places.â€ We ought to give attention to our weapons in our spiritual life. The sword we are to take, the helmet, the shield. And that doesn't sound like preparation for a picnic, does it? Here are men imprisoned; and then suddenly someone comes along from the other side, to set them free. What happens then? They are still in the midst of the enemy, held prisoner, but they're set free. That's the very time they are able to fight. They're not able to fight while they're still in bondage. That's why the essence of the Christian's life is, that he is engaged in the fight of faith. The man without faith, and without Christ, can't fight against the devil. He's a hopeless dupe of the devil. If you are finding in your experience that there is the conflict with sin and Satan and the powers of darkness, that is one of the evidences that you are a Christian â€”not an evidence that you're not.