Flesh or Spirit?
Last week’s reflection (Lies, Lies, Lies!) was based upon this simple thought, “What is true of the flesh is a lie to the Spirit, and the Truth of the Spirit feels like a lie to the flesh.” This week I want to explore this a bit more.
Countless things reside in our flesh. Scripture tells us that “… the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like.” (Galatians 5:17-21) We often look at a list like this one from Galatians and believe that these things ARE what the flesh is. But Paul says that they are the WORKS of the flesh. In other words, they are not flesh in and of themselves, but they are the results of giving into the flesh. So what is flesh?
In its truest sense, flesh is simply the mind, will, emotions, (the soul) and body under the influence of something other than Christ. Literally it is self under the influence of self rather than Christ. It is “my way,” not “Yahweh.”
“…the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so,” Romans 8:7
The late Rich Mullins vividly portrayed this battle in his song, “Hold me Jesus.” He wrote, “Surrender don't come natural to me, I'd rather fight You for something I don't really want, than to take what You give that I need.”
The reality and good news for us as God’s children is that walking according to the flesh is absolute misery for us, and we DON’T really want to do it. I have asked the following question of many people around the world: “If you were to participate in the sinful things that you did as an unbeliever, would they bother you as a believer?” Invariably people answer, “What I did when I was an unbeliever never bothered me a whole lot, but now that I am in Christ, doing those same things make me absolutely miserable. “
Paul himself said, "I know I am rotten through and through so far as my flesh is concerned. No matter which way I turn, I can’t make myself do right. I want to, but I can’t. When I want to do good, I don’t. And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway. But if I am doing what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing it; the sin within me (in my flesh) is doing it. It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another law at work within me that is at war with my mind. This law wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord..” Romans 7:18-25
The good news is you are a new creation in Christ, you are a partaker of the Divine nature, and you have everything you need pertaining to life and godliness. Therefore, walking according to the flesh, as much as it might pull at you to do so, is no longer natural for you. You can walk according to it if you really want to, but you will never be happy doing so. When we regard ourselves according to the flesh – in other words, when we believe that what we feel, think, and do is the summation of who we are -- we will constantly be in a battle against the sin that dwells in the flesh. But thanks be to God that He has overcome sin once and for all in Christ and it is no longer natural for us to walk in it. We are complete, lacking nothing in Christ. Sin is no longer an issue because there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God that is found in Christ Jesus. AMEN!