Flesh and Spirit. When you see those words together do you have a reaction? Religion uses these terms to manipulate and terrorize people into obedient submission. Pastors use the “you better not be living in the flesh” threat to keep people behaving (at least on the outside). In this journey of “gifts” (check out this post) I want to set us on the right course. The very simplified version of truth regarding the flesh and the spirit is this:
The flesh says: “God is against us.”
The Spirit says: “God is for us.”
Go way way back into the garden. Are you there yet? Adam is in a perfect relationship with God. The devil deceives Adam and Eve into eating the wrong fruit. What happens? Are you familiar enough with the story? God didn’t get mad. Nope, not at all. God was not against Adam because of the disobedience. God went looking for Adam. Where was Adam? He was hiding in the bushes. He was ashamed. Why? He was poisoned. Before He was “alive” and his “flesh” was uncorrupted. Now he has been poisoned by the knowledge of good and evil and his response is condemnation. He is afraid of God. In one moment he moves from spirit to flesh. He is convinced that God is against him. That is why he is hiding. That is why God put him out of the garden.
Confused? Get a more detailed explanation here. What would it look like if Adam lived forever in his shame? Can you imagine an eternal existence bound in condemnation and shame and guilt? That sounds like “gnashing of teeth and weeping” to me. That sure looks like Hell to me. I say God in His immeasurable mercy put us out of the garden so we wouldn’t live forever in enmity with God. Can you imagine the pain? Can you imagine the suffering? Can you imagine the despair?
Guess what? You understand this despair now. That is where the flesh lives. That is the lie passed from generation to generation. That is the poison of the forbidden fruit. That is what it means to live in the flesh…it is the lie “God is against us.”
The problem is we can’t see the truth until God reveals it to us. The good news is the Holy Spirit is relentlessly pursuing us to reveal God’s goodness to us. Check out this passage in Matthew. This is the first time the word “flesh” (or sarx in the Greek) is mentioned in the Bible.
Mat 16:16 Simon Peter replied, “ You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “ Blessed are you, Simon Bar- Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (ESVST)
Check out this post about the rock. The rock isn’t Peter the person, it is the revelation of “God is for us.” It wasn’t the fact that Jesus was born of a virgin. Unlike us, they did not have issues regarding the miraculous. It wasn’t the fact that Jesus was the son of God. Even the demons understood that. It was the fact that God has come to save us. It was the fact that God is actually for us and loves us. It was the revelation they had been waiting for.
We must have the Spirit of Christ to see that God is for us. In our flesh “there is no good.” This is what Paul says in Romans 7. It isn’t that we are evil like a demon or something. In our flesh we have no knowledge of the goodness of God outside of Him. Our flesh is, well to use a strong word, stupid. God is for us and has always been for us. It takes God to reveal that to us. I’ll hit the Romans 7 and 8 stuff in part 3, but check out this verse:
Jn 16:16 Your Sorrow Will Turn into Joy 16 “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” (ESVST)
Did you know that the word “see” here is actually two words in the Greek? The first “see” is “to look at and ponder or behold.” The second “see” is to “look upon, perceive and experience.” So in the LLT I would say it this way”
“In a little while you will no longer be trying to figure me out and understand what I am all about but in a little while you will know me and have no more questions because you will know me by experience.” LLT
Jesus is referring to the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came. They all knew then what they couldn’t know before. They now had the source of all goodness in them, God Himself. They weren’t confused or deceived or stuck in flesh thinking. They now knew without compromise that God was for them. They cried out in languages they didn’t know about the “mighty works of God” which were declarations of “God is for us.”
There is much more to say but for now let me leave you with a teaser:
When we “walk in the flesh” we are agreeing, on some level, that “God is against us.” When we believe we can make ourselves “good enough” to move from the naughty to nice list, we are listening to a spirit of religion. When we partner with negativity we agree that God is against us. When we swim in despair we drown in the lie that God is drowning us. When we are convinced that thorns are God-given, our wounds fester with the poison of forbidden fruit. When we declare God is testing our behavior we bow to the teacher of lies in submission to deceit. When we say “well all this bad stuff is just God teaching me a lesson” we have given the keys to the Kingdom back to the devil himself.
If you took offense with any of that previous paragraph, there is freedom from the offense. It is found in Jesus. You must be born again of the Spirit. You must be baptized by Jesus in the Holy Spirit and fire. You must receive the charisma gift of God. Call it whatever you want. Create or agree with any descriptors you want. In the end the truth is Jesus. You need the truth in you to see the truth. I cannot even begin to describe the freedom and joy and peace that comes from the knowledge of truth. Knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is for us, really for us, will set you free. Jesus says if He sets us free we are really free. That is what it is like to live His life. That is why He died so we could have His life. Want to “walk in the Spirit?” Ask Him in. Want to know you are “walking in the Spirit?” Agree that God is for us, unconditionally, without reservation, without limitation, without performance. He has always been for us. It is our flesh that has believed differently.