It is clear that there is a lot of confusion regarding this topic, and it is so vitally important because how we interpret and understand the flesh and our relation to it greatly impacts how we live our lives and how we interact with God. So, let’s begin by discussing what it is and what it’s not.
What the flesh is NOT.
The “flesh” is not related to one’s spiritual condition (nature) and is not equivalent to spiritual depravity. The “flesh” is not a “hunk of evil,” within the individual. The “flesh” is not eradicated at conversion or during the Christian life. The “flesh” does not become better or reformed.
“The way that I have learned to manage and operate my life apart from God under the deception of Satan, acting out his character of sin.” The word “flesh,” the Greek word sarx is related to behavior, and relates to the psychological function of the soul. The “flesh” is related to the “desires” of man within the soul, allowing for the phrases “fleshly desires,” and “desires of the flesh” (cf. Rom.13:14; Gal. 5:24; Eph. 2:3; I Peter 2:11).
The “flesh” refers to how these desires are patterned toward selfishness and sinfulness within the soul. The “flesh” patterns are developed throughout the experiences of our lives and are individualized in distinctive patterns of selfish action and/or reaction. Some of these “flesh” patterns become deep-seated familiar patterns of addictive, obsessive, and compulsive behavior, sometimes called “besetting sins” or “strongholds of sin.” All human beings have developed these patterns of “fleshly desires,” with the sole exception of Jesus Christ.
The Flesh in the Christian:
“The flesh sets its desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh” (Gal. 5:17). This is not a conflict of contrasting natures in the Christian, but a motivational conflict between our old patterns of selfish action and reaction, and the prompting of the Spirit of Christ to express His divine character in our behavior.
Paul explained that we are “dead to sin” (Rom. 6:11) and ‘freed from sin” (Rom. 6:7,18,22), he also declares, “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:24), and “the members of our earthly body are dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed” (Col. 3:5). converted “from the dominion of Satan to (the dominion of) God” (Acts 26:18), the “flesh” patterning’s, energized as they are by the tempter, have no legitimate claim or mastery over our behavior as Christians for we have received the greater power (cf. I John 4:4) of the Lord Jesus Christ within our spirit. Christians are “under no obligation” (Rom.8:12) to respond by means of the selfish action and reaction patterns of the “flesh,” but are instead to “make no provision for the flesh” (Rom. 13:14) by catering to those selfish desires. Every Christian still has these “flesh” patterning’s of selfishness and sinfulness in the desires of their soul, even though completely regenerated spiritually, and these patterns and propensities will remain throughout the Christian’s earthly life. Underlying the particular selfish bent of our desires is a twisted mind-set that provides a selfish motivating perspective to the self-concerns of our “flesh.”
As non-Christians (unregenerate) we developed the mind-set of the flesh we were alienated from God in our unregenerate spiritual state, all fallen men have developed the premise that they are an “independent self” that is inherently capable of self-generating character and behavior that is self-righteous, and that by means of their own self-sufficiency and self-reliance. This assumption of human potential to perform and produce all that man needs is the humanistic lie that erroneously urges man with a self-motivation to “be all he can be.”
Becoming a Christian:
When an individual becomes a Christian this mistaken humanistic mind-set of being an “independent self” is the most difficult part of the “flesh” to overcome, because we cling tenaciously to this delusion of human performance and self-effort, even transferring this thesis to the alleged Christian ability to live the Christian life by performing in accord with God’s expectations. This foundational premise of all fleshly thinking can only be overcome as the Christian submits to the Spirit of Christ within, allowing Him to generate His character expressed through our desires in godly behavior. When that liberating process begins to take place, we can experience the freedom that God intended for man. Life As God Intended. It is not the responsibility of the Christian to identify and fight against the “fleshly” mind-set and patterns. That would of necessity entail the self-effort that is inherent to the selfishness of the “flesh.”
Understanding the battle, in the midst of the motivational conflict of the “flesh” and the Spirit, Paul explains that it is “the Spirit (that) sets its desires against the flesh” (Gal. 5:17). The “battle is the Lord’s” (I Sam. 17:47); for the living Christ is the only Victor Who can overcome sinfulness and selfishness in the Christian life.
Evangelical Christian teaching has often failed to understand this basic premise of divine action (Grace) in the Christian life. Admonishing Christians not to “walk according to the flesh” (Rom. 8:4) or “live according to the flesh” (Rom. 8:12,13), by manifesting the “deeds of the flesh” (Gal. 5:19-21), the religious teachers often advise the human resolve of commitment to overcome the “flesh” and live the Christian life. In a dyslexic reversion of Paul’s gospel of grace, they read Galatians 5:16 backwards: “Do not carry out the desires of the flesh, and you will be walking in the Spirit.” What an abominable mistranslation. Paul says, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh, for the Spirit sets its desires against the flesh” (Gal. 5:16,17). By the indwelling presence of the Spirit of Christ (cf. Rom. 8:9; Gal. 4:6; II Tim.1:14), the Christian is “led of the Spirit” (Rom. 8:14; Gal. 5:18) in order to “walk by the Spirit” (Rom. 8:4; Gal. 5:16,25) and manifest the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22,23). The positive overcomes the negative.
It is important to note that the “desires of the flesh” do not tempt us to act out in sinful behavior. The patterns of selfish and sinful action and reaction are well entrenched in our soul, but they have no inherent power to energize and actuate sinful behavior. So, who does? The Evil One is the only energizing source of the evil character that actuates sinful expression.
Many English translations of James 1:14 appear to indicate “we are tempted when we are enticed by our own desire.” A more careful translation will read, “Each one is tempted (by the tempter), being enticed and lured under (via, by means of) his (Satan) own desire.” Satan, the tempter, goes fishing under our idiosyncratic patterns of fleshly desires, which he knows so well, seeking to attract and ensnare us to make a choice that will employ his evil character via those old patterns of selfish action and reaction.
James 1:13-15 (Paraphrase) “Whenever you are temped, do not say, God is tempting me. For God does not tempt anyone to display a character contrary to Himself. But every person is tempted when he is lured and baited by Satan, under his patterned desires and passions. When we allow our desires to be made pregnant with Satan’s character it gives birth to sin, and when sin is acted out it brings forth dead works which are derived from Mr. Death, Satan.”
There is nothing in scripture that indicates that the Christian is self-tempted by the desires of the “flesh,” by an old-nature, or by some evil “self.” The subject of the verb “to tempt” is always the tempter in the new covenant literature.
Significant contribution of the conception of this article taken from, Christ At Work in You, Jim Fowler; prepared by Don Burzynski, Life As God Intended
Living the Victorious Life
Living the Victorious Life
Living the Victorious Life
Living the Victorious Life