Finding God's Winning Spirit

Fear the Flesh

August 8, 2014 | Greg Smith | Theology

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During my adolescent and teenage years attending the local Baptist church I recall many sermons talking about “the sins of the flesh”. I do not know if it was because of my hormones, girlfriend at the time, the puritan theology of a southern town or just plain guilt but, in my mind, these sermons were targeted at me and were obviously warning me about premarital sex.

As I got a little older, and wiser theologically, I expanded these “sins of the flesh” to include lust (you remember the Jimmy Carter reference to lust).  Being married at this point had ended the issue with premarital sex so all I had to do now was to focus on controlling my mind. I found this pretty manageable and felt pretty good about myself spiritually. 

All was fine until I ran across the Romans 8:12-13 where Paul tells us, “So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh: for if ye live after the flesh, ye must die; but if by the Spirit ye put to death the deeds of the body, ye shall live”. I was still OK until I looked up the Greek word for flesh which is sarx.  Sarx is translated, “the body as apposed to the soul, or as the symbol of what is external (by implication) human nature (with its frailties [physically or morally] and passions), or (specifically) a human being.”

Woah –did I read that right?  Sins of the flesh are those things found in the core of our humanness?  This is not just about lust or sex anymore. It is obvious that the biblical usage of “flesh” here is much broader. Evidently the New Testament usage of flesh relates to all things done out of our humanness rather than out of Spirit.  This is a theological truth that has tremendous ramifications as to how we view our life and our actions in it.

If you stop and think about this it makes sense. This basically describes the nature of fallen man, which is always referred to as carnal versus spiritual. This is the constant spiritual battle that we fight throughout our Christian lives. This dichotomy is clearly set out in the scripture and is referred to as law vs. grace, the world vs. the kingdom of God, sin vs. justification, self- righteousness vs. meekness, doubt vs. faith, self vs. service, and so on and so on.

What is important about this definition is that it tells us that we are constantly prone to fall into our human nature which is to focus on ourselves, what we want and think we need. This is the mistake Adam made in the garden and the mistake we continually make today. If we live our lives out of our humanness we cannot achieve the spiritual life we desire. Left to our own devices we cannot achieve happiness, peace, joy, and experience the fullness of Gods love. Gal 2:20 tells us this, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me: and that (life) which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, (the faith) which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me.”

The reason this is so important to our Christian walk is that as long as we are the center of our lives then there is no place for Christ. Unchecked, we have a tendency to live in this world, falling prey to our humanness which brings with it the trials and tribulations of materialism, greed, insecurity, pettiness, stress, depression, etc. Pretty much everything listed in Gal 5:19-21.

One of the things that make this so difficult is that we can become self- centered without even knowing it. It is our nature! We are not bad people; we do not intend to hinder our relationship with God. We must always take caution that we do not become “self-centered Christians” which is a subtle process that leads to spiritual frustration and separation from God.  

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