Friday, November 20, 2009

"Good" flesh?

Luke 18:11 "The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself..."

Speaking with a fellow minister recently I heard him use the term "good flesh" when talking about how Christians will often do seemingly good things which many will commend, but which originate in the flesh and are done for the purpose of self commendation. I remember from my readings in various books by Watchman Nee, the principle of the soul (mind, will, and emotions) being either a conduit for the flesh or a conduit for the spirit.
Because we are Spirit begotten, our spirits have been enlivened and connected to the Holy Spirit by God. Therefore, our souls are now capable of interacting in submission to our Spirit directed spirits. They can also continue as conduits of the flesh if that is how we choose to behave, but we no longer need to function that way if we will only allow our spirit to dominate rather than the flesh.
Looking at Romans 8:5-6 which says, "Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace." (KJV uses the actual phrase "mind on the flesh") When I saw that text I would often see it as a goal to achieve, but now I see it more as the condition of the person who has learned to "abide in Christ" daily, and who now has a spirit that has taken control of what used to be controlled by the flesh. Now the flesh is in submission to the soul rather than in control of it, and the spirit, led by the Holy Spirit, is in the driver's seat. Therefore, "the mind on the Spirit, is life and peace."
Most of us are well aware of the sins committed by our fleshly desires if our flesh dominates our souls, but we may not be so aware of another problem we face from fleshly activity. The flesh is also able to do religious things, and even seemingly commendable things. The flesh is capable of praying, fasting, and giving alms. This is what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 7 which is part of the Sermon on the Mount. The religious leaders of Jesus' day were fond of doing their religious duties out in public to be seen by the crowds. They would ring a bell or blow a trumpet to announce their alms giving as they gave alms in public. They would walk, or rather, stagger in the markets on market day to show off their rigorous fasting behaviors so that others could admire them for their dedication. They would pray in public so that others could see them doing it and be impressed by them. In all three of these actions Jesus advised secrecy so that God could reward them openly. The point is that what they did was done for self aggrandizement and was motivated by the flesh.
What we already know about "bad flesh" needs to be joined by what the Bible obviously also teaches about "good flesh". Either way flesh is flesh. And all flesh amounts to nothing. In John 6:63 Jesus said to the crowds during his "bread of life" sermon, "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life..." Perhaps we can learn to feast on what the Spirit provides through our spirit and to assign the flesh where it belongs, to the place of submission. You see, the flesh, whether good or bad, accounts for nothing.

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