The Christmas season is once again upon us and with it overwhelming encouragement from Madison Avenue to spend what we have not earned to buy what we cannot afford. The thrust of this consumerist message is that the holiday is best enjoyed or most fully realized through the acquisition of “things.”
John Knox (c. 1510–1572) was a Scottish clergyman, a leader of the Protestant Reformation, and a man who is considered to be the founder of the Presbyterian denomination in Scotland. Knox has been admired by contemporary theologians as someone who personified a zeal for God and a commitment to the truth of Scripture and holy living. Yet, as he grew close to death, this saint of God admitted his own personal battle with the sin nature he inherited from Adam (Romans 5:12). Knox said, “I know how hard the battle is between the flesh and the spirit under the heavy cross of affliction, when no worldly defense but present death doth appear. I know the grudging and murmuring complaints of the flesh …”
Knox’s statement sounds remarkably like that of the apostle Paul who openly acknowledged a personal struggle with his sin nature: “For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:14–24).
Paul states in his letter to the Romans that there was something “in the members” of his body that he calls “my flesh,” which produced difficulty in his Christian life and made him a prisoner of sin. Martin Luther, in his preface to the book of Romans, commented on Paul’s use of “flesh” by saying, “Thou must not understand ‘flesh,’ therefore, as though that only were ‘flesh’ which is connected with unchastity, but St. Paul uses ‘flesh’ of the whole man, body, and soul, reason, and all his faculties included, because all that is in him longs and strives after the flesh.” Luther’s comments point out that “flesh” equates to affections and desires that run contrary to God, not only in the area of sexual activity, but in every area of life.
To get a solid understanding of the term “flesh” requires examining its usage and definition in Scripture, how it manifests in the life of both believers and unbelievers, the consequences it produces, and how it can ultimately be overcome.
A Definition of the “Flesh”
The Greek word for “flesh” in the New Testament is sarx, a term that can often in Scripture refer to the physical body. However, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature describes the word this way: “the physical body as functioning entity; in Paul’s thought esp., all parts of the body constitute a totality known as flesh, which is dominated by sin to such a degree that wherever flesh is, all forms of sin are likewise present, and no good thing can live.”
The Bible makes it clear that humanity did not start out this way. The book of Genesis says that humankind was originally created good and perfect: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness’ … God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:26–27). Because God is perfect, and because an effect always represents its cause in essence [that is, a totally good God can only create good things, or as Jesus said, “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit” (Matthew 7:18)], both Adam and Eve were created good and without sin. But, when Adam and Eve sinned, their nature was corrupted, and that nature was passed along to their offspring: “When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth” (Genesis 5:3, emphasis added).
The fact of the sin nature is taught in many places in Scripture, such as David’s declaration, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). David does not mean he was the product of an adulterous affair, but that his parents passed along a sin nature to him. In theology, this is sometimes called the “Traducian” (from the Latin term meaning “from a branch”) view of human nature The Traducian view is that a person’s soul is created via his parents, with the child inheriting their fallen nature in the process.
The Bible’s view of human nature differs from that of Greek philosophy in that Scripture says the physical and spiritual nature of humankind was originally good. By contrast, philosophers such as Plato saw a dualism or dichotomy in humanity. Such thinking eventually produced a theory that the body (the physical) was bad, but a person’s spirit was good. This teaching influenced groups such as the Gnostics who believed the physical world was mistakenly created by a demi-god called the “Demiurge.” The Gnostics opposed the doctrine of Christ’s incarnation because they believed God would never take on a physical form, since the body was evil. The apostle John encountered a form of this teaching in his day and warned against it: “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God” (1 John 4:1–3).
Further, the Gnostics taught that it did not matter what a person did in his body, since the spirit was all that mattered. This Platonic dualism had the same effect back in the first century as it does today—it leads either to asceticism or licentiousness, both of which the Bible condemns (Colossians 2:23; Jude 4).
So contrary to Greek thought, the Bible says that humanity’s nature, both the physical and spiritual, were good, yet both were adversely affected by sin. The end result of sin is a nature often referred to as the “flesh” in Scripture—something that opposes God and seeks sinful gratification. Pastor Mark Bubek defines the flesh this way: “The flesh is a built-in law of failure, making it impossible for natural man to please or serve God. It is a compulsive inner force inherited from man’s fall, which expresses itself in general and specific rebellion against God and His righteousness. The flesh can never be reformed or improved. The only hope for escape from the law of the flesh is its total execution and replacement by a new life in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Manifestation and Struggle with the Flesh
How does the flesh manifest itself in human beings? The Bible answers the question this way: “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19–21).
Examples of the flesh’s outworking in the world are evident. Consider a few sad facts taken from a recent survey on the effect of pornography in America. According to the study, every second in the U.S.:
• $3,075.64 is being spent on pornography
• 28,258 Internet users are viewing pornography
• 372 Internet users are typing adult search terms into search engines
And every 39 minutes, a new pornographic video is being created in the United States. Such statistics underscore the statement made by the prophet Jeremiah who mourned that “the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).
The Consequences of the Flesh
The Bible says that living in the flesh produces a number of unfortunate consequences. First, Scripture states that those who live according to the flesh, and who never desire change or repent from their sinful behavior, will experience separation from God both in this life and the next:
• “Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the [sinful practices] of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death” (Romans 6:21)
• “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13)
• “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:7–8)
Further, a person also becomes a slave to his/her fleshly nature: “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” (Romans 6:16). This slavery always leads to a destructive lifestyle and deteriorated living. As the prophet Hosea said, “For they sow the wind and they reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7).
The fact of the matter is that obeying the flesh always results in breaking God’s moral law. Nevertheless, in a very real sense, a person can never break God’s moral law, although he can certainly disobey it. For example, a person can climb up on a roof, tie a cape around his neck, and leap off the roof in hopes of breaking the law of gravity. However, he will quickly learn that he cannot fly; he cannot break the law of gravity, and the only thing he breaks in the end is himself, while proving the law of gravity in the process. The same is true of moral actions: a person may disobey God’s moral law through fleshly living, but he will only prove the moral law of God true by breaking himself in some way via his own behavior.
Overcoming the Flesh
The Bible provides a three-step process for overcoming the flesh and restoring oneself to a right relationship with God. The first step is a walk of honesty where a person acknowledges his sinful behavior before God. This involves agreeing with what the Bible says about everyone born of human parents: people are sinners and enter the world in a broken relationship with the God who made them:
• “If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” (Psalm 130:3)
• “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.… If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:8, 10)
The next step is a walk in the Spirit, which involves calling out to God for salvation and receiving His Holy Spirit that empowers a person to live rightly before God and not obey the flesh’s desires. This transformation and new walk of life is described in several places in Scripture:
• “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
• “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:11)
• “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16)
• “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Galatians 3:27)
• “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” (Romans 13:14)
• “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18)
• “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11)
The last step is a walk of death, where the flesh is starved of its desires so that it eventually dies. Even though a person is born again through the Spirit of God, he must understand he still possesses the old nature with its desires that war with the new nature and the desires that come from the Spirit. From a practical standpoint, the Christian purposely avoids feeding the old, fleshly nature and instead practices new behaviors that are driven by the Spirit:
• “But flee from [sinful actions], you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11)
• “Now flee from youthful lusts” (2 Timothy 2:22)
• “But I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:27)
• “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5)
• “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:24)
• “Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;” (Romans 6:6)
• “But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” (Ephesians 4:20–24)
Susanna Wesley, mother to the great preachers and hymn writers John and Charles Wesley, described sin and the flesh this way: “Whatever weakens your reasoning, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes away your relish for spiritual things, in short—if anything increases the authority and the power of the flesh over the Spirit, that to you becomes sin however good it is in itself.” One of the goals of the Christian life is the victory of the Spirit over the flesh and a change of life, which manifests in righteous living before God.
Although the struggle will be very real (which the Bible makes clear), Christians have assurance from God that He will bring them eventual success over the flesh. “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
The most obvious hindrance to effective prayer is the presence of unconfessed sins in the heart of the one who is praying. Because our God is holy, there is a barrier that exists between Him and us when we come to Him with unconfessed sin in our lives. “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). David concurred, knowing from experience that God is far from those who try to hide their sin: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Psalm 66:18).
The Bible refers to several areas of sin that are hindrances to effective prayer. First, when we are living according to the flesh, rather than in the Spirit, our desire to pray and our ability to effectively communicate with God are hindered. Although we receive a new nature when we are born again, that new nature still resides in our old flesh, and that old “tent” is corrupt and sinful. The flesh can gain control of our actions, attitudes, and motives unless we are diligent to “put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13) and be led by the Spirit in a right relationship with God. Only then will we be able to pray in close communion with Him.
One way living in the flesh manifests itself is in selfishness, another hindrance to effective prayer. When our prayers are selfishly motivated, when we ask God for what we want rather than for what He wants, our motives hinder our prayers. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14). Asking according to God’s will is the same as asking in submission to whatever His will may be, whether or not we know what that will is. As in all things, Jesus is to be our example in prayer. He always prayed in the will of His Father: “Yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Selfish prayers are always those that are intended to gratify our own selfish desires, and we should not expect God to respond to such prayers. “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3).
Living according to selfish, fleshly desires will also hinder our prayers because it produces a hardness of heart toward others. If we are indifferent to the needs of others, we can expect God to be indifferent to our needs. When we go to God in prayer, our first concern should be His will. The second should be the needs of others. This stems from the understanding that we are to consider others better than ourselves and be concerned about their interests over and above our own (Philippians 2:3–4).
A major hindrance to effective prayer is a spirit of unforgiveness toward others. When we refuse to forgive others, a root of bitterness grows up in our hearts and chokes our prayers. How can we expect God to pour out His blessings upon us undeserving sinners if we harbor hatred and bitterness toward others? This principle is beautifully illustrated in the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:23–35. This story teaches that God has forgiven us a debt that is beyond measure (our sin), and He expects us to forgive others as we have been forgiven. To refuse to do so will hinder our prayers.
Another major hindrance to effective prayer is unbelief and doubt. This does not mean, as some suggest, that because we come to God convinced that He will grant our requests, He is somehow obligated to do so. Praying without doubt means praying in the secure belief and understanding of God’s character, nature, and motives. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). When we come to God in prayer, doubting His character, purpose, and promises, we insult Him terribly. Our confidence must be in His ability to grant any request that is in accordance with His will and purpose for our lives. We must pray with the understanding that whatever He purposes is the best possible scenario. “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does” (James 1:6–7).
Finally, discord in the home is a definite obstacle to prayer. Peter specifically mentions this as a hindrance to the prayers of a husband whose attitude toward his wife is less than godly. “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers” (1 Peter 3:7). Where there is a serious conflict in family relationships and the head of the household is not demonstrating the attitudes Peter mentions, the husband’s prayer communication with God is hindered. Likewise, wives are to follow the biblical principles of submission to their husbands” headship if their own prayers are not to be hindered (Ephesians 5:22–24).
Fortunately, all these prayer hindrances can be dealt with at once by coming to God in prayers of confession and repentance. We are assured in 1 John 1:9 that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Once we have done that, we enjoy a clear and open channel of communication with God, and our prayers will not only be heard and answered, but we will also be filled with a deep sense of joy.
The Bible gives no indication that finger rings were used as betrothal or nuptial rings. The signet ring is the earliest type of ring mentioned in the Bible. In fact, when Abraham’s servant found Rebekah, he gave her a nose ring to claim her as Isaac’s bride (Genesis 24:22). When Tamar disguised herself as a harlot to entice her father-in-law, Judah, she asked him for his signet, cord and staff as a pledge of his promise to send her “a kid from the flock” (Genesis 38:17–19). Jeremiah informs us that the Israelites wore the signet ring on the right hand (Jeremiah 22:24). The signet ring was used to seal various contracts. It was a symbol of authority, dignity, and social status (James 2:2). Pharaoh gave his signet ring to Joseph as a symbol of authority (Genesis 41:42). Likewise, Ahasuerus gave his signet to Haman to seal a royal decree (Esther 3:10, 12). Upon his return, the prodigal son received a ring from his father as a symbol of dignity and position (Luke 15:22).
The finger rings mentioned in the Bible are signet rings used as symbol of authority and dignity. The Romans are credited for pioneering the use of the signet ring as a betrothal ring. The Jews and the Christians borrowed the practice from the Romans. Since the betrothal ceremony usually involved the groom giving a sum of money or a valuable object to the bride, it was a natural transition to make this object a ring.
The wedding or marriage ring came into use in Christian ceremonies in the 9th century AD. The custom of wearing the wedding ring on the fourth finger of the left hand is based upon a romantic, although unscientific, Greek fable that the artery from that finger flows directly to the heart. However and whenever the custom of the wedding band developed, it is seen today as a symbol of an unending commitment to the marriage relationship. As such, it certainly has a biblical basis in that marriage is to be a lifetime commitment (Romans 7:2). This is not to say that wearing a wedding ring is a requirement for married Christians. However, as a symbol of our commitment to the marriage covenant for life and, by extension, the covenant of Christ with His bride—the redeemed for whom He died—wedding rings are a beautiful reminder of those covenants.
Why are huge numbers of dead birds dropping dead and washing up along the coastlines of Alaska? It is being reported that many of the carcases of the dead birds are “broken open and bleeding”. The photo of some of these dead birds at the top of this article was originally posted by Alaska native David Akeya on Facebook. You can find more photos of these dead birds right here. And of course it isn’t just birds that are dying. As you will see below, something is causing mass death events among various populations of fish as well. In addition, it has been reported that large numbers of polar bears, seals and walruses in Alaska are being affected by hair loss and “oozing sores”. So precisely what is causing all of this? Could Fukushima be responsible? Authorities are claiming that all of this is being caused by “disease” or “harsh weather”, but are they actually telling us the truth? Evaluate the evidence that I have shared below and decide for yourself…
#1 Something is causing large numbers of dead birds to wash up on shores all (Read More…)
Do you know what is in your chicken nuggets? Thanks to Barack Obama, that is going to be a more important question than ever. At the end of August, the Obama administration quietly decided to start allowing Chinese poultry processors to ship processed chicken into the United States. For now, the meat must originate either in the United States or in another country where the poultry population has been certified to be safe. What that means is that chickens from the United States will be shipped all the way over to China, processed in plants over there, and then shipped back across the Pacific Ocean for us to eat. Only a limited number of companies are expected to take advantage of this, but according to U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, a USDA report that Congress has seen indicates that China will likely be allowed to directly import their own chickens into this country “within a year”. What makes all of this even more disturbing is that a country-of-origin label will not be required on any of the chicken that is processed in China. So in the years ahead you could be eating chicken processed in China and not even know it. (Read More….)
Thomas Jefferson once said that “the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.” In other words, he believed that government debt was the equivalent of stealing money from future generations on a massive scale. Right now, the U.S. government is stealing roughly $100,000,000 from future generations of Americans every single hour of every single day. And it is being projected that the U.S. national debt will more than double during the 8 years of the Obama administration. In other words, the federal government will pile more debt on to the backs of our children and our grandchildren during the Obama years than had been accumulated during all of the rest of U.S. history combined. The federal government is literally destroying the future of America, and what we are doing to our children and our grandchildren is beyond criminal. If there was one thing that the Republicans in Congress were supposed to do, it was to do something about all of this debt. These days Republicans can’t seem to agree on much, but the one issue that virtually all “conservatives” were supposed to agree on was the national debt. The American people gave the Republicans control of the House in 2010 and 2012 for a reason. Unfortunately, nothing has been done. Our debt has continued to spiral out of control and now John Boehner and Paul Ryan are pushing a “budget deal” that will essentially give the free-spending Democrats virtually everything that they want for the next 10 years. That is why John Boehner and Paul Ryan should immediately resign. (Read More…..)
A modern proverb states, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” However, for followers of Jesus, a lot of the “doing” is teaching. The Lord has directed His people to share His message of love with the world.
Do you need help figuring out how God wants you to share His message? We have trained followers of Jesus who can help you figure it out! Click here to share your story with us. You will hear from someone shortly.
Will you pray this week:
• The Lord will help you keep and teach His commands
• God will raise up Godly mentors to teach new believers to share the gospel
• You will teach Bible-based truths
• God will be glorified all over the earth as the gospel is shared.
• The Holy Spirit will lift the veil of darkness which prevents the lost from seeing the light of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)
Where can you go online to get daily encouragement and inspiration, and to discuss ways to grow God’s Kingdom? Visit the GodLife Facebook Page where we can gather daily to share our stories, to express ourselves, and to pray for one another!
A. The fourth commandment is, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor they cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”
Charles Haddon Spurgeon-A Puritan Catechism
1. What is a Mediator?
One who leads persons who are at enmity to become friends, or to be reconciled to each other.
2. Why is Christ called the Mediator?
Because He comes between man and God, and reconciles them to each other.
3. What offices does Christ discharge as Mediator?
The offices of Prophet, Priest and King.
4. Why is Christ called a Prophet?
A Prophet is one who speaks for God, and Christ is the Great Teacher of Divine Truth.
5. Why is He called a Priest?
It was the duty of the Priest to offer sacrifice for sin, and to pray to God to pardon the sinner. Christ is in both these respects the High Priest of His people.
6. In what sense is He a King?
He has no earthly kingdom; but He reigns in the hearts of saints and angels.
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