Most of the times when you hear the word flesh you tend to think of immoral things such as sexual misconduct, drunkenness, jealousy or strife. We seldom think of those things that seem good such as religious activities.
If we get right down to it the battlefield is the flesh and spirit. Now I don’t mean to say the flesh, in and of itself, is sinful because I don’t think it is. What I am saying is the flesh is weak and unable to please God. It is only by walking in the Spirit that we will keep from giving an opportunity to the flesh.
For now let me define what “the flesh” is by saying it is our human efforts or, in other words, it is the human realm apart from the Spirit of God. It is the actions we embark upon in our own independent mind or strength; the thinking that we, in our own humanity, can do “good’ and avoid doing “evil” in our own power. This of course is the lie we have believed since the Garden. The enemy convinced us we can make up our own minds about what is good and evil and we can be like God.
Back to what I said earlier about the so called “good” side of the flesh let me quote Paul. He said, “For I know that in me (that is in my flesh,) dwells no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” So you see he is telling us “in our flesh” or our humanity there is nothing that can please God. It is only in our spirit joined to his Spirit that we can function in a pleasing manner. Paul goes on to say, “I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.” So you see he is saying when “I”, meaning independent of the Spirit of God, attempt to do good evil is present. So, in other words, my attempts at doing good independently are actually evil. This only made sense to me once I saw it as me being in competition with God as if I could do right and avoid wrong independently. “If righteousness comes through the law (my ability in the flesh to please God) Christ died for nothing.”
Jesus told us “that which is flesh is flesh and that which is Spirit is spirit.” The two do not interact with one another to please God. Jesus also said, “It is the spirit that quickens, or gives life, the flesh profits nothing…” Ultimately the flesh isn’t evil it is simply not able to be pleasing to God. Do you remember what Jesus told his disciples when he found them sleeping? He said, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
When God gave Abraham the promise of an heir he didn’t put conditions on him. He simply gave him a promise and we read “Abraham believed God and it was counted as righteousness.” Of course we know Abraham listened to the advice of Sarah and tried to help God out by having a child with Hagar the handmaiden. That would be an illustration of attempting to accomplish something for God in the flesh. Of course God never told him to do this in fact he didn’t tell Abraham to do anything he simply gave him a promise. It was up to Abraham to either believe what God told him or not. God then gave Abraham the sign of circumcision to illustrate to him that his flesh wasn’t to be involved.
God did in fact give the sign of circumcision to Abraham as an outward symbol of the covenant between them but he really meant it to point to a greater sign which is a circumcised heart. Even in the very book of Leviticus, which is the Law, we read where God is talking about the circumcision of the heart. It was never God’s intention that we only outwardly, in the flesh, obey God. He has always wanted an inward heart and spirit obedience. It is about our attitudes as well as our actions. We read in Leviticus 26:41-42 “If their uncircumcised heart becomes humbled so that they then make amends for their iniquity, then I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and I will remember also my covenant with Isaac, and my covenant with Abraham as well, and I will remember the land.” God has always been after our hearts. He wants us to come to the conclusion we can do nothing without him. This isn’t anything more than coming to see the reality of our situation and stop trying to do what only God can do.
Written by Louie