Spirit vs Flesh | Soul Stir | The Fellowship

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Spirit vs Flesh

October 19, 2021

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.         Romans 8:5 

The appetites of the flesh can get the best of me when it comes food, drink, fun, sports, friends or just enjoying life.  My flesh wants to be full, entertained, distracted, comfortable, selfish and self-centered. It does not want to feel pain, disappointment, loss or lack. The flesh is the physical and psychological you.  In Galatians 5:19-21, Paul gives some examples of the flesh at work …

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.                       Galatians 5:19–21

You might look at that list and be tempted to say none of that applies you. The first three are about sexual appetites. Where does our sexual ethic have problems? Is it that we indulge our eyes, letting ourselves feast on screens filled with images? Is it in the mind, fantasizing about sexual activity with someone other than our spouse?

The next two are about where we put our faith. Are we trusting in gods of our own making? Trusting in the dollar to provide for our needs more than the God who created us? Are we trusting more in luck than a sovereign, loving, faithful God?  

The next six are about how we treat others. This in many ways is where the rubber meets the road, because here we act in ways that are about our self-interest. We compete, we compare, we judge, we condemn, we fight, we hide … you get the picture.

And the last two are about our excesses. Kind of like the old Lays Potato chip commercial, “You can’t eat just one.” We find that there is something broken in our flesh, a broken “wanter” that leads us to want more of what we like. If a little is good, then a lot must be even better. More money, food, drink, power, lust, possessions … more, more, more!

A life where the mind is focused on the flesh is not a fulfilling life because the appetites of the flesh are an empty pit that can never be satisfied.

But there IS a better life … a mind focused on the Spirit and the things of the Spirit. 

Paul writes ... But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.                Galatians 5:22–23

What a contrast! A life in the flesh ... or a life in the Spirit. How can we overcome the flesh to experience a life filled with love, joy, and self-control? That is probably the same question that early followers of Christ were asking as they lived in a society where there was such a stark contrast between a life without Christ and a life with Christ. Listen what Paul writes …

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:24-25

Paul also writes in Romans …

For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.    Romans 8:6               

For all of us, it is about dying to the flesh that is our death and coming alive in the Spirit which is life. Two spiritual disciplines that can help us are fasting and scripture. Intentionally starving the flesh and feeding the Spirit.

Paul says  … But I discipline my body and keep it under control … 1 Corinthians 9:27a (ESV). I like some of the other translations that say, like the NIV that say … I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave. Or the Berean Literal Bible, I batter my body and bring it into servitude. The idea here is that we must discipline our body. The word hypōpiazō literally means to give someone a black eye. Paul is saying that he strikes his own body, that he might bring it into submission.

Fasting says, I want God more than I want food. I want to feed the Spirit and focus my mind on the things of the Spirit more than the flesh. Fasting can open up specific times for us to sit with the Spirit in solitude to be still and know that He is God.

Scripture reading, study, meditation, memorization is an essential element to feeding the spirit and overcoming the flesh. As the Psalmist wrote … I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11

Take some time this week to be honest about where your flesh is still fighting. Then, set aside some time to deny yourself, food, TV, drink, or whatever appetite your flesh loves and spend that time with God and in His word.

-Pastor Jerry

 

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And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works...

Hebrews 10:24

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