Tag: spirit

Patterns, Flesh, and You

If you are Christian, you have probably heard the term “the flesh” used. Most describe it as your physical body and its desires. Some describe it as your lustful, sinning nature.  The so-called, “sin suit.” The flesh is “Satan in your skin” so they say.

Are you scared yet? Most would say you should be!

However, a further glance at scripture helps us to see that the flesh is really a description of a pattern of relying on and turning to our own abilities and understanding in our lives.

When Christ remade us into a new creation, the option and ability to rely on and turn to ourselves and our efforts remains. We can still turn to a life of striving  and performing our way to goodness, Godliness, value, and success instead of turning to Jesus and His work on the cross to save us, remake us, and give us life.

Every time we live holding onto guilt and shame, we are turning to the flesh. Every time we strive to please God through our performance in  life, we turn to the flesh. Every time we believe we are condemned to a life of repeated sin, we turn to the flesh. Every time we turn to ourselves, our understanding, and our performance instead of Jesus and His performance, we are turning to the flesh. Every time we allow people, their opinions and behaviors to define and negatively influence ours, we turn to the flesh. Every time we see ourselves any less than Jesus and His righteousness, we turn to the flesh. Why, because we are focusing on ourselves and our performance, not on Jesus and His.

Behind every sin, insecurity, anxiety, worry, destructive behavior  or mindset etc. is a pattern of the flesh. This is the essence of the flesh, a pattern of self-effort and reliance that leads to self-destruction.  All self-effort/reliance leads to self-destruction.

The flesh, therefore, is much more about destructive patterns in your life than it is about your personhood. In fact, your old, sinful nature was put to death with Jesus on the cross. There ends that issue. And one could even say, when Paul contrasts following the Spirit over the flesh in scripture, when  he refers to the “Spirit” he is actually referring to your Spirit, that is the Spirit that is Jesus in and as you.

Therefore, your Spirit has much more to do with your personhood than any idea of flesh has to do with your personhood.

Now here’s the kicker, following the impulses of the flesh can lead to doing things that are very well-intentioned and may even appear noble and deeply spiritual. The only problem being, we turned back to a pattern of self-effort, reliance, striving, rule-keeping, and performance in the process. That’s the flesh. It’s the opposite of faith.

One could say that many (if not all) of our spiritual disciplines as Christians can be and are often done “in the flesh.”  For example, thinking our hours of praying long-winded, emotional prayers can wrench a blessing out of God who apparently needs to be compelled to move a single muscle on your behalf.  This is the flesh, posing as faithfulness. Wow, I wonder how much of our modern Christian lives is really more about the flesh than it is about faith?

Paul was right when he alerted us to the lures of the flesh, unfortunately, we have confused the flesh with something about our nature, instead of a turning to and reliance on ourselves, not Jesus and His mercy, grace, and favor, despite our nature.  The flesh is not something that is an evil part of you that you cannot avoid, it is a pattern(s) left over from your old self and the world that you can turn away from as you focus on Jesus and who you are in Him. In fact, do a study ad take a look at what are described as some of the lusts of the flesh in scripture.  Behind every one of them is a destructive pattern of wrong believing and/or a reliance upon self. The same is true in your life and mine. Behind every wrong or negative behavior is a destructive pattern of wrong believing.

Grace is the great flesh, pattern breaker. The more you try and strive in life, the more you engage the flesh and succumb to its patterns. The more you rest, trust, and believe in the loveliness of Jesus and His perfect love of you, the more you walk in the Spirit. That is, you walk in the real you, completely whole, holy, righteous, forgiven, and divine in Him.

Greater is He that is in you. Your Spirit is far greater than the flesh.

Right believing leads to pattern breaking!


Backpedaling or Giving Up?

Some time ago, we went through an experience with our son that has served to teach him (and all of us) the difference between backpedaling and giving up.

If you are like me, as a parent you never want to see your child “give up” on something. Whether it’s plans they have established, a team they are on, or a promise they have made. And so we teach them phrases like, “You need to finish what you start” and “Quitters never win, and winners never quit.” And rightly so, giving up is not a principal that one is served well to live by. In our convenience-laddened culture, the idea of “giving up” comes much too easily and prematurely. Many simply “give up” the moment the going gets tough or causes them inconvenience. Indeed, commitment is the willingness to be unhappy for a while.

Yet, at the same time, there are times when we need to backpedal. That is, we get into a situation we thought was healthy, right, and in the flow of God, only to clearly find out, it wasn’t. The writings are all over the wall, “something is deeply wrong and even evil here” or “there is something not of God about this” or “this is not something for which God is anointing you.” You may not see those messages with your physical eyes or hear them with your ears, but your discernment and spiritual eyes see it clearly. It’s not a matter of trying harder, cow-boying up, or just enduring a difficult season. It’s not about you merely being frustrated, tired, hurt, or discouraged. It’s about that fact that you pedaled into something thinking it was God’s leading, only to find out, God’s no longer into it, He was never into it from the beginning, or He isn’t into it for you.

Obviously, this takes some skills in discernment to know the difference. God often leads us into situations that are challenging to grow our character and dependence on Him. But at the same time, Satan loves to entice us into things that waste our time, steal our joy, and distract us from God’s true leading in our life.

What’s the difference? God’s presence.

The moment you feel God’s presence/anointing leave you or a situation, it’s time to back pedal, and fast. Yet, as long as you sense God’s presence/anointing, you should never give up.

There have been times of great challenge, adversity, pain, and struggle in my life where in my head I wanted to give up, and could come up with all kinds of reasons and excuses as to why I should and could even spiritualize them. However, God presence/anointing was still there, and so I couldn’t give up. It’s hard to explain in words, but to those who are sensitive to it and seek it out, you can have a sense of what God is anointing (putting His presence into) in your life, and what He isn’t.

A couple years ago, our son Harrison signed up to play challenge-level soccer. He made the U-11 team and was excited about the season ahead. Yet from the beginning, with coaching problems, parent problems, and player problems, we began to discern, “something isn’t right here.” But instead of pulling the trigger too soon, we decided to give it time and see what happens, even to the point I agreed to be the head coach of the team, even after two coaches had previously opted out. Yet the more I got involved, the more the signs became loud and clear, “something really isn’t right here” and this wasn’t a battle God wanted me to fight.

In life, we need to choose our battles carefully, and especially make sure that if you tee-it-up for battle, God better be in it with you. Sometimes we take on challenges and battles God never gave us the green light for. And then we wonder why we tire easily, get bruised and battered, and ultimately wind up discouraged and even defeated.

So what did we do? We back pedaled. We didn’t give up on soccer and I didn’t give up on coaching. Not a chance. Rather, we backpedaled off the team and redirected ourselves to another opportunity for Harrison and our family where we felt God was putting His presence into. It wasn’t an easy decision, but one we knew we had to make if we wanted to be in God’s flow for our family.

Three great questions we all need to ask about every opportunity before us…

1) Is this God’s will? 2) Is this God’s will for me? 3) Is this God’s will for me at this time?

And even after all of your best discernment, always remember, there is nothing wrong with backpedaling when you find yourself into something God is simply not into, or God is simply not into for you

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