Understanding the flesh

I haven’t been posting much in the past few weeks mainly cause I got sick and have been tired. However, I’m trying to get that back underway now that I’ve recovered a bit.

I think one of the best things that happened was it allowed me to withdraw a bit from posting and to mull over a lot of different things in my head. One of these was to more clearly understand my sense of self in contrast to God and others. Call it meditation of the spirit if you will.

Tangibly, it seems as when understanding these more abstract concepts clearly has reinforced some of the boundaries that I have already set. In other words, I feel more refined, more tempered, and strongly built on a godly foundation even if it may have no been displayed yet. This does not spare me from temptation and sin, but it was very useful to examine my own character in relationship to that while in this self reflection.

I think one of the biggest misunderstandings that Christians have in terms of the flesh is that we still believe we as Christians have a carnal nature. However, this is false. We are new creations. The old has gone and the new has come. Yet, we still struggle with the flesh. What then is the flesh? The flesh we struggle with is not the carnal but inherently one of weakness. Paul describes this weakness as being unable to do what we want to do and doing the things that we don’t want to do.

Ephesians 4:20 But you did not learn [o]Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old [p]self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new [q]self, which [r]in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

2 Corinthians 5:16 Therefore from now on we recognize no one [f]according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ [g]according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. 17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, [h]he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and [i]He has [j]committed to us the word of reconciliation.

There is both an element of a change of nature and an active striving to change. Both the inherent and extrinsic must conform to Christ. Effort goes in one but not the other.

Upon understanding this more clearly I see the revelation that this weakness needs to indeed become my strength. Paul’s acceptance of his thorn is indeed put into a new light. Only asking three times for it be removed is revealed. It is the clear and profound acceptance of the flesh and to make peace with this weakness.

2 Corinthians 12:7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to [b]torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast [c]about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with [d]insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

New creations bound up in early flesh. This is a difficult thing to understand and to make peace with it is even more difficult.

This fundamental understanding I think will give me a much stronger foundation to resist temptation in the future. However, beyond that it seems like it has opened up my vision to see more clearly the spiritual forces at work that all too often seem invisible to the eye. I suppose this is the reason Paul describes that our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against spiritual powers, rulers, authorities, and the like.

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against [e]flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

I always thought that Paul was mainly talking about our struggle against flesh and blood with our enemies or others, but now I understand that he was also discussing himself. When I read it as a Christian he was talked to me. My struggle is not against my own flesh and blood but against spiritual powers, rulers, authorities, and the like.

Now that I further understand this path, it feels like a whole new field has opened up before me.

I think for men, especially Christian men, this is one area that is difficult to be aware of. The reason for this is that both the secular and the Churchian peddle the nonsense that women are good and men are bad. Hence, we tend to believe that our desires and purpose tend to be bad things. I’ve talked about this extensively before especially in terms of sexual desire, but I think it goes beyond that.

We as Christians tend to believe that our flesh is evil because it is weak. Weakness does not mean that it is evil, especially when we are made new creations in Christ. Whenever we sin this weakness is thought of to be evil. This confers a works based mentality on our sin along the lines of the thinking “if I were only good enough…” or “if I were only holy enough…” [then] “I wouldn’t have had these desires or done these things.” Our reliance is too easily warped back to ourselves to not sin and dealing guilt rather asking God for strength and allowing the Spirit to work in us.

Also related is the Augustinian concept of original sin versus ancestral sin (h/t/ some random person on Donal’s site I think) and the fall out of understanding theological concepts of nature of the flesh and conferred guilt. That may be the subject of another post. Additionally, as another also I think part of this is also due to growing up in a guilt based culture as well.

I want to have the complete peace from God and Jesus both in my strengths and weaknesses. I also want to understand the interactions of the physical, emotional, and spiritual in what I do. Anyway, that’s all I have to say for now. It’s more of a superficial introduction some things I’ve been mulling over specifically more about the physical/spiritual in terms of weaknesses.

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8 Responses to Understanding the flesh

  1. Pingback: Understanding the flesh | Manosphere.com

  2. donalgraeme says:

    We as Christians tend to believe that our flesh is evil because it is weak. Weakness does not mean that it is evil, especially when we are made new creations in Christ. Whenever we sin this weakness is thought of to be evil.

    It is actually Gnosticism, whether we realize it or not. Heresy, and of a very old kind. Differentiating between weakness and evil can be difficult for the reasons you outline.

    This confers a works based mentality on our sin along the lines of the thinking “if I were only good enough…” or “if I were only holy enough…” [then] “I wouldn’t have had these desires or done these things.”

    I didn’t agree with this the first time I read it, but the more I mull on it the more it makes sense. The sentence that follows is what really helped me see through the haze.

    It is funny how you mention this:

    I also want to understand the interactions of the physical, emotional, and spiritual in what I do.

    As I have been spending a lot of time thinking about the physical/material and spiritual lately. I have been exploring lately how we use our spiritual lives to overcome the weaknesses of our physical lives. I’m curious what you have to say about it.

  3. @ Donal

    I didn’t agree with this the first time I read it, but the more I mull on it the more it makes sense. The sentence that follows is what really helped me see through the haze.

    Yeah, perhaps that wasn’t the best example.

    The better example I think may be that we tend to hate ourselves when we sin because we don’t do the things that we should do and we do the things we shouldn’t do. We know this weakness comes from ourselves, and we know it is because we are human. Hence, we implicitly understand that it is the flesh that is weak.

    The truth is that our flesh is weak so we are susceptible to sin. However, we tend to default to believing that this susceptibility is sin. In other words, our flesh is sinful because it is weak.

    This is not unlike the analogy which I made in the post which secular and churchian sources use to demonize masculinity. Likewise, there is a difference between desire and sin. Desire is not sin unless it is tempted and conceived.

  4. @ Donal

    Ah, forgot the last part.

    As I have been spending a lot of time thinking about the physical/material and spiritual lately. I have been exploring lately how we use our spiritual lives to overcome the weaknesses of our physical lives. I’m curious what you have to say about it.

    A separate post will be required for this after I think it over more.

  5. jack says:

    I know the Bible says that the Lord will not allow us to be tempted (I think some translations say tested), beyond our ability to endure.

    I don’t think it says anything about the unsaved. I wonder if the corollary to this is that the unsaved are tempted beyond their ability to resist or endure. Perhaps there is no way of escape for them.

  6. @ jack

    It’s actually in the part before the passage I quoted in Ephesians 4. Their hearts are basically given over to darkness.

    Ephesians 4:17 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, [m]excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality [n]for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. 20 But you did not learn [o]Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old [p]self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new [q]self, which [r]in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

  7. @ Scott

    Post it on the right one and I’ll delete this one!

  8. Pingback: The most eligible Christian bachelor | Christianity and the manosphere

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