“For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son…that the righteous requirements of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” Romans 8:3-4 (KJV).
The Bible refers to two ways a Christian can walk – in the Spirit or in the flesh. These two walks are opposed to each other (Galatians 5:17-18). These two walks cannot be mixed. You are either walking in the Spirit or you are walking in the flesh.
Walking in the Flesh
The word “flesh” has the meaning of “self.” To be living “in the flesh” involves three areas:
- Carnal mind – the thoughts/motives of the flesh
- Appetites – the cravings/acts of the flesh
- Self-effort – the method of the flesh
The Carnal Mind
“Those who live according to the [flesh] have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires…the [flesh] is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so” Rom.8:5,7.
The carnal mind – which is the stronghold of the flesh – is a mind governed by the five senses (what we see, hear, touch, taste and smell). The spiritual mind, however, is governed by what God says about a situation. One example of this is the story of the 12 spies in Numbers 13:17-14:11.
The ten spies were governed by a carnal mind. They believed what they saw. They fed their minds with it, and the result was unbelief. They fed their emotions with it, and the result was fear. They fed their wills with it, and the result was rebellion.
Joshua and Caleb saw exactly the same things as the others, but had different reactions because they had a different kind of mind. They believed in God’s word. They fed their minds with it, and the result was faith. They fed theiremotions with it, and the result was courage. They fed their wills with it, and the result was obedience. This is why the “renewing of our minds” (Rom.12:2) is such a high priority in God’s plan for our lives.
Appetites of the Flesh
God created within the human body certain basic appetites or “hungers” for food, sex (including romance and intimacy), power (rulership and control), leisure (rest, relaxation & entertainment) and excitement (the adrenaline surge). There is nothing intrinsically wrong with these appetites. God created them in us and called them “good” (Gen.1:31). But when these appetites become our masters (2 Peter 2:19), they become “the corrupt desires of the flesh” (2 Peter 2:10,18-22; Gal.5:19-21).
The Arm of Flesh
“This is what the Lord says: ‘Cursed is the one who depends on man, who depends on flesh for his strength…’” Jer.17:5 (read verses 6-8).
The walk of the flesh is not just having a carnal mind and giving in to the appetites of the flesh. It is also depending on flesh (your own strength) to change yourself and try to please God. But there are two basic problems with fleshly self-effort:
- Flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:8; Hebrews 11:6).
- Flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41; John 6:63; Rom.8:3-4).
The Normal Christian Life
What is the normal Christian life? Many Christians think that Romans 7:15-23 describes God’s plan for our lives, but this is not so! The context of these verses reveal that, rather than being the normal Christian life, this is a description of the normal fleshly life – the life of someone living under the law, struggling to please God through self-effort.
“For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code” Romans 7:5-6.
The Holy Spirit is the new factor in the Christian life! Romans 8:1-2 calls this new factor “the law of the Spirit of life [which has] set me free from the law of sin and death”. The Bible is absolutely clear about this new life we have in Christ. Read the following verses:
|· Romans 8:9||· Galatians 5:24|
|· Romans 6:6||· Romans 13:11-14|
|· Galatians 2:20||· Galatians 6:14|
Born of the Spirit
“Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again’” John 3:6.
Everything in the Christian life comes through the Holy Spirit. We were “born again,” not through our own self-effort, but through the power of the Spirit (Ephesians 2:8-9). The problem is that many Christians, having been born into God’s family through the Holy Spirit, think that now they have to live the rest of their Christian lives through self-effort (read Gal.3:1-3).
Walking in the Spirit
“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the [flesh]” Galatians 5:16.
We are not to try to overcome the desires of the flesh in order to walk in the Spirit. No! We are called to walk in the Spirit so that we will not gratify the desires of the flesh! It is the indwelling Holy Spirit who enables us to walk daily with God (2 Cor.3:17-18). Walking in the Spirit involves three steps:
- Recognize the voice of the Spirit (John 10:27).
- Obey the promptings of the Spirit (Acts 13:2-3).
- Receive the enabling of the Spirit (Jude 24).
Walking in the Spirit only happens when God changes your focus from yourself (the flesh) to Himself (the Spirit) (read Rom.8:5-9). As you keep your focus on the Lord each and every day, walking in the Spirit becomes a daily experience.
“…God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” Heb.13:5 (see also Matt.28:20).
God has promised never to leave us. His presence is always with us (Psalm 139:1-12; Isaiah 43:2; Deut.20:1). The question, however, is not whether God is in our presence, but whether we are walking in His presence.
“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord” Psalm 89:15.
The Heart of Moses
“The Lord replied, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’ Then Moses said to him, ‘If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?’” Exodus 33:14-16.
Moses’ heart was after more than just the power of God. He desired to know the ways of God (Ex.33:13; Ps.103:7). He didn’t want to have just an angel – a representative of God – to go before the people of Israel, even though this would have fulfilled all the promises God had given Israel concerning the promised land. Moses wanted God’s own Presence to go with them, because he knew it was the Presence of God that would distinguish them from all the other peoples of the earth.
As Christians, this is also what distinguishes us from the rest of the world. We are different – not because of something we believe in, but because we walk in the Presence of God.
A Friend of God
“The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.” Exodus 33:11.
Because Moses walked in the presence of God, he had a face-to-face relationship with the Lord. God spoke to him just like you would speak with your closest friend. Many of us have come to know God as our friend (we can pour outour hearts to God at any time), but does God know us as His friend (where He can share His heart with us)?
The Heart of David
“One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple” Psalm 27:4 (NKJB) (see also 23:6; 26:8).
David was called a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). God, who does not look on the outward appearance but upon the heart (1 Samuel 16:6-12), is still searching out heart-people – people who, like David, have one driving desire – to be in the presence of the Lord.
“How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord…” Psalm 84:1-2.
The Secret Place
“For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in his pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock” Psalm 27:5 (NKJB) (see also 31:20; 32:7).
There is a secret place in the presence of God where we can hide in the time of trouble. As you walk in the presence of God, you can find yourself “hidden” from the world (Col.3:1-4). In this “hiding place” you will discover rest (Exodus 33:14-15; Psalm 91:1-16), peace (2 Thess.3:16) and joy (Psalm 16:11; 21:6).
Secrets of the Heart
“My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?…Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls” Psalm 2:2,7.
True friendship means sharing the deep things of the heart (Proverbs 18:24; 20:5). As we walk in the Presence of God, the Bible describes two “searchings” of the heart that take place simultaneously:
God searches our heart
“And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit…” Romans 8:27 (see also Psalm 139:1,23-24).
The Holy Spirit searches our heart, sifting through our desires and priorities, drawing from us a heart after Himself.
We search the heart of God
“The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” 1 Cor.2:10-11 (see also verses 12-16).
Through the Holy Spirit, we have a link to the heart of God. And through the Spirit, we search the “deep things of God”. God desires to disclose the depths of His heart, but He will only do this with heart-people – those who come close to Him (1 Cor.4:1). And it is in the depths of our experience that we begin to understand the depths of God’s own heart (Phil.3:10). As we search out God’s heart, we will touch three things:
|· Wisdom||God’s Way||(Romans 11:33)|
|· Purpose||God’s Plans||(Ephesians 3:8-11)|
|· Desires||God’s Love||(Ephesians 3:16-19)|
A Dwelling Place
“And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” Ephesians 2:22.
God has always desired to have us live in His presence without it destroying us (Exodus 33:3,20). In times past, God did this by commanding His people to build special structures that would contain His presence. These included the tabernacles of Moses and David, and the temple of Solomon. But God’s desire has always been to indwell people’s lives (Acts 7:48-50; Revelation 21:3). As Christians, we have become temples of God’s Spirit. Our lives are now the container of His presence.
“…For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people’” 2 Corinthians 6:16.
“…the Lord appeared to (Abram) and said, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless” Genesis 17:1.
God has a simple requirement for all who would want to walk with Him: blamelessness.
“Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman, who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the Lord, who keeps his oath even when it hurts, who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken” Psalm 15 (read also 24:3-4; Micah 6:8).
Blamelessness is a condition of our heart. Blamelessness is not the same as faultlessness. If a young child wants to help his parents clean up the house, but drops a bowl and breaks it, the child is not faultless, but he is blameless. His heart had the desire to help his parents. In the same way, God is looking at our heart’s attitude. Holiness begins in the heart.
Called to be Holy
“Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” 1 Peter 1:15-16 (see also Matthew 5:48; Exodus 15:13; Psalm 29:2).
If we are to walk with the Lord on a daily basis, we must be like Him in heart and action (Amos 3:3).
“Make every effort to live in peace with all and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God...” Hebrews 12:14-15.
The grace of God enables us not just to live a holy life, but to be holy as God is holy! (read 2 Peter 1:3; Ephesians 4:17-32; Titus 2:11-14).
Three Parts to Holiness
To be launched into a holy life, we must understand three separate parts to holiness:
Righteousness is the starting point of the Christian life – it is a gift from God (Romans 1:17; 2 Corinthians 5:21).Blamelessness is where we walk in that righteousness – it is the expression of holiness in our daily lives (2 Peter 3:11,14). Faultlessness is the goal of God’s work, as He conforms us to the likeness of His Son (Romans 8:29; Philippians 1:6).
“Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression” Psalm 19:12-13.
God continues to work on our “hidden faults”, but His major focus is our “willful sins”. Blamelessness is a condition of the heart (Isa.51:6; Psa.51:10; 86:11) – a desire to walk in purity before God (see Rom.6:19; 1 Cor.1:4-8; Phil.2:15; 1 Thess.5:23). Holiness, however, is the dynamic outworking of that pure heart in godly behavior. Both come only by God’s grace.
“…by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace” 2 Timothy 1:8-9 (see also 1 Thessalonians 4:7).
Motives and Attitudes
“Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom” Song of Songs 2:15.
God is seeking to produce the fruit of His presence in our lives (John 15:5,8; Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 5:8-10). But there are “little foxes” – impure motives and attitudes – which will spoil that fruit. 1 Peter 2:1 lists five of these little foxes:
“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.”
Malice:A desire to inflict injury or suffering on another; vicious purposes or intent.
Deceit:Guile (KJV); baiting and crafty; the setting of traps for people.
Hypocrisy:Pretending to be something you aren’t in order to get something for yourself.
Envy:Discontentment at another’s success; a coveting of what belongs to others; a desire to be elevated above others.
Slander:Evil speakings (KJV); ill will expressed in backstabbing; speaking down of someone to others.
“Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” 2 Timothy 2:22.
In order for us to walk in blamelessness, God must deal with these five little foxes. God did this by crucifying our old self in Christ on the Cross (Romans 6:6-7). As we count ourselves dead to sin and the world and alive to God and His righteousness (Romans 6:11), we are told to offer ourselves to God (Romans 6:13). God then releases His grace in our lives.
“For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace” Romans 6:14 (read also Galatians 5:13-26).
The Way of Holiness
“And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way…” Isaiah :8.
Holiness literally means “to be set apart” (read 2 Corinthians 6:14-18). This does not just mean being “separated from the world”, but also being “separated unto God for His holy use” (2 Timothy 2:20-21). Holiness is not a condition of “distance from evil things,” but rather of “closeness to the heart of God.” As we walk before God in blamelessness, His grace is released in our lives to produce the same kind of holiness that God Himself has (Ephesians 4:22-24).
“To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy” Jude 24.