The Voices in My Head: The Flesh (Part 2)

In the last post I gave a simple example of how to discern the voices in our head (God, Satan, or the Flesh). In this post I will elaborate more on the Flesh, which is probably where the greatest confusion remains in most Christian circles. First, the following is a simple way to define the voices:

God’s voice: The Bible as a whole, God’s Word, Truth, the Holy Spirit’s leading (always in line with God’s written Word).

Satan’s voice: Incomplete truths, deceptions, schemes, tricks, lies, temptations, partial Scripture quotes taken out of context to support a view that is opposed to God (see Matthew 4:1-11).

The Flesh: Learned behavior/habits, coping mechanisms, our own subjective thoughts (i.e. “I want to eat at Burger King today).

You would be hard-pressed to walk into any church today and hear a message teaching these concepts, which is dreadfully sad. Most Christians walk around with somewhat of a self-defeatist attitude. “I’m just a wretched sinner!” True, we are sinners saved by grace (Eph. 2:8-9), but once we have been saved we are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17, Gal. 6:15, Eph. 4:24, Col. 3:10) clothed with the righteousness of Christ (Who I Am in Christ). We are no longer wretched sinners, but rather, children of God who still sin.

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     Neil Anderson uses an excellent illustration of this concept (from the book The Bondage Breaker). When you get a splinter in your finger, do you say you are a wretched piece of wood because you now have a splinter in your finger? Do you now take on the identity of the splinter as your own? Obviously not! No, you are a human being with a piece of wood in your finger. Scripturally you will find this concept made clear in Romans 7:14-25. It doesn’t take much work to discover that Paul is referring to himself after he has been regenerated (I know much debate remains about this fact, but if you’re using proper techniques of Biblical interpretation you can arrive at no other conclusion than this). Many of us can identify with Paul’s struggle. We know better, yet we still sin! What’s wrong with us?

The Flesh

     In simple terms we are infected with the “sin splinter” otherwise known as “the flesh”. The nature we were born with (self-serving/pride) along with the habits we’ve developed over a lifetime all contribute to this voice known as the flesh. Paul recognized this and he hated it. He knew he had been regenerated as a new creation in Christ, yet at times he still struggled to put that old nature to death. We can only imagine what Paul’s specific struggle was with but Scripture isn’t clear on it. It wouldn’t surprise me if pride had something to do with it, though. Deep down we are all struggling against a self-serving attitude, from the way we dress to the food we eat. Our world revolves around us, our desires, wants, and needs. No matter how awesome we are as Christians, pride will always be an issue because it is in our flesh which continuously wars with the new life we received when we accepted Christ. Jesus is the antithesis of pride and self. This is why just doing “what Jesus would do” is not as easy as it sounds. It contradicts our flesh! On our own we can’t will ourselves into good works with proper motives; this can only be accomplished through Christ’s rule in our hearts.

Coping Mechanisms/Habits (Flesh)

     As an addict I learned how to cope with mental anguish by abusing drugs. This was a learned behavior, as well as a sinful behavior. Over time it became a pattern of life. Feel pain—take drugs—pain goes away (temporarily). Some of us deal with unhealthy learned habits every day when we fight the urge to over-indulge at the dinner table or eat chocolate for dinner instead of broccoli (maybe even chocolate covered broccoli?). I grew up drinking soda and cool-aid every day, and eating macaroni and cheese and bologna sandwiches. It was a learned way of eating (and an early introduction to weight problems). As an adult I have had to work hard to re-learn a healthier way to treat my temple (1 Cor. 6:19-20). But when that voice kicks in saying, “Boy, I’d sure love to sit down with a bag of Doritos and watch T.V. all day,” I can be certain this voice is my flesh and not Satan.

Defense Mechanisms (Flesh)

•denial (a conscious or unconscious refusal to face the truth)

•fantasy (escaping the real world)

•emotional insulation (withdrawing to avoid rejection)

•regression (reverting to less threatening times)

•displacement (taking out frustrations on others)

•projection (blaming others)

•rationalization (making excuses for poor behaviors)

[Strongholds] are fleshly thought patterns that were programmed into your mind when you learned to live your life independently of God. Your worldview was shaped by the environment you were raised in. But when you became a Christian, nobody pressed the “CLEAR” button. Your old fleshly habit patterns of thought weren’t erased.¹

I hope this clears up some of the confusion surrounding the flesh and what exactly it means. In the next post we’ll discuss Satan’s voice in specific detail.

     Are you able to recognize fleshly patterns in your own life? What is your greatest “flesh” struggle?

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¹ The Bondage Breaker ©1990/1993/2000 by Neil T. Anderson Published by Harvest House Publishers (pp. 60-61)

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Related Posts:

The Voices in My Head: God, Satan, or My Flesh (Part 1)

Satan, God, the Flesh, and Spiritual Warfare

Spiritual Warfare 101: Is it Real?

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Have You Seen ME?

Suggested Reading: Job 42:1-7

Thought for the Day: “I have seen you, and I loathe myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:5

 

I admit it; sometimes I don’t approach the throne of God with fear. Sometimes I get complacent. Sometimes I get indifferent. Sometimes my prayers begin with a “Hey, God” or “Jesus, I really need you to do…” and it’s not long before I’m getting nothing but silence. My prayers seem to bounce off the rubber ceiling.

Familiarity can produce a casual attitude. I see this in my human relationships. The more comfortable I am with someone, the more likely I am to approach them with a “Hey there” or “Can you do this for me?” But a human relationship is far different then a divine relationship.

As I read through the latter chapters of Job, I am reminded of God’s power, sovereignty, control, and awesomeness in relation to me, the creation. Who am I to approach the throne of God with such callousness? Is God my friend? Yes. Is God my companion? Yes. But he is still God.

When I’m faced with the reality of God versus the reality of myself, I have no choice but to fall on my face, loathe my state of sin, and repent. It’s so unbelievably tempting to walk through the day with pride. It’s so easy to think I’m doing okay, and God can be proud of me, His good little child. But that is a deception of the highest form.

God is proud of me as his creation, not because of anything I have done.

Job was about as righteous as they come, but after three chapters of verbal chastisement from the Holiest of Holies (see Job 38-41), Job was left on his face in repentance. He had seen God.

Today, I am humbled as God gives me a glimpse of His righteousness. Who am I but a lowly servant of the greatest King! God owes me nothing—I owe Him everything.

“I owe no one anything. Everything under the heaven is Mine.”—God (Job 41:11)

Living on the Mountaintop

“As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” Proverbs 26:11

Truth has allowed me to experience freedom, but my enemy doesn’t want me to stay there. He wants me to leap head first off the mountaintop and crash violently below in a heap of blood and bones. I’ve teetered off the edge quite a few times this week, and the only thing that has held me up is believing the word of God.

Like a dog returning to its vomit, my mind returns to the lies it believed for over a decade. I lose my temper and all of a sudden “I’m a hypocrite and a failure”. It’s amazing how quickly these thoughts enter my mind; the Enemy wastes no time feeding them like rain on weeds. Several times I have had to sit down, open my Bible and “take captive” every thought to the obedience of Christ.

Lie: “I’m a failure.”

Truth: My Father God is full of grace and mercy, and he gives me freedom to fail.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tempted in every way, just as we are-yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16

Much of this last week and a half has been spent soothing the gaping wounds left by the fiery arrows of the Enemy. I have been tempted to wallow in the “what-ifs” many times, however things are different now; this time I am running from the vomit and soaking up the nutrition that will keep me on the mountaintop. If I have to say 200 times a day, “In the name of Jesus I renounce the lie that….and choose to believe the truth that…” I am determined to do it.

Soaring on the heights is not easy work. I can’t just climb to the top and expect it to be smooth sailing. There are strong breezes up here, and it’s a long way down. Fortunately I have the strongest Hand holding mine, gently correcting my old habits one by one. The view is breath-taking up here so I think I’ll stick around.

Money Changes Everything…?

I’ll admit it, I like to watch The Voice, a singing competition where people get the opportunity to win a recording contract. One woman had a duet with famous rock singer, Cindi Lauper. The song was titled Money Changes Everything. The two women danced aggresively around the stage shouting, “Money, money money!” while large green dollar signs were projected over the walls.

Just what the world needs, a message showcasing the importance of financial gain. (Yes, that’s sarcasm.) I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, after all there are major religious sects that preach a “prosperity” driven gospel, emphasizing faith rewarded with material wealth.  As one who has experienced most levels of financial gain and ruin, even homelessness, I think I can say with the authority experience brings, money doesn’t change a thing. Some of the darkest moments in my life were during times of great material wealth. I had everything I wanted, more than I had dreamed of, but spiritually I was deader than a doorknob.

I’m reminded of 1 Timothy 6:6-20, probably the most well known passage regarding money. Verse 17 says, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” My husband and I have gone through many levels of finances; from selling possessions to pay rent, to times where purchasing a large TV was hardly noticed in the register. God has used those times to teach me what is important. I have a tendency to get concerned when the well is running dry, so, God allows the well to dry up. I am brought back to this passage again and again. “But godliness with contenment is great gain.” 1 Timothy 6:6

What the world needs is more people to discover the love God has for them. Christians rising up and proclaiming the truth. Godliness is all the gain I need. Becoming the person of Christ is the only way anything will change for me. I’m glad I saw that episode last night because it brought me back to the truth of the gospel. Jesus is all I need. Jesus changes everything. God help me, as your beloved child, to remember to “flee from all this and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” (1 Tim. 6:11) If my security is found in material things I will never be content and will likely be discouraged, disappointed, and deeply depressed.

I’ve been redeemed, I’ve been to the river and washed white as snow, I am a new creation,  I have a new life that is Jesus, and that changes everything. “In this way [I] will lay treasure for [myself] as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that [I] may take hold of life that is truly life.” (1 Tim. 6:19)

Affliction: My Teacher

 “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.” Psalm 119:71 (NIV)

Affliction: My Teacher

“I never knew the meaning of God’s word until I came into affliction. I have always found it one of my best teachers.” –Martin Luther

It has been said that Psalm 119:71 is the Old Testament equivalent of Romans 8:28 which tells us, “All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Affliction often catapults us into God’s word to find comfort, understanding, answers, to make sense of our circumstances, or to find wisdom to make the next major decision. Without that painful affliction we would not have experienced that faith deepening moment with which God spoke clarity into our hearts. I would venture to say that affliction may even be one of our greatest teachers-often bringing us closer to Christ than any other situation could. In fact, our sanctification often comes through our deepest pains. We need to be at a place of trust where we can say with joy and confidence, “It was good for me to be afflicted!”

No one looks forward to pain or affliction, and certainly we don’t ask that God shower afflictions on us in order to draw us closer to Him, but we can be certain that when we do experience painful circumstances that God is most definitely working them in a systematically ordered way for our greatest good, that we might better learn His decrees. Ask God to open your heart to the character he wants to build in you, and the blessing he wants to bestow on you or others through your trials. You may never fully understand, but you can find rest in trusting His Divine wisdom.