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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Spiritual Warfare 101: Is it Real?

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Spiritual warfare is real, whether you believe it or not. If you think I’ve gone off the deep end with my theology, consider the following evidences (I’m going to assume if you’re a regular reader of this website that you believe the Bible to be the true, infallible word of God):

•The Lord of Hosts

You can scarce read the Old Testament without running into the phrase “Lord of Hosts” (using the King James Version, anyways). The name “Lord of Hosts” in the following Scriptures all have the same Hebrew meaning, and there were dozens more I didn’t include for reasons of time and space.

“As for our redeemer, the Lord of Hosts is his name, the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah 47:4

“Again the word of the Lord of Hosts came to me.” Zechariah 8:1

“The Lord of Hosts is with us.” Psalm 46:7

“Therefore thus saith the Lord of Hosts…” Jeremiah 23:15

“Hear ye and testify in the house of Jacob, saith the Lord God, the God of Hosts.” Amos 3:13

The word “hosts” (tseb-aw-aw’) is derived from the root word meaning assemble, fight, perform, or war. The term “Lord of Hosts” can be translated “The Lord of Armies” or “The Lord of War”. He is an active God of the ARMIES! Why do you suppose the term “Lord of Armies” would be included in the Bible, at least a hundred times in just the Old Testament, if it didn’t mean exactly what it says, that God leads an army? What exactly is an army used for? Battle!

The battle is so real, the people and prophets of God referred to their Leader as the divine captain of the largest host of armies ever amassed (Isaiah used the term “Lord of Hosts” more than thirty times in his book). Our Lord is not passive, He is active and fighting a very real, very serious spiritual war. So why aren’t we?

•The Apostles (After the Cross)

Paul (and the other apostles) had a godly view of spiritual warfare. Paul often spoke of principalities, powers, forces, spirits, Satan, the enemy, the battle, and other “spiritual warfare” terms. He spoke of it as if it were a fact, a reality, a real issue the Church needed to be aware of. (I’m purposely not mentioning the work of Jesus here [casting out demons…etc.] which will be discussed in later posts.)

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12

“His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 3:10

“Resist the devil.” James 4:7

“Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

“And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.” Revelation 12:9

•Noema

It doesn’t get more straight-forward than this, friends. Noema (no-ay-mah) is the Greek word for “mind”. Consider these uses of this specific form of the word noema:

“If there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes (noema).” 2 Corinthians 2:10-11

“In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds (noema) of them which believe not.” 2 Corinthians 4:4

“Casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought (noema) to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5

Did you notice anything interesting? The same Greek word, noema, is used in three different passages of the same context—how Satan directly influences the minds and thoughts of people, believers and non-believers alike. Another definition of noema is perception. In other words, it is a satanic perception of circumstances that influence us toward unforgiveness (2 Cor. 2:11), and a satanic perception of circumstances which blinds the minds of unbelievers against the true knowledge of Christ (2 Cor. 4:4), and also a satanic perception of events that infiltrate the minds of believers which can lead them into sinful behaviors (2 Cor. 10:5).

Satan is real, his influence is real, and the battle we face every day is real. God is fighting, his angelic armies are fighting, but are we as the bride of Christ fulfilling our role in this area (see Eph. 3:10)? Why aren’t we talking about this in our churches, teaching this in Sunday Schools, and hearing this from our pulpits? Perhaps the greatest deception of all is the belief that no “battle” exists, and if it does, I certainly don’t need to get involved. After all, didn’t Jesus defeat the enemy at the cross?

Well, if that is what you have believed I pray your eyes will be opened now to see the dangerous “perception” of that thinking. If you’re not fighting, Satan is gaining ground in your life. As I pointed out in the above section “After the Cross”, all of those Scriptures were written for believers after the death and resurrection of Christ. Obviously, we still have a battle to fight.

Now it’s your turn. What role do you actively take in spiritual warfare? Do you believe it is important? Why or why not? Is it an easy battle for you? On a scale of 1-10 (1 being the lowest, 10 being the highest) how would you rate your daily participation and awareness of spiritual warfare?

As the scales begin to fall from your eyes and you take a more active role in fighting Satan’s schemes (noema), you will face more spiritual (and physical) opposition, I can guarantee it. Write the above verses down, keep them with you and memorize them, because you will need the truth to fight. Without the truth, you are defenseless and will be rendered an ineffective, unarmed soldier.

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In my next post I’ll be discussing the voices in our head (the Holy Spirit, Satan, and our Flesh) and how you can recognize what voices are coming from where (remember, Satan quotes Scripture too!). If you need to catch up on what all this spiritual warfare talk is about, check out my last post. If you haven’t already, please take a moment to subscribe to this blog (it’s free and your information is not shared) in the space provided on the upper right hand area of this web page so you can receive future posts. I look forward to getting to know you and hearing what your battles in the spiritual realm have been like. Comments are encouraged (however, insults, personal attacks and foul language will not be allowed on this website).

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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.

I’m Hearing Voices…

“Every negative thought about yourself or another person is not from God. It cannot be from God. It is either from the Enemy, the World, or the Flesh,” Steve told me after I asked him about the negative thoughts that had possessed my mind for two decades.

Such a simple statement and yet the truth is profound, even life-changing for someone like me. I started hearing that “voice” at a young age, maybe 6 or 7. The voice said, “You’re not good enough” and “They don’t care about you.” I also heard voices like, “He’s such a jerk” and “She is always using you, wiping her feet on you like a doormat.” I’d venture to say I am not the only one who has experienced such mental interference. Even in prayer the voice interrupts. “God doesn’t want to hear from you” and “Isn’t it selfish to pray for yourself?” What would my life look like if I believed these lies and behaved accordingly? Well, until recently, my life took on the form of these lies through my behaviors. It required honesty, confession, repentance, and spiritual warfare to break free from those chains of bondage.

Any voice of condemnation, shame, or slander could not come from my Holy Heavenly God. When I look at my husband and think, “He is so mean”, I can acknowledge this voice for what it is: a liar. I can acknowledge where the voice came from: the Accuser. I can renounce the enemy and his lies, and choose the way of truth: “God so loved the world” (Jn. 3:16) and “He first loved us”. (1 Jn. 4:19) All of us were created in His image (Gen. 1:26) and I am to think and act blamelessly towards my fellow creations, regardless of how I’ve been treated.

*Recognize the Enemy’s influence in my thought life:

“How is it that Satan has filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit?” (Acts 5:3)

*Recognize the World’s influence in my thought life:

“We know…that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” (1 Jn. 5:19)

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world.” (Rom. 12:2)

*Recognize the Flesh’s influence in my thoughts.

“For the sinful nature [flesh] desires what is contrary to the Spirit.” (Gal. 5:17)

The next time I hear the negative voices, I can identify where it is coming from and renounce it in the name of Jesus. “We also know that the Son of God has come to give us understanding, so that we may know him who is TRUE.” (1 Jn. 5:20)

I cannot think on what is pure, lovely, good and wholesome (Phil. 4:8) if my mind is filled with lies and slander towards God’s creation, people. I’m determined to make a daily trade in my stocks of beliefs. I’m trading the lies for the truth; what is ugly for purity; what is demoralizing for what restores. If my gaping wounds of lies are left open, they will quickly fester into infection of more lies. The only way the wounds heal is if they are soothed with the balm of truth.

Lies steal; truth heals.

“[I] demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and [I] take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:5)

“By faith I choose to be filled with the Spirit so I can be guided into all truth. I choose to walk by the Spirit so that I will not carry out the desires of the flesh. I choose to renew my mind by the living word of God in order that I may prove that the will of God is good, acceptable, and perfect. I put off the old self with its evil practices and I put on the new self. I declare myself to be a new creation in Christ.”Statements of Truth, (The Steps to Freedom in Christ -Neil Anderson)

Holy Water

Holy Water

“With my lips I recount all of the laws that come from your mouth.” Psalm 119:13 NIV

I’ll admit it, I like to sing in the shower, in my car, while I am doing the dishes, vacuuming, or even cleaning the litter box (which is tricky when you’re trying not to inhale).  Music has always been a part of my life and as an accompaniment pianist, I find myself hearing rhythms, accompaniment patterns, and ad libs whenever I listen to a song. I can’t even hear a clock ticking without hearing tempos and singing songs in my head. I have memorized many songs unintentionally just by listening to them and singing them over and over again. It’s really annoying when I get a commercial jingle stuck in my head, and I find myself singing about auto insurance at odd hours of the night.

A lot of times we think we can’t remember anything, and it’s true we all misplace our keys or lose our debit cards occasionally. (In my case almost daily in the pit that is my purse.) If we’re honest we’ll admit it’s not as hard to memorize something as we think it is; in reality it just depends on what’s important to us and what we choose to listen to/look at on a consistent basis.

The Psalmist said he could recount all of the laws verbally. That’s a pretty impressive statement. How do you suppose he was able to do that? I doubt it was because he glanced over them for an hour once a week. He most likely repeated them over and over again out loud many times a day; just like that commercial jingle that gets stuck in your head because you hear it over and over again during that football game (or movie or whatever you like to watch). When we hear something and repeat it out loud we tend to remember it better. Often times when I am trying to memorize a verse I repeat it out loud many times as I lay in bed until I fall asleep. It’s the first thing on my mind when I wake up and I remember it a lot better than just reading a verse on a page. You would think having spent over a year studying Psalm 119, I would have most of it memorized by now, but it’s not the case. I only remember the verses I have intentionally sought to remember and spent time speaking them and hearing my own voice saying them. That verbal reinforcement is powerful and transforming.

The Hebrew word for recount in this verse is actually to declare, inscribe, enumerate, celebrate, commune, speak, talk or tell.  This is not just a mental exercise; it’s also a physical process involving the tongue. It’s no wonder this is necessary in training the mind as we see in James 3:6:

“The tongue is also a fire, a word of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire.”

Have you ever said something you regretted? Has your tongue ever gotten you in trouble and lit up your life like a flaming wildfire? I know I have. The Scriptures are our way of dousing those flames with “holy water”, so to speak. When we declare the words of the Lord with our mouths, we reiterate to our minds truth that transforms. It takes black and white off the page and puts it into practice. We’re more likely to remember the words and attitude of Jesus that we are told to emulate if we are spending time repeating them. Is there something in your life that you struggle with? Perhaps it’s anger, gossip, or impatience. Find a verse that addresses the issue you struggle with, and commit it to memory by repeating it out loud several times every day. Listen to the word of God spoken on a cd in your car, or record it yourself to listen to you when you’re driving. Declare it in your bed at night until it begins to transform your mind and you can say, “With my lips I recount your laws, Lord!”

Prayer

Jesus, I ask that you reveal a verse to me that I need to commit to memory. I want my actions to mirror the life of Jesus, and I realize I need to have a transformation of thinking in order for that to occur. Control the damaging flames of my tongue with the cooling water of your word.