Know thyself. — Plato
Everyone one of us battles with the flesh. But what is it anyway? It’s been defined in many ways. A literal interpretation would say that it is anything and everything physical about us including hormones, brain, etc. On a practical level, living in the flesh means living as we did before we had the Spirit. It means to live out of our own human resources independently of God—and it can look really, really different from person to person.
Bill Gillham painted a memorable picture of three different flavors of “flesh” among Christians:
- USDA Choice Flesh
- Homemade Vanilla Flesh
- Yuck Flesh
USDA Choice flesh usually comes with extraordinarily capable people. As a result, they live out of their own capabilities most of the time. It usually looks like it’s working, but as far as God’s concerned, it’s nothing. The apostle Paul, when he was Saul of Tarsus, had USDA Choice flesh. I mean, he had a résumé a mile long of his accomplishments in the flesh, didn’t he? In Philippians 3:4-6 he said:
If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
If you have this kind of flesh, it’s a very dangerous place to be because you can go long periods of time without walking in the Spirit because you’re so capable in the flesh. When Paul looked back at his USDA Choice days, in retrospect he said:
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:7-8)
Is this your flavor of flesh?
Father, teach me to recognize my flesh flavor and patterns, so that I can reject them, and live in intimate dependency on Your Son. Amen.
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