Wednesday, March 4, 2009

P4E.101 What "the Flesh" Looks Like and What to Do About It

This is the third, and last, post in a series about being "disconnected."

My son, Ben, and I were driving and listening to a pastor on the radio talk about the flesh and the spirit. The pastor talked a lot about the flesh and seemed to focus in on vices like sexual immorality, smoking, drinking, etc. It got me to thinking...

Later, while munching In-N-Out cheeseburgers, I asked Ben if he understood what we meant when we talked about the 'flesh' and the 'spirit.' Like many 15 year-olds, he shrugged his shoulders and said "I don't knowwwwww." So, I asked him, "When mom says to me, 'Kim, you're being fleshy,' what do you think she means?" He thought while chewing, "Grouchy?" "Mmmhmmm, what else?" "Irritable. Impatient." "Wow. That's good. Good job, Ben!" He smiled, while swirling his french fry in the extra spread sauce. I stopped asking questions while I was ahead.

Scripture talks about the flesh and the spirit being in "opposition" to each other. It also says,

"Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."

I think most "Christian" men are clear about and wouldn't defend anything at the beginning or the end of the "deeds of the flesh" list. They'd feel guilty about practicing anything at the beginning or end of the list. It's the middle of the list that gets me. There's some gray area there...

Ken Nair describes marriage as the "rubber meets the road" place where we men get to practice our Christianity. It shames me to admit that the deeds of the flesh were abundantly evident in my marriage. I especially had trouble with enmity, strife, OUTBURSTS OF ANGER, disputes, dissensions, and factions. I have been "grouchy, irritable and impatient" for much of my marriage. I also justified my flesh by insisting that "This IS who I am. I can't change me."

So, what can be done about "the flesh?" When I'm in a good place, here are some of my strategies:

1. I no longer accept the idea that I can't change. In fact, I believe that becoming a "Believer" means I must change as part of overcoming my "flesh" nature.

2. I elevate my regard for the "spirit." My own and others'. I'm studying about the spirit. I don't ignore it.

3. I elevate my regard for my wife, who IS more spiritually oriented than I am and who God gave to me as a "help." I am no longer at enmity with her. This lessens strife, disputes, dissensions, and factions. "So they are no longer two, but one flesh."

4. I ASK for help from my wife when it comes to relational/spiritual matters, whether it has to do with her or my children, my friends, my relatives, my co-workers or my bosses. I ASK GOD and trustworthy, spiritually minded men for their help too.

5. I ACT upon the help that my wife, God and godly men give to me.

6. I commit to becoming more self-aware, so that I can recognize when the "flesh" is controlling my spirit. When I'm self-aware, I feel less disconnected.

7. I elevate my FEAR of the LORD. Some people like to translate this "fear" as "respect," or "reverence." It has actually helped me to think of it more as "terror" or "dread." This perspective was born out of my asking the question, "Do I really believe what I say I believe? Am I a "Believer?" So, when I look at Scripture and see things like,

"the deeds of the flesh...will not inherit the kingdom of God." and

"For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace..." and

"...those who are in the flesh cannot please God." and

"for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live." and

"For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life."

I begin to get the idea that I might die an eternal death if I keep allowing my flesh to rule me. That has struck terror into my heart. I've been scared straight.

But, this fear has another side-effect: It brings wisdom and understanding. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding."

8. Instead of getting angry, I take a deep breath and wait for understanding. As long as it takes. "He who is slow to anger has great understanding, But he who is quick-tempered exalts folly." I'm not as grouchy, irritable and impatient.

9. I limit my "news of the world" intake and increase my "good news" intake. We don't have regular television. I limit the amount of news and information I take in from the radio and Internet. As they say, it's "garbage in, garbage out." As trite as it sounds, I've got to read my Scripture or I get disconnected from God and those around me.

10. When I do mess up (as I many times do), I'm quicker to acknowledge that I have, apologize, ask forgiveness and make a strong commitment to get better.

The bottom line is that the more fleshy I am, the more disconnected I am. And, the more spiritually minded I am, the more connected I am.

Praying for our "connectedness", Kim

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