On my November 8, 2016, post, I mentioned my Christian friend Barb. I met Barb at Yale University. She was part of a Christian prayer group that met every Tuesday at 12:00. Our group prayed for revival throughout the Yale campus (as in 1802 when Timothy Dwight was president of Yale!), as well as for the needs of our group members, co-workers, etc… In the summer of 2014 (approximate date), Barb led us in a Bible study. The topic of that study was: The Spirit vs the Flesh. This teaching was another one of the many ways, Jesus brought about deliverance/freedom in my life. In Christ, we are free in many ways. One of those ways is the freedom to choose to love and serve Him; or not. : -(
Free Will – The Freedom To Choose
The Scriptures are full of teaching/instruction about living in the Spirit. About being led by the indwelling Spirit of the resurrected/living God. We are commanded to believe and have faith in ALL of God’s goodness, power, and promises; but we are never forced. We, as committed Christians, choose to believe God’s Word over our circumstances, denying ourselves, choosing to love others and serve God alone – Luke 4:8.
The Scriptures are also full of warnings about living in the flesh. About being controlled by our feelings, fears, lusts, selfish desires, etc… The Bible tells us in Genesis 2:16 that the LORD gave us free will. God extends that free will to us throughout our earthly lives. We choose Jesus at salvation. Then, we choose how we will live each new day – Deuteronomy 30: 15, 19, Joshua 24:15, Psalm 119:30. Are the choices we make for good or for evil? Do we choose to serve our selfish desires, or do we choose to serve our God, the lost and the hurting around us? Are we controlled by our fleeting emotions, or led by faith in our faithful God? Do we choose to live a life of fear, or do we trust God with our lives, with our every breath?
By Their Fruit, You Will Know Them
A life lived in the Spirit looks like someone who: believes, loves and desires God enough to choose to live according to Biblical teachings. I’m talking about a lifestyle of obedience, birthed in love for Jesus and lived by faith. In Matthew 7:16, the Bible says: By their fruit, they will be known. The fruit of living in the Spirit of God, vs yielding to our flesh:
Giving thanks in all things
Slow to speak, quick to hear
Focused on own spiritual maturity
Loving God first and only
Sensitive to the needs of others
Patient/persistent in faith
Unmoved by circumstances/steadfast in faith
Quick to speak, slow to hear
Critical, judgmental of others
Lover of money and self
Self-centered, focused on personal desires and comfort
Easily angered, frustrated, discouraged
Double-minded, faith tossed by the wind and waves of life
Below are some of the Bible verses we studied with Barb – I’ve added 1 (Mark 14:38):
Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The Spirit is willing, but the flesh/body is weak (Mark 14:38).
Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other so that you are not to do whatever you want (Galatians 5: 16-17).
Put on (clothe yourself with) the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts (Romans 13:14).
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires, but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace (Romans 8: 5-6).
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 (Galatians 6:8).
For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death (Romans 7:5).
So You Say – This is Not Easy, This Living in the Spirit Realm Stuff
And I would say, you are exactly right! It is not easy. Jesus and Paul (via the Holy Spirit) say: This requires death to self…
Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds (bears much fruit). Whoever loves his life will lose it, but whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves Me must follow Me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves Me (John 12:24-26).
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and was raised again.… 2 Corinthians 5: 14-15. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20).
Loving God More Than Anyone or Anything in the World
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever (1 John 2: 15-17).
A Closing Prayer in the Form of Question
Lord Jesus, What would happen to the world if Your children loved You first? If we believed You and coveted nothing or no one but You? If we took Your words, believed them, then lived them? If we loved You with all our hearts, souls, minds, strength, and loved others as ourselves? How would our families, neighbors, friends, co-workers, strangers we meet every day, etc… be transformed, if we lived as the ‘Church,’ not just on Sunday; but Monday – Saturday too?
If MY people… 2 Chronicles 7:14