What is the Flesh?

Posted on 05/13/2012 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.

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King of Kings and Lord of Lords
Glory, Hallelujah!
King of Kings and Lord of Lords
Glory, Hallelujah!

Jesus, Prince of Peace
Glory, Hallelujah!
Jesus, Prince of Peace
Glory, Hallelujah!


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I will bless the Lord at all times
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and unto the Lamb
To him who sits on the throne
and unto the Lamb

Be blessing and glory
and honor and power forever
Be blessing and glory
and honor and power forever

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Well, a couple of weeks ago, we wrapped up our repeat of a series on the Armor of God, and we talked about the flesh, and how we should crucify the flesh and live only according to the Spirit.

Now, you might have a perfect grasp on exactly what is and what is not considered the flesh, but personally, I had to dig in a little deeper, and I think a lot of Christians probably aren't sure of exactly what is and what is not the flesh.

Some might say that going to a party, for example, is feeding the flesh. Especially if there was alcohol at that party. Would you agree? Doesn't going to something like that sound like feeding the flesh?

Well, let's ask ourselves a question we've all heard a lot: What would Jesus do? That's a pretty good question, don't you think? After all, Jesus was perfect. He pleased God in all things. He never gave into temptation. And He certainly didn't go around feeding His flesh.

So what DID Jesus do? Let's find out.

John 2:1-11 (NKJV)

1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.
2 Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding.
3 And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, "They have no wine."

4 Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come."

5 His mother said to the servants, "Whatever He says to you, do it."

6 Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece.
7 Jesus said to them, "Fill the waterpots with water." And they filled them up to the brim.
8 And He said to them, "Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast." And they took it.
9 When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom.
10 And he said to him, "Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!"

11 This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.

Of course this wasn't a wild party where everyone went to get drunk and enjoy as much immorality as possible. But perhaps we can use this example to remind ourselves that we should not make blind assumptions and accept blanket statements, such as accepting that "going to a party where there is alcohol" is equal to "feeding the flesh." There's simply not enough information there for us to know whether going to such an event would necessarily be feeding our flesh.

Let's take a closer look at the passage we just read, and see if there are any clues in there which might be able to point us in the right direction to learn what is fleshly and what is not.

First, Mary tells Jesus that they were out of wine. And Jesus' response is quite interesting when you think about it. He said, "Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come."

First of all, why did Mary tell Jesus they were out of wine? He hadn't performed any miracles yet. What did she expect Him to do?

Obviously, she was expecting Jesus, for whatever reason, to help meet their need; and we can come to that conclusion because of His response: 'Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me?" Jesus wasn't being rude. If Mary had simply been making small talk with Jesus, do you think He would have said that? 'Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me?"

And then He followed that up by saying, "My hour has not yet come." His hour for what? Well, we see His "hour" mentioned a few other times in Scripture, specifically in the Gospel according to John. Let's take a quick look at them:

John 7:30 (NKJV)

30 Therefore they sought to take (Jesus); but no one laid a hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come.

John 8:20 (NKJV)

20 These words Jesus spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one laid hands on Him, for His hour had not yet come.

John 12:23 (NKJV)

23 But Jesus answered them, saying, "The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified."

John 17:1 (NKJV)

1 Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: "Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You."

Now, this last one is right before they went to the Garden of Gethsemany, and Jesus was betrayed. And the one before that becomes clear when we read the following verse.

John 12:23-24 (NKJV)

23 But Jesus answered them, saying, "The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.
24 Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain."

So Jesus was talking about His death; but more specifically, He was talking about His being glorified. After all, there were MANY aspects to His death -- the washing away of sins; the demonstrating of God's incredible love for mankind; and so-on. But the part of His death that was most relevant to "His hour" was His glorification.

Now, it's interesting to note here that the Roman sentence of crucifixion was designed to be not only incredibly painful, but also very shameful. The person's clothes would be stripped off, and they would be hung up in busy public places for everyone to see their nakedness and their helplessness as they suffered and died.

But Jesus spoke of His death as His hour of glory. "The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified."

The Bible tells us that Jesus actually became your sin and mine. And yet He still said, "The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified."

Now I don't know about you, but I find that to be something that's rather difficult to wrap my head around. Well, my earthly mind that is. But Jesus' mind was focused on the heavenly. Maybe that's why, when His mother told Him they were out of wine, He said to her, "Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come."

You see, Jesus' mind wasn't set on merely earthly things. And I say "merely" because He DID turn the water into wine. And it tasted better to the natural man than what they had before. But His focus wasn't on the gratification of that human desire for wine, or on its superiour taste alone. Instead, Jesus saw the spiritual in the physical; the heavenly in the earthly; the supernatural in the natural. And He provided for what many in the Church today would consider fleshly, because He obviously didn't agree.

After all, James 1:13 (NKJV) says this:

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.

So Jesus was not providing for something that could only be used to feed the flesh. It was not the activity of the party or the enjoyment of wine that was fleshly. Instead, those things could be used to indulge the flesh, but they could also be used to symbolize the spirit.

The enjoyment of the party and the wine weren't evil in themselves, nor were they automatically a feeding of the flesh.

Psalm 104:14-15 (NKJV) says this:

14 (God) causes the grass to grow for the cattle,
And vegetation for the service of man,
That he may bring forth food from the earth,
15 And wine that makes glad the heart of man,
Oil to make his face shine,
And bread which strengthens man's heart.

Enjoying life isn't automatically feeding your flesh. Eating tasty food isn't evil. Drinking something that tastes good to you isn't evil. Enjoying the things God has created isn't evil. Enjoying these things does not automatically equal feeding your flesh.

In the same way, going to church isn't automatically feeding your spirit. Nor is reading the Bible, praying, singing worship songs, or being active in ministry.

So what is the distinction between feeding the spirit and feeding the flesh? And how can we know when we're feeding what, and how can we choose to feed the right thing?

Well, there are three things I'd like for us to consider today that we can glean from the account of Jesus at the wedding feast.

First, let's take another look at Jesus' response to Mary when she told Him they were out of wine. He said, "Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come."

The first part of His response was to ask her what her concern had to do with Him. And the second part of His response revealed the reason He asked her that question, and that reason was this: "My hour has not yet come."

It's been said that timing is everything. Well, whether it's everything, it certainly is important. For example, suppose God is calling you to go full time into the ministry, but first He wants you to work a secular job to save up money, because, for reasons He knows, He wants you to pay for your ministry education out of your own pocket. But instead of waiting and working, or even going to ministry school first, you quit your job and move to a foreign mission field.

Is leaving everything behind and living a life of poverty to spread the Gospel an evil thing to do? And does doing that mean you're feeding your flesh? Of course most people was immediately answer "no." But let's turn those questions around: Is turning away from a secular life to spread the Gospel automatically a good thing to do? And does doing that mean you're feeding your spirit? Would such a thing automatically please God?

In both scenarios, you're called by God. But the timing makes a world of difference.

And that's the first distinction I'd like for us to consider today:

- God's timing versus our timing.

What you're doing could very well be God's idea; but if you're doing it in your own time frame, you are out of the will of God, and you are following your flesh instead of following the Spirit.

Here's a rediculous example. Suppose it's God's will for two people to get married. He has their lives planned out in such a way that their characters, personalities, experiences, and life paths meet and compliment in exactly the right way and the right time.

But right now, one of them is three years old. The other one was born only twenty-five minutes ago. They're ordained to be together, so wouldn't they be in God's will if they somehow got married today?

Like I said, that's a rediculous example. But I hope that paints a really obvious picture of something that is all-too-often more subtle and harder to see.

And while two people of that age wouldn't be overly interested in marrying eachother, sometime our own fleshly desires cause us to become blind to God's timing, or to deceive ourselves into believe God's timing is now.

And I say our own "fleshly" desires, because any time a desire or an action does not meet the criteria of a spiritual desire or action, then it is of the flesh.

So the first distinction is God's timing versus our timing.

And the second distinction I'd like for us to consider today is this:

- God's way versus our way.

In verse five of John chapter two, after Jesus said that His time had not yet come, we read this:

5. His mother said to the servants, "Whatever He says to you, do it."

That's pretty good advice, wouldn't you agree? "Whatever Jesus says to you, do it."

But there was more to her words than just words. After all, Jesus did not say, "Put some water in something." Instead, He pointed to ceremonial water pots; and instead of telling the men to put some water in them, He told them to FILL them. Next, He told them to draw out some of the water (or at least what USED to be water) and take it to the master of the feast.

Jesus gave specific instructions. And what do you think would have happened if they had just drawn some water out of the well and took it to the master of the feast? I think he would have responded with something like, "Thanks for the water, but we're still out of wine."

I think sometimes we try to improvise. God has given us instructions, but we think we can get things done better by doing them another way. But guess what? Doing things our own way instead of God's way is doing things in the flesh, even if that thing is something that, in itself, would be something good.

You can not walk after the spirit while you're doing things your own way, or someone else's way, instead of God's way.

Let's go back to our example of the two people who God ordained to be husband and wife. Let's suppose they waited until God gave the green light; but instead of obeying the law, which is one way we are commanded to obey God, they decide that they should just move in together.

Well, we can be sure this isn't God's way, because first of all, it's the appearance of sin. Second of all, it's rebellion against the authority God has put in place. Third of all, living together before being officially married doesn't work. Statistics tell us that people who live together before being married are much more likely to split up than people who are married first, and they're also more likely to be unfaithful to their partner. God's ways work. The world's ways don't. And if you're ever unsure of what the Bible says about an issue, just look at what works versus what fails.

So we've looked at two distinctions between the spirit and the flesh: God's timing versus our timing, and God's way versus our way.

And the third and final distinction I'd like for us to ponder today is this: God's glory versus our glory.

In verse eleven of our passage today, we read this:

11 This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.

Of course someone could pull out this verse and say that they want to perform miracles to manifest their own glory so that people will believe in them. And people do this all the time.

But this is talking about JESUS. HE was the one who was glorified; and the result was not that people believed in some teacher or prophet or leader; rather, the result was that people believed in HIM.

Does what you're doing, when you're doing it, and how you're doing it bring glory to God? If not, then you're just feeding your flesh, even if it's something that looks and feels spiritual. But if it does bring God glory, then you're walking after the spirit.

Even if that something is going to a good party where alcohol is served. And I keep bringing up that example because it's something that gives us a gut reaction of "that's evil," and it's also where Jesus performed His first miracle, which was to make it possible for them to server MORE alcohol. Now let me make it clear right here that I am NOT condoning getting drunk; this is just a really good example for making a very important point.

The production of that alcoholic beverage brought glory to God.

Three people could stand on the same mountain, and look out over the trees and a large, beautiful lake.

One might ponder how long it must have taken for self-creating life to accidentally change and evolve into the meaningless series of random events we see before us today.

Another might consider that if they brought their girlfriend up here this weekend, they might get lucky.

And the third might take a deep breath and enjoy the magnificent splendor of God's creation, being awestruck by how incredible God must be to create such indescribable wonders.

After all, the whole earth is filled with the glory of God. It declares His glory and His power. And if we acknowledge His presence in all good things, and we are grateful to Him for those things, then enjoying those things can be part of walking in the spirit, while rejecting the pleasure they bring could be a way of unknowingly reject the glory of God those things declare.

So let's approach all things in life like this:

1. Let us wait for God's timing instead of trying to speed things up or slow them down.

2. Let's do things God's way, and exactly as He leads down to the smallest detail, insted of trying to help things along by following our own way or someone else's.

and 3. Let's see God's glory in all good things, and seek to glorify and point to Him in everything we do, in when we do it, and in how we do it.

And if we live in this way, we will be feeding the spirit and starving the flesh, and we will walk ever closer with God.

Let's close today's service with a time of prayer, worship, and ministry. You're all invited to get out of your seat right now and make youre way to the front. If you'd like someone to talk or pray with you, feel free to instant message Mariposa or me, and whenever you need to go, you're dismissed.

After this time at the altar, we're going to have a time of fellowship in the Fellowship Room; so when you're done at the altar, make your way out of the sanctuary and go left.

Come, and let's seek and surrender to God, as we embrace His timing, His way, and His glory.

Lord, thank you for speaking to us today through your word. Thank you for opening our eyes to what you want us to see in our lives today. And thank you that when you speak to us and when you tell us to do something, you also provide the power and make the way so that, walking in your spirit, we can obey.

We ask that you remind us of the things we've discussed today as we go about our week, so that we feed our spirit man rather than our flesh.

And we ask all these things in the name of Jesus and for the glory of God. Amen.