129. Flesh vs Spirit

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott – 

In seeking to restore the right relationship between the spirit and the soul, we saw yesterday that first of all we need to build a strong spirit. But we also need to deal with the soul. We need to understand what the soul is: other Bible words for it include flesh, mind, and heart. It is our self-awareness, it is what enables us to be aware of who we are as a person and as an individual.

This is what Paul wrote to the Galatian church:

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.

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.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
(Galatians 5:16-25).

From the inside out

We cannot change our soul from the outside in. If we want to ‘not carry out the desire of the flesh‘, we can only do that by walking by the Spirit. So we need our spirit, with the Holy Spirit, to flow out to change and transform us from the inside out.

We cannot fulfil our destiny if our soul is in charge of our life: it does not want to do the things the Spirit wants. When it submits to our spirit, it can then carry the life of the spirit, which then flows through our body, bringing the glory of God, and the kingdom, around us.

Fruit grows

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control‘. Fruit grows, gifts are given. We can have the gifts of the Holy Spirit given in an instant, tongues, prophecy, miracles, healing and so on; fruit has to develop and grow. You have to nurture it, look after the soil, fertilise it, protect it, and it grows.

The deeds of the flesh are evident‘. They are evident because they are seen on the outside of us, in our behaviour. The kind of behaviour we have to eliminate from our lives is very obvious. And we have to replace that with the fruit of the Spirit which grows from the inside out. But we cannot change those things by our own self-effort. We have to surrender them to God and allow God’s Spirit to transform us from the inside.

The flesh profits nothing

That is why Paul goes on, ‘those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh’. Past tense. We have already been crucified with Christ. When he died, we died. But we have to live in the good of that by coming through the cross, and living by the Spirit. Live by the Spirit, walk by the Spirit, because the flesh profits nothing. It has no eternal value, and only negative value here in this realm. It is the spirit, flowing with the life of the Holy Spirit, that has value.

As Paul had previously written (and I would encourage you to meditate on this scripture, for it to become so much a part of your spirit that you are living it out all the time),

I have been crucified with Christ;
and it is no longer I who live,
but Christ lives in me;
and the life which I now live in the flesh
I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

(Galatians 2:20).

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