with Jeremy Westcott –
“I am the vine, you are the branches”
God intends us to be spirit, soul and body, in that order. Our soul and body should be subject to our spirit, now that our spirit has come alive to God. If we want to build a strong spirit, we saw last time how praying in tongues on the inside and on the outside is something we need to practise.
Meanwhile we also need to deal with the soul.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.
Our spirit needs to be strong to lead, direct and guide us in our everyday life so that we will not carry out the desires of the flesh. The desires of the flesh are not good, and we have to accept that. We want to believe there is a bit of good in there somewhere, but there is not. There is nothing good about our flesh whatsoever. It always gets us in a mess.
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 (Gal 5:17).
So whilst my spirit is flowing from the Holy Spirit, and the purposes of God for my life and my destiny, my flesh has tried to get in the way and has to be brought into line. Our flesh wants to please itself; our spirit desires to please God.
Two completely different agendas, because if you please yourself you cannot please God (and our flesh does not even want us to understand that).
“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing”
Nothing of any eternal value or significance can be done apart from Jesus; apart from Him who dwells in our spirit, and flows through our life.
“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing…” (John 6:63).
That is really hard for the flesh to take. We really like to think we can at least do something. I went through a time in my personal times with God in which I was engaging Him in the garden of my heart, but I was in complete pitch-black darkness. It was not a place of fear, just of not being able to see anything and resting in complete stillness before Him. I found it so hard. I really wanted to know what was happening.
But God said, “Will you just trust Me? Just stay still, and let Me do what I need to do to prepare you for what is to come”. I thought, “Of course I can do that”. But when it came to it, my flesh was desperate to know what was going on. I remember one day I cried out to Him, “O God, what is going on?”. And He answered me, “I don’t need your assistance, just your surrender”. It was really difficult. But what it came down to was this:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding
I had to realise that maybe I did not trust Him as much as I thought I did. I had to die to that need to know what was going on. I had to choose to trust God even if I could not see anything. I had to trust that whatever He would do would be the best thing for me. So I know it is hard when we have to deal with the flesh.
Humanism is independence from God. It is doing things without God. That is what Adam and Eve bought into when they sinned. Satan offered them the opportunity to gain knowledge without God. Everything in dealing with the flesh is dealing with humanism and dealing with independence. There is nothing good that comes from independence.
We need to die to self.
Self-centredness: it is very difficult because of course we are at the centre of all that goes on in our life, but that has to flow from the spirit, not the flesh. Selfishness is wanting to put myself first above everybody else, whereas when Jesus came He said, “I have not come to be served, but to serve”. That is a completely different attitude, and I should also seek to serve rather than be served. There is no place for selfishness or self-centredness in that. We are so accustomed to being self-centred, and life revolving around us.
Anyone who is married knows that when you get married, life does not revolve around you as a single person any more. You have to think about somebody else. When we become Christians, we enter into a relationship with God in which we are no longer in first place: He is. When we become Christians, we say that we make Him Lord of our life: we must make sure that He really is.
We need to die to self-importance, self-promotion, self-reliance, self-sufficiency, even self-belief. There is nothing of the spirit in these. We can have no self-righteousness. Self-help, self-expression.
You might think, ‘Surely they are not all negative?’. Anything that comes from the flesh is negative, and however hard we find that, we have to surrender.
Self-respect, self-esteem, self-worth. If my self-respect comes from what I have done in the flesh, if my self-esteem comes from what I can do, they are not good. I want my esteem to come from how God sees me; from knowing who I am as a child of God, knowing the love of God, knowing the value He places upon me. My worth comes from knowing that I am God’s child, that He loves me and has a purpose for me. My self-image is not how I view myself, but it is seeing myself as God sees me. If we could really see ourselves as God sees us, it would transform everything about our lives.
Some things are more obviously negative: self-gratification, self-indulgence. Making ourselves feel good, using food, shopping, sex, drugs, alcohol. Whatever it is, if the self is involved, it needs to die. It needs to go on the cross.
The cross is not a pleasant place. When Jesus went to face the cross, when He was in the Garden of Gethsemane, His soul was in anguish. Literally, He sweat drops of blood, He was in so much anguish. He saw what He was going to have to carry on the cross; He looked into the cup, and in that cup of God’s wrath was every sin we have ever committed, every negative thought, every sickness that has been on our body, every sin committed against us: He took it all physically upon Himself, because He loved us so much.
He chose to say, ‘Not My will, but Yours be done’ even when His flesh, His soul, looked into what it was going to have to carry. Being sinless, because He loved us so much, He was willing to go to the cross and take our sin, our flesh, our self, and be crucified. He took our place, took the punishment of God’s wrath on sin, and He also represented us there so that we could identify with Him through the bread and the wine.
I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me
(Gal 2:20 JUB)
He died so that we could be free from the flesh, because our flesh died with Him.
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