From Carnal to Spiritual: Maladjusted Flesh

“And I, brothers, was not able to speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to fleshly men, as to infants in Christ…” But he who is spiritual examines all things,…” (1 Cor. 3:1; 2:15a LSB)

When I stroll down memory lane I am very blessed by my heritage of loving and supportive parents, grandparents and great grandparents. Humanly speaking, my life has been derived from them and they have left contributions and influences that have had a part in shaping my personality.

Some of these relatives, who have been promoted to glory, gave items to me which I still have. For example my paternal grandfather, A. M. Woodward, once gave me his bowling ball and on another occasion his antique watch. More than these, I treasure fond memories of his love, humor and generosity.

Maladjusted Flesh

Allow me to let the bowling ball represent maladjusted flesh patterns. (If you would see my score sheet at the bowling alley, you might guess the connection!) The antique watch can represent the well-adjusted flesh patterns.

The Bible speaks of the flesh as an inward nemesis: “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Gal. 5:16,17). The flesh (Self-Life) is a condition or way of living out of one’s own resources as if one is independent of God. The flesh (in its ethical use) is both sin-stained and sin-trained.

We each have developed our own unique version of the flesh. Bill Gillham has categorized basic flesh orientations: “We can lump all Christians into three broad categories: Yukky Flesh, Plain Vanilla Flesh, and USDA Choice Flesh. The person with Yukky Flesh has been reared in an environment where, no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t get his love supply out of it by do-it-yourself tactics… The Plain Vanilla, or average, Flesh person has been moderately successful, neither a roaring success nor a total failure at getting his needs for self-esteem met. The USDA Choice Flesh person is everyone’s candidate for Mr. Christian. His high self-esteem is a result of his skill at milking love out of the world.” [1]

Michael Wells has described the programming of the flesh this way. “Every sin that was committed, idol trusted, and identity message received had to register in your mind, will, and emotions (your soul), and therefore the complete history of your old nature is stored there. When the old man is put to death and replaced with Christ’s life and Spirit, we are one with Him and He with us (John 17:21) … We receive new spirits, but our old souls containing the old information remain.”[2]  It seems that the soul’s connection to the physical body makes it susceptible to these fleshly memory patterns.

When we think of the works of the flesh, we primarily identify unethical behavior as listed in Galatians 5:19-21 (self-rottenness). However, there are behaviors and attitudes that are more socially acceptable, yet still derive from the flesh (self- righteousness).  The common trait of carnality is that these characteristics derive from the flesh instead of by the indwelling Spirit of God. God’s will for us as believers in the Lord Jesus is to replace our old ‘self’ qualities with Christ-like qualities; this process unfolds as we walk in the Spirit.

The following list contrast maladjusted flesh and the corresponding qualities the believer has in Christ.

Spiritual Truth

Maladjusted flesh triggers negative feelings, but the spiritual truth affirms the opposite:

Flesh / Spiritual Truth

worthless -> precious
unwanted -> chosen
inferior -> destined for glory
emotionally blocked -> free to feel
depressed -> overflowing with joy
isolated -> involved
introspective -> looking unto Jesus
performance-based -> accepted in the Beloved
undisciplined -> self-controlled
self-condemned -> Christ-esteemed
self-rejected -> totally forgiven [3]

God’s directive to us is well stated in Romans 12:1,2: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

Part two of this article will look more closely at the “well adjusted” flesh patterns (the “antique watch” variety). The remedy for every believer’s unique flesh patterns is to abide in Christ, which includes reaffirming our identity in Christ, presenting ourselves to God moment by moment as instruments of righteousness, and depending upon the power of the Holy Spirit.

Our aim should be that of 2 Corinthians 7:1, “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh [old programming] and spirit [deceptive messages from the Enemy], perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

Maladjusted flesh, like a bowling ball with the wrong spin, will turn us toward the gutter every time. Our only hope is to constantly yield to the guiding hands of our Savior.


Part 1 of 2


[1] Bill Gillham, Lifetime Guarantee, (Eugene OR: Harvest House), p.18

[USDA Choice = U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Choice = good quality]

[2] Michael Wells, Sidetracked in the Wilderness, (Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell), p.114

[3] lists adapted from The Solomon Institute in Spirituotherapy (Pigeon Forge, TN: Grace Fellowship International)

Copyright 2000 by John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint this article if credit is given to the author and Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright by Thomas Nelson.

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