Well-Adjusted Flesh

“Well-Adjusted Flesh”

Not all believers who become convicted of their “self- life” are disillusioned from “maladjusted flesh”; some must deal with “well-adjusted flesh.” In other words, some disciples surrender to Christ as their life (Gal. 2:20) following years of being “down and out”; others surrender after being “up and out.” But whether it is “negative” or “positive” in its style, flesh is still FLESH!

Last issue I dubbed the more acceptable, “good” flesh patterns as “antique watch” items. We tend to value and rely on them instead of our union with Christ and the sufficiency of His life in us (Rom. 5:10). Bill Gillham calls this positive orientation “U.S.D.A. Choice flesh.” [1] Those who have been successful in getting their needs met through their skill and efforts would have more of this kind of programming in their soul. Their approach to Christian living may be summed up in the Nike slogan –“just do it!!”

Pastor Jack Taylor had this orientation, testifying, “I wanted more than anything else in life to succeed! … So I simply worked hard, prayed much, did the best I could, and rededicated my life every now and then just for good measure. I must admit to you now (though I wouldn’t have then) that I was pretty miserable trying to outwit the critical and outwork the witty. But alas, hard work began to pay off … Th

ere was success. In fact, after five years, I had the chance to prove that success did not hold the discovery of that secret I longed for more than anything else in the world. I woke up one morning at twenty-nine years of age with everything my system had taught me to have ambition for, and I was MISERABLE!”[2] Pastor Taylor became disillusioned of his “positive flesh.”

How does the Lord evaluate this kind of fleshly living? Many relevant lessons on this theme come through the apostle Paul. A classic passage on the need to avoid religious self-reliance is Philippians 3:3-10 where Paul gives his personal testimony on the futility of “well-adjusted flesh”: “For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” Eventually, Paul was convicted that he could not perform well enough to avoid inner sins such as coveting (Rom. 7:7-10).

Steve McVey describes this “positive” type of flesh pattern: “Your flesh-life may not be defiant against God. Walking after the flesh is simply relying on your own ability instead of God’s resources. Don’t think of the flesh as something that you naturally find repulsive. It may be very attractive and even look spiritual.”[3] Although the church may applaud self-righteousness, it still springs from the self-life (flesh) and, therefore, cannot please God (Rom. 8:8 Cf. Luke 18:9-17).

Consider how God’s Spirit can replace performance-based fleshly programming with His fruit in our lives:

“Positive flesh” compared with – [Qualities of the Christ-life]:

superiority – [humility];

popularity – [esteem others];

controlling – [accepting];

addiction to success – [addiction to Christ];

rationalization – [integrity];

comparisons – [encouraging others];

blame others – [accountability];

resourceful – [resting];

self-love – [Christ-esteem];

religious – [spiritual] [4]

When Paul was tempted to walk according to the flesh he would be more prone to self-righteousness than self-rottenness (blatant evil). So God allowed the Enemy to send Paul a “THORN IN THE FLESH” (his body) lest he be exalted above measure. The apostle wrote: “Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:7-10).

God also used EXTERNAL AFFLICTIONS to remind Paul of his need to fully depend on God. He testified to the Corinthians, “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead” (2 Cor. 1:8,9).

Pastor Jack Taylor’s discovery of God’s resources came after he arrived at what he called “Wit’s End Corner.” He confessed, “At last I was in such anguish that I prayed to die. I did that frequently over a period of several weeks … I knew that it would not be long before I left the ministry or cracked up or both.” How did he find relief? One night he prayed for God to take his life, but confessed that if he awoke the next morning, he would take it as a sign that there must be something MORE to the Christian life.

Jack did awake the next morning and proceeded to search the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit directed him to a passage he had read many times, but never appropriated. He wrote, “I read with increasing anticipation as if I had never read the book before, feeling myself to be on the verge of an exciting discovery … Then I came across it: ‘TO WHOM GOD WOULD MAKE KNOWN WHAT IS THE RICHES OF THE GLORY OF THIS MYSTERY AMONG THE GENTILES; WHICH IS CHRIST IN YOU, THE HOPE OF GLORY.’ I wish I could convey to you what went on in my mind the moment those words began to sink into my poor soul … CHRIST LIVES IN ME! He is real and vital and alive in me! I saw it; I felt it; and I knew it! He had been there all the time, watching, longing, and waiting to be my new life. I was too busy trying to be like Him, trying to serve Him, and trying to promote Him. Now, I knew that what really happened that day almost twenty years before [at conversion] was that Jesus Himself, really came to live His life in me … His purpose was that Christ should come and find in my life a willing instrument, a means of transportation and expression for His very own life.” [5] By faith, pastor Taylor exchanged his performance-based self-life for the grace-based abundant life.

For the high achiever, it is a wonderful relief to discover Christ as the source of rest–One whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light! (Matt. 11:30).[6]

Does this mean that our talents are a handicap to spiritual victory? Is God hindered by the high achiever? Not necessarily. Praise God for those with great assets who live by grace. Their musical talents, academic knowledge, organizational abilities, political influence, linguistic skills, etc., become great tools for the Lord through the Holy Spirit’s direction and strength. For example, God mightily used the scholarly abilities of the Reformers like John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, Martin Luther, and John Calvin. But these talents and spiritual gifts must be used in COOPERATION with God (who is the ultimate source of all blessings), not just FOR God.

Taylor summed his discovery of the key to triumphant living this way: “The Change is not in me. Rather it seems that he Has come himself to live his life in mine And as I stepped aside, And took him to abide…

He came and filled me with his life divine. The key to triumphant living is simply… Christ in me … Christ in you … The hope of glory.” [7]

To sum up, instead of relying on the flesh, let us walk in the Spirit![8]

~~~~~

Notes:

(Part one is titled “Maladjusted Flesh”)

[1] Bill Gillham, Lifetime Guarantee, p.18. (U.S.D.A.= U.S. Department of Agriculture– i.e. officially approved).

2] Jack Taylor, The Key to Triumphant Living (Bantam Books) p.18.

[3] Steve McVey, Grace Walk, (Harvest House), p. 28.

[4] Contrasting lists: adapted from “The Solomon Institute in Spirituotherapy”, (Grace Fellowship Int’l.) See also “Characteristics of the Flesh” by Lee LeFebre at http://www.GraceNotebook.com.

[5] Taylor, pp.19-21.

[6] Charles Fox described the need for God’s people to avoid trusting in their own resources. Five qualities identify the traits of God’s army; these grace-equipped soldiers are: “FOOLISH enough to depend on Him for wisdom; WEAK enough to be empowered with His strength; BASE enough to have no honor, but God’s honor; DESPISED enough to be kept in the dust at HIS feet; NOTHING enough for God to be everything.” Charles Fox, quoted by L.E. Maxwell, Born Crucified, (Moody Press), p.190.

[7] Taylor, pp. 27-28.

[8] Cf. Gal. 5:16. (It is likely that we have a combination of “negative” and “positive” flesh, though one is predominant.)

————–

(c) 2000 by John B. Woodward. Revised, July 2004. Permission granted to reproduce Grace Notes for non-commercial use. Biblical Qutations from The New King James version, (c) Thomas Nelson.

Grace Fellowship International, Box 368, Pigeon Forge, TN. 37862. www.gracefellowshipinternational.com

Posted in

Copyright, John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint this article for non-commercial use. Scripture quotations (unless indicated otherwise) are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Subscribe to receive Grace Notes

Grace Notes is a Biblical email devotional sent weekly and freely to our subscribers. The goal is to highlight the dynamics of abundant living through Christ.

  • And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
  • “I have been crucified with Christ; 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 for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

Please feel free to subscribe! It's free!

cross_sunset

Sign up to receive Grace Notes weekly

Everyone needs grace, so everyone needs Grace Notes! Receive our weekly publication, free, in your inbox. Timely messages to meet your grace need.

"I love Grace Notes!" -- DP, subscriber

A verification email from Grace Notebook has just been sent to you! Please click on it to confirm your subscription.

If you do NOT click on the confirmation link in this email, your email address will NOT be added.

If the email does not appear shortly, please check your spam folder. If possible, please whitelist john@gracenotebook.com.

Thank-you!

boy

Hold on!

cross_sunset

Sign up to receive Grace Notes weekly

Everyone needs grace, so everyone needs Grace Notes! Receive our weekly publication, free, in your inbox. Timely messages to meet your grace need.

Close

"I love Grace Notes!" -- DP, subscriber

boy

Hold On!

A verification email from Grace Notebook has just been sent to you! Please click on it to confirm your subscription.

Close

If you do NOT click on the confirmation link in this email, your email address will NOT be added.

If the email does not appear shortly, please check your spam folder. If possible, please whitelist john@gracenotebook.com.

Thank-you!