9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
Objective: To understand that, although we still have urges that tend to pull us away from relying completely on God and following promptings of His Spirit, we no longer have to give in to them but are free to make a genuine choice.
Focus Truth: Although you are a new person in Christ with a completely new nature and are free to live according to what the Holy Spirit tells you, obeying Him is not automatic.
What would you most like to do if you knew you could not fail?
Hebrews 13:15 (NKJV) 15 Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.
Revelation 19:5 (NKJV) 5 Then a voice came from the throne, saying, "Praise our God, all you His servants and those who fear Him, both small and great!"
Psalm 99:9 (NKJV)
9 Exalt the LORD our God, And worship at His holy hill; For the LORD our God is holy.
1 Chronicles 29:11-13 (NKJV) 11 Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, And You are exalted as head over all. 12 Both riches and honor come from You, And You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great And to give strength to all. 13 "Now therefore, our God, We thank You And praise Your glorious name.
We might think that becoming a Christian means that we will automatically do everything right. But it doesn’t work that way. As believers we sense the Holy Spirit deep down inside and we want to please God. But we often fail to live the Christian life in the way we want to, and sometimes we don’t feel different at all. Our bad habits don’t instantly disappear. In fact, the struggle with sin may seem to intensify. Why?
In this session we’re going to look at what the Bible calls “the flesh,” the second of our enemies. Paul says in:
Romans 8:5-7 (ESV) 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.
What Changed When We Became Christians?
What Did Not Change When We Became Christians?
Our “Flesh” Wasn’t Taken Away
When we talk about the term “flesh” we are not referring to our physical bodies but talking about the urges and desires it has. You could think of the flesh as “the urge to do what comes naturally to a fallen human being.”
As we grew up, independent of God, we learned to react, cope, and
think in certain ways. These old ways of thinking and behaving are the primary
characteristics of the flesh. When we became Christians no one pressed a
“clear” button in our minds.
Sin Did Not Die
The big question for many is: how can we defeat sin? The bad news is we can’t. The good news is that Christ has already done it for us! Sin itself is not dead. In fact, it is still extremely appealing, and it tempts us every day to try to meet our legitimate needs for security acceptance, and significance, through things other than God.
Pause for Thought 1
To reinforce people’s understanding of what changed and what did not change when we became Christians.
What are some of the main things that you notice have changed in you since you became a Christian? And what do you wish would have changed but hasn’t?
In what particular type of situation do you recognize that you become more vulnerable to the attempts of the flesh to draw you toward sin? What practical steps can you put in place to help you at those times?
God’s Word tells us that we are alive to Christ and dead to sin. Why does this not feel true some days? How can we rise above “the law of sin”?
It is becoming clear that we face some very real choices:
· even though we no longer have to think and react according to our flesh, we can choose to do so.
· even though sin has no power over us, we can choose to give in to it.
1 Corinthians 2:14-3:3 describes three different types of persons. See if you can identify which one you are:
· physically alive but spiritually dead
· separated from God
· living independently from God
· no sense of any kind of direction from the Holy Spirit
· lives in the flesh; actions and choices dictated by the flesh (Gal 5:19–21)
The Spiritual Person – (1 Cor 2:15) – judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.
· has been transformed through faith in Christ
· spirit is now united with God’s Spirit
· has received forgiveness, acceptance into God’s family, realization of worth in Christ
· receives impetus from God’s Spirit instead of the flesh
· is renewing the mind (getting rid of old patterns of thinking and replacing them with truth)
· emotions are increasingly marked by peace and joy instead of turmoil
· chooses to walk in the Spirit and therefore demonstrates the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22–23)
· still has the flesh but crucifies it daily as they recognize the truth that they are now dead to sin (Rom 6:11–14)
This is the model of maturity to which we are all moving – but don’t dismiss it as something that might be possible for others but is not for you.
Finally Paul comes to the third type of person:
1 Corinthians 3:1-3 (ESV)
1 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?
The Fleshly Person — is a Christian who has been made spiritually alive just like the Spiritual Person but, instead of choosing to follow the impulses of the Spirit, follows the impulses of the flesh. They are free to walk according to the Spirit but choose not to, either deliberately or because they are being deceived and don’t understand how to.
Their daily life tends to mimic that of the natural (non-Christian) person rather than the spiritual person:
· mind occupied by wrong thoughts
· overwhelmingly negative emotions
· body showing signs of stress
Barriers To Growth
Common areas of deception for the Christian would include thoughts like:
· “This might work for others, but my case is different, and it won’t work for me.”
· “I could never have faith like so-and-so.”
could never use me.”
Unresolved Personal and Spiritual Conflicts
In Ephesians 4:26–27 Paul says: “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.
Not Assuming Responsibility for Our Lives
A final reason that we may not make progress is that we haven’t learned to take responsibility for the things that God says are our responsibility.
Pause for Thought 2
Objective: To discuss the three different types of persons and see that many Christians swing between the “fleshly” and “spiritual’ person, but that there is genuine hope of change.
How do you identify with the descriptions of the three different types of people that are mentioned in 1 Corinthians 2:14–3:3?
How have the barriers to growth mentioned caused you to show more of the characteristics of a “fleshly person” than a “spiritual person”?
What practical steps and daily choices can we put in place to ensure we act as a “spiritual person”?
Choosing To Walk by The Spirit Every Day
Once we’ve committed ourselves to believe the truth no matter what we feel, and once we’ve dealt with our unresolved spiritual conflicts, we are genuinely free to make a choice every day. We are back in the position Adam and Eve were in before the Fall, able to choose freely. That free will is hugely important to God.
Paul wrote “Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the
desires of the flesh” (Gal 5:16).
The key choice we can make every day is whether to obey the promptings of the flesh or the promptings of the Holy Spirit. The two are in direct opposition to each other.
What Is Walking by The Spirit?
Walking By The Spirit Is Not:
them. They seek a warm tingly feeling inside, or a cathartic emotional release. But there’s no fruit in their lives until they realize they are responsible for their own growth in the Lord.
A License to Do Whatever We Want
Some think that freedom means we can cast off all the guidelines God has given to help us lead responsible lives. You can try that, and your sin of choice might feel like freedom for a short while, but eventually you realize it’s actually bondage. The key question is: can you stop? If you can’t, you have become a slave to sin.
Legalism (Slavishly Obeying a Set of Rules)
Walking By The Spirit Is:
True Freedom - Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Cor 3:17)
The devil can’t make you walk in the flesh, although he will try to draw you that way. We have the freedom to be the people God created us to be and to make the choice to live by faith in the power of the Holy Spirit.
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28–30)
Being yoked to Jesus doesn’t work if only one of us is pulling. Nothing will get done if we expect God to do it all. And neither can we accomplish anything lasting for eternity by ourselves. Only Jesus knows the right pace and the right direction to walk. When we walk with Him we learn that His ways are not hard, and we find rest for our souls.
How Can We Tell If We Are Walking by The Spirit?
Just as you can tell a tree by its fruit, you can tell whether you are walking by the Spirit by the fruit of your life. If you’re being led by the Spirit, your life will be increasingly marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22–23).
If you are living according to your flesh, that too will be evident in your life (Gal 5:19–21).
Perhaps you have become aware during this session that you are living according to the flesh. What is the appropriate response? Simply to confess it, deal with any footholds of the enemy, invite the Holy Spirit to fill you, and start obeying the promptings of the Spirit rather than the flesh.
Walking by the Spirit is a moment-by-moment, day-by-day experience. You can choose every moment of every day either to walk by the Spirit or to walk by the flesh, to walk like a chicken or to fly like an eagle.
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:6–7)
Who was responsible for “fanning into flame” the gift of the Holy Spirit in Timothy’s life, God, Paul, or Timothy?
Whose responsibility is it to do that in your life? What are some of the ways you could do that?
Take some time on your own in prayer to commit to walk by the Spirit rather than the flesh and to fan into flame the gift of the Holy Spirit in your life.
WITNESS How would you explain to a not-yet-Christian the benefits of being filled with the Spirit in a way that would make sense to them?
IN THE COMING WEEK Every day specifically commit yourself to walk by the Spirit rather than by the flesh. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you and guide you.
Anderson, Neil T.; Goss, Steve. Freedom in Christ Leader's Guide: A 10-Week Life-Changing Discipleship Course. Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.