Summary: This is the second sermon in a series of two from the perspective of The Exchanged Life which seeks to help the believer to see what programmed flesh looks like.
I want to give you a little more insight into the development of the flesh and attempt to enable you to see more practically what it looks like. But first a little more definition. Langdon Gilkey has pointed out the chief characteristic of flesh as self-centeredness in his statement: “Self-centeredness is a loss of God at the center of the meaning and security of one’s life, as the ground of one’s trust and self-confidence. Therefore, the self is left alone, autonomous, self-sufficient, insecure and anxious, fearful for itself, its future fame and glory. Placing itself in the center of its world, making itself, or its group, its god, and thence follows its bondage to defend itself and its security against all comers.” This description of the flesh can be simplified to a precise definition of: the flesh is the condition of a person living life out of his or her own resources with or without seeking God’s help to do so.
Flesh is a condition of the personality living in agreement with sin. It’s a carry over from pre-conversion days consisting of habits, emotions, ideas and memories of how to live life. The society we live in doesn’t depend on the Lord, therefore it constantly gives input which teaches and affirms a way of living that’s only according to human resources. Again, simply stated flesh is our independent self-centered way of living. This way of living will always prove ineffective in the living of life. In fact, a good example of the ineffectiveness and sinfulness of fleshly living patterns is given by Jeremiah the prophet. In Jeremiah 2:13, the Lord speaks about His people forsaking Him and at the same time seeking their own ways to satisfy themselves. The Lord calls these ways “cisterns that are broken and cannot hold water.” They don’t work, therefore they don’t satisfy.
Why do people follow fleshly living patters if they’re sinful and ineffective? One reason is it’s the habit of always seeking to live life in your own resources. Ever since the Fall of Man in Genesis 3, independence rather than dependence on the Lord has been a characteristic of mankind. Even though it’s impossible to save ourselves, Christians often seek to live for the Lord in self-effort. Another reason we live out of fleshly living patterns is the drive to avoid hurt while seeking to meet our needs by using previously learned methods. And the truth is those methods may only be 10% effective, but to you they seem to be better than nothing. Many of God’s people have a false view of who they are and they live according to that view. And when you don’t know who you are according to God’s truth, you’ll live after the fleshly living patterns you have learned and developed. So, what are these fleshly living patterns like? I think you can get a better picture of how flesh patterns develop and work through a personal testimony.
I. A Personal Testimony
The testimony is shared: My relationship with my father growing up was typified by him telling me, “You can’t do anything right!” In fact, children are the world’s best recorders of information, but the worst interpreters of those MESSAGES. So I believed my father and grew up FEELING and BELIEVING I was INADEQUATE. My mother, on the other hand, was over protective AND the thing that typified our relationship was her telling me, “Let me do it for you.” Unfortunately, if Mom had to do it for me, that communicated to me that I couldn’t do it myself. This only served to underscore and reinforce the feeling that I was indeed INADEQUATE.
My Mom and Dad fought all the time and my worst childhood memory was that of lying in bed wondering if one of my parents was going to kill the other. As a result, I grew up feeling very INSECURE. I was the oldest and out-performed my brothers and sisters in most things. I was always the one in trouble and if something was done wrong, my parents came looking for me. Usually I was the culprit! As a result I grew up feeling GUILTY. At other times my parents would say to me, “Why can’t you be nice? Why can’t you do right? Why can’t you be good . . . like your brother and sister?” Now, added to all the other feelings I’ve described, was the feeling of INFERIORITY.
Inadequate, insecure, guilty, inferior! Still I had the need to be loved and accepted, to have worth and value. And so I began to develop flesh patterns to live with, to cope with life, to be a success, to protect myself from hurt and rejection, to escape intolerable situations. So one flesh pattern I developed was IRRESPONSIBILITY. My mom didn’t let me experience the consequences of my wrong behavior so I didn’t learn to take responsibility for them. Another flesh pattern was to PROCRASTINATE. Remember, I felt inadequate and I believed I was a failure, so I kept putting things off to delay the inevitable failure. If that didn’t work, then I could always QUIT.