Summary: There is a war going on between our flesh and the Holy Spirit. And our behavior shows which of the two is winning.

Passage: I Corinthians 3:1-9

Intro: It’s sad to watch someone who has deceived themselves.

1. people who talk the talk, but can’t walk the walk.

2. the Taliban and Iraqi fighters, so full of bravado one week, lining up to hand over their weapons the next.

3. some football teams, staking their claim to the national championship, only to be stomped

4. generally speaking, someone who describe themselves in a certain, perhaps prideful way, but when action is called for, they don’t show up.

5. this was the situation Paul faced in Corinth, as we’ve seen in the first few chapters.

6. this group of believers were sure of their own spirituality, based on their giftedness and their wisdom

7. but as Paul makes very clear in this pointed statement, they were deceiving themselves

8. while Paul corrects this church and perhaps us, he exposes the works of our flesh, shows us the Biblical response, and gives an example this is as relevant as tomorrows newspaper.

9. I’m sure this message stung the Corinthian church, so maybe this will hurt.

I. The Works of the Flesh Exposed.

1. 1950 years later, it’s easy to identify the state of the Corinthian church

2. divided, possessing all the spiritual gifts, tolerant of sin in others and themselves, self-deceived.

3. Paul had paid an earlier visit to them, and they were sorry he did not addressed them in keeping with their exalted spiritual status

4. and that’s where Paul starts in v1, with a blunt evaluation of their state.

5. now they were believers all right, as he calls them “brothers” and states that they are “in Christ”

6. but “mere infants”, the word not the normal one for this, but a perjorative word=refers to thinking and behavior not fitting

il) “you guys are acting like babies”

7. not spiritual, but “worldly”, word used=”fleshly”

8. now we usually define such as word to refer to a degree of sinfulness, participation in what we might call the “big sins”

9. but the Corinthians were fleshly, and remained so, acc. To v2

10. they were stuck! Their spiritual growth was arrested! By what?

11. v3 gives the picture. They were full of jealousy, they were quarreling.

12. now that doesn’t seem so bad, does it? After all, they are just “part of human nature.”

13. but that is exactly the problem. “mere men” clarifies what it means to be “fleshly”

14. simply to behave and think according to our human nature, to be controlled not by the Holy Spirit, but by our flesh.

PP James 4:1

15. being “in the flesh” is defined as a Spirit-indwelt believer behaving in a manner that is inconsistent with who he is in Christ.

16. that’s a much broader picture than the one we usually use to break down our behavior into degrees of sinfulness.

17. that’s a “little sin”, what that person is doing is a “bigger sin”

18. the flesh is at work when my behavior is that of the natural man, and not that of a Spirit-led follower of Jesus Christ.

II. The Biblical Response to the Flesh

1. we fall into self-deception because the works of the flesh seem so right to us

2. we are offended and we get angry, we are opposed and we quarrel, someone else does better and we get jealous.

Il) Old song, “it can’t be wrong, when it feels so right”

3. but make no mistake about it. Paul, in very sharp language, is making a statement.

Il) words of one commentator, PP “Stop it! People of the Spirit simply must stop behaving the way you are”

4. amazing fact, we can exercise even the gifts of the Spirit in the flesh…the Corinthians were!

5. we are, as Spirit-indwelt people, able to walk “in the flesh” without warning.

6. it can even become “normal Christianity to be a Spirit-indwelt, Spirit-led believer who just happens to be walking in the flesh.

7. but such a lifestyle must be lived in 100% opposition to the Word of God.

8. here are some verses that deal with this issue.

PP Rom 6:1-2, 11, Rom 12:1-2, Gal 5:16, Eph 4:1, 22-24, Col 3:5, 12-14

9. maturity in Christ is not based on what we know, the strength of our gifts.

10. maturity in Christ is the extent to which we are displaying the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit

11. the Corinthians thought themselves spiritual, but contrast their behavior with this list.

PP Gal 5:22-23

12. last week our speaker spoke about being “in the kingdom”. And this is what he was referring to.

13. as members of God’s kingdom, there are characteristics we will display.

14. they are in stark contrast to the fruit produced by the flesh.

15. this is the basis of our self-evaluation.

III. A Flesh Behavior that Seems Spiritual

1. in Corinth, certain teachers had attracted loyal followers.

2. in 21st century US, would have started two denominations, or at least two churches.

3. two fine men, gifted to teach and lead the church

4. what’s wrong with a little “cult of personality”?

5. Paul makes it clear what’s wrong with it in vv5-9

6. not “who” but “what” is Apollos, what is Paul?

7. merely servants, messengers, and to focus on the messenger instead of the message once again makes us “mere men”

8. when we idolize the man, the human, we are guilty of worshipping the creature instead of the Creator.

9. who, after all, gave the gifts, gave the power, gave the strengths, gave the personality we are so drawn to? God!

10. Paul and Apollos just workers on the farm, construction workers on the building.

11. we in America are star-struck, so prone to follow people.

12. some fine people to follow as examples, but not to make the person him or herself the object of our worship.

13. this is a real curse of the American church

14. and here is the antidote! Recognize who we worship!

15. repent of everything else.

Conc. Fleshliness is something we will continue to do battle with.

1. engage the enemy!

2. there is kingdom, spiritual living and outside the kingdom, flesh living.

3. they each produce specific fruit.

4. something you need to turn from this morning; an attitude, a behavior, a thought process?

5. living in the flesh is a terrible waste of time.

6. walk in the Spirit.