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.