Flesh vs. Spirit

Hope, Healing & Freedom Podcast: Episode 57


There is a battle going on in each of us. And the more we understand this battle and more specifically how to defeat it, the more you will experience the abundant life that Jesus came to give you. In today’s podcast we are going to continue looking at the battle between the flesh and the spirit described in Galatians 5.

I’m Lee Whitman and today’s verse once again is Galatians 5:16-17 this time quoting from The Passion Translation: “Let me emphasize this: As you yield to the dynamic life and power of the Holy Spirit, you will abandon the cravings of your self-life. When your self-life craves the things that offend the Holy Spirit, you hinder Him from living free within you! And the Holy Spirits intense cravings hinder your self-life from dominating you! So then, the two incompatible and conflicting forces within you are your self-life of the flesh and the new creation life of the Spirit.”

In this podcast I want to talk about how each of our unique version of the self-life was developed and how that version of the flesh or self-life is in opposition to the Holy Spirits operation in your life. The flesh or self-life is unique to you because it was developed around how you got your needs met. 

We are all created with the same basic needs. We have a need to be loved. We have a need to be accepted. We have a need to feel valuable or like we are worth something. Those are all real needs that God designed into us so that He could meet those needs. Having those needs is not the problem. The problem is that Adam and Eve decided to try and get those God given needs met through their own method, by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Ever since Adam and Eve ate that initial fruit salad, man has been driven to fulfill those needs out of his own resources. The bible calls this self-effort the flesh. Here is a pretty good definition of what the flesh is.

The flesh (self-life) is the condition (the mindset, attitude, strategy for living) where my focus is primarily on myself (even if it is good looking self, or well-adjusted self, or socially acceptable self) where I am living out of my own resources (such as my heritage, education, IQ, personality, sense of humor, looks, talents, abilities, etc.) in order to:

  1. Cope and deal with life.
  2. Solve my problems.
  3. Meet my needs.
  4. Become a success.

The patterns of the flesh are formed to achieve two main tasks. 1. To get our needs for love, acceptance, and value met. 2. To protect us from being hurt or rejected.

Stan’s father was a one-night stand for his mother, so Stan grew up never knowing his father. When his irresponsible father found out that she was pregnant he left town and never had contact with her again. From as early as he could remember, Stan’s Mom demanded that Stan grow up and be responsible in order to help her around the house. She would often talk to him about being the man of the house. Stan, however, did not know what it meant to be a man since he had no example. Stan learned as a small child that by doing chores around the house like cleaning and picking up he would get his mother’s praise. He also learned pretty quickly that in order to avoid her anger he tried to not need anything. You can guess what Stan’s patterns of the flesh looked like. He was the guy who was very organized and got things done and that took care of everyone around him. If a coworker had a problem, Stan was the guy who could solve the problem. In his professional life, these traits made Stan very successful and wealthy. On the surface this trait looked like Stan was a servant when in actuality he HAD to take care of others in order to feel valuable. Stan was also a neat freak. He got terribly agitated when things were even the slightest bit out of order. Order provided him comfort and security. 

The flesh are those mindsets, attitudes, and strategies for living where our focus is primarily on ourself. Sometimes we think of the flesh as just those patterns that appear to be sinful like pornography or lying. Stans flesh made him look very much like a servant when in actuality his focus was not on others, but on himself and what he received by serving. These patterns of the flesh can often times look very good on the outside, but as we talked about in last week’s podcast, you can only know if something is done from the flesh or the spirit by looking at the motivation. Flesh is motivated by what I get out of something. When something is done by the Spirit, it does not matter who gets the credit. 

RTF is involved with a group of ministries called Transformation Alliance that are all focused on bringing healing and freedom to people in the Body of Christ. We love this association because it is a group of ministries that are more concerned about bringing healing to the body of Christ than it is about which ministry is the headline or gets the credit. We did an online symposium a few months ago in which all 12 ministries presented their different ministries and what made them unique from the other ministries. It was very exciting to see that even though we all have somewhat different methods, the focus of each ministry is on bringing the Kingdom of God to earth. Walking in the flesh would say that RTF is in competition with these other ministries so we can’t support other healing ministries. But the Spirit wants unity in the body of Christ. We stand with other Christ centered healing ministries because it is more about bringing God’s Kingdom to earth than it is about building our own kingdom. 

When Stan was 45 years old a friend recommended that he receive RTF ministry after his third divorce. When Stan came to RTF for help, his ministers recognized that Stan had been set up by the enemy to walk in this struggle. First, they saw that Stan had inherited the generational pressure to live life as an orphan. Orphans do whatever is necessary to make life work out of their own resources. Stans father took off and deserted Stans pregnant mother because that is what he thought was best for him and only him. He passed his generational curse of being an orphan on to his son, Stan. As a good orphan Stan learned how to get his needs met through what he did for others. Orphans like Stan have a hard time connecting to people. It is such a double bind that these struggling people are in. On the one hand they desperately want affection and connection with the people around them. On the other hand, the pressure from this orphan spirit is so strong to go at life on their own that they can’t trust others to meet their needs, including God. The first thing these ministers did was to break off this generational curse of living life as an orphan. Most people like Stan don’t know how much pressure this generational curse is putting on them until the curse is broken. 

Then the ministers recognized two very strong messages that Stan had been living his life out of. Stans flesh, his self-life had been formed around these messages. In RTF we call these messages of the flesh ungodly beliefs because they are things believed that do not match up with God’s nature, His character, or His Word. The first message Stan believed was “I am valuable because I do good to others. I can only get love, value, and acceptance by what I do.” This lie worked very well for Stan in his professional life. Stan was a boss’s dream. He did whatever his boss asked him to do, even if that meant working till all hours of the night. This lie, however, led Stan to try so hard to meet the needs of his three wives that he actually pushed them away.  

The second lie that ruled Stan’s life was “The only way I am safe is when I am in control.” Let me talk about control for a minute. People control most often to protect themselves from pain. When we think bad things might happen to us to make us feel pain or vulnerability, we grab for the illusion of being in control. Why do I say the illusion of control? Because control is an illusion. We are never in total control nor ever will be totally in control. We can do things to influence situations, but we are never in control. Let me give you a crazy example: Try to make your heartbeat? Go ahead, see how successful you are at making your heartbeat. You have absolutely no control over your heart beating. We are completely dependent upon God to make our heartbeat. A couple of years ago I had a heart attack and my heart actually stopped. You know how much control I had over that? Zero. The good news is that God, who is in control, jump started my heart and it came back to life.  

We know we can’t control our heartbeat yet many people live under the illusion that they can be in control of other things in their life. And people like Stan believe the lie that they have to be in control in order to be safe. Chester and Betsy Kylstra have a wonderful teaching on the stronghold of Shame-Fear-and Control. They discovered that shame leads to fear that bad things are going to happen, and this fear leads people to try and control. You can find this teaching in the resources section of the RTF website. In Stans life the shame of being abandoned by his father led him to the fear that his mother and other significant people in his life would also reject and abandon him. This fear caused Stan to try and control everything to give him the illusion of being safe. The biggest problem with believing that you have to be in control in order to be safe is that you can never relax. You have to be on top of everything in your life in order to even have the hope of feeling that you are safe. It never worked for Stan. Even with all of his best efforts to be in control, he never could relax enough to feel safe and in the process of trying to remain in control he made it nearly impossible for three women to be in a marriage relationship with him.  

The good news is that Stan received wonderful RTF ministry and is now walking in freedom from this struggle. Why am I telling you about Stan? Because each of us has developed our own unique version of the flesh that is battling against the Holy Spirit operating freely in our lives. Some of you are acutely aware of this battle and recognize that your patterns of the flesh are holding you in bondage. You hate the hold the flesh has on you but try as you might, you are almost powerless to overcome it. Others have become so accustomed to this battle that you have accepted it as normal. I am here to tell you that there is hope and freedom for you.

Some of our patterns of the flesh contain big lies that are blocking us from experiencing the abundant life that Jesus came to give. If you recognize those in your life, reach out to our ministry coordinator at ministry@restoringthefoundations.org and schedule an RTF ministry session. The freedom that is available will change your life. 

If you are not struggling with these big lies but you notice you have little lies that are still warring against the Spirits operation in your life, don’t settle for less than what Jesus came to give you and that is total freedom. Set up a ministry appointment with one of RTF’s highly trained ministers located around the world. The more freedom you get the more peace and joy will flow from your life.