Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing and things like these of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 NASB
The flesh is the line, per se, that separates our former life from our new life as Believers. Before crossing over this line, we dwell in a state governed by our impulses, desires, tastes, needs, emotions, environment, intellect, and many other factors. The span and control of the flesh is so far-reaching. This is largely in part because we begin naturally obeying the leadership of our flesh first in infancy and then as we age. Our stomachs say we’re hungry, so we eat; we’re sad or lonely, so we cry; we’re angry, so we lash out and do (or say) whatever may lurk in our minds. We make our choices based on how we feel and what we want. We are conditioned to respond as the flesh desires us to.
Deeds of the Flesh
This particular verse of scripture lists numerous deeds that are natural impulses of the flesh. The flesh doesn’t exclusively refer to physical acts; many physical acts are necessary for living. While labeled “flesh”, this term symbolically refers to the mindset and character of a person (the heart). The deeds of the flesh outlined in this passage can appear justifiable given the right circumstance: Someone has triggered you with selfish or hateful words so you speak or take revenge; You can’t get enough of living the good life and indulging in all of life’s pleasantries so you drink and party to no end; You climb your way to the top by corrupt measures and harm others along the way.
These deeds can seem to fit the occasion or satisfy an internal need. Hey, they may even seem harmless or warranted. What we have to keep in mind as Believers, is that we don’t live according to our standards once we say “I do” and enter into a covenant with the Lord. Just as a physical union between a man and wife means new standards and boundaries for living, so does our “marriage” to the Lord. Remember, the flesh is the line that separates our former lives from our new life as Believers.
A Union with Christ
When we were “single” – before we repented of our sins and accept Christ – we were identified by our union to the flesh. We did whatever it was that the flesh wanted and felt was right. We gave no thought to the Lord’s ways or what He desired or required of us.
We also have to be mindful that there is more than what meets the eye. When we live according to the flesh, what we may not so readily see, is that there is a breakdown and weakening of our spirits. This weakening, or chipping away, results in us looking less and less like Jesus. To inherit the Kingdom of God, we have to look like His children and bear His name as a bride bears her husband’s name.
The Flesh Factor
A life lived for the Lord doesn’t mean that we are sin-proof. No one has been sinless except Jesus himself during His physical time on earth. He never asks us to be anything that He is not. He is holy, so we are to be holy. He shunned and overcame temptation, so we are to shun and overcome temptation through His power. We represent our Father. There is a constant pull between the flesh and the spirit. The flesh is sin-natured. It functions in opposition to God, so it must be brought into subjection. We may find ourselves under the influence of the flesh at various points in our walk. The point to consider here however, is, are we making it a practice of activating the flesh factor? Do we habitually cave under the pressure of the flesh?
I recently struggled during the ending of a friendship that had to be severed. I knew that this person could no longer be in my life, and given the tension that came with that separation, I had to deal with the temptation of strife, enmity, and outbursts of anger that were bubbling in my heart as a result of their conduct. Thankfully, I resisted responding with the intensity that my flesh wanted to, and boy, did that take the grace of God! Before I surrendered my life fully to the Lord, it was my normal practice to give full vent to my anger and stew on the offense. I would judge and look down on people, and even seek revenge if I was slandered or wronged.
As God began revealing and changing my heart over time, I had to divorce those practices. This is an ongoing process, and a mindful decision when I am tempted to give my flesh the wheel. The Holy Spirit nudges me clearly in instances where my anger is on the border of sin. I’m alerted when I am entering the sinful territory of slander, gossip, ruminating, retaliation, and unforgiveness. I have to repeatedly repent and practice putting those things down.
When something has become a practice in our lives, it is something that we do on the regular. We resort to it as our default response or reaction. Dirty deeds, if left unchecked, become prolonged practices that change our spiritual DNA. Only the children of God carry His DNA, or makeup. Our journey through life, as believers, is to grow into alignment with our new DNA when we become born again. That isn’t something that happens instantaneously, but it’s a day-by-day decision.
Maybe your flesh struggle is something different. Maybe you think that it isn’t a struggle at all. I urge you to check the scripture for what God has to say on the matter. The entire chapter of Psalm 119 talks about loving God’s law. There is safety in His law. There is provision, guidance, and training in His perfect law. Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you to;
- Understand His law
- Love His law
We Must Crucify the Deeds of the Flesh
This amazing chapter in Galatians goes on to tell us that those who belong to Jesus have crucified the flesh. Become acquainted with the 9 fruit of the Spirit that are listed in Galatians 5 as well; pick up these Spirit fruits as you put down the deeds of the flesh.
I came across this quote by Spencer W. Kimball, which provides such solid context and summary:
“When a defiled man is born again, his habits are changed, his thoughts cleansed, his attitudes regenerated and elevated, his activities put in total order, and everything about him that was dirty, degenerate or reprobate is washed and made clean.”
As we grow in our walk with the Lord, the goal isn’t to just memorize scripture and pray. The most valuable reward that is birthed out of our relationship with the Lord is new life – not just for eternity but here on earth. If we are laying down low enough so that the Holy Spirit is guide, His power becomes evident as our ways of thinking, speaking, and acting begin to change. We become more alerted, or as some would say, convicted, when we do or say certain things that may be birthed from our flesh. Something deep within us feels as though it isn’t right, or pleasing, or wise. That is the wonderful witness of the Holy Spirit!
Some other valuable scriptures that bring this home for me are in John 14:15, where Jesus tells us, “If you love me, then keep my commandments”, and in Romans 8:13 where it reads, “For if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body (flesh), you will live.”
What is a possible flesh factor that you need to “put to death” so that you may live? What attitudes, practices, and or habits are possible threats to your inheritance?
Is it sexual sin or addiction? Grudges and unforgiveness? A fire tongue and or harsh judgement and criticism? It is racism, injustice, prejudice or mistreatment of others? Is it vanity, greed, jealousy, or living it up? Is it the worship of yourself, your relationship, your career, possessions, or false gods? Might it be dabbling in the occult? What are the dirty deeds that have become normal practices for you?
Father, I say with my mouth that I love you, but the mouth can utter things that the heart doesn’t agree with. Search my heart, Holy Spirit. Uncover the areas that aren’t in alignment with you. Reveal practices in my life that need to be broken so that I can live according to your Spirit and not my flesh. I repent and I choose to mortify every work that comes from my flesh, in order to fully love you, fully serve you, and fully inherit your kingdom.