A prisoner of flesh and bone?

The purpose of this post is to get some feedback. I have several conundrums that I am wrangling with and I’d appreciate other insights a lot.

WARNING: I make reference to things that are fleshly here, because that is the subject of this post. I am not intentionally being crude, but simply striving to be honest about this perplexing issue.

In Romans 8 Paul says “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” In Galatians 5:24 he says “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Yet he also says “but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. ” (1 Corinthians 7:33) Yet he never condemns marriage but rather blesses it as an institution of God.

 My problem is: Where is the line between being fleshly minded and spiritually minded? None of us, while in the “body of this death”, can be completely spirit minded. When our stomachs grumble, we think about food. When our libidos kick in we think about sex. So, when we give in to our fleshly needs and desires, how can that be anything but being fleshly minded? If my bladder is full, it will be very hard for me to concentrate on my Bible study until I take care of that physical need.

Where do we draw the line?

I confess, when I am interested in sex with my wife, all I can concentrate on is pleasing her and myself. This is not a selfless act, regardless of how much I want to please my wife! Now I know that Paul declares “the marriage bed is undefiled” but, I find it nearly impossible to think spiritually when my desires are purely physical! There is much discussion on the web and elsewhere about “Christian sex” (as if there really is such a thing!). Marcion, an early church heretic, approached this problem by requiring all who fellowshipped with him to abstain completely from sex. His movement died out, in part, because his followers didn’t create offspring!

In essence, what has prompted this post are my own attempts to reconcile the physical with the spiritual. Often, I think it would be great to no longer have a sex drive (that would be selfish since I’m married) or to no longer have to immerse myself in the everyday toil of work, house maintenance, grocery shopping, etc. But all these things cannot be ignored. They are everyday things that we have to address or end up falling into other temptations as the result of ignored needs.

Another part of the conundrum concerns the affairs of this world. We have been blessed with a newer house and have been fortunate to not have had to do much maintenance to it so far. Unfortunately, it is evident that we need to address some things very soon that will cost us much more money down the road if we don’t spend money on them now. At the same time, both my wife and I hate to spend money on frivolous things, trying to give our excess to God’s purposes. Yet, we can’t ignore certain things. Even a hermit needs shelter and while we have much more shelter and comfort than we need, should we lose it all, we know that our hope and life do not consist of the house or the things in it. But, I still hate to spend money on the house. What are my choices though? I can rent and not worry about maintenance, but any return on my money would be completely “for the moment”. I could live in a tent (for a while), but unless we have to, I don’t think my family would be very enthused about it. I’ve even considered that maybe Christians aren’t supposed to own anything we call “mine”  but, obviously the first believers in  Acts 2:44-46 did not sell their homes! In fact, most of the early churches would assemble in the homes of the well off!

So, really…who among us is completely spiritually minded all the time? And when we are physically minded, distracted from spiritual things by our physical needs and wants, are we dying spiritually? Is it all a kind of see-saw thing?  We have to be spiritually minded as often or more than we are fleshly minded in order to balance things towards God and life? I mean, we cannot be 100% spiritually minded. Can we?

Paul even says, conditionally, that we are to be concerned for the interests of others as well as for our own interests: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4 ESV). He also seems to contradict himself in this: “For the one who sows to his own flesh will, from the flesh, reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will, from the Spirit, reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:8 ESV) vs. “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church” (Ephesians 5:29 ESV). So there is a tension here. The problem seems to be in knowing where the line is. But, if I understand the will of God correctly, it seems that if we always look out for the interests of the gospel, and others, instead of always our own comfort and selfish desires, we will do well.


8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Deacon on September 27, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Usher: Deak, aren’t you glad we don’t have to buy houses and worry about fixing them up?

    Deacon: Yep – branch breaks – just hop onto another one.

    Usher: This poor guy is a victim of “cut-and-paste” theology. If he could only relax and enjoy the sex, knowing that it really is OK to have physical fun. And if he knew that tithing wasn’t even scriptural, he could use the money to fix his house.

    Deacon: But then again, if his house increases in value, he can’t do anything with the profits except invest it into a bigger house so he can pay more taxes. Ugh!

    Usher: Sure glad we don’t have a “limb tax”. If we did, we’d have to gather roadkill up to pay for the tax and man would that stink after a few days!

  2. Posted by memnan on September 27, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    Yeah, living in this body can get to be a drag at times…the longer I’m in mine the more I have to drag it around…*; )

    Interestingly, I just read Matthew 5 and 6 this morning. These scriptures would encourage us to check the attitude of our heart as we carry out our daily lives and indeed tell us that if we seek the Kingdom first…the provision will follow. God gave us physical bodies and the operational urgencies that go with them…not to be ignored, but to be used in the proper context.

    If your heart has been regenerated…I really don’t think you can continue happily down the wrong path without the true conviction of the Holy Spirit calling you up short on it.

    Love your life, love your wife. love the people you meet…Micah 6:8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

    God won’t temp you to evil…but, don’t let the your mortal enemy tempt you to legalism which will steal your joy. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding…He will lead you in the way you should go.

    Don’t Worry…Be Happy!

  3. Deacon,

    I appreciate the comment, and I agree that tithing is not a New Testament mandate. However, I must say, that our excess is what we have to give beyond what some would call tithe. God has blessed us and we certainly don’t feel that 10% is any kind of limit. I would just rather spend all the money that I earn, outside of providing absolute necessities, on worthy causes. Unfortunately, many things that are temporary (like transportation, clothing) but necessary in this life, require a good portion of our earnings.

  4. Nancy,

    Thanks for your comments! I agree that I am to enjoy eating, sleeping and sex with my wife. What I wrestle with is: how far do we accomodate the flesh before it cause us to become fleshly minded vs. spiritually minded? I realize it’s an open ended question, but wanted to see what kind of responses I got.

  5. Posted by wayneman5 on September 28, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    Dear Prodigal son,

    This is in answer to the problems you are facing in finding the line between “the flesh” and the spirit in your life. You mentioned that you had problems with urges of a sexual nature and couldn’t see that one could really be totally successful in combatting those urges.

    You wanted some help concerning this. I did too many years ago, when a wise man shared with me this truth. In fact, this truth was life-changing, initiating a personal miraculous transformation.

    He told me that my old self, the old nature that I was born with–it had to die. “Wayne, you’ve got to voluntarily surrender it and place that old selfish heart on the cross and let it die there with Christ. When He, the sin sacrifice died, your old self died; when He was buried, your old nature was buried; when He was raised from the dead, you were raised from the dead, too.”

    Although I wanted to get power over the flesh and the sin driving my actions, this truth hit me hard. I knew that it was game, set, match. It was over. God won. There was no excuse for me to continue the selfish sinful way I was living. “How do you do it?” I asked him.

    “It all boils down to belief in the resurrection. Not that just Christ was raised from the dead. Many believe that fact of history. No, you are the one that needs to be raised from the dead along with Christ. You must believe that Christ is raised in you, in your body! By faith in the operation of God who raised Christ from the dead, you, too, can walk in a newness of life {Col. 2:11}.”

    It was not the easiest thing to do, but I had a great support system to help the new “babe in Christ”–me. It was a life-changer, and I’ve walked on from there those many years ago.”

    I hope this helps. This is what you need–to get it settled, where you can confess, “I am dead, and my life is hid with Christ in God.”

    I’ve written more about this on my blog, “Immortality Road.” Check it out at https://ImmortalityRoad.wordpress.com or check out my books at http://yahwehisthesavior.com/ God bless you in your search, Kenneth Wayne Hancock

  6. Posted by memnan on September 29, 2008 at 5:00 am

    This is where trusting the Holy Spirit is essential. I agree, without the Living Word of God in us, along with the unction of the Holy Spirit, we would be left to our own devices which are “Fleshy”…but, with these two spiritual advisors in us, there will rarely be a problem… if… we have the heart to listen…*: )

    Mind renewal…it’s what matures us.

    I fully agree with the tithe…we have been blessed for our tithes and offerings. While the OT is outmoded by many Christians, our family includes it for wisdom’s sake…Again, this is not a problem when we follow the unction of the Holy Spirit…James Chapter One: If you need wisdom ask for it…get the Word in you then learn to listen…the Holy Spirit will remind you and bring up the scripture that will give you excellent guidance.

    Example…When we were moving to Germany, a good many years ago…we gave our cat away. The young man we had given him too decided he was more problem than he wanted to deal with and had just put him out on the street. About a month past and we were just two weeks from leaving when we got a call. Someone had found the cat and checked with a vet on the rabies tag. They asked me what they should do with the cat. My first and fleshy thought was call the pound…then I heard these words clearly in my spirit? A righteous man regards the life of his beast…I went and picked him up and found him a more accepting owner… It was not something I wanted to have to deal with…but,I had learned to pay attention to the Holy Spirit. This is just one example of many which cover just about every situation you might meet in a normal fleshy life…financial; relationship; parental…Jesus didn’t leave us abandoned to ourselves or the enemy…*: )

  7. Thanks Nancy…again!

    I am grateful that you understand the point I am trying to make here. Your example regarding something as earthly as the disposition of a cat is very good, I think.

  8. Dear Wayne,

    Thank you for your concern and for your scriptural support. I agree wholeheartedly with what you have said and, by the grace of God, I am crucifying my flesh every day! Perhaps you sense more to this post than is intended, but honestly, when I originally wrote this post weeks ago, I was wrestling with the idea that Paul says “the marriage bed is undefiled” and other things that allude to obeying the flesh and pleasing my wife in earthly matters (not just sex!).

    I am not struggling with sexual urges as much as I am struggling to reconcile my scriptural, legitimatized urges with having a spiritual mindset. I care little for fleshly pursuits, thank God. I don’t have a strong libido that often, so sexual temptation isn’t often a issue. Paul says we have died to the flesh and not to let it master us. Yet there are always physical needs that have to be answered, so these are just reminders that we are still trapped in a broken and vile body..for now. I just want to get a better sense of how much we have to love our bodies vs. the things of God. I have no desire to become ascetic about this. It’s just a real conundrum for me at times.

    I have a Christian friend who is pushing a very expensive tonic that is considered a real health enhancer. I have a problem with the fact that it is priced out of range of most people’s pocketbooks. I make very good money, but I cannot justify spending $150 a month on some magical elixir that will supposedly make me live longer and healthier. I would much rather see that money used to feed the poor who would love a hot meal every night. This is just one example of the many conundrums I face every day. I just do what my conscience tells me is right and leave it with God, for the most part.

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