Flesh — when we see this word, it can refer to a number of things. It describes our physical body. It also describes man without God. Flesh apart from the indwelling, ruling spirit of God is what man is apart from God. Man was created a spiritual being, in the likeness of God. Disobedience to God results in death. Spiritual death leaves man in a carnal nature. To live by the dictates of this nature is the flesh.
The flesh is either manifested as unrighteousness or self-righteousness. We are prone to assign the more sensual sins as the flesh, such as; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness and drunkenness. These are easily discerned as unrighteous manifestations. But there are other manifestations of the flesh. They tend to be “acceptable” sins. They are acceptable because we are all guilty of one or more of them in the everyday situations of life and accept them as normal. These are sins of self-righteousness. Some of them are hostility, wrangling, jealous, wrath, strife, dissension and spite. Have we missed something? I believe so. These sins are no less offensive to God than unrighteous manifestations.
The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were over focused on the letter of the law and forsaking the spirit of the law, they became enamored with outward appearances instead of the weightier issues of the heart. We become Pharisaical when we have a correct knowledge of the what the law says, while at the same time embracing an incorrect application of it.
Jesus had strong words of condemnation for hypocrisy. We distort the word of God when we over-emphasize our personal interpretations and preferences. Instead we must properly interpret and apply the word of God from the heart and not by the letter of the law. We are hypocrites when we hold to the right knowledge of what the word says and manifest the attitudes of the flesh in our application of that word. It would serve us well to remember that “man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.”
The heart of a Pharisee is a humanly understood comparison of right and wrong. A Pharisee compares himself to people who are adulterers, extortionists and murderers and boasts that he is “not like other men.” But when we hold ourselves accountable to the mirror of the word of God as lived by Christ, we discover that we are in need of humility, brokenness and repentance.
The remedy for the flesh, no matter the manifestation, is believing in the finished work of the cross of Christ. Galatians 5:24 says, “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts.” One of the preeminent works of the cross of Christ was to redeem us from the flesh to live a life controlled by the Holy Spirit. Anything less than this reality leaves us slaves to the carnal nature. We must forsake self-righteousness to embrace His righteousness. In doing so, we allow the Holy Spirit to change our hearts which will result in a proper application of the cross of Christ in our life. We must apply the cross to our life by in manifesting the Spirit of Christ in our everyday living and treatment of others.