Newsletter for August 2007
I began writing this letter while on a plane as Kathy and I returned from a worship festival and vacation in Colorado. I was listening to a sermon by Gary Carpenter and started thinking about something Christians talk about a lot but don’t always seem to understand.
How often have you heard people talk or preach about “being in the flesh”? Sometimes things are said such as, “he was in the flesh,” or “she was acting in the flesh,” or some other, similar statement that includes the phrase “in the flesh.” It seems to be a very popular way to excuse or explain certain behavior.
But what does it mean to be in the flesh? References to being in the flesh appear frequently in the New Testament. In some cases it is speaking of people who are not born again. In other instances it refers to Christians committing sin.
For example, in Galatians 5:16 we read, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Some may think this is an encouragement to the unsaved to accept Jesus and become born again. But the book of Galatians was written to Believers, not to the lost. Left in context, chapter five is actually an admonishment to Christians to live according to the power of our new nature so that we will say no to all temptation. Subsequently, we will bear the fruit of the spirit (verses 22-23); in other words, the nature and character of God will be the essence of how we live.
However, there is another aspect of being in the flesh that I rarely hear taught. It has to do with making decisions that affect the course of our life. Proverbs 14:12 says,
There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
Let’s consider this verse from the perspective of a Believer making a genuine effort to live in a way that reflects Christ to others. This person doesn’t drink, smoke, curse, watch inappropriate movies or television, or visit unsuitable web sites on the internet. He attends church, gives in offerings, and faithfully keeps his word when he commits to help at the church.
Taking it further, every decision this person makes is for both the benefit of his family and to do what is right in the eyes of God. If this individual is a pastor or traveling minister, then his decisions also include what he sees as necessary to fulfill his ministry calling.
Such a description seems to fit the great majority of Christians in this country, if not the world. In fact, I would go so far as to guess that most Christians believe if they fit the above description they are doing everything God desires. Even so, the key to this is not the decisions they are making, but why they are making those decisions. My experience has been that most Christians make nearly all decisions based on the following criteria:
1 – Is it sin?
2 – Is it something good and positive which could benefit me, my family, and even God’s Kingdom?
3 – Is the opportunity presenting itself?
Just because a person might use this “mental checklist” as the basis of a decision, it does not mean that what he ultimately chooses to do is in God’s will. The truth is that some of the most critical errors Christians make are a result of deciding on a course of action based on the above criteria.
The problem lies in the fact that the three questions above are answered out of human reason. After all, as people rationalize, if the answers to these questions are, respectively, no, yes, and yes, then how could it not be God’s will for someone to do what they are considering?
What we have to realize is that decisions made in this manner are based on information available to us relative to our current circumstances. Our natural surroundings and conditions are providing criteria that we mentally assimilate and prioritize, then evaluate according to perceived value and importance, all of which lead to a choice.
The hard truth we must accept is that anyone can do this, regardless of whether or not the person is a Christian. Like it or not, this is a process which essentially leaves God out. The reason I say this is because such a method of decision-making is contained within the boundaries of an individual’s personal culture, convictions, standards of living, desires and religious beliefs (if there are any).
Just because we live daily with Christian convictions and beliefs does not mean we are fulfilling the will of God. It also does not mean that our decisions, no matter how rational and righteous they may seem, are a result of being led of the Lord. I would like to present a variation to the above, three-point mental check list:
1 – Just because something isn’t sin does not mean it is God’s will.
2 – What you perceive as a benefit to your family and the Kingdom of God may
actually be a detriment from God’s perspective.
3 – Both Satan and God can present open doors of “golden opportunities.”
Take another look at our verse from Proverbs 14:12, There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. If a person makes a choice just because it is not sin, it seems to line up with what God says in the Bible, presents apparent benefit to family and God’s Kingdom, but is not in God’s will, the result could be the “death” of a divine plan God wishes to implement in that person’s life. When a Believer makes choices in this manner, they are “in the flesh” and not “in the spirit.” What complicates this is the fact that you cannot act according to God’s will if you do not know His will.
A vast number of Christians have been misled into believing that God’s will is going to be accomplished in a person’s life no matter what. This is a terrible doctrine, one that scripture clearly refutes, and which leads to much confusion about how God operates. God will never violate a person’s will; thus, if we do not seek to know His will, we cannot make a decision which reflects His will!
God’s general will for the Body of Christ is recorded in scripture. But His specific will for each individual Christian is not recorded in the Bible. Likewise, His specific will for you and me absolutely cannot in any way, shape, or form be determined through natural circumstances, no matter how beneficial those circumstances may appear. If we make a decision because “it is not sin” or because we see the potential for greater financial increase, then we are acting in the flesh out of human reason.
I know of two ministers, each with his own, highly successful ministry, who made decisions which seemed to result in excellent opportunities to touch many people for the Lord. Everything appeared be going well and others encouraged them about what they were doing. However, even though what they were planning looked to be of God, He was not in it. One of them lost over $100,000 and the other lost over one million dollars, along with his house.
In reality it comes down to this: we walk a path of life and ministry based on our own human reasoning, or we walk the path God reveals. God is a spirit and we are a (born again) spirit. God communicates to us primarily on a spiritual level. We have to learn how to enter this place of spiritual communication with Him in order to receive His specific will and plan for our lives.
Just like we cannot determine God’s will through natural influences, we cannot learn to communicate with God on a spiritual level through natural means. What is so sad is that most of the churches I know of do not teach their members how to enter into spiritual communication with God. It isn’t that the people in these churches do not love Jesus; but that the devil has effectively led people away from this teaching.
In spite of all of our mental, intellectual, and educational capabilities and achievements, we simply are not smart enough on our own to develop a method of strictly spiritual communication with God. God knew this long before He sent Jesus to die on the cross for us. Jesus died so we could become born again and have the potential to communicate with God on a spiritual basis. Then, God sent the Holy Spirit to enable and empower us to spiritually communicate with God.
We choose to accept Jesus as our Savior; He is not forced on us. In the same fashion, as Christians we choose to receive the infilling of the Holy Spirit; He is not forced on us. Then, as Christians who have chosen to receive the infilling of the Holy Spirit, we choose to pray in the miracle gift of tongues that the Holy Spirit gives us. It is through praying in tongues we enter into spiritual communication with God. Consider what Paul wrote:
For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.
He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.
For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. (1 Corinthians 14:2, 4, 14)
To briefly summarize, when a person prays in tongues he is:
1 – communicating spiritually, directly with God
2 – edifying and strengthening himself spiritually
3 – praying from his spirit, not from his own mind, thoughts and reasoning.
The more we pray in tongues, the Holy Spirit is able to help us understand and recognize the voice of God as He speaks to us. He begins conveying to us God’s perfect will and plan for our lives. Our understanding of the Bible and spiritual things begins to increase. The decisions we then make will not be in the flesh, but will be brought forth out of the realm of the spirit and God’s infinite wisdom.
I know many Christians disagree with the concept of speaking in tongues, and I used to be one of them; in fact, I didn’t even believe that speaking in tongues was of God or for the church today. But I can tell you this, the moment that I, as a Christian, chose to receive the infilling of the Holy Spirit and started praying in the gift of tongues that He gave me, my entire life and ministry changed.
Again, we absolutely cannot, out of our own capacity of human reason and rationale, develop a better method of spiritual communication. God has made this gift available to all Christians who are humble enough to admit they need it and wise enough to willingly accept it. Our minds have limitations; the mind of God is limitless. God, out of the infinite depths of His Holy, Perfect wisdom, knowledge and grace is able to transfer the faultless details of His divinely crafted plan for our lives to our spirit as we choose to pray in tongues.
Remember, God made this gift available because He knew we would need it. Is it not, therefore, to our distinct advantage to accept and utilize this gift? Why would I not want to fellowship with my Savior on a spiritual level? Why would I not want to participate in spiritual communication with Him? Why would I not want to give Him this specific type of access to my spirit so He could pour out to me the abundant wealth of His knowledge and will for my life?
Since I started praying in tongues, passages of scripture which had seemed confusing have become crystal-clear; God has been able to release through me an ever-increasing level of His power and people I have prayed for have received instantaneous healing and, in some cases, literal miracles; I have learned to better recognize when He is speaking to me and have even carried on actual conversations with Him. Yes, I know this may sound so very strange to some people; but all I can tell you is that there is so much more of God all Christians can experience through praying in tongues.
XXXXX, God loves you so very much that He has not left you comfortless; He has sent the Holy Spirit to be your personal, Divine comforter and counselor. The Holy Spirit wants you to clearly know all the details of God’s plan for your life and to unmistakably recognize the voice of your Heavenly Father. This is all part of the reason why He makes the gift of tongues available to all Believers. If you have not yet received it, I highly encourage you to accept this gift from Him today. If you have already chosen to receive the gift of tongues from the Holy Spirit, then make every effort to pray in this supernatural, spiritual language to experience the edification it will produce!
Your fellow laborer,