“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:6 NKJV).
The flesh is the greatest hindrance, impediment or obstacle to following and obeying the Lord Jesus Christ constantly or continually. Many believers today are not following Christ closely and constantly simply because of their continuous allegiance, commitment, or devotion to the flesh or self.
It is not only difficult but absolutely impossible to say “Yes” constantly or continuously to the Lord Jesus Christ without hurting, wounding, neglecting, ignoring, denying or forgetting yourself (the flesh) constantly or continuously.
Therefore, if you are not willing to deny, forget, abandon, renounce, give up or surrender yourself; you cannot be a true disciple of Christ. You cannot love and serve two masters faithfully at the same time (Matt. 6:24).
The Lord Jesus clearly states this truth.
23 And he said to all: “If any man wills to follow me, Let him renounce self and take up his cross daily and follow me.
24 “For whoever wills to save his life shall lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake shall save it. (MNT).
26 “If any man comes to me and does not hate his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, yes and his very life, he can be no disciple of mine.
27 Whoever does not carry his own cross, and walk in my steps, can be no disciple of mine. (TCNT).
If you are truly sincere and serious about following and obeying the Lord Jesus always, you must deal with your flesh (Mr. Self). However, you cannot deal effectively with the flesh or self without understanding what it is, how it operates, and what God has said in His Word about it.
In the Scripture, “Self” is called by several names to further expose its true identity, corruption, depravity, wretchedness and wickedness in God’s sight.
Some of the diverse names of Self include the following: the Flesh (Gal. 5:19 NKJV); the Old Man (Rom. 6:6 NKJV); the Carnal Mind (Ro. 8:7 NKJV); the Fallen or Sinful Nature (Rom. 8:7, 8 NLT).
The Greek word translated “Flesh” in the New Testament is “Sarx.” Among several things, it denotes “mere human nature, the earthly nature of man apart from divine influence, and therefore prone to sin and opposed to God; the sensuous nature of man with cravings which incite to sin; the physical nature of man as subject to suffering” (BLB Lexicon).
In other words, self, the flesh, the fallen, human or sinful nature is your unregenerate being – all that you are and have apart from divine influence. Your spirit, soul and body without God’s Life and Spirit are nothing but “Flesh.”
After the fall, when man had become alienated from the Life and Spirit of God, the wickedness of man in the earth became so great that God was grieved in His heart and sorry that He had made man on the earth. In a word, God described the fallen and estranged man as “flesh.”
God said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh…” (Gen. 6:3 NKJV).
As far as God is concerned, your mind, will, intellect, desires, passions, and emotions apart from the influence of His Spirit are nothing but “flesh.” The unbelievers or unregenerate people, who are still alienated from the Life and Spirit of God, are nothing but a mere “flesh” in God’s sight.
Understanding what the Scripture says or teaches about Self, the Flesh, the Carnal Mind, or the Sinful nature is very crucial to identifying it correctly for what it really is and to dealing with it appropriately.
Let us therefore examine what the Scripture teaches about the Flesh or Self:
First, the Flesh or Sinful Nature is yours by Inheritance:
You were born with a human nature that has been corrupted or perverted by sin. You were born with natural inclinations, tendencies or propensities towards evil. Therefore, you don’t need to be taught, trained or schooled to practice unrighteousness or disobey God’s commandments (Rom. 7:15-18).
The Scripture clearly states this truth.
3 The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies. (NKJV).
23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil. (NKJV).
The sin nature is yours by birth because you were brought forth in iniquity and conceived in sin (Psa. 51:5). This is why you don’t need to attend any special school, class or training to learn how to lie, to curse, to abuse, to be proud, to be selfish, and to be hateful, vengeful and unforgiving.
When the first man, Adam, chose to disobey God, he died and became “flesh.” Consequently, all of us were born as flesh, alienated from God’s life and Spirit.
The Scripture testifies to this truth.
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (NKJV).
4 Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? No one! (NKJV).
The Scripture further describes the Flesh, the Sinful or Fallen Nature as:
“Your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers.” (1 Pet. 1:18 KJV).
“Your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers.” (1 Pet. 1:18 NKJV).
“The futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold.” (1 Pet. 1:18 RSV).
“The empty life you inherited from your ancestors.” (1 Pet. 1:18 NLT).
“The worthless manner of life handed down by your ancestors.” (1 Pet. 1:18 GNT).
“Your vain manner of life handed down from your fathers.” (1 Pet. 1:18 ASV).
“Your heritage from your fathers.” (1 Pet. 1:18 BBE).
“The useless way of life handed down from your fathers.” (1 Pet. 1:18 WEB).
“Your foolish behaviour delivered by fathers.” (1 Pet. 1:18 YLT).
“Your frivolous habits of life which had been handed down to you from your forefathers.” (1 Pet. 1:18 WNT).
“The emptiness of your manner of life, received by tradition from your ancestors.” (1 Pet. 1:18 MNT).
If you have not experienced the New Birth, you are still a mere flesh and you are still living in the flesh, alienated from God’s life and Spirit. And as long as you remain a flesh or living in the flesh, you can never be pleasing to God or accepted to God. Why?
“Because the mind of the flesh is hostile towards God; for it is not subject to God’s law, neither indeed can it be. Those who are in the flesh can’t please God.” (Rom. 8:7-8 WEB)!
What then should you do?
Be born-again! How?
Believe in your heart that the Lord Jesus Christ died for your sins and rose up for your justification and confess Him as your Lord and Saviour (Acts 16:31)!
30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (NKJV).
8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach):
9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (NKJV).
The instant you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is your personal Lord and Saviour, the Holy Spirit will communicate God’s own very life and nature to you and thus make you a new creation in Christ (2 Pet. 1:4, I John 3:9).
In Christ Jesus, you are no longer the same old, corrupt, wretched or bankrupt flesh or self, but you are now a new creation, self or being.
2 Corinthians 5:
17 Therefore, if any one is in union with Christ, he is a new being! His old life has passed away; a new life has begun! (TCNT).
1 John 3:
9 No one who has received the new Life from God lives sinfully, because the very nature of God dwells within him; and he cannot live in sin, because he has received the new Life from God. (TCNT).
In Christ, you are blessed and completely pleasing and accepted to God.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,
5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,
6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved. (NKJV).
Having become born-again, you have now become one spirit with Christ.
1 Corinthians 6:
17 But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. (NKJV).
You are no longer in the flesh, but you are now in the Spirit.
9 But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
10 But if Christ is in you, although your bodies are dead because of sin, your spirits are alive because of righteousness. (RSV).
You are also no longer a slave to sin and the Mosaic Law, for you have become dead to both through the body of Christ.
Paul aptly presents this truth in his epistle to the Romans.
1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?
2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?
3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?
4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,
6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. (NKJV).
4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another–to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.
5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death.
6 But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. (NKJV).
Discover more scriptural truths about self or the flesh in the second part of this piece!
Prayer: My Dear Holy Spirit, teach and help me daily to renounce, ignore, deny or give up self so that I may follow and obey my Lord Jesus Christ, in Jesus’ name. Amen.