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What is the flesh?

Quick Answer: What is the flesh? While some associate the flesh with the nature of the Christian, Scripture teaches the flesh is a way of walking and thinking independently of Christ. It is not us, but it is an attitude present within us at times. While believers no longer live by the flesh (Romans 8:5, 9), we can still walk by the flesh at times (Galatians 5:19-23).

Diving Deeper: Some teach the flesh is synonymous with the nature of the Christian. But Scripture presents it as a way of walking and setting the mind independently of Christ.

A simple way to understand the flesh is to view it as software. When we believe in Christ, we are given new hardware or “heartware.” God gives us a new heart that desires to live righteously (Hebrews 8:10; Ezekiel 36:26-27). However, we still have old software running from our former life lived independently of Christ. We have fleshly attitudes and ways of living that have been ingrained into our thinking. These ingrained patterns of thinking are the flesh.

This is why the Apostle Paul encourages believers to continually be transformed by the renewing of their minds (Romans 12:2). We need to reject the “old software” of the flesh in favor of the updates from God’s Spirit. This outdated software (the flesh) can look overtly sinful, or it can look “good”, even religious.

The Apostle Paul highlighted the sinful deeds of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-20. These are actions like sexual immorality that every Christian would rightly reject. This behavior is the opposite of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). However, religious-looking flesh is much more subtle. Paul highlights religious flesh in Galatians 3:3. The Galatian believers began by God’s Spirit (salvation) but were then turning to the flesh for “self improvement” and godly living through rule-keeping.

In short, the flesh is not the spiritual nature or identity of the believer. It is simply a network of leftover attitudes and actions from our life prior to receiving Christ. We can choose to engage in the deeds of the flesh, but we’re no longer compatible with them. Believers no longer live in the flesh, since we now live in God’s Spirit (Romans 8:5, 9). But we can still walk by those old fleshly attitudes when we are deceived. This is why we need the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).

Let’s Make It a Conversation!
1. How have you defined the flesh? Did you believe it was your spiritual nature?
2. Which do you struggle with more: sinful-looking flesh or religious-looking flesh? Why?
3. React to this statement: A believer has brand new heartware but still needs software updates!

Have more questions about the flesh? Check out:
101 Bible Questions - Book101 Bible Questions: And the Surprising Answers You May Not Hear in Church is now available on Amazon!

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