Things of the Spirit and Things of the Flesh :: by Ron and Nathele Graham

“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12).

Solomon’s life was filled with every craving of the flesh. He had riches, wives, power, and everything a person could possibly want. The thing he lacked was peace. His name means peace, but his worldly pursuits in life left him empty and without the peace that comes from God – that comes from being right with God. For all of his wisdom the one thing Solomon forgot was to pursue God.

“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Romans 8:5-6).

We all need certain things such as food and shelter to sustain us in life on earth, but these aren’t what Paul was talking about. He was talking about sin. How can a Christian chase after things that are of this world instead of pursuing the things of God? When a person accepts the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ a change should be evidenced by what that person desires.

Carnal lusts should be repented of (your mind changed about) and God’s ways should be pursued. If our thoughts are on carnal pleasure then we can’t be in a right relationship with God and our fellowship with Him is broken. The things of the world can never satisfy. It’s only when we turn our life over to God and submit our will to Him that we can move away from the grips of carnal temptations. When we put our minds on spiritual things, that’s when we find the peace of God.

When we pursue sin and are not godly in our ways, whatever pleasure we get from that sin is temporary and fleeting. Solomon found that out. Can you ever have enough money? The more money you have the more you spend, so you need more. Can you ever drink enough alcohol or do enough drugs? Once you sober up the troubles are still there. Can you ever have enough of any earthly pleasure to give you lasting peace and joy? The answer is a resounding no. Only knowing Jesus as Lord and Savior and pursuing His ways will bring real peace.

“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

Many people who claim to be Christians just want “fire insurance.” They say they are Christians to avoid the eternal fires of hell, but don’t seek to conform their way of life to Christ. Have they truly accepted Christ as their Savior? Maybe,, but they are missing out on the peace that comes from being in a right fellowship with God. Many people sit in a pew on Sunday morning, but come Sunday evening they are back to living a carnal life and chasing after worldly lusts.

A Christian must submit to God and His will or we are only giving lip service to God. We must make the choice to walk with Him daily or we have joined the camp of the enemy. The non-Christian world watches us and will judge God based upon what they see in us. If our life reflects worldly ways and turmoil, then what advantage can others see in accepting Christ?

If you stand firm in God’s ways you may be mocked as being “holier than thou”, but you just might cause someone to come to know Jesus. Our God is the one and only true God. His word is as true today as it was in the beginning. God has not changed and neither have people. People today still listen to Satan’s lies just like Adam and Eve did and those lies only lead to suffering. Only by putting God and His ways first can you find true peace and fulfillment.

What are the things of the flesh? To make it easy to understand, Paul gave a list.

“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).

Do you see yourself anywhere in that list? You would be smart to look each of those items up in a good concordance to fully understand their meaning. If you pursue any of these things instead of pursuing God you are pursuing things of the flesh. You need to take a hard look at your spiritual life and ask yourself if you are truly born again. If your answer is that you truly have put your faith in God, then you need to pray for His help to move away from the things of the flesh in your life.

If you are truly born from God you focus on God and have turned your life over to Him. You study His word to know Him better and are willing to stand on His precepts no matter what temptations you face. Your life bears fruit for Him.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).
If you are a born-again believer in Christ, honor Him and bear fruit. Put the temptations of this world behind you and pursue things of the Spirit.

Jesus took a firm stand about those who don’t follow His ways.

“He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad” (Matthew 12:30).

A Christian must live by the values of God, not of the world. Satan is the god of this world. If our life reflects works of the flesh then it is Satan who we follow and we are not with Jesus…we are against Him. That’s a bad place to be. “So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8).

If we claim to be a Christian, yet continue in the same carnal sin as the non-Christian we cannot please God. Temptation may come our way, but if our desire is to please God then we will turn from that temptation. A Christian needs to pursue after the things of God and seek after His kingdom.

“Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? Or, What shall we drink? Or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?…But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:31, 33).

In order to seek His kingdom, you need to study His word and apply it to your life. Use Jesus as the example of your way of life. He lived a simple life while He walked this earth; He knew that true treasure is in Heaven. His life was devoted to caring for people and for sharing the gospel. Now, I’m not saying that you should quit your job and go walking about the country. I am saying that you need to put Him first. Live your life so that your co-workers can see Christ in you.

Base your decisions in life upon biblical truth. Know what God says is sin and turn away from it. The Holy Spirit is sealed within every believer, so when we go after things of the flesh we take God with us. No wonder no peace can be found in sin. Pray about everything and ask God for guidance. Go back and read Galatians 5:19-21. These are the things of the flesh and have no place in a Christian’s life. Now read Galatians 5:22-23 again. These are things of the Spirit. These are the things to be sought after.

We humans like to blame someone else for our own failures. When we give in to the things of the flesh and reap the pain that comes from such pursuit we blame God. Why? It is our choice whether we give in to our carnal lusts or not. We make the choice to go to where sin can be found.

“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren” (James 1:13-16).

“Draw nearer to God every day and make the choice to avoid the temptation to sin. “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Romans 8:13-14).

Live for Christ and you cannot go wrong.

One day the disciples asked Jesus how to pray and Jesus gave them a model prayer. We call it the Lord’s Prayer. First, acknowledge God’s holiness, then pray for His will to be done on earth, and then ask Him to supply your needs and ask Him to forgive your sin. Finally we are to ask for guidance.

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13a).

If temptation is in your path you can be assured that God will give you the strength to withstand the devil and not follow the path of destruction. Everyone has times of testing but God will not allow more temptation than you and He together can withstand.

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

When temptation comes your way, pray. There is always a way to avoid yielding to the things of the flesh. So often sin looks as if it offers pleasure and many people choose to follow the sin rather than praying to God for an escape from the temptation. God will show you a way out if you ask. Then you must choose to escape from the temptation.

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).

If you claim to be a Christian but are pursuing things of the flesh then you are conformed to this world. You need to pursue things of the Spirit and allow God to transform you. Seek after a right relationship with God based on faith in Him. Seek His will in all earthly endeavors and listen to His voice.

“But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Romans 8:9).

Things of the Spirit or things of the flesh? You can’t have it both ways.

God bless you all,

Ron& Nathele Graham