How to Walk After the Flesh in 20 Easy Lessons

elephantIf you’ve ever taken young children to the zoo, you will know that the big animals are initially more popular than the small ones. Elephants, rhinos, and tigers get more attention than otters, turtles, and geckos. And so it is with works of the flesh.

Ask any Christian to list the works of the flesh and they will likely respond with the list found in Galatians 5:19-21: adultery, hatred, idolatry, murder, etc. Paul calls these the “manifest” or “obvious” works of the flesh. They are the biggies, the elephantine examples of what it means to live apart from God. But the Bible also provides dozens of lesser examples of fleshly living that you may not be so familiar with. I’ve listed some of these lesser works of the flesh below.

Walking after the flesh is when you attempt to get your needs met independently of God. It’s trusting in yourself (your abilities, your understanding) and living solely from the basis of your earthly experience (what you see, hear, touch, etc.). Now here’s the important bit: You can walk after the flesh in the pursuit of both good things and bad things. Paul’s manifest works of the flesh – the biggies – are all clearly associated with bad deeds, but some of the lesser works in the list below are not bad at all. This is a critical point. We are not comparing good deeds with bad but flesh with spirit. And as we saw in the last post, when you’re walking after the flesh even good things can be bad for you.

A classic example of something that is good yet bad for you is God’s law. It is not sin, it is good! But try to live by it and you will find yourself walking after the flesh. Paul said his ability to keep the righteous requirements of the law was ineffective because he tried to do so in the puny strength of his flesh (Rm 8:3). Living under self-imposed law is one of the primary ways we walk after the flesh – hence its position at the top of my list.

Just a reminder: The wrong way to read this list is the carnal way – identifying things you should or should not do. Christianity is a bit like marriage – it’s a love-relationship. You will kill it if you try to reduce it to a set of rules. We are less interested in the what than we are in the how. So how do we walk after the flesh? Here are 20 ways:

20 ways to walk after the flesh

1. Try to keep God’s law (Rm 7:9-25): Think that you have to do stuff to be blessed (Eph 1:3), that you have to perform to stay saved (Gal 2:21). The old covenant is the fleshly covenant; the new covenant is the spirit covenant.

2. Set your mind on earthly things (Php 3:19, Jn 3:12): Keep your eyes on the here and now. “What you see is all there is” (Col 3:2). Entangle yourself in the affairs of life (2 Ti 2:4).

3. Think about how to gratify the lusts of the flesh (Rm 13:14): If it feels good, do it (Rm 14:17).

4. Pursue your goal through self-denial (Col 2:21-3): Don’t look. Don’t drink. Don’t touch. Fast twice a week. Practice perfectionism (Gal 3:3, KJV).

5. Make sacrifices to impress God (Heb 10:1,8): Be conscious of your debt to Jesus and consider it your duty to serve. Put your ministry or business before your marriage.

6. Load others with heavy burdens (Lk 11:46): Expect your Christian staff to work harder for less pay. Send the message that the work is more important than their families or their health. Shackle them to your vision. Use emotional manipulation or, worse, scripture, to pressure people to support you.

7. Take pride in your independence (Jer 17:6): Respect no one (1 Pe 2:17). Scorn authority (2 Pet 2:10). Flaunt your freedom (1 Co 8:9). “Who needs fathers? I follow Christ” (1 Co 1:12).

8. Worry about your life (Mt 6:25, Lk 8:14, Php 4:6): “What shall we eat? What shall we drink? What shall we wear?” Entertain fear and doubt. “I can’t do it” (Php 4:13).

9. Cultivate self-belief (2 Co 12:10): “I can do it!” Boast in your accomplishments (2 Co 11:30). Boast in your wisdom, strength and riches (Jer 9:23).

10. See yourself as a victim (Rm 8:37): “Woe is me. I’m not worthy. My sinful nature made me do it.” Blame God (Jas 1:13). Blame the devil (1 Jn 4:4). Blame your circumstances (Deu 28:13).

11. Be a man-pleaser (Gal 1:10): Wonder, what will my boss think? How will the board react? How will this affect the tithers? Say only what they want you to say.

12. Make plans in a worldly manner (2 Cor 5:7, Jer 17:5): Do a SWOT analysis; list the pros and cons; make decisions based on money. Manage the risks and stay in control.

13. Try to grow a ministry (Ps 127:1, 1 Co 3:6). Work hard to make things happen.

14. Define success by human standards (Jn 8:15, 1 Cor 1:26): It’s all about the numbers. “How many soldiers do we have? How many attend the prayer meeting? Are donations increasing? Are we doing better than last year? Am I doing better than my predecessor?”

15. Nurture your reputation (Php 3:8): Put on a good show and make a good impression (Lk 16:15; Gal 6:12). Be face conscious. Make a name for yourself (Gen 11:4) and blame the wife when things go wrong (Gen 3:12).

16. Pray long prayers, especially if others are listening (Mt 6:5-8).

17. Regard people from a worldly point of view (2 Cor 5:16): Engage in office politics. View new-comers as potential recruits or leaders for your programs. Cultivate task-based friendships. Choose the best-looking man for the job (1 Sam 16:7). Show favor to the one with money (Jas 2:3).

18. Sacrifice people on the altar of your principles (1 Cor 3:1-4): “I’m right, you’re wrong.” Judge the weak (Rm 15:1). Distance yourselves from those who aren’t as doctrinally pure as you (1 Cor 9:22).

19. Combat worldly problems with worldly weapons (2 Cor 10:4): Put your faith in politics. Start fights (Zec 4:6). Picket the abortion clinic. Protest the gay parade (Is 42:2).

20. Pretend to be Jesus (Mt 24:24): Draw people to your ministry and build toward yourself (1 The 3:8). Teach others to depend on you. Stand in the gap. Try to crucify yourself (Col 2:20).

This is a yukky list and frankly, I didn’t enjoy writing it. Just about everything on this list, I’ve done. God help me, some of the things on this list I’m still doing! Don’t let this list condemn you. A better response is to get mad because we’ve been conned! The prince of this world has deceived us into thinking that this is how things are done, that the fleshly way of life is normal. But this is not normal life for one born of the spirit. We act this way out of habit and ignorance. We walk after the flesh because when we were in the flesh this was how we lived:

You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. (Col 3:7)

I have to say this again: Some of the activities on this list are good! Please don’t think I am against the law or fruitful ministries or planning or praying without ceasing. I am not. But understand that the carnal mind longs to be told what to do when God is much more interested in how we are doing it. Are we trusting in the power of our might or are we resting confidently in His? Are we walking as “mere men” (1 Cor 3:3) or are we being revealed as mature sons and daughters of our Father? Flesh cannot give birth to spirit. Neither can walking after the flesh empower you to live the life God has called you to live.

I encourage you to review the list again and ask the Holy Spirit to help you identify those areas that He wants to deal with today. “But Paul, that’s pretty much everything on that list!” Don’t panic! Your heavenly Father knows you are a work-in-progress. Some of these issues can be dealt with now; others can wait. He loves you regardless, without any reference to your performance. He knows everything that you’ve done and everything that you’re ever going to do. It’s impossible to disappoint Him.

In this post I’ve given you 20 generic examples of walking after the flesh. In my next post I’m going to provide some classic examples of walking after the flesh found in the Bible. Then, in the post after that, I will give you a simple “flesh test” that you can take on your own. This test consists of two easy questions that will help you determine whether you are walking after the flesh or the spirit in any given situation. In other words, it will reveal those areas in your life where freedom and joy and peace are about to come bursting through!
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Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this eye-opening post. Satan has certainly conned me into falling into so many of the 20 traps you listed here.

    I would love to see you do a post on 29 ways to walk in the Spirit..it would help me so much to get my mind around that concept. Of course, walking by the Spirit isn’t a “how-to” and I guess that’s the whole point, but sometimes I wish someone would explain about walking by the Spirit and what it looks like!

    Thanks again,
    Sparrow

    • Sparrow – You weren’t asking me, but I’ll chime in. I’ve been awakened to the grace of God in the last year or so. AT 60 years old, I’ve been born-again-AGAIN. You can learn a bit of my story on my blog.

      To me, here’s a hypothetical example of walking in the Spirit. Let’s say I have an argumentative verbal exchange with my wife. I have all the feelings that come along with the flesh. I’m angry at her. I’m embarrassed and down-emotionally because of how I verbally mistreated her. If nothing happens, I’ll spend the rest of the day down which may lead to laziness, maybe drinking in my case, bad emotions all day, perhaps be unkind to other people throughout the day because I am hurting about this matter. To me, here’s a big chunk of walking in the Spirit: I think about what God would say about this whole thing. I remember (and believe) that my poor performance in the argument is “taken away” entirely by what Jesus did. No sin on my part. No reason to feel bad. I remember that my wife, too, is entirely forgiven. I may need more of God’s Truth to make me feel better even than this. Maybe I need to remember that I’m God’s favorite person in the world (OK – I’m tied for first place with everyone else. But I am #1!!). Anyway, I think a big chunk of walking in the Spirit is remembering what God’s Truth is in this or that matter. I find that 100% of the time, this gives me peace of mind and joy.

      My belief is that God “wired” us (like software) so that when our minds think/ponder God’s Truth, we experience peace/joy. I say this is walking in the Spirit. When our minds ponder un-truth, we experience depression and fear. I say this is walking in the flesh.

      I’m anxious to hear anyone else’s view on this. Thx. Sparrow – Blessings to you. BTW – I love your name.

  2. Thanks for this wake up call. We all need to look at ourselves to see how many ways this convicts us. Sometimes we get so involved that we are in works instead of the Lord’s rest.

  3. You said “A classic example of something that is good yet bad for you is God’s law. It is not sin, it is good! But try to live by it and you will find yourself walking after the flesh.”
    And now maybe I’m misunderstanding something here but Paul says:
    Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law. Rom 3:31
    And
    We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. Rom 7:14
    These statements seem to contradict what are your thoughts?

    • Sorry Andre, I don’t see the contradiction. Can you elaborate?

    • Roshan Easo says:

      Andrew Farley, in his book Heaven Is Now, explains that upholding the law as stated in Rom 3:31 is not a loop-hole to fall back under the law. Rather it is a statement about how much true reverence grace-folk have for the law, while be smart enough not to walk back under it. If you TRULY appreciate the law, you realize just how impossible it is to meet – no compromises, or self-determinations, or bending the rules to technically qualify. You see it in all it’s glory – the glory that Jesus was the best at revealing (only He qualified) – and simply choose to be led by Jesus instead who, being our great high priest kindly choose to lead us by grace, gentleness, and kindness instead. That is the message of the cross.

  4. Hannah L. Custer says:

    Thank you for this Def got my attention. look forward to future post.

  5. Sure, I’d love to. First off to say the law is ‘fleshly’ is a misunderstanding of what Hebrews is saying. Look at the verses you referenced, Heb 7:16 one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. Or the version I’m assuming you used (Young’s Literal Translation) “who has been constituted not according to law of fleshly commandment, but according to power of indissoluble life.” Either way you can see that it is regarding the genealogy of the priesthood not regarding the law being ‘fleshly.’ The second verse: Heb 9:10 “since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation.”

    Once again you see that the ‘fleshly ordinances’ are ‘regulations’ for the body or flesh. It is not calling the law itself fleshly. Paul calls the law ‘Spiritual’ (Rom7:14). Now “Living under self-imposed law is one of the primary ways we walk after the flesh – hence its position at the top of my list.” That I agree with but that is not the same as living obedient to the laws of God.

    Number 1 under ‘the 20 ways to walk after the flesh’ is really just a case of taking things out of context. Look at what Paul says 21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.

    This ‘other law’ or ‘the law of sin’ is ‘the law of sin and death’ he refers to in ch 8. What is the result of this? The result is Paul needs a deliverer. Not from God’s law but from the law of sin and death: 24 “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!… So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”

    Based on this you either have to say that ‘Christ does not deliver you from your sinful nature’ or you have to say that ‘Paul is referring to himself in a pre-Christian state.’ Which would you say it is?

    This also means that it is NOT following God’s law that makes you fleshly and the ‘sin nature’ in you which causes you to live in the flesh. Furthermore Paul goes on in chapter 8 to say “7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.” This means that it is the mind that does not submit to God’s law which is fleshly. The truly spiritual mind “submits to God’s law” and is able to please God.

    • Hi Andre, thanks for your reply. I fully take your point about those two verses in Hebrews. I should’ve looked at them in more than one translation for I now see they were referring to flesh and blood type of flesh. So thanks for catching that. I have removed them from the post above so they don’t mislead others.

      However, my larger point remains unchanged. If you try to keep God’s law you will be walking after the flesh. The Jews had had 1500 years practice before Paul came along and said it can’t be done. Not because the law is carnal but because we are. There’s nothing wrong with the law; the problem lies with us, specifically our reliance on our flesh. The law cannot be kept in power of the flesh, for all the reasons Paul explains. Consider the Galatians. They tried to keep a part of the law and were rebuked for it. Note that the issue was not circumcision per se. Paul does not say in his ch.3 rebuke that “this bit of the law (circumcision) is now relevant” (although it was – see Gal 5:6). The issue was they were trying to attain their goal by the flesh. “Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” Neither is this is a sinner vs saint issue for the Galatians were clearly saved – they had “received the Spirit.” They were in the spirit but they weren’t walking after the spirit. They were walking according to the old ways of the flesh (hence Gal 5). He challenges them to stop trying and start living by faith (Gal 3:11) and the “law is not based on faith” (Gal 3:12).

      As you noted in your earlier comment, we don’t nullify the law by this faith; rather, we uphold it (Rom 3:31). But why would there be any risk of people thinking we’re nullifying the law? Because we’re no longer trying to keep it. It’s a choice between trying or trusting. If you’re trying you’re not trusting. Paul had tried, the Galatians were trying, but we who trust – that is walk according to the spirit – keep it effortlessly (Rm 8:3).

      • “The Jews had had 1500 years practice before Paul came along and said it can’t be done.” (1) Can you show me where He say’s it cannot be done? I agree with you and Paul that you cannot be ‘justified’ by what we do. That, however is not the issue here. (2) We are discussing holy living and not how we become holy. Remember, Paul, throughout his entire life, followed the laws God gave as Sinai. (3) Look at acts 28:17 very near the end of Paul’s ministry/life…. Paul’s confession of his actions… means that unless Paul was a liar he was neither breaking the law nor teaching against it. Another reference is (4) acts 21:20-24 where Paul is FALSELY accused of the very thing the Church now teaches Paul’s letters are about:

        This is Paul’s opportunity to say, “actually James that’s exactly what I am teaching” but he doesn’t. Instead, he does what James suggests to prove that he is in fact NOT teaching people to break the law: 26 The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them. (5) To say we cannot keep the law “Not because the law is carnal but because we are” is to deny the very power of the gospel. Look at Romans 6:5-6 means that we are no longer ‘carnal’ and if we say that we are then we are also saying that we are not in Christ.

        The problem with our understanding of Galatians goes back to the protestant reformation when it was used to break people free of the Catholic Church. It suddenly became about following the law in general and not what it truly is about. What Galatians is about is the same thing Paul and James contended against in Acts 15:1 “Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” People believed, because of their traditions which had been added to the law, that unless you went through ritual conversion, you could not be saved. This ritual conversion is referred to by Paul simply as ‘circumcision’ since that was the centerpiece of it. They were telling already saved people (we know they were saved because they had received Holy Spirit) that there was something more that was needed in order to be saved. Walking after the flesh is not following the law otherwise Paul would have been doing that all his life. Walking after the flesh is believing there is something you can do in your own power to be saved.

      • Andre, please limit your comments to 250 words. (1) Romans 7 is where Paul says law-keeping cannot be done in the flesh. (2) We don’t live holy by observing the law – we live cursed (Gal 3:10). Jesus – not the law – is our holiness, righteousness and redemption (1 Co 1:30). When the NT writers exhort us to “be holy” (eg: 1 Cor 1:2, 1 Pet 1:15), they are saying “be who you are in Christ.” They are not saying, “the Spirit got you started but now it’s up to you to finish the work.”

        I agree that Galatians is not specifically about law-keeping. It’s about walking after the flesh or the spirit. Yet Paul uses this letter to connect law-keeping with carnal living. “The law is not based on faith” (Gal 3:12). You can walk by faith or by the law. Faith applies to everything – it’s not just a ticket into the kingdom.

        (3) Acts 28:17 is evidence that Paul knew how to be all things to all people. “To the Jews, I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.” Neither he nor James were confused about grace. (4) I have written elsewhere on Acts 21. (5) Romans 7 says we died to the law that we might live for a new husband. When you run after the old husband of the law, you’re effectively committing spiritual prostitution. I can think of no more carnal way to live than this. Even an adulterer has more hope of turning around because deep down they know what they’re doing is wrong. One who runs zealously after the law, in contrast, is blinded by religious pride.

    • Andre…. you said in your post that it is “NOT following God’s law that makes you fleshly “.

      However, In Philippians chapter 3: (4-6) Paul includes FOLLOWING the law as putting confidence in the flesh:

      “If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more…”

      (Where he includes) “as for righteousness based on the law, faultless”

      (Apostle) Paul just described the faultless obeying of the law as fleshly and then goes on to further say how he now thinks of it (faultless human obedience to the law) as “garbage”.

  6. wonder what’s left for me to do :(

  7. You have to keep going with that statement to get what Paul was truly saying “21to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law.” Paul makes it clear here that he did not violate the law of God in order to become as one without the law that would be foolishness. What you are saying is that in order to be like Paul we should go to raves and take ecstasy to be like ravers so we can reach ravers. That’s just silly.

    Also Paul couldn’t say that he was all things to all people the way you are implying he meant and still truthfully say that he had “done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors” because acting like a gentile in a way that violates the law of God would have violated “the customs of our ancestors.”

    let me leave you with a quote from 1 john 3 (v4-10)…

    • It is an historical fact that religious folk mistakenly believe that grace preachers are advocating sin (see Rm 6:15). Such is the scandal of the gospel. Those who are enslaved by the law cannot make sense of the freedom that grace brings. Andre, you have confused the law of Moses with the law of Christ. You have fallen between two covenants and so are enjoying the benefits of neither. You’ve caught enough grace to know that you are not justified by the law but you still think we must keep it. Your faith for salvation is in Christ and His work, but in trying to keep the law you are trusting in yourself and yours. Evidently Christ is the Author but you are the Perfecter of your faith.

      Paul said repeatedly that we are not under law. He said that those who rely on it are under a curse but the righteous shall live by faith (Gal 3:10-11). Paul himself gave up trying to keep the law yet said those of us who walk after the spirit, rather than the flesh, would keep the righteous requirements of the law effortlessly (Rm 8:4). In a manner of speaking, it’s kept by faith, not by trying (Rm 3:31). This is how Paul could act like a Gentile and a Jew without being dishonest. The Jews were trying (and no doubt failing) to keep the law; Paul wasn’t trying at all – He was living by faith in Jesus – yet was he was meeting, indeed exceeding the requirements.

      I know what 1 John 3:4-10 says but what do you say in light of that passage? This passage tells me that it is incapable for me to sin. Sin is lawlessness and I am not under law. How can I violate a law that does not apply to me? I am guessing you take a different view, that you will only be judged a child of God based on your perfect law-keeping performance. Good luck with that!

      • I see nothing about being a slave to the law in Rm 6:15, especially if you continue reading through to verse 23. You can see that it is sin and not the law which we were slaves to and sin is what grace sets us free from not the righteous ways of the law.

        That one can only enter the covenant community by grace is not a new teaching. Paul did not invent it. It goes all the way back to the beginning.
        Exodus 34:7: God is merciful
        Job 9:2; 25:4: Can a man be righteous before God?
        Psalms 130:3-4: If God marked iniquity, who could stand?
        Psalms 143:2: No one is righteous
        Ecclesiastes 7:20: Not a righteous man who does not sin.

        ‘Under the law’ and ‘obedient to the law’ are 2 different things if you are obedient to the law you are not under the law. What John is saying is that when we break the law, no matter who you are, you are sinning. If you continue to walk in sin you are a child of Satan not a child of God

        1 john 3:4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.

        This means if you claim the law is not something which applies to you than you admit you are a sinner.

      • Andre, you are insulting the Spirit of grace if you think you can nullify the finished work of the cross through your law-keeping performance. The Good News is not that God gave you a fresh start and said “try and do better this time.” The Good News is that He gave you new life. You’re either a sheep or a goat. You’re either an adopted child of God or a child of the devil. Your righteous acts did nothing to get you saved; your unrighteous acts can do nothing to get you unsaved. Read John through the lens of Christ and His work, not the other way around.

  8. Hello this is Presley again. There is one problem I have with your blogs. I cant stop reading it! I was up half the night last night sharing your blog with some of my minister friends. Man we are greatly blessed. I can tell much time has been put into your blogs because every word is potent. Whenever I go to the verses you refer it causes me to not only believe in grace because of your blog but because its in the bible. Thanks again

  9. Keep going Paul! Don’t let anyone deter you from preaching grace. It is LIFE to those that receive it. Oh, I once was blind but now I see…I once was a pharisee but now am a Christian. Praise God for Jesus, the PERSON of GRACE.

  10. Tonya Brown says:

    Ditto Presley and Leigh! So much revelation/repentence/joy/freedom/love. Paul, my brother, your name is of no coincidence. Thank you.

  11. Very Thought Provoking…

    • Daniel Bufkin says:

      Thank You Christi Marie… As My Bible Note About “Religion” said… Religion Is The Most Dangerous Devil…

  12. Really well done, Paul. Wish I had more time to add, but simply put, well done.

  13. I’m sorry, I still don’t get any of this. I’m still seeing the “loopholes” in scripture that slap me right back into the mindset of “obey God’s commandments, OR ELSE”!

    What good is it to “no longer be under LAW” if there is STILL possible condemnation, damnation, judgment, destruction/being lost, etc, etc for ANYone (apparently, for BREAKING SOME LAW OR COMMAND?)? It makes ZERO sense to me.

    What this seems to be telling me is that there is no REAL comfort/rest or guarantee of “going to be with the Lord when I die”, until — I — DO THIS, or, I STOP DOING THAT, or, I BELIEVE THIS, or I STOP BELIEVING THAT! It’s causing nothing but utter confusion and despair in my life to be quite honest with you! Mostly because I know how impossible it is to give up certain “fleshly desires”.

    When I read 2 Peter for example, I see nothing but rules, regulations, condemnation, judgment, rejection and ultimate punishment to all people who don’t “LIVE GODLY LIVES”. HOW is that ANY different from the Old Covenant mode of existence? What did Peter mean by “living a godly life” anyway? Did Peter not mean to OBEY GOD’S COMMANDMENTS (eg – don’t even LOOK on a woman to lust after her, and a billions other such commands)?

    OK, some might say that the 613 OT commandments (called the LAW) have been sized down to only TWO now (ie – love neighbour as self + do unto others, etc). WOW. What a relief, right? After all, obeying two is a lot easier than 613, right??? NOT! This argument is just plain stupid IMO. Why? Because the entire LAW (of 613 commandments) is said to HANG on those two commandments above. Besides, how many people do you really think LOVES his neighbors/enemies, as Christ does? Zero perhaps?

    So, if no man can achieve salvation based on their own MERIT/WORKS (or lack thereof), why do the apostles keep condemning those who do NOT LIVE GODLY LIVES to “eternal destruction” (whatever that means), etc???

    Hopefully, you can see my conundrum here :((

    • David, please know that what you are experiencing is not at all uncommon – many of us have experienced what you are going through. ;)

      it is important in reading the bible to rightly divide the word by the cross. Jesus was under the law and spoke to people who were under the law – the new covenant began with His death (heb 9:11-22). it’s also important to understand the context the book was written in, like the audience being addressed by the writer: peter, james, and john were called to be apostles to the jews (gal 2:7-9). all scripture is useful (2 tim 3:16-17) but not all of it is addressed to us… kinda like all things are are permissible, but not all things edify (1 cor 10:23)

      you are right about the 2 commandments Jesus gave – they are a summary of the totality of the law and prophets (matt 22:40). and you are right – they are just as impossible to keep as the big 10 (and all the rest of the law). before we understand grace, that truth makes something inside of us panic and ask “then HOW am i supposed to live as a Christian? WHAT am i supposed to do?” thank God He gave us the answer! – that we live/walk by faith, not by sight (2 cor 5:7)

      and this is the simplicity of walking by faith: it is to live each day the SAME WAY we RECEIVED Jesus as Lord… believing in my heart that Jesus is LORD (He is who He says He is and did what He says He did – i am who He says i am and have what He says i have)…and confessing it with my mouth! everyone agrees that rom 10:8-10 is how we receive Christ… and in Col 2:6 Paul says, “just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him”

      instead of reading the Word to find out what to do and how to live, seek out the answers to these questions: who is Jesus? what did Jesus do for me? who does He say i am? and what do i have that He says i have? am i RECEIVING everything Jesus gave me through His death AND His resurrection?

      ps: keep reading Paul’s posts and seeking the truth – the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth. when you start to see God’s word through grace lenses, you will realize that you, son of God, are not included in the “they” and “them” references in 2 peter ;)

      • Great explanation Jennie!
        The carnal mind can not apprehend grace. It keeps saying yes but how can I be holy and blamless when I still do things Jesus told people not to do? Importantly these were non born again people.
        We can’t carnally wrap our mind around our priveleges not being proportional to our performance and we also secretly want to glory in our self sufficiency.
        WE DO have some work to do. This is convincing ourselves of Grace- beating back and putting to death our carnal mindset. This is the work that leads to His rest.
        Blessings.

    • You have to go back to the beginning of knowing exactly everything that Jesus did for us and that faith in Christ does to us. Everything that will ever make you guilty before the law was nailed to the cross and erased by Jesus blood.- Colossians 2:14 Everything, not just the sins that happened before you believed. Jesus only offered His blood one time in the heavenly temple.- Hebrews 9:24-26 This offering not only justifes us(makes right accordng to the laws demands) but sanctifies us, making us pure and holy. We are not made holy only for a little bit it is forever.-Hebrews 10:10 &14. We do not have to do a workout to walk in the Spirit because anyone who belongs to Jesus is already in the Spirit.- Romans 8:9 Did you know that anyone who believes in Jesus is counted as an overcomer of the world?- 1 John 5:4& 5. Only overcomers are written into the Lamb’s Book of Life. – Revelation 3:5 So we do not have to toe the line, perform a certain way or keep a list of do & don’t to be assured of our salvation/eternal life. If Jesus said that the only thing we need to do is believe, then all we have to do is believe.

  14. A little late to the conversation here but Wow. My take on this message. Paul , I always appreciate your words and the Grace message they express. I really am grateful for the back & forth banter between 2 Jesus Loving folks like you and Andre. The article and the comments blog are very thought provoking and God-inspired worship tools. I believe these are the “BIG” questions and seeking the answers in scripture, Out Of Love and Gratefulness, is seeking God and this purpose very much pleases Him. If the focus of my study is obedience or “because that is what I am supposed to do”, then I miss out on the full blessing, i.e. I have a receiving problem that is keeping me from the full blessing of His Love. I admit that I am not the best receiver at times, because of my pride normally. Jesus doesn’t need me as a “co-savior” like you have said in another blog, yet my pride jumps into my day to day sometimes. This pride is among my numerous wrongs. By Grace, it and my other wrongs, are not counted as sin against me. It is done! and I have received that greatest gift. He is risen and here to love and be loved. Because I am loved as a son and can’t “not be” loved, I love and want to please him. Though I still fail in these efforts to be obedient, If I am trying out of Love for Him and my fellow man, I feel His grace as this pleases Him. I trust that God will grow this “work in progress” so that I might please him more. I believe His laws are a spiritual tool, not a requirement, to help me grow. Just as I believe scripture study out of love pleases Him, I believe that wanting, out of love and gratefulness, to be obedient, as best I can, to His expressed ways is pleasing to Him also. If any obedience becomes about spotlighting me or is from anything other than love and gratefulness, my pride is making me a slave to this obedience. If we become mired in a wrong consistently, and do not, from love of Him, hate this wrong and turn to Him (away from the wrong), we are a slave to that wrong, whether it is counted as sin or not. Thoughts?

    • Brian, I’m sure there is a question in there somewhere, I just had trouble seeing it. You have a good heart and you want to please the Father. But much of what you write is tainted with the stain of self – “my pride,” “my wrongs,” “I am trying.” It reminds me of Romans 7.

      Understand that the enemy would love for you to be conscious of self and he will even use good desires, such as yours, to make that happen. The Holy Spirit, in contrast, would rather you were conscious of Jesus – his faith, his obedience, his perfect work, and his fathomless love towards you. God’s laws are a spiritual tool but if you have been led to Jesus, then that tool has served its purpose (see Gal 3:24). Stop using it. Do you use tools in your marriage? I hope not. Tools are for people who don’t know how receive and give love.

      I say this with love: Set your mind on things above and fix your eyes on Jesus.

      • All I can say is a WOW…! This has been one wild ride here!!!
        I’m convinced that were supposed to be a bit confused/curious ..in order to always reach Jesus as our final destination instead of the law…once again I cast my crown to the ground and roll in the ecstasy of the precious BLOOD of the LAMB!!! Jesus your love is amazing!!!
        Fear your a big liar!!! Lol…lol…lol!!!!

      • Yes! If we keep our eyes on ourselves and actions, we’re missing Jesus and his grace. If we believe we can earn God’s approval through any action of ourselves, then we’re missing grace. Faith is believing that Jesus fulfilled what we can not. Our Daddy declared us righteous through Jesus. The enemy will declare Him a liar and trap us into dead works to earn a gift that already has been given to us.

  15. I definitely struggle with reading the Bible from the lens of Christ’s finished work on the cross. However, I love Galatians because Paul makes it so plain that grace trumps the law. But when I get to the later parts of the chapter (mainly Galatians 5:19-21), I get a little confused. This whole time Paul is saying don’t go back to the law but then he lists a bunch of things we can’t do if we are to inherit the kingdom. When I read this list, it feels like a threat – don’t do these things if you want to go to heaven. What am I missing here? I know this is obviously a misinterpretation and it could not have been Paul’s intention to put me back under the law, but now I’m fixated on these verses. There must be other Christ followers out there besides me who struggle with some of the sins on this list.

    • Compare that section of Galatians with 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. The key part is verse 11 “you were” referreing to the list of sins above it but now “you are”- washed, sanctified, justified. One passage I found very helpful in clearing up the whole “walking in the Spirit” thing is Romans 8:9. You are walking in the Spirit if He lives in you. He lives in you if you belong to Jesus. It isn’t some kind of behavior plan to follow but a state of existence.

      • Thanks Colleen. So, this process of being washed, sanctified, and justified should and will in fact translate into a changed life. I guess what I am saying is that when we accept Christ as our Savior, His imputed righteousness will turn into practical righteousness that we can see in our lives. Am I correct in saying this? In terms of that list of sins that Paul writes about in Galatians 5:19-21 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, is it safe to say that in our walk with Christ, even though He has already cleansed us of these sins, over a period of time we should see victory over them in our everyday lives? So if I struggle with anger or jealousy or any other sin on that list, over time in faith I should see Christ changing my sinful nature, and as I repent of that sin, He will work it out of me?

        I guess I’m just confused now about imputed righteousness and how it shows up in our lives and in terms of our personal sins. Paul says in Galatians 4:19 that He is waiting for Christ to be formed in the church at Galatia. So, this is a process then? It takes time for Christ to form in us.

      • God see us as washed, sanctified, etc but in practicality we need to unlearn our old sinner habits and put into practice the new us. We are not alone in this unlearning process. The Holy Spirit is here for us.
        This concept of spiritual maturity being a lifeling process is sadly ignored in churches these days.
        It used to be I would explode anger and only “catch” myself after it was all over with. Now I find myself “catching” and stopping the outburst a lot sooner. Other than wanting to not be angry anymore and doing a few minor things to adjust my enviroment to lessen irritants it has been all God, not me trying extra hard. I still loose my temper but it is less and farther spread out than it used to be.

      • Thanks again Colleen. One more question. In Roman 7:20, Paul writes, “Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” This is how I often feel about sin in my life. It’s not intentional and I don’t want to do it, but I do it anyways. What is Paul saying here?

  16. This was sooooo good. I was disappointed to come to the end of it. Wanted to keep reading. Really, really great job. Love your writing!

  17. I think it was Luther who said i have to remind myself about grace everyday, or I will forget about it,and fall back into the wrong mind set.something to that affect.

  18. I am curious to where intentionality comes in. Lets say for the business man. Is it walking according to the flesh, to have wise marketing? To have a desire to be successful in business? To actually want to grow a business? Are you saying that is walking according to the flesh? Whats the difference between a business and a ministry? Just a couple questions on my heart… Thanks bro

  19. My understanding of scripture is that Christians do not walk in the flesh. Rom 8:4-9 confirms this, also saying that those who walk in the flesh are carnally minded, cannot please Godand are facing death

    To walk after the Spirit is to believe on Jesus
    To walk after the flesh is to be in unbelief.

    Gal 5:19-21 is often referred to but misunderstood. Remember scripture is spiritually discerned, 1Cor 2:14, so let’s see it in spiritual terms.

    Our relationship with God is a marriage. We are one Spirit with The Lord, 1Cor 6:17. It’s this spiritual relationship that scripture often speaks of.
    Gal 5:19-21 describes in various ways how one destroys this spiritual relationship. And anyone who walks after the flesh like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

    For example “adultery/fornication/sexual immorality” refers to the act of seeking righteousness by works of the law ( which is symbolically described as Hagar, Gal 4:24). The harlot we should not fornicate with is Hagar/self righteousness by works of the law (1Cor 6:16-18). For such the Lord is not their righteousness.

    Even “drunkenness” is descriptive of this sexual immorality with Hagar. This is confirmed by Rev 17:1-2 which describes the lost (those walking in the flesh/unbelief) as being DRUNK with the wine of her fornication

  20. Hey Paul,

    How are we to avoid doing these things if we are a part of a larger organization that operates by them? I am a leader in a Christian organization on my college campus.

    We do SWOT analysis, set SMART goals, try to increase numbers, and grow the ministry. As a leader, I have bee given a “code of conduct” if you will, full of scriptures and biblical principles I need to follow as a Christian leader on campus. Granted, they are things I would try to do anyway, but it still felt weird to receive the mandates. As if it was partially about reputation. We have a freshmen gathering campaign to recruit new incoming freshmen to join the organization first so they can be ministered to but also to develop them into Christian leaders.

    I believe that the ministry staff and leaders behind this are truly in it for the glory of God. They truly want to point people to the cross, but sometimes it feels very business oriented. But its kingdom business! ?And it is even successful! So many people have been “gathered to Christ” and found community with this org, including myself. So I find myself caught at a crossroads now that I am a leader expected to execute these tactics now. Am I wrong for going along with their methods? How can I make sure not to do this in a fleshly way but also not be a nuisance to the ministry?

    • God is so gracious that he doesn’t wait for us to have perfect theology before he blesses us. All of his blessings are ours in Christ. But we can frustrate grace by leaning on the flesh. I speak from experience. Everything your organization is doing, I once did in my church. I called it attending to the wineskin and leadership training and that sort of thing. There is nothing wrong with training leaders. The problem is we go about it using carnal methods with programs that appeal to our reason but having nothing of the Lord in them. We borrow other people’s revelation and then wonder why we don’t experience their fruit.

      Looking back, I can see that our most successful ventures were those that came out of nowhere and our least successful were those I planned to death. Again, God can use anything – even our muddled plans. He is so gracious and is heart is for us. But in my case a lot of things had to die and die good before I got anything approaching a breakthrough. I have invested many hundreds and thousands of hours in church projects that did nothing but wear out a lot of people. Never again. The biggest successes in my life have God’s fingerprints all over them. If I don’t see him working in a certain project, I want nothing to do with it.

      • I receive that message of grace! I know God is for me. But what can I do in a position. F leadership yet subordination? I’m a student leader and we have ministry staff that lead our organization- l lead a team under the guidance and authority of a coach. How do I strike the balance between respectif godly authority while also being led of the Holy Spirit? Do I still diligently work on the projects and using the methods they have chosen? Do I speak up? I have learned so much from this blog and a churh I attended this year and I am seeking godly counsel about how to be a good steward over all that I have learned but also not overstep my boundaries as I return to campus where they have their own way if thinking and operating.

      • I would never tell you what to do because (a) I am not your heavenly Father and (b) it would deprive you of the adventure of coming to his throne of grace and receiving supernatural wisdom tailor-made for your situation. What I can do is pray for you, and I will. Be blessed in whatever you choose. You’re a child of the king and he has tilted the universe in your favor!

      • I appreciate it, Paul. Thanks!

  21. Brian,
    Have been in similar situations myself; just don’t be deceived into thinking that you need this institution to have a personal ministry of showing the gospel to others. Actually the opposite can occur. You start thinking it’s the institution’s ministry, not your fruit. If that happens, you might find yourself compromising on what you believe.

    In order to serve I signed a similar paper; things that I was fine with because they matched my lifestyle, but still very uncomfortable. It felt like law, my spirit seemed in rebellion. But, back then, I believed in the church leadership as having more insight then me. I discussed this concern with the leadership, they, of course, had a justifying response.

    Once I got ahold of the grace message, and being freed in Jesus’ righteous. I decided to apply that truth to signing any “Christ serving” agreements.

    This is where you need to walk in His righteousness and live in His freedom and listen to what The Holy Spirit is telling you. God bless that you care so much to want to find His truth in your life.
    Jimmi

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