Are You After The Flesh Or After The Spirit?
"How may we know whether we are after the flesh or after the Spirit? By examining what we mind, the things of the flesh or the things of the spirit?"
"The man is as the mind is. The mind is the forge of thoughts...which way do the thoughts move with most pleasure? On what do they dwell with most satisfaction? The mind is the seat of wisdom. Which way go the projects and contrivances? Whether are we more wise for the world or for our souls? It is a great matter what our savour is, what truths, what tidings, what comforts, we do relish, and are most agreeable to us." - both quotes are from Matthew Henry
"It is the 'minding' of the things of the flesh or spirit which determines character; what a man is rather than what a man does. God looks at the heart, and no outward act can deceive Him."
"We may know our spiritual position by observing what things we mind. A bar of steel, by what it minds will show whether it is magnetized or not. Our conduct, like the hands of our watches, tells out the unseen movements within."
"The thoughts make the man, and the thoughts are the man. He is 'carnal' if he gives the first and largest place in his heart to the things of the world; he is 'spiritual' if he gives that preeminence to the exercise of faith."
- all three quotes are from the Biblical Illustrator - New Testament
"He who is guided by the Spirit will not obey the lusts of the flesh."
"To walk after the flesh is to obey the dictates of the flesh; and to walk after the Spirit is to obey its dictates."
- the above two quotes are from the People's New Testament
"Man must be under the predominating influence of one or other of these two principles, and, according as the one or the other has the mastery, will be the complexion of their life, the character of their actions."
- Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary
It's so important that you know whether or not you are "after the flesh" or "after the Spirit." The reason being is because they both have consequences - the "flesh" produces "death," while the "Spirit" produces "life and peace."
As you look upon your life in Christ, what do you see more of - "death" or "life and peace"?
You may be appalled that one would even question you on this matter. You may be thinking within yourself saying - "I am a Born Again Christian. There is no 'death' in me."
Well, the truth of the matter is that you can have one area in your life where you are yielding to the "flesh" and, resultantly, be classified as a "carnal" person - one who is following after the dictates of your flesh. There may be one area which is causing you to lose out with God or to rob you of the victory that you should have. There may be one area which consumes your thoughts and pulls you away from a closer walk with Jesus.
It's so important that we understand - according to the Scriptures - what the "flesh" is...what it entails...and what it is capable of doing in our spiritual walk.
The Scripture tells us in John 3:6 - "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." The "flesh" here refers to the sinful and defiled nature of man which became unclean and corrupted through sin. It denotes the sinful propensities and passions of this fallen nature. It is a distinguishing principle from the "Spirit" and is of an earthly economy while the principle of the "Spirit" is of a heavenly one. Under its influence, the soul becomes wedded to it...captivated by its will...in love with its delights...and employed in making provision for it. As the saying goes - "Like will begat like." Hence, when you are in the "flesh," you cannot help but produce "flesh" in others...promote "fleshly" projects...or project "fleshly" ideas. In other words, your kind produces that which is "fleshly and carnal."
The Apostle Jude - in his short epistle - spoke of being "defiled" by the "flesh" and "spotted" by the "flesh" (Jude 1:8, 23). It carries these two faculties. It has the power to pollute all those who give indulgence to its corrupt passions and appetites and to make their conduct loathsome and contagious unto others.
The "flesh" can be "sown" into as well as the "Spirit." Galatians 6:8 says - "For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." When one makes provision for the indulgence of his fleshly appetites and passions or makes use of his property to give indulgence to licentiousness, intemperance, or vanity - he is "sowing to his flesh." Or when one pampers his flesh...gratifies or indulges its lusts...minds the things of the flesh...lives after the flesh...does its works...or has as his bent, study, or employment to increase his worldly riches - he is "sowing to the flesh."
Romans 8:4 informs us that people can either "walk after the flesh" or "after the Spirit" when it says - "That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled is us, who walk not after the the flesh, but after the Spirit." To "walk after the flesh" is to live under the control of sin or to have the bent of one's life to be in the direction of evil. The Apostle Peter alluded to such when in 2 Peter 2:10 he said of the "unjust" - "But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness..." These live for the indulgence of their carnal appetites. They live impure lives and follow the desires of their own wicked hearts.
In Romans 8:5, Paul spoke of those who were "after the flesh." They are the ones who are under the influence of the corrupt and sinful desires of the flesh. They "mind the things of the flesh." In other words, they put their minds on or give attention to this world or the present life rather than spiritual and eternal things. They desire, take pleasure in, and are occupied with gratifying the corrupt desires of their sinful human nature. In Romans 8:6, Paul referred to them as being "carnally minded." Their mind, understanding, judgment, will, affections, thoughts, reasons, and reasonings are bent toward the fulfilling of fleshly desires. The habitual bent and disposition of their soul is toward such things as covetousness, sensuality, ambition, worldly advantage, honors, or pleasures. They are busied about earthly things and governed by corrupt desires.
In Romans 8:12-23, he spoke of "living after the flesh." which is simply pleasing, serving, and gratifying the "flesh" and its carnal propensities. It is living life according to the wills and motions of the flesh. It must be realized by all that "living after the flesh" leads to death - spiritual death or eternal separation from God in Hell.
One thing that you must understand is that you are not a "debtor...to the flesh, to live after the flesh" (Romans 8:12). In other words, you are not bound to indulge it... under any obligation to obey its dictates...nor do you owe anything to it. You are only obligated - as a Christian - to disown it and become deaf to its unrighteous demands.
In Galatians 5:16, the Apostle Paul gave the solution on how to overcome the "flesh" in your life when he decreed - "...Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh." The "flesh" will not get its way as long as you live under the continual influence of the Holy Ghost and yield to all His suggestions.
The power of the Spirit is your answer. You can do this! You can "walk" after the Spirit and not after the "flesh."
Adam Clarke offered this word of encouragement in his Commentary - "If the Spirit of God dwell in and rule your heart, the whole carnal mind will be destroyed; and then, only then, not only carnal ordinances will be abandoned, but also the works and propensities of the flesh."
We leave you with a final quote from the Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary - "The bent of the thoughts, affections, and pursuits is the only decisive test of character."
So then, are you after the flesh or after the Spirit?
What does this say about your true character?
May God Bless His Word.