Monday, November 07, 2011

Flesh or Spirit?

That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. John 3:6

As humans we try to make judgments of others using our carefully constructed human views of moral behaviors. When God judges humans he judges their birth not their behaviors. God doesn’t give us grades for behaviors. He sees our behaviors and gives them a DNA or birth test.

If the origin of any human behavior is birthed in something other than God’s Spirit it is called “flesh” and it is condemned by God as useless no matter what human standard is applied and how nice the behavior might appear to other humans. With God it is not a “pass/fail” accomplishment system. It is a “flesh/spirit” birth system.

In John 3 Jesus told a “pass/fail” leader named Nicodemos that all men and women need a new birth--including him. To say he was shocked is to put it too lightly. He was stunned. He had spent a lifetime working the “pass/fail” behavioral system and he had never once heard of the “flesh/spirit” birth system. Jesus basically told him he had wasted his time and needed to start over as a new human being.

It is never easy to free ourselves from the accomplishment system and move to the birth system. We all want to earn our standing with God instead of being born into our standing with God. Adam and Eve switched from birth to accomplishment in Genesis 3 and the effects can most clearly be called “death.” It stinks.

In our spiritual formation, we need to become accustomed to determining in our own behavior what is born of the Spirit an what is born of the flesh. Even though we now are “born again” and we have the Christ in us, we must be trained by the Holy Spirit to Identify and put off the works of the flesh. God wants us to learn to see birth over behavior in everything. The “pass/fail” system must be put to death.

This is not as difficult as it may seem for a disciple. Try this. When you are behaving in a way that needs a “birth” evaluation to see where the behavior is coming from, just ask Jesus “Is this behavior birthed in you?” You will be surprised how quickly Jesus owns what he births and how quickly He rejects what He did not birth. Remember, we focus on behavior but Jesus’ focus is on birth.

It is possible for a believer to begin in the Spirit and then try to be made perfect in the flesh. Galatians 3:2b “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” Having begun in the birth system of grace are you now made perfect the the behaviors system of works? Great question!

A believer can begin experiencing things birthed in the Spirit and suddenly begin to put on behaviors that are from the flesh. Why would God permit this?

He allows this to teach us that birth matters most and no amount of good work can ever hope to birth what only the Spirit can birth. Jesus put it this way “Without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

You can also learn to look for birth not just behaviors in others. Source is more important than symptoms in our relationships. Reacting to symptoms in others is a waste of time. That is why Jesus tells us to “turn the other cheek” when someone attacks us. Striking back at a behavior cannot reach the level of birth, but turning the other cheek can.

A disciple should become a birth expert not a behavior expert. Don’t judge behaviors. Look for the source not the symptoms. Aim for the new birth of others by living as Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount. Behavior modification is not Christianity. New Birth is.

Bud McCord
Abide International

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