I recently met with three friends to discuss a Saturday event we were hosting. I thought a previous decision was a spiritual mistake, and I pleaded that we reconsider. Not only did I plead, I urged and pushed, and then I rammed my point home with a metaphorical baseball bat.
My counsel, intensity, and insistence backed them into a corner. And it all backfired.
I’ve always pictured my flesh driving me to obviously unhealthy action: greed, power-lust, sexual immorality, oppression, and that third helping of Moose Tracks ice cream.
But even when my flesh fights for good things, it always corrupts. And then it destroys. My flesh may resist that unneeded extra dessert, but then it gloats, I thank you God that I’m not like all my gluttonous friends.
Beware whenever our flesh agrees with the Spirit. It’s a smiling crocodile.
Our Flesh Blinds Us
When Moses saw a tyrant beating an Israelite, God’s Spirit in him stirred in righteous anger; and then his fleshly wrath took charge and he executed an Egyptian.
When the children of Israel were in the Sinai desert, their spirits and stomachs were empty. They cried, “In Egypt we had buckets of meat, bread, melons, and onions.” But they conveniently forgot that in Egypt they were also beaten, oppressed, and enslaved.
When our natural man takes over—even for a good cause—it degrades our spiritual IQ by eighty-seven points. We know it, we feel it, and we sense it.
When I bludgeoned my friends with “the truth,” even I began to dislike myself and my points.
So How Should We Act?
God doesn’t provide one-size-fits-all solutions. He’s not a paint by number God. If he was, we’d all take those simplistic solutions … and go it alone in our scaly flesh.
(Wait a moment, that’s actually what we do!)
Instead God wants us to remain in a conversational relationship with him so that we are led by his Spirit instead of our reptilian nature. It requires constant connection to God and a heightened vigilance against our natural ways.
When God gives us a spiritual insight about other people, some of us instinctively can’t wait to tell them. Others of us automatically go quiet. Our crocodile nature just grabbed the steering wheel. Maybe us loud-mouths should use that insight to quietly pray with greater clarity, and maybe us church-mice should learn to speak that truth in love.
I don’t know which road we should take today. And neither do you. At least not instinctively. And today’s answer will be different than tomorrow’s. Sometimes Jesus healed the blind with spit and mud, and sometimes he just spoke a word.
I Think I’m Learning
I maintain a website for a local charity. In an email to me last week, someone pointed out a misspelled word. Which was fine. And then he scolded, harangued and censured me:
Don’t you know the importance of first impressions? Little mistakes lead to big ones. Do you understand the damage to our reputation? Indifference creates sloppiness!
I almost didn’t fix that typo. Do I really look like such a dolt? (Murdering Moses would have sided with me on this one. I’m certain.)
But I fixed it. And I didn’t even respond to that email with the words that would have effortlessly flowed from my pen. And I didn’t tell a soul. Not even my wife.
And, yes, my flesh feels warm and toasty. Why do you ask? Are my teeth showing?
P. S. To help maintain the needed conversational connection with God, let me suggest reading my book, Hearing God in Conversation.
You might also consider sponsoring a church or ministry retreat on Hearing God. It involves multiple sessions on learning to recognize God’s voice, and it includes teaching, guided “lab” times for personal prayer with God, and small group interactions.
Past attendees have written:
- “What can I say? I LOVED IT. I’ve never thought I could hear God before. I thought it was just for other people. And this weekend … I HEARD GOD. Thank you.” –Michael
- I don’t know how to express what happened. This was the single most impactful weekend of my life since becoming a Christian. For the first time ever, I heard and saw God in Scripture. I learned how to read the Bible. And I had a taste of hearing his voice elsewhere, and I feel stunned with joy. –Marten
- This has been one of the most meaningful experiences that I have had in years. Now, if only I had known about this retreat years ago! –Sue
- I found the session on hearing God through curiosities to be the most profound one. I felt moved by His love amid my strong emotions and unending stream of questions. So, that was a very freeing moment which I will continue to embrace from now on. –Jon