Friday, February 13, 2009

'Spirit' versus 'flesh'

While reading John Piper's latest book, "Finally Alive" (see previous post), I was struck by Jesus' words in John 6:63-64, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.”

Or as the Good News Translation puts it, “What gives life is God's Spirit; human power is of no use at all. The words I have spoken to you bring God's life-giving Spirit.”

In worship (John 4:24), in understanding God’s truth (1 Cor.2:12-14), in the pursuit of holiness (Rom.6,8; Gal.5:16ff.), in effective evangelism (Acts 1:8) in the preaching of the gospel (1 Cor.1:18ff.; 2:1-5), in the ministry of the Word (1 Thess.1:4; Eph.5:18; Col.3:16), in leadership (Acts 6:3-4) and fruitful service to others (1 Cor.12:4-7ff.) we must always bear in mind the crucial distinction between ‘flesh’ (what man is, and what man can do, apart from God) and ‘Spirit’ (what God is and what God can do).

First it is crucial to really recognize the significance of that absolute distinction between Spirit and flesh in terms of what can be achieved/given when it comes to ‘life.’ (Cp. Jn.3:5-6)

Then it is crucial to see the connection between Spirit/life and Jesus’ words. Only what is Scriptural is Spirit-ual. What is unscriptural is fleshly/carnal. The Holy Spirit consistently works through the powerful words he inspired (2 Tim.3:16; 2 Pet.1:21).

And true life comes when the words of Jesus are received with faith/believing (Rom.10:17; 1 Pet.1:23-25).

When Christians and churches fail to take the ‘flesh vs. Spirit’ distinction seriously, a whole range of fatal mistakes are made (in all the areas listed above). When Christians, including ministry leaders, imagine that they can do 'in the flesh' (with human methods and techniques) what only God the Spirit can do, man-made results are substituted for authentic, lasting spiritual fruit.

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