“For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.” (Galatians 6:3 KJV)
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 KJV)
Believe it or not, if you examine them closer, you’ll see the two verses above are actually speaking of essentially the same thing. I’m going to look at this, because they contain an essential truth, one I’ve been sharing about often as of late.
The common fear-based mentality of “act right or be punished” will, AT BEST, lead to a shallow and incomplete understanding of the spiritual truths the apostles wrote about in the Bible. Spiritual things go deeper than surface-level outward behavior. For example, many Christians read Galatians 6:3 (quoted above) as something like this: “if a man thinks he is acting righteously when he is hypocritically living in sin, he deceives himself.” Maybe there’s some shallow truth in such an interpretation, but what Paul really said is this: “if a man considers himself (that is, his flesh) to be alive or better than others, when in reality all flesh is dead and worthless, he deceives himself.”
Do you see the great difference in the two? The first attitude, which is surely the far more common one, has to do solely with outward behavior. Equating spirituality with obedience of outward laws will ALWAYS lead either to self-righteousness or self-condemnation. These are equally deadly, because both keep the focus on SELF, working exactly like spiritual cancer in that they keep the flesh alive when it should be dead (that’s what cancer cells do, look it up)! The second interpretation, which Paul meant, is not directed at behavior, but at recognizing what God did in Christ (ended the flesh and brought the reign of God to earth through the Spirit), and beginning to see and walk accordingly, with the Life that is implanted within!
That being said, allow me to highlight Paul’s foundation for stating the flesh is worthless and those who value it are bound to be deceived. He gave this foundation earlier in this same letter to the Galatians, in chapter 2 verse 20, also quoted above. What he said is that since he had seen by revelation that he (and ALL flesh) had been crucified with Christ, he no longer considered himSELF as being alive or capable of producing anything (spiritually) alive.
In Philippians 3:7, Paul wrote of undergoing a radical change, so radical that the very things he once saw as profitable and desirable, he now found worthless and gross. The basis for this radical change was receiving the revelation of Christ as the “last Adam”1. Before this revelation, he valued his own works and was proud of his impressive law-keeping. But, by the grace of God, he was shown that the only “life” within him, the only thing righteous, was Christ, the Spirit of God. Knowing this and knowing himself, Paul remained on guard against thinking ANYTHING that came from himself was of spiritual worth or usefulness.
So what does this mean, what should we be doing differently? That’s the so-called million dollar question, but there’s really no direct or cookie-cutter answer other than “follow the Spirit.” Remember Jesus saying in John 3:8 that a spiritual person is like the wind, which cannot be predicted or followed? I believe at least one point he was making was that the Spirit of God is not like the law, with its strict set of do’s and dont’s. The walk of a spiritual man is different – the law becomes inward, written on the heart (Jeremiah 31:33, Romans 2:15, Hebrews 8:10 and 10:16). Carnal/fleshly man cannot discern what is and isn’t spiritual, it takes spirit to discern spirit.
So, I have no specific directions for you, other than to seek to know the presence of God within you, nurture it and listen to it and desire its growth, and patiently follow its leadings and promptings. Sadly, this is what most of Christianity has failed to do, choosing self-preservation and religion over sacrificial love and the walk of the Spirit. What I can say is that following spirit will lead you into love and sacrifice and truth (and persecution from the religious who are threatened), and away from religion and pride. For me, as I’ve (very slowly and still very imperfectly) learned to follow the Spirit, I am finding love and peace and kindness and compassion present within me, coming forth more and more without effort. When I’m walking in the spirit, I’m not TRYING to love – it’s just there within me. I’m not TRYING to be patient or kind, I just AM. I’m also not worried about God’s wrath or judgment if I screw up, because I know that God has already judged and condemned those same things I want to be rid of. If I fall short, I am thankful to recognize it, and I simply press onward.
I realize I’ve written about this same essential idea in most of my last several posts. But for whatever reason, this is what I am seeing and what is coming out of my heart right now. I hope it blesses and challenges you. Others are saying these same basic things more powerfully than I am, but there you go.
I love you with the love of Christ, and am in this with you : )
- 1 Corinthians 15:45