Walking in the flesh

Abraham sends away Hagar and Ishmael by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri 1657

Abraham sends away Hagar and Ishmael by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri 1657

When I was younger I was involved with some churches that were very enthusiastic in their evangelism. In fact, they were so enthusiastic that some of the things they did crossed what I thought were some ethical boundaries. The result was that they had some short term gains. Some people responded and came to church. However there were some other negative consequences.

In Biblical terms when we do things according to God’s ways and promptings we are walking in the spirit. When we do things that are either against God’s ways, or against his promptings we are walking in the flesh.

In the story of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar in Genesis 16 we see Abraham and Sarah trying to make God’s promised heir through their own ways. They were walking in the flesh. The short term results were good. Hagar had a son Ishmael. Abraham now had an heir of his own ‘flesh’.

The long term results weren’t so good. This wasn’t the way God wanted to do things. And although what Abraham did might have been culturally appropriate for that time and place, it wasn’t God’s way. Ishmael and his descendants became trouble for Isaac and his descendants. Some suggest even today.

It does make me think about what things I’m doing my ways and what I’m doing God’s ways. It can be easy to get short term results in a blog by being critical of others, or writing about big contentious issues. But I don’t believe that is what God wants from this blog.

When raising children, sometimes it is tempting to take short cuts which make my life easier in the short term, but what are the long term consequences? Which are the right fights to have with my children?

Are there any other areas where I’m walking in the flesh and not by the spirit? I guess it is a question I should continually be asking myself.

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11 thoughts on “Walking in the flesh

  1. I have been “thinking” (a “feeling”, really) of writing something about Abraham and Hagar, but I suppose now it will be a follow-up to this post. What you just said is an undeniable truth.

  2. Nate, it’s a questions we all need to ask ourselves. “It can be easy to get short term results in a blog by being critical of others, or writing about big contentious issues.” I think this is the wider path; we all must pray for the Spirit’s guidance to place our feet on the narrow one, the one to paraphrase Robert Frost, is the one less taken and the one that will make all the difference.

  3. Such a good example of this principle Nate!!! Many Christians know the phrase, but don’t understand what it looks like in our lives. Your examples of blogging and raising kids bring it into the sphere of everyday living.

    You know the story ends badly when it begins, “See the LORD has restrained me from bearing. . .” Anytime we try to circumvent God’s will by a scheme we design, we are walking in the flesh and the results will bring heartbreak and sometimes long term consequences too.

    When I was a very young believer our pastor mentioned ‘walking in the flesh’ and I later asked a friend what he meant. She said she could always tell when she was walking in the flesh because she was ‘striving in her own strength’ to make things happen. She told me when she walked in the Spirit there was a flow to her life. I like that, the flesh strives, is driven, but the Spirit flows when we seek to do God’s will.

  4. This issue is a world-breaker. The Bible shows so many examples of flesh action when Spirit Work was called for (David and Bathsheba is another big example). We want things to work, and without thinking we “make it work”, only to find it didn’t work, or we left carcasses of wounded along the way. I have started to think about retirement in a few years and I have to be careful I do not use arithmetic instead of faith, if you understand my distinction. The temptation to get immediate results pulls so strongly.
    Peace

Thanks for reading. What do you think? Do these questions relate to you? How?

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