Three tests for recognising the flesh

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Feet in hammock image

1. Are there two things going on in us?

There are always two impulses: the flesh and the spirit. They are opposed. The tendency is to go with one, which 'feels right', and suppress the other. Better to understand the nature of the tension, and count it as a creative, helpful tension.

The human spirit takes its lead from the Holy Spirit and this is where we have a sensitivity to what God is doing and saying. There is a 'rightness' about that which we recognise.

The flesh is the human nature part of us. It seeks some familiarity, safety and a sense of belonging. All of these are right. However the human spirit, as it is informed by the Holy Spirit, will be looking beyond what is familiar and safe to places where belonging has not yet been established. Belonging comes later. Joining God in what He is doing means putting our trust in our belonging to Him, and not needing the sense of belonging in familiar and safe ways.

This is the first test. Are there two different pulls going on? The pull to belonging is likely to be the pull of the human nature, or flesh. The pull to where belonging is absent may be the tug of the Spirit. This is Paul wanting to stay in Asia (modern day Turkey) but knowing the call to go somewhere unfamiliar Acts 16:7-10.

2. Which one makes us look good?

The flesh serves the law of sin Rom. 7:25 so it wants to go in the more self-serving, independent way 2 Peter 2:10.

3. Does it lead to what is life giving or life sapping?

Is it marked by a growth in love, joy, kindness, goodness -- or perhaps requires patience and self-control? Or is it self-serving or something that will lead to stifle Gal. 5:19? Is the pathway life giving or does it lead the other way, ultimately? Am I being led closer to Jesus and more like Him? A tough test but a real one.