What Is Wrong with Living According to the Flesh?

Biblical Authority Devotional: The Spirit vs. the Flesh, Part 3

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Tim Chaffey, AiG–U.S., explains why living according to the flesh is contrary to living for God.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. (Romans 8:5)

Today’s big question: what is wrong with living according to the flesh?

The previous devotional revealed how Christianity is completely different than every other religion or worldview. Rather than focusing on what we can do for God, biblical Christianity is based on what God has already done for us on the Cross. Those who live according to the Spirit need not fear condemnation, but what is so wrong with living according to the flesh? After all, it is our natural state, so why do we face condemnation if we live carnally?

Paul drew a strong contrast between the carnal mind and the spiritual mind.

For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:6–8, NASB)

The unbeliever cannot please God because he or she lives for the desires of the flesh. Yet nothing good dwells in our flesh (Romans 7:18), and those who live according to the flesh live for self rather than for their Creator.

People tend to think that they can be good without God, but a brief perusal of the daily news shows that the wickedness of man is undeniable. In his second epistle to Timothy, Paul wrote that the day would come when men would be “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, [and] lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:2–4).

If we are honest with ourselves, then we must admit that many of these characteristics accurately describe our natural tendencies. Our society is rife with these behaviors, and many of these traits are even common among professing Christians. The carnal mind is marked by self-love and pride, which leads to these other ungodly practices as people seek to exalt themselves above their Creator.

You cannot overcome these ungodly tendencies in your own strength. You must be born again (John 3:3). Those who repent of their sin and place their faith in Christ are given the Holy Spirit. Only then can one live according to the Spirit, who gives the desire and strength to overcome the wickedness of the carnal mind.

Today’s big idea: living according to the flesh is rebellion against God.

What to pray: ask the Lord to help you identify areas in your life where you struggle with fleshly desires, and pray for His strength to help you overcome them.


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