“You are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you.” Romans 8:9
When I woke up this morning, my back and my knees reminded me that I am still in the flesh.
There are several interpretations of St. Paul’s teaching about the flesh. Some focus on the temptations of the flesh, as in every conceivable thing that he teaches against.
He lists them in the letter to the Galatians, chapter 5
“Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
I think in addition to that, living in the flesh is having your priorities focused on your personal needs, to the exclusion of everyone else. That means that anything that gratifies your flesh or body, whether it’s good or bad for you, can distract you from your true nature, or what St. Paul calls living in the Spirit.
It also means that when we are selfish, always wanting our way, and always wanting everyone else to do what we want them to do, we are being disobedient to our Heavenly Father.
As I am frequently reminded, there is a difference between needs and wants. Have you ever heard the saying that the difference between men and boys is the size of their toys?
Of course you have, and having our grandson around for several days means that many of his little toys hurt my feet!
Now, I like his toys, too, don’t get me wrong. I think my favorite is the See and Say. I found one of the old ones that has a big handle and a little record player inside, and it still works! It has to be 25 years old, and looks like many children and flung it across a room, but the frog still croaks, and the cow still moos.
As we grow older, we accumulate more toys, don’t we? We have phones and tablets and even Phablets, and later it’s cars and big trucks, and yes, motorcycles, but these things can only satisfy the wants and needs of our physical bodies.
Some of those wants and needs can become perverted, that is against the will of God, and can cause us great harm. When good things are used for the wrong reason, or when we worship created things instead of the Creator of all things, we are rebelling against the will of our Heavenly Father.
When the wants and needs our our physical selves distract us from the needs of our Spiritual selves, we will never be truly satisfied. Since we are really Spiritual people, that is because we have the Spirit of Christ within us, physical things will never satisfy us, at least not in the long run.
It is the short term satisfaction of the physical that creates addictions. When external things create a momentary joy, the temptation is to keep chasing that thing to get more joy. These things that we chase can never give us true and lasting satisfaction, because we are not of this world.
You and I are not of this world. We are spiritual people have a temporary physical experience. We are not satisfied by the created things in this world.
St. Augustine of Hippo discovered this, and wrote about it in his book, Confessions, where he found that he was not satisfied by the things in this world either. He wrote this sentence which is so powerful:
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
Since we are spiritual people, that is the Spirit of God dwells in us, says St. Paul, and if we do not have the Spirit of Christ we do not belong to him. If we live according to the flesh, we will die. If we live to gratify the desires of our physical selves, we will never be satisfied, and we will die.
St. Paul calls this the works of the flesh, which means the things that we do to satisfy the desires of our physical selves.
With the Spirit of Christ in us, not only do we have the promise of eternal life in the next world, but we have joy with him in this world, too!
Remember, Jesus came to bring us life, and an abundant life. That is, a life of joy, peace, fulfillment, and love. This is the life he wants for us, and this is why he wants to dwell in us, to make us more like him.
Do you want that life? Do you want a life and joy? A life of love? Then put your trust in Jesus. Let him be in charge of your life. Deny yourself and follow him.
Take up your cross, that is, sacrifice the flesh for life in the Spirit!
Stop being selfish, and put the needs of others before your own. Give of what you have to others, and don’t worry about what you have or don’t have. If you have Jesus, you have everything you need!