What is THE FLESH?
You probably have a definition that kinda satisfies you … until a discussion comes up to challenge it, huh? Yeah, I know, me, too. Just when you think you got it down pretty good one little Bible verse or a simple question can make your answer fall flat like a pancake. Like I said, from personal experience, I know it all too well. :)
I've learned a little secret that explains this phenomenon. Notice, I did NOT say I've learned the secret definition, but I have learned why NO definition will EVER be adequate. Are you ready for this? When something loses its identity it CANNOT be understood (and, therefore, defined) by itself. What?
Some examples of what I'm suggesting:
- Darkness - Try as you may you can't DEFINE darkness by what it IS, but by what it ISN'T. It is the LACK of something. It really has no definition IN ITSELF but in the fact that it is the LOSS of something – light.
- Blindness - Same thing here. Blindness is the LOSS of sight. Only a blind person can EXPERIENCE blindness, but only one who SEES or HAD SEEN can truly UNDERSTAND blindness. It is defined by something that is lost.
- Cold - Cold is not a something, but a LACK or LOSS of something. Cold is what happens when the energy is taken out. A refrigerator gets cold by taking OUT the heat and NOT by adding in some kind of substance known as cold (you can verify this by asking an AC or refrigerant technician). Cold is not a substance, it is a nothing. Heat is produced by energy; heat is a something. When heat is removed, cold is the result. (Consider that Absolute Zero is the scientific theory of the lowest temperature attainable that happens when there is absolutely NO energy or heat.)
- Evil - Yep, this, too! Evil can be characterized and grouped (as well as the above), but not defined WITHIN ITS OWN FRAMEWORK. Are you following me? Evil is the LACK of true goodness, which is a lack of God-ness. Define it by itself and you are left in the confusion where evil is categorized by degrees and you can justify your brand of evil because it is not as bad as obvious evil.
This whole concept is deep ONLY if you try to blend it in with your perceptions that have been based on that yin-yang oriental, eastern philosophy thing that permeates our thought-processes (yeah, even here in America). In reality, something IS or it IS NOT. We have been duped to consider these opposites as being two equal realities that vie for dominance. Hence, the eternal battle between good vs. evil. No wonder we're so messed up.
So, what is THE FLESH? It can ONLY be defined—or understood—in terms of what it is NOT. The real questions are: What is man? What is humanity? How was he created? Hear what God has to say about this and then the flesh takes on a whole new meaning. Man (man AND woman) was created out of the elements of the earth and was made flesh. God said, “It is very good”. He was created in the image of God - he was the representation of God in the physical world. An examination of Adam and Eve gave an understanding of the invisible God. Man was made to house God. But the time came when God left man … and he became THE EMPTY THING.
Just as a watch without the battery (life source) is a rather worthless piece of jewelry, so is the flesh without God. Just as seashells without the life grabs our attention so that we collect them for their beauty, so does the shell of man that has come to be called the flesh. The former creation made in the image of God is known simply by the empty shell that used to contain the glory.
You cannot conceive of the empty thing without contrasting it to the LOSS of what made it what it was! If I say, “My cup is empty” I am calling attention to the fact that what was in there is now gone. The way Paul used the phrase “the flesh” was calling attention to the emptiness of this shell. He was in no way suggesting that the actual flesh, skin, blood and bones were evil in themselves, otherwise he would have established the IMPOSSIBILITY that God could dwell in man - Emmanuel.
You and I have heard the phrase, “the flesh” and keep trying to determine its meaning by examining the thing in question. If you were to hear the phrase, the flesh, and were instead to hear the suggestion of THE EMPTINESS of the whole history of mankind as it has sought to fill the void with anything BUT the ONLY REALITY that can fill it, then you would begin to witness something different. You would realize how inadequate all the definitions have been.
To be continued next Shoveletter with the famous lie: “I couldn't help it … I'm only human!” Jim