The Gospel vs The Flesh

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers… 1 Pet. 1:18

The story goes that an Englishman, a Frenchman and a Ghanaian were flying on a plane and they were required to jump out when they arrived in their respective countries. When the Englishman saw the Wembley Stadium, he jumped out. When the Frenchman saw the Eiffel Tower or the Seine River (can’t remember which), he also strapped himself and jumped out.

The plane crossed the Mediterranean Sea and, upon sighting land, the Ghanaian put out his hand. A short while later, he announced to the pilot that he had reached his country. The pilot asked him what he had seen.

The Ghanaian replied that he had seen nothing; but his wristwatch had just disappeared from his hand.

Sadly, it is true that you can have your watch popped off your hand or your pocket picked at any minute in darkest Africa; and you should be thoroughly shocked.

In a related issue – to put the icing on that story –  the U.S. president, President Donald Trump, has directed that only 15% of aid will go to African countries because they don’t know how to manage resources.

Is he rrrrrrrrright on that one? Of course he is right. The African’s ingenuity in some arenas of life excels even himself.

These are not just stereotypes about the African; these are facts. Broad generalizations, given; but facts nonetheless. I know there are people who will burst a vein when they hear such things. But everything we are hearing from Trump & co. about the African is hardly news.

Notice that in our story there is nothing unbecoming written about the two white men. If you are thinking they are angels, you couldn’t be more wrong! I have never been outside Africa, but I do not need to travel beyond my house to know that the white man is as rotten as the African is. Indeed, in God’s eyes, every race under the sun is equally rotten. The Bible tells me so.

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

The only difference between the white man, the black man, the Chinese, the Indian, the Arab and any other race that might be on this earth is the diversity, or variety of rot. But it is all rot nonetheless. Whether they are white, black, brown or yellow, we all know what man is capable of. Since this is not a competition, I am not going to write down a list of the evils these other races excel in.  But, given the genetic factors that they possess, it is a given that, in their particular realms, some of these races are infinitely much more dangerous than the African.

These racial and tribal tendencies in men the Bible calls “vain conversation”. This “vain conversation” is who we are. And when the Bible says that we have received it by tradition from our fathers, it means that we have inherited them from our fathers’ gene pools.

Scripture makes it clear that each race/tribe has its own peculiar brand of rot. When the Apostle Paul left Titus in Crete, he warned him,

“12 One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. 13 This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (Tit. 1:12-13).

The spiritual language for culture is flesh. Man is a product of the flesh. I see “vain conversation” all around me – in my own life, in the lives of my wife and children and in the lives of those who surround me.

Man in his intelligence has tried various methods to try and suppress his cultural tendencies and in most cases it appears as if he has won the battle. But “vain conversation” runs deep. Deep in our subterranean consciousnesses, the flesh reigns supreme.

But I love what the Bible says in Colossians 3:9-11:

“9 … seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: 11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.” (Col. 3:9-11)

That ought to suffice. There is only one weapon that can defeat the flesh: it is the cross. We cannot undo the flesh in us; only Jesus can, through the cross.

Through “Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23), the Bible says we have put off our old man and put on Christ. That means we have put on Christ’s character. That’s why it is not enough to say “I am saved”. We need to go ahead and realize the mystery of “Christ crucified” in our lives.

Putting on the character of Jesus is the greatest miracle that can happen to a man. May we (the church) humble ourselves under the cross of Christ and allow it to break us and to form Christ in us. That way, we will not exhibit the works of the flesh. Instead we will bear and show off in our lives the fruit of the Spirit.

“22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 meekness, temperance…” (Gal. 5:22-23)

[We reveal the character of Christ in us when we crucify the flesh]

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Living For The Glory of God

If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,

Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:

That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;

And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Phil. 2:1-11

One of my best friends is a Canadian couple, Frank and Carol. We have known each other for over twenty years, and we are that close.

Sometime last year the two came visiting in Tanzania, and for the duration of their visit I stayed with them in a rented house within the city. During the course of their stay, Carol always insisted on us having at least one meal every day at a particular hotel in town. This is a 5-star facility, the best of the best, in fact; and it is a place where I would never have dreamed of ever setting foot. But I soon became such a constant figure there that I even got to know the owner and his wife! Coincidentally, both couples knew each other well since the latter happened to have lived in Canada for a long time before moving to Tanzania to start their hotel business.

Carol is the ultimate connoisseur and I was soon introduced to every kind of exotic dish that you could find on the menu. It was a most fulfilling time for me, culinary-wise, and the agreeable company of Carol and Frank made it all the more worthwhile.

The hotel was frequented by more expatriates than locals. I came to learn that some were full-time tenants of the hotel. I was awed by the amounts of money involved here…

One day after we got back from the hotel, Frank told me, “Did you see that mzungu (white man) who was talking to me?”

“Yeah”, I said. He was one of the hotel’s ‘permanent’ residents.

“Well, he was asking me about you”, Frank pressed on.

“What about?” I asked.

“He has been observing us constantly moving about with you, and he wanted to know whether we also stay with you in the same house.”

Frank paused before he continued, “He told me it is not good to stay with you. In fact, he advised me to stop staying with you in my house. He said it is not good for me to stay with an African in the same house.”

We all kept silent for some time as the enormity of the thought pummeled through our respective subconsciousnesses. Frank and Carol were more shocked than I, but the fact that there was a pair of eyes and such a mind observing my every move in that hotel also unnerved me. The thought had never entered my mind that there were people who were too different for me to live with!

I recently recalled this experience as I was reading the above scripture in Philippians. I thought about that man who imagined that he was more superior than I. Judging from the scripture, I came to the conclusion that this was someone who was living for himself and for his own gratification.

I then thought about Christ, the Son of God. Jesus lived for the glory, or gratification of God. He was therefore willing to humble Himself so He could do the will of the Father. When Christ humbled Himself, He was able to do the will of His Father, and God exalted Him. That is the natural order of things with God. We cannot do the will of God if there is no humility in our hearts.

And what, pray, was the will of the Father for which Christ was willing to humble Himself to fulfill? It was the salvation of mankind.

For we who are believers, we are called to a very high degree of humility. We should never, ever think of ourselves as more important than others. I know there are many factors that are involved here and sometimes people simply don’t appear to deserve to be better than us. But that is simply deception. Every other person is better than us if we are in Christ. We are nothing. Christ “made himself of no reputation”, and He is our example.

When we humble ourselves, we become of value to God’s will; we become valuable to people – and God’s reward is that He will exalt us.

Are we seeking to live for the glory of God, or for our own glory? If we are living for the glory of God, then let us strive to follow the pattern set by Christ.

“…in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”

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