When we say that something is worldly, we mean that it is of the world and contrary to heavenly things. When we say that something is fleshly, we mean that it is of the flesh and contrary to spiritual things. A Christian, a disciple of Jesus Christ, is not of this world. A sinner, anyone who willfully and knowingly disobeys Jesus Christ, is worldly and is of this world. Let us study the word of God and understand what is of the flesh and what makes it fleshly.
When God created man, He breathed into Adam the breath of life which is the spirit of a man. That spirit came from God and must return to God to give an account for the deeds/decisions made in the physical body. At the Great Judgment we will give an account for how we have chosen to rule over our flesh. The spirit and the flesh are the two parts of a man. He is spirit and he is flesh. There is a spiritual warfare between the flesh and the spirit. Which power will rule in your life? Will it be the power of the desires of the flesh, which is lust; or, will it be the power of a Spirit-filled life, which enables you to live holy for the rest of your life?
If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
Jesus clearly states that His disciples were “not of the world.” They were not sinners. They were in the world but not of the world in their lifestyle.
9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.
10 And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.
11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
The flesh has a certain nature which God has given to every person. In addition to the five senses of taste, touch, sight, hearing and feeling, we have been subjected to many environmental influences which have affected the making of our character. We have many ideas, opinions and thoughts which stem from the various experiences in our flesh. We have many learned responses to the many and various events which stimulate our senses and thoughts. Out of these experiences and influences we have formulated beliefs, opinions, ideas and perceived ideals. We may think something is good and true when in reality it is evil and false. Conversely, we may be just as inaccurate in our judgment of what is evil and false which may be good and true. How can we know the difference? We can not depend solely on the flesh, our experiences and opinions. We must have the assistance of the Holy Spirit to correct our beliefs. The Word and the Spirit are the two witnesses which we must depend upon to correct our judgments.
The carnal nature is present in every child born into this world. The carnal nature is the propensity to sin which is present at birth. All children transgress the commandments of God and at some point in time when their maturity reaches a level of personal responsibility, God will convict them of the sin in their life. At this junction of knowledge, experience and revelation the child realizes that he is a sinner and in need of repentance and forgiveness. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” There is none righteous until they have, by faith and obedience, been washed in the blood of Jesus Christ.
The nature of man has been defiled by sin. Sin entered the world through Adam and the cure for this defilement is the shed blood of Jesus Christ, who gave His flesh to be the payment for the disobedience or sins of all men.
12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
13 (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.
15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.
The Apostle Paul, writing under the influence of the Holy Spirit, said: “...by one man sin entered into the world...” And he added, “...through the offence of one man many be dead...” In agreement with many other scriptures Paul tells us that because of one man's sin, many have suffered spiritual death and physical death because of Adam's sin. But God be praised, “...much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many...”
There is a spiritual death and there is a physical death which has come upon all men because of Adam's sin. Spiritual death is when the spirit of a man is alienated from God, or separated from God because of sinful disobedience. There is also a physical death when the spirit is separated from the body of flesh. The natural senses of the flesh become corrupted when we choose to yield to the evil temptations of Satan. Satan tempts every man to satisfy the natural desires of the flesh, in such a manner or degree as to become lust, and to disobey the commandments of God.
The desires of the flesh can be satisfied with reasonable attention and provisions. When desire becomes excessive and intemperate, it is called lust. The lust of the flesh is the perversion of the natural desires of the flesh. The natural desires of the flesh become lust when excessive attention and provisions are made for the flesh. Fornication, covetousness and gluttony are common perversions of the flesh.
1 John 2:15-16
15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
The desires of the flesh must be controlled by the grace of God which enables us to exercise temperance. This temperance is the self-control which the power of the Holy Spirit gives to you to control your flesh. Temperance is a decision and a choice which God requires you to exercise over your flesh. Because of grace, which is a gift, you can and must conquer the desires of the flesh and bring them into submission to the spirit. Our spirit must rule over our flesh. We must not let the flesh rule over our spirit.
Lust is used interchangeably with concupiscence, as it is used in the Holy Scriptures and it means to have a strong desire for something that is forbidden, especially a strong sexual desire. Understanding the context of what is being taught, the subject being addressed, is critical to properly understand the meaning of what has been written. We should desire and covet earnestly the best gifts of the Holy Spirit. We do not lust after those divine gifts.
13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
15 But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.
16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
You can not do what your spirit wants to do without the grace of God. As long as the fleshly nature remains alive in your soul, you will continue to fight an inward foe which causes a continual, inward struggle. The fleshly nature, which has been corrupted by selfish, unrighteous desires, is enmity against all that is holy and just. But, there is a remedy for this great corruption of the spirit!
1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
Victory over the flesh begins with repentance and being born again, justified by the blood of Jesus Christ. This victory is later sealed by the gift of the Holy Spirit who has been sent from God to purge your heart from the corrupted human nature which you inherited from your father!
Consider an example of the carnal nature working in the interest of self.
20 Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.
21 And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.
The mother of James and John was not yet sanctified, filled with the Holy Spirit. We do not know exactly what her motivation was to have her two sons elevated in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. It may have involved some pride and the carnal desire for her sons to hold some special position of authority and power. We do know a little about how her request affected the other ten disciples. It caused them to have a resentful attitude which was also evidence of their carnality.
Matthew 20:24 And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren.
There is a distinct difference between the conduct of the disciples before the day of Pentecost and the sacrificial life they lived after the day of Pentecost. The gift of the Holy Spirit, that purging power of the baptism of fire, brought power and victory over their carnality, their strife and division. See Acts 1:8.
69 Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.
70 But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest.
71 And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth.
72 And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man.
73 And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee.
74 Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.
75 And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.
Peter's carnal nature desired protection from the possibility of being physically beaten and persecuted. He may have feared for his very life. But then afterwards, he repented and was very sorrowful for his unfaithfulness to the man he had confessed to be the Son of God, the Messiah and Savior of the world.
31 Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.
32 But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee.
33 Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.
34 Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.
35 Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.
Your flesh will be tempted by Satan to beg your attention and satisfaction for the purpose of self-gratification and protection. Will you serve the flesh or the Spirit?