By Dr. Richard Ing
September 13, 2005
Although we teach spiritual warfare and the army of God
in this church, the overall focus has always been on growing into spiritual
maturity. When God called us into His
army and to teach spiritual warfare, He called us into spiritual maturity - the
most difficult task imaginable for any church or individual Christian, for that
Evangelism, praise and worship, intercessory prayer,
missions work, deliverance, inner healing, healing, teaching, and so forth, are
all secondary to growing up in the spirit.
What we do is nowhere as important as who we are in Christ.
For centuries, the Church has been mediocre and carnal
except for a very few luminaries in each generation. Today, the Church is more like the world than
the “called out ones.” There are very
few truly spiritual Christians “conformed to the image of his Son.” Ro. 8:29; 2 Co.
3:18. Yet, the Bible says that we are
called to be overcomers. Revelation,
chapters 2 and 3. The “overcomers” and
the Army of God are clearly an elite class of Christians who are spiritually
mature in Christ.
CARNAL VS. SPIRITUAL
The apostle Paul made it obvious that we are to move from
carnal to spiritual in order to become the sons of God. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of
God, they are the sons of God.” Ro.
8:14. Paul describes carnal Christians
as those who mind the things of the flesh.
At the same time, they that are after the Spirit mind the things of the
Spirit: “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. For to be carnally
minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” Ro. 8:5-6.
The apostle goes on to say, “Because the carnal mind
is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed
can be. So then they that are in the
flesh cannot please God.” Ro.
8:7-8. In other words, carnal Christians
who mind the things of the flesh are enemies of the things of God and cannot
please God. The carnal mind refuses to
be and is not subject or submitted to the law of God (and the Spirit as
The carnal mind serves the flesh. Put another way, “Self” thinks it is the
flesh and therefore, serves the flesh.
When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, their spirit light went out and
they became flesh. From that point on,
flesh became their God. The flesh craves
clothes, shelter, food, sex, and the things of the world that feed the
flesh. You cannot serve God and Mammon
at the same time. Jesus says,
I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye
shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body
than raiment? … Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What
shall we drink? Or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (for after all these things do the Gentiles
seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. Mt. 6:25-25, 31-32.
To be spiritual is to deny the flesh and refuse to cater
to its lusts. Galatians 5:17 says, “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.” In other words, what the
flesh lusts after is against the Spirit and what Spirit desires is against the
flesh, and if you walk after the things of the Spirit, you cannot do the things that ye would otherwise
do if you walked after the flesh.
So what are some of the things the flesh lusteth
after? It craves recognition from men
(self is God and desires worship) and is a man-pleaser. Flesh loves riches, fame, possessions and the
good life. It is attached to the things
of the world and is dependent on self to keep feeding the flesh. The spiritual man, on the other hand, has no
desire for the things of the world. As
Watchman Nee put it (paraphrasing), “You live in the world and have to work and
support your family and eat and wear clothes and touch the things of the world;
but you don’t have to love it.” Jesus
put it this way, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God,
and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Mt. 6:33.
Either you follow the spirit of the world or you follow the Spirit of
flesh totally hates this message and will do anything to resist it. It will even persecute and kill the messenger
of truth. The Pharisees killed Jesus and
all the disciples and they would kill you too if you told the truth. Flesh will utterly refuse to give up being
God. It will rebel and hate those who
preach this message. Most pastors are
afraid to tell the truth. That’s why the
churches are filled with carnal Christians.
Many carnal Christians don’t even know that they are
carnal, even those who belong to charismatic or Pentecostal churches. They were never pushed to become spiritual.
The one true mark of a spiritual Christian is one who has
come to depend solely on God for everything and no longer strives for the
things of the flesh. He is totally
dependent upon and obedient to God. I’m
not talking about a lazy Christian who pretends to be dependent on God because
he does not want to work. I’m talking
about those whose hearts are changed and whose lives manifest the fruit of the
Most Christians want it all. They want to have a good life on earth and
the highest seats in heaven at the same time.
They will strive to keep what they have and maintain complete control of
their own life. They don’t want to be
known to their friends, family and the public as sold-out Christians. They will cover up their lack of spiritual
maturity by putting up a pretense of holiness and righteousness. They will memorize tons of scriptures and let
everyone know how much they know. They
will engage in lots of good works, even pray harder than anyone, fast more and
pretend more. Most of the time they will
do their own thing because Self is God and nobody tells God what to do. But, they are still carnal. Self is still on the throne.
The truth is, we will never overcome and become
spiritually mature in Christ until we surrender all to Christ and stop minding
the things of the flesh.
WORKS OF THE FLESH
Christians are so good at acting and giving false
appearances that most of the time, it works.
They even fool themselves. But
you can discern them from their fruits.
Jesus spoke of:
false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are
ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by
their fruits. Do men gather grapes of
thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so
every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth
evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring
forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Mt. 7:15-17.
Paul defined the fruit of the
flesh as follows: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these;
Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft,
hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envying,
murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like.” Gal. 5:19-21. “Uncleanness” refers to moral
uncleanness. “Lasciviousness” means
“licentiousness, filthiness, wantonness.”
“Variance” means “contention, debate, strife.” “Emulations” means “jealousy, envy.” “Seditions” means “disunion, dissension,
division.” “Revellings” means
Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
idolatry, witchcraft and obviously works of the flesh. Hatred or lack of love and forgiveness is of
the flesh. People who contend, argue and
cause strife in church are of the flesh.
If you do not agree with the vision of the church, you need to go find a
church you agree with. To cause contentions,
arguments and strife against the leadership is rebellion. You cannot win against God who is going to
defend His delegated authority in the end.
Seditions are attempts by people to divide and bring
disunity in the church. They use
arguments and persuasion to set sheep against the leadership. Again, anybody can understand if you don’t
agree with leadership; but if you start talking to others to set them against
the leaders, you are committing sedition.
There are other characteristics of the flesh which we
will discuss later.
FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
On the other hand, the apostle Paul also defined the
fruit of the Spirit: “But the fruit
of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the
flesh with the affections and lusts.”
522-24. Paul spends much time talking
about love in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13.
Out of love springs all the other fruit of the Spirit: humility,
submission, obedience, diligence and all the fruit listed above.
The apostle John makes a very important statement in 1
John 4:8 and 16. He says, “God is
love.” John doesn’t just say that
God loves; he says that God is love.
His very fundamental nature and essence is love. His heart is all love; His fundamental being
is love. In His presence, you are
enveloped in His love. His thoughts are
thoughts of love. All of His actions are
based on love. We may not understand it,
but it is love. To an infant receiving
inoculations through a hypodermic needle, it doesn’t seem like love; but it
is. Trials and problems don’t seem like
God’s love; but it is.
If God is love, then all who are in His image are also
love. All who are filled with the Holy
Spirit must be filled with love since the Holy Spirit is love. What is it that prevents us from being
love? It is the flesh, the carnal
mind. If you are mature in Christ, that
means that your own essence and nature is love.
But the flesh does not trust others enough to love unconditionally or
completely. It defends the self and puts
walls around it. It does not trust
God. If you walk in the Spirit, you walk
Most Christians who don’t know how to love are rejected
persons and some have the spirit of rejection in them. But rejection is not only a spirit; it is a
mind-set. Get rid of the spirit of
rejection and one still needs to learn how to love.
LOVE COMES WITH A PRICE
The world does not understand love. The world’s love is based either on sex
(“eros”)or friendships between two individuals (“phileo“). Both are temporary and fragile. God’s love (“agape”) is permanent.
In the real world, love expects to be loved back in
return. It is easily withdrawn when
circumstances change. But, God’s love is
never retracted. This is one of the
hardest things to understand and attain.
In life, your best friends will betray you. Family will betray you. Joseph was hated by his brothers who wanted
to kill him. David was looked down upon
by even his father. His brothers were
jealous of him. Most of David’s best
friends and warriors who stood by him when he was king deserted him when he was
on his deathbed. Isaiah and Jeremiah
were hated by their own people who wanted to kill them. All of the Lord’s disciples deserted him in
His hour of need. Thousands of people
embraced Paul when he was preaching the Word and doing miracles; but when he
was to be executed, only Luke the physician stood by his side. 2 Ti. 4:17.
“… no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their
see? The test of love is not when things
are rosy and all men love you. The test
is whether you can love and forgive them even when they are resisting you,
criticizing you, rebelling against you and nailing you to the cross. Sometimes, God has to test your love and He
will allow your best friends, family members and others to go against you. That’s the only way to prove your love.