One of the most important truths that needs to be understood and embraced in the church today is the the truth regarding the battle between the flesh and the Spirit.
In the New Testament, this truth can be found in several passages such as:
Matthew 26:41 The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
John 1:13 Who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of a man, but of God.
John 3:6 That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of Spirit is Spirit.
John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh provides no benefit; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit, and are life.
So important is this theme that God, through the Apostle Paul dedicated 2 Chapters in Romans to it.
Romans 8:5-8 For those who are in accord with the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are in accord with the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Powerful words these are: "the flesh is hostile to God," and "those who are in the flesh cannot please God."
There are many more verses concerning this subject but you can see from this brief sampling that the flesh vs. Spirit is a major theme in the New Testament.
Flesh vs Spirit Defined
Now let me take the liberty to clarify what the Bible means by the terms "flesh" and "Spirit" and the struggle between them.
The flesh represents humanities' failed attempts to please God using anything other than His Spirit as the guide.
For example: Human reasoning, physical strength, money, manipulation, pride, power, or any "source" other than God's Spirit to attempt to accomplish God's will or anything good in His Kingdom is considered "the flesh."
Let me illustrate with a prime Biblical example.
Abraham, Ishmael, and Isaac
Abraham and his desire to have a son provides a powerful example of the struggle between the flesh and Spirit.
When Abraham was 75 years old God promised him this in Genesis 12:1-3.
"Go from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;
And I will make you into a great nation, And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing;
And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will
curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
Essentially God promised him a son whose lineage would grow vast. When God gave Abraham this promise he was 75 and Sara was 65, yet childless.
10 long years later, Abraham apparently got a little antsy and decided to help God naturally fulfill a supernatural promise. He took his maidservant Hagar and got her pregnant. She bore him a son that they named Ishmael.
Another 15 long years passed before God finally fulfilled His supernatural promise to Abraham. When Abraham was 100 years old, God gave him a son they named Isaac. The supernatural fulfillment was that Sarah, who was well past child bearing years, was 90 years old when she gave birth to Isaac.
Ishmael: Flesh vs Isaac: Spirit
This is the perfect picture of the war between the flesh and spirit.
The flesh is man's pride attempting to fulfill God's supernatural promise with human might, strength, and reasoning.
The Spirit is man's humility waiting upon God to fulfill His supernatural promises in His timing and with His Spirit.
God gave a supernatural promise.
Abraham got tired of waiting so in his human strength (flesh) he conjured up a plan to fulfill God's supernatural promise. This is what the "flesh" does. With human reasoning and human strength the flesh attempts to do what only God can do supernaturally with His Spirit.
Ishmael represents the son born of the flesh.
Isaac represents the son born of God's Spirit.
The flesh operates from human pride and power.
The Spirit operates in humility and supernatural strength.
So prevalent is this theme in scripture that the Bible itself is divided into two halves.
The Old Covenant: Flesh vs The New Covenant: Spirit
The Old Covenant represents human pride attempting to keep God's law with human strength: the flesh. The religious leaders in the Old Testament era were so arrogant, they thought that they were capable of pleasing God by keeping the law. The most religious of them memorized the entire law in an attempt to please God, but they completely missed the heart of God.
The New Covenant represents Gods Spirit supernaturally moving in and through fully surrendered believers to keep His law of love: the Holy Spirit.
In Galatians 4:22-24 Paul explained that Hagar and Ishmael represented the flesh and Sarah and Isaac represent God's Spirit.
"For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and one by the free woman. But the son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. This is speaking allegorically, for these women are two covenants... (The Old vs the New)
Paul then continues in Galatians 4:28-29
And you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise. But as at that time the son who was born according to the flesh persecuted the one who was born according to the Spirit, so it is even now...
This passage clearly explains that those who are born of the flesh use their power and positions to persecute those born of the Spirit.
Great discernment is needed in the Church today. There are many carnal (fleshly) believers and leaders masquerading as God's Spirit when in fact they are operating in the flesh.
Only those with the greatest discernment (those who walk fully surrendered to God's Spirit) can spot the imposters. The sad reality is that the modern church is littered with these leaders who lie, and who walk according to their own pride, greed, and lust: all motives and means of the flesh.
------------------------------------------------The Great Divide----------------------------------------------------
So outrageously important is this truth, that God divided His book into two sections. Old vs New. Flesh vs Spirit.
God's Spirit is about to do something monumental once again. Instead of drawing a dividing line in His book, He is about to draw a dividing line in the Church, a line between old and new, a line between those who operate in the flesh and those who operate in His Spirit.
God's Spirit is sweeping through the world and the Church and He is exposing the false who are motivated by their flesh, and He is about to supernaturally reward those who walk faithfully according to His Spirit.