Romans 8:5-6 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace
I understand the truth that we aren’t to hate our bodies, but at the same time I feel the NIV does its readers a disservice by replacing “flesh” with phrases like “sinful nature.” We do inhabit fleshly bodies for as long as we are on this earth, but when those bodies are our focus, we are in real trouble. Actually, American society today is an all-too-graphic picture of what happens when that is the case. When we are focused on the flesh, “If it feels good, do it,” makes all the sense in the world. When we are focused on the flesh, perceived self-interest becomes the highest good. Those ways are death, just as Paul says here. Buddhism recognizes that, but the only tool it has is simple self-denial, and that really doesn’t work, because as the saying goes, nature abhors a vacuum. We have to replace our focus on the flesh with focus on the Holy Spirit of God to have any real hope of success. We aren’t to abuse our bodies, either with flagellation or extreme asceticism on the one hand or obesity and overindulgence on the other. Rather, we are to be good stewards of our bodies so that they will serve us well for a long time as we serve the Lord. Given our human weakness, the only way to do that effectively is to focus on the Holy Spirit so that He may guide and direct us.
One of the truths that I have occasion to repeat most often is that selfishness/self-centeredness never leads to happiness. It is amazing to me how much trouble people have grasping and believing that, but I really shouldn’t be surprised, because this has been at the foundation of the devil’s lies ever since the Garden of Eden. We really can’t even see how self-centered we are without the help of the Holy Spirit, as I know full well from my own experience. I am not simply to turn away in disgust, as I am tempted to do at times, but remember God’s grace toward me and continue to speak the truth in love. (Ephesians 4:15) Frankly, I get tired of doing that! That should be an indication to me that I myself am not sufficiently focused on “God’s kingdom and His righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33) If I am really thinking God’s thoughts after Him, as this passage implies and other passages say more directly, then His love will flow through me unhindered. That’s not to say that even God’s patience is unlimited, though. That’s something that cultural Christians mistakenly count on, discovering their error too late. Speaking the truth in love includes speaking hard truth that may not be welcomed, but I must not be silent from a fear of rejection. I am not to offend needlessly, but I must give people the opportunity to be set free by God’s truth. (John 8:32)
Father, it’s interesting to have this at this point, when my wife’s brain surgery places a lot of focus on her physical body. Help us indeed have right relationships with our bodies as good stewards, just as You had me write, but still keep our focus on You by Your Spirit. I thank You for the remarkable things You are doing in Cathy’s body, and I ask You to bring her to full health. May we live as Your children in obedience to Your Spirit, so that we may indeed walk in the life and peace You promise in this passage, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!