Bible Reading: Philippians 3:1-6
Philippians 3:3-6, “For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.”
Peter was confident he had what it took to stand with Jesus. “I will never fall away,” he said (Matthew 26:33). “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you,” he declared! (Matthew 26:35) Though we might admire him for his courageous pledge of devotion, the fact is his confidence was misplaced. In the end, it was as Jesus had warned, Peter denied Jesus. He denied Him three times. He denied ever knowing Jesus. He denied Jesus before a slave girl. It was as Jesus said in chiding His disciples in their failure to pray, “The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). Peter denied Jesus, Jesus looked at him, and Peter “went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:61-62).
The flesh doesn’t have what it takes! When we trust in Jesus Christ for salvation, we are identified with Him in His death and in His resurrection. The Scriptures speak to the radical change which takes place at that moment in time. The old man… that “in Adam” rebel part… is crucified with Christ (Colossians 3:9; Galatians 2:20). The believer is no longer compelled to do its bidding. Yet there is still a part which is yet unredeemed and weak and inadequate and prone to sin, which the Bible calls the “flesh.” The term translates this Greek term “sarx.” The flesh is contrary to a believer’s new identity in Christ. His nature, by the Spirit, is to not sin. But the flesh is weak. And the flesh is easily tempted.
Vine’s Expository defines the flesh as “the weaker element in human nature” and “the unregenerate state of men.” It would be fair to say the flesh amounts to the selfish you. That part of you which is still prone to live according to your old manner of life. That part of you which endeavors to function independently of God. A part of you which is still prone to think and behave as you used to think and behave–to think and behave as unbelievers do.
Now the false teachers in Philippi were acknowledging Jesus, yet what they were saying is it was still up to the believer to perform certain works to gain his or her salvation. They taught there was a need for a person to work hard at doing these things. To try harder to be better. To gain and maintain God’s approval through human self-effort. Now this is a common problem which can be traced all the way back to the fall of man, when Adam and Eve tried to resolve their sin problem according to their own wisdom and self-efforts. The problem is when it comes to salvation—in any aspect of it—we don’t have it in ourselves. Never did…Never will. To attempt to gain God’s favor through our own self efforts is foolhardy!
The flesh is not worthy of our confidence (2 Corinthians 1:9). It can never gain God’s approval (Jeremiah 17:5). It is of no help at all (John 6:63). It is weak (Matthew 26:41). It is only capable of doing the deeds of the flesh and has no ability to do good (Galatians 5:19-21; Romans 7:18). It only seeks indulgence (Colossians 2:23).
Cowardly Peter was made courageous by the Spirit. We read of a different Peter in Acts chapter two. Jesus had promised to empower His disciples by the Spirit, and that’s exactly what happened. Before a crowd of thousands, Spirit-emboldened Peter boldly bore witness of Jesus Christ, in speaking of His life, His miracles, His death, His resurrection, and His eventual return. He indicted his listeners with Jesus’ death. The Spirit worked on their behalf and 3000 souls were saved. On a later occasion, Peter stood boldly before the powerful Sanhedrin and their threats and proclaimed, “we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). As promised, Peter was made strong by the Spirit. His experience reminds us it is the Spirit who is deserving of our confidence, not ourselves. It is as we are filled with the Spirit and walk by Him that we are led and empowered to live out our Christian lives in a God-honoring way. Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing, but by the Spirit, God is able to work in us and through us to accomplish amazing things (John 15:5; Philippians 4:13; Ephesians 3:20)!
HOLY SPIRIT, LIGHT DIVINE
Holy Spirit, light divine,
shine upon this heart of mine;
chase the gloom of night away,
turn the darkness into day.
Holy Spirit, love divine,
cleanse this guilty heart of mine;
in your mercy pity me,
from sin’s bondage set me free.
Holy Spirit, joy divine,
cheer this saddened heart of mine;
fill me with your heav’nly peace,
let it grow and still increase.
Holy Spirit, pow’r divine,
dwell within this heart of mine;
cast down ev’ry idol throne,
reign supreme and reign alone.
Holy Spirit, fill my heart,
cleanse my life in ev’ry part;
your own temple I would be
now and for eternity.