After yesterday’s post, I thought I should write something on what I mean by the “religious flesh system.” I have written on the “flesh system” before but it may be helpful to address it again.
The reason I use the term “flesh system” is because using “flesh” alone is confusing for people. We have been taught to equate “flesh” with “body.” That isn’t correct in many verses of Scripture. Instead, the Greek word, “sarx,” often suggests something more than just physical flesh. When Paul says that he no longer has “confidence in the flesh,” in Phil. 3:3, he is referring to the religious system he created for himself through what he learned about and how he interpreted the Law.
We each grew up building a flesh system to guide us through life. Certain things work and others do not, according to what we have learned or experienced. When religion came into our lives, our flesh system was restructured according to someone’s ideas on law and behavior. Of course the Scripture was used, at least for Christians, but it was still someone’s interpretation of the Word. It may even have been our own interpretation. That molded our flesh system so that we could think of ourselves as spiritually guided.
So we learned what we were supposed to do and what we were not supposed to do. We learned what gave us spiritual points and what cost us spiritual points. And we learned that all of this was from God. We became convinced that this was the system He would use to judge us. Almost any church we went to supported the system. Try harder, work smarter, do more. Stay away from evil. Then, if you are good enough at the end, God will accept you. It all made sense and fit into the system.
Of course, the religious flesh system leads people away from Jesus. Jesus is just the One who paid to make the system work. We needed what He did, but we didn’t need Him. We just needed to “pick and choose” the right rules to follow. (Oh, that’s right—we didn’t need the whole Law, just the parts that made us feel spiritual.) That way we could feel good about ourselves.
Except that it didn’t work. Those who live under the religious flesh system can never find assurance or acceptance. Those aren’t part of the system.