Friday, September 26, 2008

Yoga and the Christian Walk

I was thinking today about my daily walk with Him and what it means to rest in His finished work.

My wife and I go to a yoga class once a week (which has been a lot of fun) and there is a position known as "downward dog". Now, I have no idea where this name is derived because it looks nothing like a downward dog to me - perhaps it was the same people who came up with the names and "shapes" of the constellations.

Anyway, this position is considered a resting position. I consider it anything but. It is VERY hard to hold. I told my wife that since this is a resting position and we consider it a working one, then perhaps we are doing it wrong - or maybe it's a mental attitude.

Which brings me to resting in Christ. Perhaps I'm not considering it rest because I want to fight it - i.e. somehow do my own "work". OR, again, maybe it's an attitude that I fight against because it is somehow supra-natural?

I don't know, but I think this somehow holds the key - for me anyway.


Joel B. said...

I like how you think. :) I think it's both of what you said. I heard Bill Gillham (who Steve McVey has called a mentor) say one time that he was once accused by somebody of preaching "that easy grace stuff." He replied that grace is by no means "easy" because it goes against the very way our flesh is wired.

That's my own wording of what I heard him say.

Resting in Christ is not the natural way of the flesh. The flesh wants to work it all out on its own, but grace means that Someone else is at work in us to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Indeed, it can't be "our" work, and it by nature must be supernatural. :)

Alison Fincher said...

With all due respect, Joel, resting in Christ is the natural way of the flesh. Before the fall, it is exactly what God made us to be able to do. When we learn to rest in Christ, we are returning to what the flesh is made to do, overcoming habits of self-reliance and the consequences of Adam's sin. It's difficult, but I don't think there is anything more natural to what it is to be human.

I like your analogy, John. Quite apt!

Joel B. said...

Hi Alison,

I think actually that the flesh is the problem, and is not the natural way that we are meant to have real Life; that is, Christ's Life that dwells in our spirits.

Before the Fall, before Adam had died spiritually, he had a spiritual walk. After he "died," all he had was the flesh. In the flesh, Adam said, "I was afraid and I hid from You." In Christ, we are no longer "in the flesh" but "in the Spirit." We have been brought near to God again. Our bodies will still die, but we are now alive spiritually again, forever. Being in the Spirit is our rest in Christ. But our flesh, which is carnal, wants to take over. That's often where the battle lies, when it comes to walking according to the Spirit vs. walking according to the flesh.

The Apostle Paul preached this all the time. To the Philippians he said that he formerly had confidence in his flesh. In Phil. 3 he lists out all his reasons and then says, "but what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. The flesh was the enemy, and the only way to have life in Christ was to die to the flesh.

He told the Romans, "You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you." He rebuked the Galatians for falling back to trying to live out of the flesh. "O foolish Galatians... did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?"

The point is, Paul very often contrasted the flesh with the Spirit. The flesh is contrary to the Spirit. The flesh brings about sin... and also self-righteousness. The flesh can appear very "good" (as it did for Paul, concerning his fleshly righteousness), and in Christ we want to get out of that fleshly walk of goodness and instead rest in Christ and walk according to the Spirit, in which we are not our own workmanship but God's, and in which we bear the Spirit's fruit, as opposed to producing our own.

Didn't mean to go so long. Sometimes I just get going and I can't stop... :) I certainly welcome any comments.

Alison Fincher said...

I understand that "flesh" takes on a very specific meaning in Grace Walk, but, if you are contending that flesh in inherently bad, I object. How could Christ have become incarnate and remain sinless if flesh is the problem? Or are we arguing semantics?

Joel B. said...

Hi Alison,

I do think we are disagreeing, and it's not just a matter of semantics, but that's ok. :)

I'm simply looking into what the scriptures say about "the flesh." No matter how "flesh" is defined, the Bible never says that it's good. Jesus Himself asked someone why they called Him "good." What the Bible says about Jesus is that God sent Him "in the likeness of sinful flesh" (Rom 8:3). Not that He was "sinful," but it wasn't His flesh that was "good." He, as a human, certainly did good things, but Acts 10:38 says that it's because God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit. It says God was with Him.

As for our own walks of faith, as far as I can see in scripture, the problem is truly the flesh. It's strewn all throughout the epistles. Walking in the Spirit is diametrically opposed to walking by the flesh.

Paul tried to make a huge point to the Jews that the only thing that avails anything is a "new creation." It's the inward spirit that Peter says has been born again of incorruptible seed. Our bodies/flesh have not been born again, and are not good.

Paul said that true circumcision is not outwardly of the flesh, but is of the heart (Rom 2:28-29). He said, "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells (Rom 7:18).

What I'm getting at here is that I believe the scriptures make a pretty clear case that our flesh is not good. Anything and everything that matters is what is born of God, and all of that is in our new spirit that God has given us. It's a spiritual walk, not a fleshly one. The problem, as I see it, is when we make it a fleshly walk.

Alison Fincher said...

I agree that the metaphor "fleshly" you are using, which stands for our reliance on ourselves, is wrong. But I disagree that the literal flesh is inherently sinful.

Genesis 1:31, which immediately follows the first story of the creation of man, says that "God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good." How would the spiritual act of the Fall make the flesh sinful?

Even more importantly, John 1:14 goes out of its way to correct the Docetic notion that Christ only seemed to have a human body. He became flesh, took on the bodily nature, participated in the marriage of corporal and spiritual that is the essence of humanity--half flesh and half spirit. A perfect God cannot possibly have taken on flesh if it is inherently evil.

You are absolutely right in agreeing with Paul when he uses "flesh" as a metaphor for our selfish hostility toward God, our self-reliance, and our dependence on our own works. I would be interested to know the Greek words for flesh and the history of its usage.

John Fincher said...


This is really a very deep theological question. I don't know HOW spiritual act of the Fall made the flesh sinful, but it did.

Romans 8:18-23 says:
18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

The "flesh" was part of creation and “subjected to futility” because of God's Will (v.20). Paul goes further and says that “whole creation” is in “bondage to decay”, but will be “set free” one day.

In Romans 7, Paul speaks (twice) of the “sin that dwelleth in me” (vv. 17, 20) and goes on to say that it is “in his members” (v. 23). It is interesting that he makes it clear that it is NOT in his mind because that is where he serves the “law of God”. (v. 25)

But ULTIMATELY the answer is clearly and irrefutably given in Romans 8:3:
For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:

Also, Jesus had the body of a man, but He was the only person to be born of the seed of a woman - hence He did not inherit the sinful nature that is passed through the father. He only had the likeness of sinful flesh.

In Greek, sarx, is used BOTH literally and metaphorically throughout the NT, but the word simply means: (the soft substance of the living body, which covers the bones and is permeated with blood) of both man and beasts.

Its metaphorical use comes out of when the usage is deemed….well, metaphorical.

Joel B. said...

There are several thoughts that come to mind, without a whole lot of time to organize them :), but here are some of them.

Jesus talks more about the flesh in John 3 and 6. Speaking to Nicodemus in John 3 about the need to have another birth, Jesus tells him, "that which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." As I said previously, gaining insight from from Paul and Peter, it's not the physical flesh that avails anything, but a new creation - a spirit that is born again of incorruptible seed. That is the part of us - actually it is the very essence of who we are - that is good. As Paul said, in our tents we groan because we want our mortality to be swallowed up by life (2 Cor 5:4). "We" (spiritual beings) are truly "alive together with Christ" (in our spirits) but we (spiritual beings) groan because our temporary bodies have no "life."

A quote I heard lately: "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience." -Pierre Teihard de Chardin

These temporary tents (our bodies) temporarily clothe us, and can indeed express in all kinds of ways what is going on in the core of who we are - spirits - but our bodies are not who we are.

Then in John 6 Jesus was speaking in the synagogue about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Obviously figuratively speaking (no one eats His physical body or blood), He says, "For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed... He who feeds on Me will live because of Me." Some of His disciples left because He said this, not understanding that He had come in the likeness of sinful man to condemn sin in the flesh, having His body torn apart and His blood flowing out, "becoming sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor 5:21). He then said to those who remained, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing."

His own "flesh" that He was talking about was a metaphor for a spiritual birth/life. But when it comes to any other kind of flesh, it doesn't profit a thing.

As I said previously, look throughout the New Testament for the word "flesh," (and along with what you said, Alison, I think it's absolutely essential to look for the Greek word, which of course is "sarx," as John said), and look for any instance in which "flesh" is good or profitable. If it can be found, I'm willing to look at it.

Joel B. said...

Another passage I wanted to get to was 1 Cor 15:35-57. To quote the whole thing would be too long, but the whole passage is worth a look at.

Some highlights:

Paul is talking about the future resurrection.

1 Cor 15:42-45, 50, 51, 53
42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 45 And so it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.

51 ...we shall all be changed...

53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

I think the whole passage is worth taking a look at.