[R]ight doctrine without right living is worthless in the sight of God. We seem to forget that the Pharisees of Jesus’ day were correct in their doctrine. They were outwardly righteous in their lives. They kept the law far better than we do today. These were respected clergy. They knew the truth and were superactive in church—but they still went ahead and killed the King of glory. We must stop trusting in our religious beliefs and labels. If we really know the truth, then the truth will make us free—and that means free from self and dead to the flesh.
In Romans 7:18, Paul says, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing.” We don’t want to admit that today. We still want to display our degrees, experience, insights and talents. We have fallen in love with our knowledge, management skills and technology. We have taken our eyes off the Giver and focused them on the gifts.
Unless we as humans are tied into and connected to Christ our head, we are nothing and have no purpose. Even the greatest geniuses of art and science are only a marred, shallow reflection of the God who created our universe in the first place. Jesus died that we might be plugged into Him, as the branches are part of the vine. Living off our own resources, not attached to the vine, leads only to dryness, death and flames.
The Bible tells us that all the works of the flesh will be burned up. How hard it is to accept this. We still want to do the work of the Lord in our own power and strength—be it with our education, talent or wealth. But in the eyes of God, it is still just educated flesh, talented flesh or rich flesh—all to be burned up in judgment and rejected by Him.
We must come to that place of absolute understanding that as human beings there is nothing in us—not our looks, background, education, riches, talents or anything else you can add—that will enable us to live the kind of life God wants us to live in our generation.
We find Paul in Philippians 3:4–12, writing from a prison cell yet still crying out and longing to experience a little more death to self. Just as his Master set His face to the cross, Paul was determined to continue to say no to the flesh and yes to the Spirit until the end of his life.
“For we are the circumcision,” he says, “which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3).
In this passage, Paul lists many of the beautiful talents, experiences, gifts and knowledge that he possessed—and then he says he counts them all as manure. He said, “I start from zero.”
The idea is never to reform the flesh, sanctify the flesh or cleanse it—the victory formula is always the same: “Put it to death.”