Where to focus?
A Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
With a background in psychology, I’m fascinated with why people do what they do including me. I believe seeking understanding of ourselves and others is tremendously valuable because a deeper understanding leads to compassion and true love.
However, this past week God taught me an important lesson — to have a more acute awareness of the conversations, circumstances and people that pull me into a mindset where I’m focusing on the flesh instead of the spirit side of me.
It is a temptation for me to dive into the whys of my life hoping that understanding will spawn a change for the parts of me I don’t like. The first step of change is knowing what needs changing. And to understand what needs changing we need to know the source of the problem. However, what I learned is summed up in Philippians 3:13 “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,”
In Christ we are a new creation. It is an incredible gift because, we have a new spirit connected to God that breathes new life into our bodies. Romans 8:11 We no longer strive to live by our flesh or self-will (those things which are behind) but by God’s will (those things that are ahead). Children of God desire God and His ways, but there’s a part of us that pops up unwanted and unexpectedly driving us against God’s will instead of along side. This part of us that is contrary to God’s truth and wisdom is referred to as the old man, old nature, carnal nature, flesh, self-will, and carnal mind. Though we have God’s spirit dwelling within us, remnants (sometimes huge chunks) of our carnal nature remain as long as we live in these flesh bodies. Once we are born of God, we get a bad case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, because our self-will co-exists with His will in us.
This duality creates an internal conflict in our souls. It is the pressing affliction of a believer. We want to do one thing but we do another. What I don’t like about myself stems from this flesh-life. Paul talks about this internal conflict in Romans 7 -8. He doesn’t say to try to tame, repair, or fix it. Instead we are to reckon ourselves dead to it and alive in Christ. Romans 6:11 In other words, we need to focus on our spirit that is of God. We need to push forward mentally in our spirit life. What we focus on grows. At any one time we are either focused on the flesh or the spirit. And focusing on the flesh (our will and wisdom) breeds death and focusing on the spirit (God’s will and wisdom) brings life. Romans 8:6
What I learned this past week – was how easily this flesh focus can slip in and I need to have a deeper awareness of those things (conversations, circumstances, and people) that pull me into that carnal mindset. This carnal part of us is corrupt and always will be. It has a focus contrary to God’s ways and wisdom. I don’t need to waste my time talking or thinking about it because I can’t fix, repair or tame it anyway. I’ve learned that it is what it is – so why dwell on it? God has set me free from it – so why live in bondage by focusing on it? He has given me a new life to focus on and seek understanding in.
Because of this duality of flesh and spirit, at any one moment we are either operating in the flesh or in the spirit. Which one is dominating affects everything; how we think, speak, act and feel. When we operate with a flesh mind we are fearful, overwhelmed, frustrated, discouraged, hopeless, depressed, jealous, judgmental, critical, and selfish. Our trust has shifted from God to ourselves. We aren’t living in God’s truth and promises that He is our provider, protector, defender, comfort, rest, freedom, peace, power, and life.
As I draw close to God, discerning when I’m in the flesh verses the spirit is becoming clearer. In the flesh, I feel burdened, frustrated, discouraged. I become self-focused, withdrawn and ineffective in my life. Those emotions are flags that my focus is on the flesh and it is time to pray asking God to pull me out of my mind trap. It can be difficult when I give into the carnal mind to get out of it. When I try on my own I run in circles, but when I cry out to God He always brings me out.
Our focus is to be on the spirit and building it up in our lives which we do by stirring the deep. Stirring the deep (spending one-on-one time building intimacy with God through His Word) nourishes our spirits enabling us to live from the spirit and not the flesh. It empowers our spirit and that is one of many reasons we need to dive into the Word daily. And we have to look out for those traps that ensnare us to focusing on the flesh. We need to be aware of those triggers, times, circumstances or people that tempt us to be in flesh-minded because they can pull us down to a carnal mind of fear, bondage, and pride. We need to flood our minds with God’s truth so that in those moments we have given ourselves a choice through awareness of whose voice we are going to listen to. Ephesians 4: 22-24
July 13, 2009 at 7:53 pm
The Lord’s knowledge is acquired through revelation, not learning. Everything we do here affects the entire universe, and that makes every action we do extremely important.
July 14, 2009 at 12:51 am
Thanks for sharing some potent truths.
July 14, 2009 at 9:42 pm
Very interesting and informative. Thanks for posting this. Have a great evening.
July 14, 2009 at 11:18 pm
Thanks for stopping by.
July 17, 2009 at 8:16 pm
During his later years, Simon Peter, the disciple and apostle of Jesus Christ, was a shining example of a Spirit-filled Christian. However, this was not always the case. Like many of us, Peter started off his Christian life sometimes acting like a tantrum-throwing toddler or a moody teen-aged child. We’re talking about a man who went from refusing to allow Jesus to wash his feet in one breath, to demanding that He wash his whole body, in the next. (John 13:6-10)
What caused the change from this Peter to the man we see in the epistles I and II Peter: the spiritually mature believer? The answer is that he grew in grace and knowledge. “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.” (II Peter 3:18)
Nature teaches that the keys to physical and mental growth are a healthy diet, exercise, and caring companionship. These are good illustrations for the balance needed for spiritual growth also – growth in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus. Believers must partake of spiritual food: the bread of life, which is the Word of God. Also, they must be active in obedience and good works: Christian love, or “charity.” Finally, they must learn to fellowship with other believers in caring for, and being helped by, the Church.
Christians who swing violently from one extreme to the other in spiritual matters are demonstrating spiritual immaturity. Those who are growing are marked by consistent Bible-study and obedience, active service in sharing the love of Christ, and in regular church attendance and ministry to the living saints.
July 18, 2009 at 8:54 pm
Rachel, this was a great message and you are so right on. There is always going to be a battle between our flesh which is corrupt and our souls and spirit which have been saved and made new. Who we listen to, what we watch on television, or things we read can all influence our mind and will either feed the carnal, corrupt nature or nourish our soul and spirit as we grow in Christ. We must always be watchful of what we allow in our lives!
July 19, 2009 at 9:37 pm
So true Marianne. Thanks for stopping by.
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December 14, 2011 at 4:47 pm
HEY Rachel, this Jekyll &Hyde is the explanation of the rapid decent of the world since WWII. I think it is the same as the Jews;when God is over flowing the blessings, people get the mindset that it would have been good even without God. this is the point of people becoming like the king of Babylon bragging on his great intelligence. However, my war between spirit &flesh is a lot less today, because, as I perceive you to be saying, I try to live in the prayer of serenity every minute.
December 15, 2011 at 1:55 pm
Hi Eldon – as your mature spiritually you move from being carnal minded to spirit minded … when you are more fully carnal minded there isn’t much battle, as you move to being spirit minded the battle becomes more intense, then as you become more spirit-minded, the battling starts to wane.
September 21, 2015 at 8:35 pm
The more I read your blog these days… The more I feel that GOD guided me along here, to show and teach me a lesson or lessons. I have a peaceful joy, seeing you bring glory to God.