By Femi Aribisala
How can you tell if a man is a true Christian? Here is one rule of thumb. Slap him and see how he reacts.
Paul says: “They are not all Israel who are of Israel.” (Romans 9:6-7). Similarly, they are not all Christian who are Christians. Or to put it more precisely, they are not all Christ-like who are Christians. Most Christians are only Christian in name alone.
How can you tell if a man is a true Christian? Here is one rule of thumb. Slap him, and see how he reacts. Step on his foot, and see if he would curse you out.
If he belongs to Christ, he will not retaliate. The reason is simple: “Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:24).
Those who don’t belong to Christ will fight back. They will give you an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But those who belong to Christ will not retaliate. They know the Lord will fight for them, and so they will hold their peace. (Exodus 14:14).
Crucifying the flesh
Paul says: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20).
Those who belong to Christ were crucified with Christ. Therefore, they crucify their flesh and so they do not continue to fulfill the lusts of the flesh.
You can identify which kingdom you belong to by answering this simple question truthfully: who is stronger, your flesh or your spirit? Who controls your actions and emotions: your flesh or your spirit? If your flesh still determines how you act or react in critical situations, then your kingdom is still of this world and not of the kingdom of God.
The flesh can never control the flesh. Only the spirit can control the flesh. So, if your spirit is your “head-of-state,” it will determine your actions and reactions. If someone slaps you, you can easily resist slapping him back.
Crucifixion is a slow agonizing death. Nevertheless, Jesus requires his disciples to carry their cross and follow him. (Matthew 16:24). Crucifying the flesh is a prayerfully deliberate process on the part of the believer. It requires us, with God’s help, to socialize our flesh into submission by systematically depriving it of what it wants and craves.
Paul says: “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:27).
Dying to self
There are two kinds of life: the self-life and the godly life. The self-life lives to please the flesh. It lives to gain a reputation in this world. It seeks human approval. It cares more about what people think and say than about what God approves.
The flesh is full of pride, selfishness, jealousy, and self-worship. (Galatians 5:19-21). Therefore, living for self is living without God-control. That is the very worst way to live. It means living according to the dictates of the world. But John warns: “Everything in the world- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life- comes not from the Father but from the world.” (1 John 2:16).
The scriptures show that there are two primary objectives that motivate the flesh: pride and selfishness. But God is spirit; he is humble; and there is no iota of selfishness in him. He owns everything, and is all powerful; yet he does not boast or show off.
Satan, on the other hand, owns nothing. Nevertheless, he is full of it. He is very proud and likes show off.
To walk with God, we must die to the flesh and to self. We must be empty of self so that we can be filled with God. John the Baptist said concerning Christ: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30). In other words, he wanted to die to self and live to God.
Walking in the Spirit
But we cannot fight the flesh with flesh. We must fight it with spiritual weapons. Therefore, Paul says: “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16).
To walk in the Spirit means to walk according to God’s word. To walk in the flesh means to be led by pride and selfishness (doing what you do to please yourself). Paul says the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. (Galatians 5:17). This shows both the flesh and the Spirit are in conflict with each other.
God’s plan is that we should walk in harmony with him, share the same desires with him, think what he thinks, feel what he feels, and do what he does. This is only possible when we have our minds renewed by the word of God.
When we choose the way of God and reject the way of sin, we crucify the flesh. The scriptures tell us that: “He who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.” (1 Peter 4:1-2). This is painful but spiritually rewarding.
Indebted to the Spirit
But we must always remember that it was the Spirit, and not the flesh, that broke the power of sin in our lives; enabling us to choose between sin and righteousness. When we were in the flesh, we had no choice. We were slaves of sin. But now that we are in the Spirit, we have a choice: we can choose to be slaves of righteousness.
Therefore: “We are debtors- not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if (we) live according to the flesh (we) will die; but if by the Spirit (we) put to death the deeds of the body, (we) will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (Romans 8:12-14).
“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But (we) are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in us.” (Romans 8:7-9).
Denying the flesh
In order to kill the flesh, we have to die daily. (1 Corinthians 15:31). We have to sow to the Spirit and deny our flesh. This means living a fasted life. It means holding our tongue even when we are provoked.
It means being of purer eyes than to behold evil. (Habakkuk 1:13). It means we must be like Job, who says: “I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a young woman?” (Job 31:1).
It means preventing our feet from every evil way. (Psalm 119:101). It means restraining our hands from fights: “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you.” (Matthew 18:8).
“For whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.” (Galatians 6:7-8).