John Mason Brown was a drama critic and speaker well known for his witty and
informative lectures on theatrical topics. One of his first important appearances as a
lecturer was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Brown was pleased, but also rather
nervous, and his nerves were not helped when he noticed by the light of the slide
projector that someone was copying his every gesture. After a time he broke off his
lecture and announced with great dignity that if anyone was not enjoying the talk, he was
free to leave. Nobody did, and the mimicking continued. It was another 10 minutes before
Brown realized that the mimic was his own shadow!
Was Brown's shadow real? Of course. Does a shadow have the power to control a person's
actions? Of course not. It can only mimic us. But in Brown's case, his shadow did take
control momentarily. Why? Because he allowed himself to be so distracted --
"addicted," if you will - by it that he completely forgot what he was supposed
to be about. That's a pretty good description of the sin nature we carry within us as
redeemed people. It can cause havoc, even though it has been made powerless by our
identification with Christ.
Today in the Word, May 17, 1992.
What is meant by "the flesh"? Dr. W.G. Scroggie detected ten shades of
meaning used in the Bible. In nine of the ten, there is no ethical or theological content.
But the tenth, which is the one Paul mainly employs, does have such significance. The
flesh may be defined as "man's fallen anture as under the power of sin." It is
the evil principle in man's nature, the traitor within who is in league with the attackers
without. The flesh provides the tinder on which the devil's temptations can kindle.
J.O. Sanders, Enjoying Intimacy with God,
"Paul's meaning is not that the flesh, with its affections and lusts, is no longer
present at all with those that have become Christians, but that a walk in the flesh should
not any longer exist in the case of Christians. A walk in the Spirit might be rightly
expected of believers. This is only possible for those who have crucified the flesh. The
word is not slain, but crucified. It is a task of the Christian to be accomplished only by
continual effort (Colossians 3:5).
"In 'crucified', however, the simple slaying is not the main idea, but the
condemning, giving sentence, surrendering to infamous death. This has necessarily taken
place in becoming Christ's. Fellowship with Christ involves a crucifixion of the flesh for
the very reason that it is fellowship with Christ's death on the cross.
"Christ indeed has only suffered what people have deserved on account of their
sinful flesh. Whoever appropriates to himself Christ's death upon the cross regards the
flesh to himself no longer. For him, in Christ's death, the flesh has been
Daily Walk, May 7, 1992.
What is carnality? According to the Greek dictionary, it means to have the nature and
characteristics of the flesh (or more simply, it means "fleshly"). What, then ,
is the flesh? Sometimes it refers to the whole material part of man (1 Corinthians 15:39;
Hebrews 5:7), and based on this meaning, carnal sometimes relates to material things like
money (Romans 15:27) or to the opposite of our weapons of spiritual warfare (2 Corinthians
10:4). But the word flesh also has a metaphorical sense when it refers to our disposition
to sin and to oppose or omit God in our lives. The flesh is characterized by works that
include lusts and passions (Galatians 5:19-24; I John 2:16); it can enslave (Romans 7:25);
and in it is nothing good (Romans 7:18). Based on this meaning of the word flesh, to be
carnal means to be characterized by things that belong to the unsaved life (Ephesians
Charles Ryrie, So Great Salvation, Victor Books, 1989, pp. 59-60.
The flesh is a built-in law of failure, making it impossible for the natural man to
please or serve God. It is a compulsive inner force inherited from man's fall, which
expresses itself in general and specific rebellion against God and His righteousness. The
flesh can never be reformed or improved. The only hope for escape from the law of the
flesh is its total execution and replacement by a new life in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Mark Bubeck, The Adversary, Moody Press, p. 28.
Lord Jesus, receive my spirit, and put an end at Thy good pleasure to this my miserable
life; for justice and truth are not to be found among the sons of men...Be merciful unto
me, O Lord...Now after many battles, I find nothing in me but vanity and corruption. For
in quietness I am negligent, in trouble impatient, tending to desperation;...pride and
ambition assault me on the one part, covetousness and malice trouble me on the other;
briefly, Oh Lord, the affections of the flesh do almost suppress the operation of Thy
Spirit...In none of the aforesaid I do delight; but I am troubled, and that sore against
the desire of my inward man which sobs for my corruption, and would repose in Thy mercy
alone; to which I claim, and that in the promise that Thou hast made to all penitent
sinners of whose number I profess myself to be one. "Answer to a Letter of James
Lurie, a Scottish Jesuit," in John Knox--A Great Intercessor, by Bessie G. Olson,
Hall of Fame Series, Des Moines: Walfred, 1956, pp. 45-46,
Quoted in The Adversary, Mark Bubeck, Moody Press, p. 33.