Friday, October 12, 2007

Pure Wisdom from Rob Rufus on the Flesh

I am just in the middle of transcribing an awesome sermon by Rob Rufus called "Authorised/Unauthorised Fire" (preached on the 22nd September 2004). There is a very similar vision expressed there to Ern Baxter's closing address entitled "Strange Fire" from the "Priestly Clothing Series" at Anglia Bible Week 1984. During the sermon Rob took time to read a statement that he had spent many many hours learning about the danger of the flesh and legalism. One paragraph in particular he pointed out had taken him 4 years of pain to learn! I have read it time and time again and I am amazed at the wisdom and revelation that God has given him into this most religiously impressive but dangerously manipulative tendancy that all Christians are prone to. If we could learn to throw off this fleshly, legalistic spirit I honestly believe the Church would be transformed overnight! The sermon is available here on the Rob Rufus blog - but I wanted this statement to stand alone in all it's glory.

We've got alpha personalities, organisation and professionalism but you go to some services and you are still lonely for God while you are there. You may have dynamic encounters with human fire and human zeal and human ability but you would NEVER get the naked, holy glorious Presence of the Living God. God wants His fire back in the Church - authorised and not false fire!

To stand in the centre of healing and radiate miracles effortlessly is to stand in the glory of God but flesh cannot stand in the glory of God. Religious flesh may appear innocent at times, even very zealous for God but it's major problem is it's assumption of taking it's initative from the spirit of grace. Flesh is deluded into thinking it is responsible for administrating and orchestrating the plans of God. It is true that God does not operate in a vacuum but through the instrumentality of human partnerships for we are labourers with God - the Bible says. In other words we are co-labourers and co-heirs with Christ. Nevertheless we have no responsibility except to respond to His ability for He is not looking for perfect vessels but yielded vessels.

The flesh knows nothing about yielding to the spirit of grace. The flesh is full of fury and far too energetic to rest. The flesh is honestly convinced that it can save the world when it cannot even save itself. The flesh makes plans - it fasts for days and it goes to great sacrifices to convince God to bless it's plans. God's plans for us are ALREADY blessed and does not need the anxious religious behaviour to cough it up!

Now ... the next 30 seconds here took me 4 years of pain to learn this lesson and to walk through. In the next 30 seconds you will receive a distilled impartation of that pain and learning. Paul says that is what leadership is about. We die that you may live!

"The flesh produces only false burdens, false burdens produce false responsibilitys, false responsibilitys produce false ministries and false ministries produce false expectations that are propped up by false or unauthorised fire".


steve said...

"The flesh is honestly convinced that it can save the world when it cannot even save itself. The flesh makes plans - it fasts for days and it goes to great sacrifices to convince God to bless it's plans. God's plans for us are ALREADY blessed and does not need the anxious religious behaviour to cough it up!"

I've never heard Rob Rufus preach, but this message strikes me as a misunderstanding of the Bible's teaching on "the flesh".


Dan Bowen said...

Thanks for your comment Steve. I obviously can't speak for Rob as I am only taking notes on what he said but here's my understand of what "the flesh" means (and it can mean a variety of things in the Bible). I suspect Rob is thinking of points 5 and 6 in the context of what he is speaking about - namely "the flesh" being "opposed to the Spirit" and "applied to the carnal nature".

I note you haven't put your thoughts as to what you believe the Bible says of "the flesh". It'd be interesting to see your thoughts.

@basar, she'er):

1. Etymology:
Used in all senses of the word, the latter, however, most frequently in the sense of kin, family, relationship (compare sha'arah, "kins-woman," Lev 18:17): Lev 18:6; 25:49; Prov 11:17; Jer 51:35, and probably Ps 73:26. In all other places she'er means "flesh" = body (Prov 5:11) or = food (Ps 78:20,27; Mic 3:2,3). Tibhchah, is "(slaughtered) flesh for food," "butcher's meat" (1 Sam 25:11). The word 'eshpar, found only in two parallel passages (2 Sam 6:19 = 1 Ch 16:3), is of very uncertain meaning. The English versions translate it with "a good piece (portion) of flesh," the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) with "a piece of roast meat," others with "a portion of flesh" and "a measure of wine." It probably means simply "a measured portion." lachum, literally, "eaten," then food (compare lechem, "bread"), has been rarely specialized as flesh or meat (compare Arabic lachm, "meat," "flesh," so in Zeph 1:17, where it stands in parallelism with "blood"). The Greek terms are sarx, and kreas, the latter always meaning "butcher's meat" (Rom 14:21; 1 Cor 8:13).
We can distinguish the following varieties of meaning in Biblical language:

2. Ordinary Sense:
In a physical sense, the chief substance of the animal body, whether used for food and sacrifice, or not; also the flesh of man (Gen 2:21; Ex 21:10 m; Isa 31:3; Ezek 23:20; 1 Cor 15:39; Rev 19:18,21).

3. The Body:
The whole body. This meaning is the extension of the preceding (pars pro toto). This is indicated by the Septuagint, where basar is often translated by the plural hai sarkes (Gen 40:19; Nu 12:12; Job 33:25), and occasionally by soma, i.e. "body" (Lev 15:2; 1 Ki 21:27). This meaning is also very clear in passages like the following: Ex 4:7; Lev 17:14; Nu 8:7; 2 Ki 4:34; Prov 5:11, where basar and she'er are combined; and Prov 14:30; Eccl 12:12.

4. The Term "All Flesh":
Flesh, as the common term for living things, animals and men, especially the latter (Gen 6:13,17,19; Nu 16:22; Jer 12:12; Mk 13:20); often in the phrase "all flesh" (Ps 65:2; Isa 40:5,6; Jer 25:31; Ezek 20:48; Joel 2:28; Lk 3:6).

5. As Opposed to the Spirit:
Flesh as opposed to the spirit, both of which were comprised in the preceding meaning (Gen 6:3; Ps 16:9; Lk 24:39, where "flesh and bones" are combined; Jn 6:63). Thus we find in Jn 1:14, "The Word became flesh"; 1 Tim 3:16, "He who was manifested in the flesh"; 1 Jn 4:2, and all passages where the incarnation of Christ is spoken of. The word in this sense approaches the meaning of "earthly life," as in Phil 1:22,24, "to live in the flesh," "to abide in the flesh"; compare Philem 1:16 and perhaps 2 Cor 5:16. Under this meaning we may enumerate expressions such as "arm of flesh" (2 Ch 32:8; Jer 17:5), "eyes of flesh" (Job 10:4), etc. Frequently the distinction is made to emphasize the weakness or inferiority of the flesh, as opposed to the superiority of the spirit (Isa 31:3; Mt 26:41; Mk 14:38; Rom 6:19). In this connection we mention also the expression "flesh and blood," a phrase borrowed from rabbinical writings and phraseology (see also Sirach 14:18, "the generation of flesh and blood," and 17:31, "man whose desire is flesh and blood" the King James Version). The expression does not convey, as some have supposed, the idea of inherent sinfulness of the flesh (a doctrine borrowed by Gnostic teachers from oriental sources), but merely the idea of ignorance and frailty in comparison with the possibilities of spiritual nature. The capabilities of our earthly constitution do not suffice to reveal unto us heavenly truths; these must always come to us from above. So Peter's first recognition of the Divine sonship of Jesus did not proceed from a logical conviction based upon outward facts acting upon his mind, but was based upon a revelation from God vouchsafed to his inner consciousness. Christ says therefore to him: "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jonah: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven" (Mt 16:17). Similarly the kingdom of God, being a realm of perfect spiritual submission to God, cannot be inherited by flesh and blood (1 Cor 15:50), nor was the richly endowed mind a competent tribunal to which Paul could refer his heaven-wrought conviction of his great salvation and the high calling to be a witness and apostle of Christ, so he did well that he "conferred not with flesh and blood" (Gal 1:16). That "flesh and blood" does not imply a sense of inherent sinfulness is moreover shown in all passages where Christ is declared a partaker of such nature (Eph 6:12; Heb 2:14, where, however, we find in the original text the inverted phrase "blood and flesh").

6. Applied to the Carnal Nature:
Flesh in the sense of carnal nature (sarkikos, "carnal"; the King James Version uses sarkinos in Rom 7:14). Human nature, being inferior to the spiritual, is to be in subjection to it. If man refuses to be under this higher law, and as a free agent permits the lower nature to gain an ascendancy over the spirit, the "flesh" becomes a revolting force (Gen 6:3,12; Jn 1:13; Rom 7:14; 1 Cor 3:1,3; Col 2:18; 1 Jn 2:16). Thus, the fleshly or carnal mind, i.e. a mind in subjection to carnal nature, is opposed to the Divine spirit, who alone is a sufficient corrective, Christ having secured for us the power of overcoming (Rom 8:3), if we manifest a deep desire and an earnest endeavor to overcome (Gal 5:17,18).

7. In the Sense of Relationship:
Flesh in the sense of relationship, tribal connection, kith and kin. For examples, see what has been said above on Hebrew she'er. The following passages are a few of those in which basar is used: Gen 2:24; 37:27; Job 2:5; compare the New Testament passages: Mt 19:5,6; Rom 1:3; 9:3,5,8. The expressions "bone" and "flesh" are found in combination (Gen 2:23; 29:14; Jdg 9:2; 2 Sam 5:1; 19:12,13; Eph 5:31, the latter in some manuscripts only).

8. Other Meanings:
Some other subdivisions of meanings might be added, for example where "flesh" takes almost the place of "person," as in Col 2:1: "as many as have not seen my face in the flesh," i.e. have not known me personally, or 2:5, "absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit," etc.

James B said...

I agree - it's difficult to respond to a question without the one writing it being clear as to their views on what they think "flesh" is. I found these 8 definitions of flesh very helpful - thanks for this. It's all too easy to become defensive of orthodoxy without a broader context of understanding that the Bible sometimes allows broaded and varying definitions too!