Rock What You Got

I went to a Superchick concert a couple of weeks ago.  I got the t-shirt. I liked the message.  Embrace the body God gave you.  Why do we have trouble with that?  So many reasons.

             Last week our group had a great discussion around some of the baggage we carry about our bodies and self-image.  Some of it’s cultural, some from our upbringing.  And some of it comes, directly or indirectly, from religious doctrine.  Here’s how it might play out:

             The word “flesh” gets a bad rap in scripture.  Here are a few examples: “Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matt. 26:41) “Walk by the spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.” (Gal. 5:16)   “For the flesh sets its desire against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh.”  (Gal. 5:17)

So the flesh is weak, susceptible to temptation, it lusts and it is full of desire.  No wonder we’re always damping down those fires!  There’s a lot of fuel in scripture that could have us reading “flesh” as “sinful.”  Yet Jesus Himself took on flesh and became like us.  In John it says, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  (John 1:14)  “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”  (John 6:51)

All these scriptures have the same root word – sarx — in the Greek.  “Flesh” simply means “the body” as opposed to the soul or spirit, or as the symbol of what is external.  By implication, it refers to human nature with all its frailties and passions.  Those passions can be frightening.  They have the power to disappoint, to wound and do damage, to kidnap us and run away with us.  They also have the power to love, to heal, to bring life.  Even if we ignore them, they are present within us.  Wouldn’t it be more healthy and whole and honest to admit that, and bring our passions and desires to God, holding them with open hands?  Our God is powerful, and He can redeem anything we’re wiling to embrace.

One of my life verses is Proverbs 24:3:  “Guard your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”  I call it a life verse because I’ve recognized and owned within myself the flow of energy and desire that can be life-giving, as well as the capacity to be swept away by my emotions and desires.  I’ve allowed myself to feel that current that could easily overflow the banks if I’m not careful.  After owning that potential, I can sit in fear of what might happen if I allow myself to be fully whole.  There is much to fear if we are the ones in charge.  And yet, in our fear of being carried away, we have locked up our hearts and thrown away the key.  We enthrone “the spirit,” we make room for “the mind,” while “the body” is seen as an unwelcome but temporary houseguest.  But “created in God’s image” doesn’t apply solely to our spirits.  Our weak, frail, earthy, passionate, beautiful bodies are where God chooses to reside.  Our bodies are described as his temple.  Seen in that light, our bodies become holy ground.

Rock what you got!  Can you relate?  What messages have you gotten from the church or religious doctrine about your body?

Food for thought:

What if the “flesh lusting against the spirit” is actually about our self-centeredness? What if it’s more about us holding back, hiding, choosing the limits of what we know over life and possibility, holding onto what we’re comfortable with rather than risking all for love, going with the flow?   And the flow is the Holy Spirit, seeking to freshen the springs on which we rely, desiring to teach us new and deeper ways to love and be loved?   If we could uncover ways we block that flow, what might change, both within and around us?  What do you sense as you make it a matter of prayer?

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8 Responses to Rock What You Got

  1. Paul Coneff says:

    I couldn’t agree more. While God’s Word definitely describes the “flesh” as bad, representing the bad thoughts and things we do…that also includes the ways we’ve learned to:
    a. protect ourselves
    b. provide for ourselves
    c. prove who we are in our own strength, apart from trusting and surrendering to the Lord and the work of the
    Holy Spirit in our lives.

    And all of our attempts to protect or provide for ourselves in our own strength diminish our ability to be fully alive in Christ, with HIS love flowing through us.

    Fortunately, Jesus fulfilled specific prophecies in His suffering, on the way to Calvary, when He was tempted to numb His pain in His deepest, darkest hour, as He hung on the cross having lost water, lost blood, slivers in His back, agony when He was breathing in or breathing out, with none of His followers believing He would rise again… crying out “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” as He took on all our sins….

    And Jesus said no to numbing His pain, no to false comforts, no to trusting in His own strength to protect Himself in His time of agony. So He can offer us HIS healing power over all the ways we’ve trusted in the “flesh” in ways that limits the power of the Holy Spirit to bring us the life of Jesus, into our hearts and minds, because Jesus, “rose with healing in His wings,” (Malachi 4:2), to fulfill His mission statement to “heal the broken hearted and set the captives free,” (Luke 4:18).

    I’ve found great power in helping people connect their stories with Jesus story as our “Suffering Messiah,” showing how He identified with us in our humanity in EVERY way, (Hebrews 2:10, 14, 17-18), so He could offer us HIS victory, HIS purity, His life living in us and through us.

    Jesus identified with our fleshly sins when “he who knew no since became our sins,” so He could forgive us, fully and completely.

    Jesus identified with our suffering, with all it’s agony and temptation to numb our pain and agony, so He could earn the right to earn our trust, healing us and setting us free…not just from the bad things we do, but free to accept our truest, deepest identities as His sons, His daughters, in a way that moves us into more fulfilling ministry for Him.

    Paul Coneff
    Marriage and Family Therapist
    Director: Straight 2 the Heart, Inc.

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    • lifeinabody says:

      Thank you, Paul, for your thought-provoking comments. I love the way you described Jesus and how He took on flesh to show us how to be holy, how to love. Your words remind me of the idea that everthing we do is either out of love or of fear. While that may sound simplistic to some, it may be the thing that most separates us from God’s love: our fear and the desperate acts we then commit as a result. I agree with you, Jesus wants us free and whole. I hope I am learning to step more and more into my identity as His child, more and more into freedom.

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      • Paul Coneff says:

        I agree…. 1 John 4:17-18 says “perfect love casts out all fear….because fear has to do with judgment.” So the opposite of love is not hate, but fear…and fear can become a breeding ground for hate.

        In this age of “photo shopped” images, being dissatisfied with our bodies, our jobs, our position in life etc. is easy to do…and then we move into self-rejection, followed by self-hatred. Then we bury those parts of our hearts deep inside them, seeking to cover them up, which opens us up to all kinds of addictions and self-fulfilling prophecies in our lives, with self-sabotaging patterns. Then the ‘father of lies’ whispers to us again about how bad we are, now that we have listened to his lies creating the pain and dissatisfaction…

        I call it “satanic ping-pong,” where he hits us from one side with a lie, tempting us to number our pain.

        Then he hits us from the other side with more lies, after we’ve given into the different ways we seek to numb our pain…

        Fortunately, we have a Saviour who experienced all these attacks, all these temptations to believe the lies, “suffering in His soul,” (Isaiah 53:11), “suffering being tempted,” (Heb. 2:17-18), and suffering as He prayed with loud cries and tears, (Heb. 5:7-9), so He could know the agony of our struggles and temptations…. and offer us HIS victory, His purity, His peace, His strength.

        I’m working on a book, where each chapter will show how Christ fulfilled a specific prophecy to identify with us, with the prophecies followed by a testimony of someone who connected his or her story with Jesus story, in a process of prayerful discipleship, so the information moves from our heads to our hearts.. and how it gave that person not just freedom from the addiction or pain in the past… but freedom:
        1. To receive his or her truest, deepest identity as a son and daughter of God,
        2. To move into ministry, with a testimony of victory, knowing he or she can offer a gospel that “heals the broken
        hearts of others and can set others free.” (Luke 4:18… so we are always combing “prayer and ministry of the
        Word,” (Acts 6:4).

        With appreciation for your blog and focusing us on Christ.

        Paul Coneff
        http://www.straight2theheart.com
        paul@straight2theheart.com

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  2. lifeinabody says:

    Sounds like a great book, Paul. I’ll be curious to read it when you get it published. God bless you on your journey!

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    • Paul Coneff says:

      Thanks so much… and I would like to use your quote, referencing your blog here, in the chapter where Jesus was tempted to numb His pain, in His deepest darkest hour….fulfilling very specific prophecy in Psalm 69:21.

      Jesus was offered the alcoholic drink to numb His pain…and He chose to say no…so He could give us HIS victory HE has already gained, over all the ways we say no to the fullness of life in the Holy Spirit… Your “Food for thought” quote is really good.. articulating an important issue.

      Living life being afraid of something, even the wrong thing, is still not living the abundant life Jesus promised us. Sincerely, Paul

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  3. lifeinabody says:

    Absolutely, you may use my quote in your writing. If you wouldn’t mind, please include my URL: http://www.lifeinabody.wordpress.com. Thanks so much!

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    • Paul Coneff says:

      Definitely…. I would want to include your web page…. and I would like to talk with you a little when I get to the chapter on Jesus being tempted to numb His pain, to identify with all our temptations to numb our pain.

      Like

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