Chapter 2: Flesh and Sinfulness

A Certain rich young ruler addressed Jesus as ‘good Master.’ Jesus’ response clarified what had all along been wrongly adopted as tradition (Matt. 19:16–17 KJV). Christ lived a perfect life in physical existence. But the nature of being physical carried nothing good, contextually as people viewed Jesus as corporeal, though carrying a dual identity.

Jesus lived for thirty-three and a half years, representing our physical nature, before His sacrifice to reclaim our status as God’s children. The life of Jesus on earth represented God’s Kingdom, with a civilization that is completely different from ours.

The term “Christ” denotes the prophesied Messiah, not perceived by human eyes but existing in the eternal order of divinity. In other words, Jesus represented our sinful status, as Christ. Failure to appreciate this dual reality caused the Jews to disown their Messiah. It was Jesus’ aspect of human-hood that He referred to as having not been good; not the incorporeal reality of Him being the Christ.

When a person dies, the decomposing body needs disposal as soon as possible, either through burial or cremation. Only the good works benefiting others remain.

The physical body, without life, is no different from a heap of manure. Life, as understood, implies enabling the person to breathe, limbs energised with the circulation of blood. What causes the error of all ages is focusing on desires of the flesh––with temporary and sinful attributes.

Flesh, as it gets buried or burnt to nothing at some point cannot be authentic as only the spirit is imperishable.  As life and death are the opposites, flesh and spirit are also the opposites.

Adam became a living soul only after God’s breath of life (Gen. 2:7). However, as soon as life is removed, the body decomposes and nothing of value remains in it. To Adam God said, “Dust you are and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19). This was after Adam had succumbed to sinfulness, forfeiting the God-given life.

The physical body is corporeal; sustained by the life component through the intricacies of the human brain, for physical existence. “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing” (John 6:63 NIV).

Confusion comes from the assumption that the physical body controls life, instead of the other way around. This misunderstanding causes failure in handling challenges associated with human survival. Christ came to correct that.

“So I say, live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They conflict with each other so that you do not do what you want.” (Gal. 5:16–17).

The devil champions the assumption that the physical body controls everything about human existence. But a spirit being does not require the physical body to survive. It is the physical body––whose destiny is the grave––that requires the life-giving Spirit, to remain in control.

The generic view is that a human being is sustained by three components: the spirit, soul, and body. The soul carries the mind-controlled willpower to choose between either succumbing to the flesh or the spirit. The human Character, identifying with Godly principles is the spirit.

When one says: “my conscience tells me that this is not the right thing to do;” that which the person calls conscience comes from the spirit. This is opposed to the cravings of the flesh which hold no conscience. When defeated by the flesh, the spirit succumbs to the state of degradation, but does not die.

The spirit in man, which is different from the Holy Spirit––enables a person to pursue what leads to life (Job 32:8). The functions of the spirit in man become highly effective when united with The Holy Spirit (Rom 8:16).

Christ provides easy access to the Holy Spirit that leads to life. The person who listens more to the spirit––seeking to obey instructions from Christ, than the desires of the flesh, subjects him/herself to humiliation. However, when humiliated physically, the person becomes stronger spiritually.

He/she gets ridiculed, persecuted and at times killed for what he/she considers to be right, or wrong. The physical nature gets subjected to pain and possible death. Yet the spirit––the custodian of life, which cannot be killed (John 6:63& 8:51), becomes fortified.

The battle is lost or won through willpower––either conforming to sinfulness, or to righteousness––through the spirit—leading to Christ. The physical nature leads towards death, while the spirit leads towards life.

Let us suppose you are a man/woman being lured into adultery. The imaginative fantasy of having sex becomes strong––persuading you to rationalise before succumbing to committing adultery. The rationalisation is necessitated by a strong carnal desire to indulge in adultery.

But the nagging conscience gently reminds you that committing adultery cannot be right. Having lost the battle at that point, the spirit in man is weakened. The person succumbs to habitual indulgence in adultery––as to eventually annul the need to ever consult the spirit.

This leads to undesirable consequences­––like sudden death––when being murdered in triangular love affairs. This includes the decadent degradation.  Or it could be deterioration towards death, through HIV/AIDS. Or succumbing to forfeiture of life as highlighted in Christianity.

The adulterous habit gets adopted––making it difficult to break away from it––leading towards death. On the other hand, if one listens to the spirit when avoiding adultery, life remains. Adultery––used here only for illustration purposes––is not the only one gratifying the sinful nature (Gal. 5:19–21).

Such desires are not easy to overcome. The allure of fantasy in sinfulness leads to death. Through Adam, humanity is caught up in death-trap––needing the miracle of Jesus to reverse that curse: “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:24-25 KJV).

Life remains, when the willpower sets aside flesh’s desires, yielding to the Spirit. Death is the state of succumbing to sinful nature. Life is attainable when focusing on the Spirit, at the expense of the more appealing indulgence into sinful nature.

Sacrifice is necessary when discarding all pleasures of sinful nature, following the conscience that leads to life. “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 10:39 NIV).

This sounds oxymoronic, but it implies choosing between spiritual desires and the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:16–18 NIV). Either the Spirit, gratified by Christ, or the sinful desire, gratified by Satan, needs to be forfeited.

The two cannot coexist without friction. The candid question is: Which of the two needs to be sacrificed for the benefit of the other? The sinful nature is temporary and corruptible, but the Spirit is eternal.

The choice requires self-determination. Willingness to be led by the Spirit––implies surrendering the corruptible physical desires. This leads to discovering life through the Spirit––when taking Jesus’ word seriously.

In protecting the corruptible physical nature and denying Christ’s power thereof, one loses eternal life. Mortal bodies perish; one way or the other. But the reality established in Christ is defeating death (1 Cor. 15:55–57).

The appealing reason for the two distinct opposites to co-exist is fortifying one by defeating the other. A person can use the flesh to enhance spiritual values or use the spiritual values to enhance the perishable flesh.

The value of the flesh is in its eventual ability to fertilize the soil. The other benefits go toward the casket-making and funeral undertaking industries. Ostensibly, the flesh holds no eternal value, as time comes, when the flesh perishes.

Alarmingly, in the year 2009, Zimbabwean life expectancy was estimated to be around thirty-seven years for men and thirty-four for women. Nonetheless, misgivings for lack of verifiable authenticity in such surveys cannot be avoided.

But this reveals how insignificant physical nature can become. One can use the same physical body to develop character––necessary for eternal survival––as long as one submits to Jesus. In physical existence, one can choose whether to be remembered for good or bad works.

Jesus’ name is powerful because He effectively allowed God’s will to dominate in His mere thirty-three and a half years of mortal existence. We can do likewise, or do what impacts badly on other people’s lives, annulling our purpose for existence.

“When you die, you will take neither wealth nor prestige with you, but you can surely leave the world a worse place than it was. Or a better place. It is the daily, sometimes small, choices that make for a life and a legacy. What will yours be?” (Roy Bennett)2.

Life without considering others is purposeless. In the early church, Dorcas, or Tabitha, made an impact on the lives of many widows and poor people. Peter’s prayer induced God to resurrect her––possibly persuaded by the pleadings of those affected by the loss of their benefactor (Acts 9: 36-42).

Through Jesus, death is defeated. Eternal life is assured when allowing Jesus, with goodness and righteousness preserved for eternity to take over. After fasting for forty days and refusing to succumb to the tempter, Jesus declared: “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God,’” (Matt. 4:4 NIV).

Christ’s body was not endangered by lack of food after fasting that long. Of importance to Him was God’s Word. The physical nature does not control life, but life—as coming from God—controls physical nature.

Jesus could have lost His physical life through dehydration after fasting that long. But His physical survival had been under God’s purview—without physical dictates, necessarily.

Jesus did not have a place to lay His head for security and rest for the night (Matt. 8:20). That kind of lifestyle attracts anxiety—as to view Jesus being careless with His security. Those benefitting from Him may have been willing to provide for His physical needs in reciprocation.

But Jesus could not have relied on physical humans for His survival, except God. His physical body was necessary, only as He fulfilled His Father’s will—attending to both the physical and spiritual challenges of others.

To Jesus, physical concerns were less important—left for God to attend to them—though possibly using other people. Jesus may have been conscious of taking precautions to avoid physical harm. But only as a means to succeed in carrying out His father’s will. Jesus could possess any spacious mansion if that was God’s will.

Agonies of the cross portray Jesus as not having put much value on physical things. He allowed His body to be lacerated mercilessly by the sinful characters. They inflicted torturous pains on Him right up to His death. Yet Jesus remained attached to that which had value, as compared to what was valueless.

The crucifiers believed they were silencing His cause, assuming that life belonged to those taking others to the damning cross. But Jesus knew that life—found in God alone—could not be physically tampered with.

Today, Jesus is alive, but not in physical limitations, as humans. After the resurrection, Jesus appeared physically to the disciples and shared meals with them. But that did not mean Christ would forever be sustained by food. His appearance in physical form served only to appease those doubting the reality of His resurrection (John 20:27–29). Paul admonishes:

“Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation–but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of son-ship. And by him, we cry ‘Abba, Father.’ Now if we are Gods children, then we are heirs––heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings so that we may also share in his glory” (Rom. 8:12–17 NIV).

After achieving the spiritual condition, even physical healing ceases to carry significance. The physical nature and its painful experiences get swallowed up in the Spirit––packaged with eternal life. Precautions are necessary to avoid physical danger, but, giving priority to spiritual programmes that support eternal life.

Knowing that without God there is no life, one focuses on God––instead of the physical nature that holds no life. It is within God’s prerogative to end anyone’s physical existence, in any way and at any time. But, of importance is holding onto the faith that leads to eternal Life.

God’s Spirit, also controlling the physical nature, represents purity (1 Cor. 15:48–49). But how can we renounce the prevailing physical nature in favour of spiritual condition, as humans are consciously associated with physical nature?

Humanity––surviving in the current civilization––lacks the principles––necessary to sustain the realities of the New Civilization. It is, therefore, necessary to appreciate Jesus––before appreciating the stupendous significance of the creation of humanity––as outlined in Genesis 1:26-27.

End Notes

  1. Mark Stibich Ph.D., “Zimbabwe – World’s Lowest Life Expectancy,” Guide, Jan 2009
  2. Roy Bennett, “Smoke and Mirrors: Another look at politics and ethnicity in Zimbabwe” from the text of the speech at Rhodes House, Oxford,  May 29, 2012

Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. Most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope, in a simple conversational tone.

The Print copy is now available at for $13.99

Also available as an e-copy at  for $6.99