Whenever I use some hand sanitizer I notice the label boasts that it kills 99.9 percent of germs. While the label is meant to be assuring of effectiveness, my thoughts are always drawn to that 0.01 percent germ. That must be a strong germ, a super bacteria that can outlive a nuclear holocaust of Purell. If so it would likely be the one to kill me––kill all of us for that matter. It only takes one apocalyptic germ to destroy us all.
In Philippians 3 Paul identifies the true Christ followers as those who put zero confidence in the flesh (Phil. 3:3), not even 0.01 percent is allowed. If we put even that little confidence in the flesh, we are not operating in the Spirit at all.
We Christians are facing two paths and the destinations of each could not be farther apart than heaven and hell. One path is the path of doing good (the flesh). The other is the path of grace (the Spirit). Our problem is that we think the way to our desired destination is to take the opposite path. You can’t. You can't get to Los Angeles by taking the road to New York.
Unfortunately, we are far too easy on ourselves when it comes to the flesh. A do-it-yourself (DIY) spirituality cannot be thought of as neutral or tolerable. As Paul said, “The flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another” (Galatians 5:17). So when you are feeding the flesh you are rejecting the Spirit. Even if what you are doing looks and sounds good in the eyes of everyone around you, if it is not from the Spirit, it is against the Spirit.
Paul laid out for us a contrast of the deeds of the flesh versus the fruit of the Spirit. Here we find indicators of authentic or counterfeit spirituality.
Paul mentioned that the deeds of the flesh (DIY spirituality) “are evident.” I would add that the evidence is prolific and, unfortunately, way too acceptable in our spiritual climate today. We have been deluded to the point that we see these deeds as not only acceptable but even as good and godly endeavors. I believe this is a root cause for our lack of real fruit in this world and you really can't argue with the analysis. The outcomes are clear.
You cannot get the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23) by practicing the deeds of the flesh (Galatians 5:19–21). The two paths are diametrically opposed. That is why we cannot be content with good works that are done in the flesh. Frankly, this is why I wrote my new book, One Thing: A Revolution to Change the World with Love. We have become too accepting of a counterfeit spirituality that results in pride and delusional thinking. This must end if we have any hope of truly making a difference in this world.
Some do-it-yourself spirituality mixed with some Jesus-soaked good news is not okay in any way. We cannot tolerate a false gospel and expect to produce the fruit of God’s Spirit. As long as we continue to walk down the wrong path, we are taking ourselves farther away from the true destination, no matter how right the view looks. Until we stop practicing the false gospel of do-it-yourself spirituality, we will never be on the right track—only further invested in the wrong direction.
The flesh is not to be tolerated, excused, toyed with, allowed, ignored, or overlooked. It is to be crucified. It is to be seized by force, brought to submission, and then dragged to a violent and humiliating death—nailed alive to a cross until it stops breathing. The flesh is hostile to us, not helpful; toxic not healthy. "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." (Galatians 5:24 NIV)
As Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20, NIV) This is the new creation. This is how faith works through love. This is the true gospel spirituality that bears fruit. Everything else is a counterfeit. Everything else is poison.
Living by do-it-yourself spirituality is no better than not doing so no matter how "good" you appear, in fact it is worse. All the effort we put into externally motivating righteous behavior is wasted and further leads us into the delusion of self-righteousness.
You cannot add healthy, organic, free-range, hormone-free ingredients to cyanide and expect it to be good for you. Unfortunately that is often our approach to spirituality when we try to redeem self-righteous, do-it-yourself spirituality with the gospel and hope it will all work out better because of the addition. It doesn’t purify the impure; it just taints the good stuff with lies.
An artist can use external pressure to carve a human figure from a slab of marble. While it may look lifelike, it is as dead as a stone. There will be no beating heart, no circulating blood, or lungs taking in oxygen. It’s just a rock shaped like a human. A true human body is formed from the inside out with the multiplication of living cells that contain the necessary DNA to code the development of life. You cannot create a human being by cutting away excess stone, and you cannot make a new creation with the old means that never worked in the first place. If it did work, as Paul said, then Christ died needlessly (Galatians 2:21). The result of do-it-yourself spirituality is no more true or life-giving than a marble statue is a human being.
Can the gospel be enough? I am convinced it is the only thing that is enough. I will live or die for that belief. If we are not willing to bet our lives on the true gospel to change people within, and instead we hedge our bets with a little do-it-yourself spirituality mixed in for the sake of practicality, then we are selling our whole selves to a false gospel. We must choose between the whole gospel or no gospel—there is no in-between.
I suggest our real problem is that we have put more faith in the law of the old covenant to change lives than in the powerful grace of the new covenant. This begs the questions: Why should anyone want our gospel if we don’t even want it? We have abandoned the true gospel for another. We are as foolish as the Galatians (Galatians 1:6-7).
If you are a leader who is using anything other than the gospel to motivate people you are part of the problem. Guilt, shame, fear, financial security, peer pressure, the promise of prestige or prosperity, the association with success or the removal from things that remind us of failures…these are not the means to godliness––ever. We cannot produce spirituality with means that are less than spiritual.
Only the true good news of Jesus can produce a new life within. The true gospel will never tolerate a false one. A false gospel will tolerate everything except the true gospel.
This post is from my book One Thing: A Revolution To Change The World With Love