04 March 2023
A reader's question reminded me of something: competing heresies.
Back during the First Century, one of the heresies referenced in the New Testament arose among those with a Greek philosophical background. As usual, it was a false attempt to apply Hellenistic reasoning to something in the Bible. The Hebrews most distinctly believed in two realms of existence. Jesus wasn't saying anything new when he warned Nicodemas that the spirit realm was one thing and the fleshly realm another. At least, it wasn't new to Hebrew scholars, but it was something Sadducess rejected and Pharisees had twisted badly out of shape. Indeed, two realms was a common assumption across the entire Ancient Near East.
So, among the churches Paul had planted, there were some folks connected to those churches who were just too clever for their own good. Leaning on the Hellenistic passion for clarity and distinction, and a strong aversion to the standard fuzzy logic of the Hebrew Bible, they decided that it didn't matter what the flesh did, since the spirit was eternal. If they were Elect, then they could let the flesh do whatever the flesh normally does and not worry about it. This was the underlying doctrine for several heresies mentioned in Scripture.
There was an opposite heretical doctrine that is so common today nobody realizes how wrong it is. This is the notion that your flesh must be very strictly disciplined or you'll end up in Hell. Thus, any temptation at all would incur guilt before the Lord. Just the mere fact that your flesh wanted something that could not be righteously fulfilled was defiling. They would say you were responsible for every thought that passed through your head, and that you weren't trying hard enough. This arises from a legalistic reading of the Bible.
This latter heresy appears in the fundamental assumptions of the modern feminist idolatry. The practitioners of this have said that the mere fact men want sex is evil, and that men are just inherently evil and cannot be redeemed without fully embracing feminism and placing themselves under the thumbs of women.
How many times have you seen church ladies hiss at the idea that the pastor could even dare to be a mere human? Even churches that seem to be more realistic still act like someone who suffers from certain temptations is just a poor sad soul who can never be trusted. Modern church folks suffer from a serious case of compartmentalization and pretend they don't have certain temptations. They confess to some of the most petty small bad habits, but would not dare to even acknowledge to themselves the "greater" sins.
Folks, get real: Every fleshly appetite exists for a good reason. All of them can be fulfilled righteously. The various urges can become perverted into lusts, but the underlying human need is not a problem in itself. There is a balance between those two extreme false doctrines mentioned above. We are to acknowledge our temptations to ourselves and to our God. Then we are to pray and seek His power to overcome the perversion of those appetites. We discipline the flesh, but not to stop thinking and desiring, as if we could do anything about it. Rather, we discipline the flesh by asserting in our conscious awareness that the Lord will not allow certain things, and stand firm in faith.
Now, this is America. As much as we might hope and pray that we could become somewhat less American in pursuit of a God who revealed Himself through the Hebrew people, we still live among people highly influenced by American culture. I would be vary careful what I confess to the general church body, even if the whole body was truly a covenant community of faith. Not everyone is spiritual enough to handle some of your personal truth. But you should cultivate those kind of spiritual relationships so that you have at least a one or two people you can trust with your darkest secrets. Don't carry that crap alone.
Women are already somewhat better at this than men, and men are hungry for a chance to have close brothers who are godly men. We need to build that kind of community at the earliest convenience of the Lord. We should support each other and carry a load of care in communal prayer. We need men with the moral experience to help others learn how to cling to the boundaries of faith.
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