As you've said, our flesh is "neutral." Therefore, it is subject to influence of the world. Just because our flesh gives in to wrong behavior, DOES NOT change our spirit identity in Jesus. Indeed, we are now dead to sin through Christ. So, if we are dead to sin, why control the flesh?
Part 1 of your 2 part question. “Why can’t people change?
Why do I need to change? I think the problem is tide to one’s understanding of sin. Do I really believe I am a sinful person? Not really. Haven’t been convicted of a misdemeanor since 1985, no felony, haven’t really hurt anyone. Sin is not really taught in the church. It’s mentioned, we’re not supposed to do it, various sins are listed in a number of books of the Bible, we’re not to do those.
Have you ever heard a preacher describe sin this way: “Sin is anything that falls short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23), so God will evaluate sin as any behavior that falls short of what He does, what He says and what He is. Sin therefore is exposed simply by relating our behavior to God’s behavior.” Major W. Ian Thomas The indwelling Life of Christ. All of Him in All of Me.
When was the last time you heard a preacher discuss God’s behavior, let alone how it relates to our behavior? Now it has been a while since I have attended church but I can assure you I have never heard this come from the pulpit, the only thing taught was being obedient to God’s word and preforming in a manor that would please him…Oh and how much God loves me. So why do I need to change? I was preforming and being obedient, at least in view of others. But the part about God wanting me to change (relate my behavior to His) was at best glossed over.
Hebrews 3:7-8 “…today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your heart…” KJV.
Two questions come to mind. 1) How often do Christians today truly hear God’s voice? 2) What does heart have to do with it?
In his book “Be Confident” Warren Wiersbe writes “There is a difference between listening and really hearing. Jesus often cried, “He who has ears for hearing let him hear.” This statement suggest that it takes more than physical ears to hear the voice of God. It also takes a receptive heart.”
How does one get a receptive Heart?
Deut. 6:5. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength.”
Matthew 22:37 Jesus adds “mind” to this list.
Understanding that words in the Bible are in a particular order for a reason, I asked Dennis one morning “How do you love God with all your heart? Dennis answered “you don’t” Not what I expected. And he just let it hang for what seemed like forever. Then he said, “How are you responding to the love God is giving you? “As the Father has loved me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.” John 15:9. Jesus shows us how to love, responding to that love will teach us to love God.
If one is not responding to God’s love how can one change, why do they need to? If one is not responding to God’s love is it because they do not understand or have not grasped the truth that Christ lives in them? John 14-15
Has this ever been taught to them?
So, why can’t people change? Reasons are many. For to believing Christians, one reason is that which I just stated, grasping that Christ lives in them. Another reason is the message from the pulpit that reached the baby boomers is not resonating with the millennials. Many that I have spoken with feel that Jesus is not relevant, He does not or cannot relate to the culture wars they face.
Why can’t people change? Perhaps because the Christian message has been so watered down and basic truths missed/ignored that people see no need to change, don’t know how to change.
Let's go back to the basics. What is man? We know from scripture (1 Thess. 5:23) that man is made up of spirit, soul and body. The spirit is man’s inner self or I; the soul is his mind, will, and emotions, which the Bible calls the flesh; and the body (which is considered part of the flesh) is the physical dwelling and manifestation for the spirit and soul. Who we really are as a person is characterized by our spirit but who can see our spirit? Our flesh is what gives definition to our spirit. God is Spirit but how would we see or know Him unless Christ had come and defined Him by appearing in the flesh (Heb.11:2).
From his creation man’s spirit was united with God’s Spirit. His flesh was the expression of that spirit bond. It is simply the vessel, giving personality and appearance for the spirit. However, when man disobeyed in the garden something tragic happened - man’s spirit became bonded with another spirit, the “spirit of disobedience” (Eph 2:2,3). Did man’s flesh change? No, but his spirit union was replaced with this spirit of error. From that point on the human race was populated with spirits that were corrupt.
Now, when man returns to Christ, or as the Bible says is born again, what really happens? His spirit, the inner man, is returned to its original union connection to the Spirit of Truth, or Christ. You can say his spirit indweller is replaced. Does his flesh change? No, but his flesh does start to express his new spirit. The flesh, as the vessel, manifests who the real self is. Instead of self seeking, it shifts to being self giving which is the nature of Christ. Again, is the flesh changed? Does God change the flesh? No, for example, a cup is never changed, nor does it need to but when you put something into it it takes on the character of what’s inside. A coffee cup is just a cup but when you fill it with coffee you say, “That’s a good cup of coffee!”
But what about sin? Here its important to distinguish how the Bible describes sin. First, there is Sin, the spirit. This is the spirit of error or disobedience. It is Satan. It is what indwells every non believer. He is born with it. When Christ died on the cross, because He took on the Sin spirit (2 Cor. 5:21), he took it to the grave and died to it, removing it from His spirit. And since He represented all mankind (1 Cor. 15:21), the Bible says that we all died (Rom. 6:6) to the Sin spirit. The minute that we believe that happened (Rom. 6:11) we realize we are dead to sin as well. We no longer have the sin indweller attached to our spirit. Instead we are re-united to the Spirit of Christ.
Secondly, there is the matter of sins. These are acts of disobedience, or things that are done with our flesh that are contrary to God’s laws or not in line with His indwelling Spirit. At the cross, the blood of Jesus wiped the stain of sins away, past, present, and future. We are totally forgiven and the penalty for sins is no more. But, do we still sin? (1 Jn. 1:8) Yes, but now since there is no more penalty we realize only personally the consequence of our actions. We have not sinned against God but ourselves (see 1 Cor. 6:18). Is God mad when we sin? No, not at us, but at what sins do to our lives. The Bible describes how we can quickly remove the feelings of guilt and condemnation that sins bring to our flesh (1 Jn 1:9).
So, getting back to our original question, can we change? What we have seen in this discussion is that the flesh, our vessels given to us by God, do not change nor can we change them. Not even God desires to change our flesh. He wants the flesh that He has given us to be in line with the Spirit that resides within. The role of the flesh is to manifest whatever spirit is connected to our spirit. This is where His grace empowers us to be conformed to His image.
So, why do we put so much emphasis on trying to change ourselves? Let’s focus more on who we really are in our inner man.