Thursday, December 17, 2015

Flesh and Spirit at Christmas

While there are stories of families and friends coming together for Christmas in the best times of fun, food, and fellowship, there are far too many testimonies of people living with fear, disappointment, and depression, throughout the Christmas season.

The thing that really stands out today is that Christmas, for many people, is based totally on law. This is why it is so much about the flesh![1] By “law” I do not mean biblical law. Rather, I mean the law of expectations, both ours and others. You know, the laws, or rules, that govern whatever each group of family and friends wants Christmas to look like.

Separating Spirit from Flesh

If the Christian life should look like our minds set on the Spirit, rather than our minds set on the flesh,[2] which of these best describes how we make it through the Christmas season? How much of what we think about Christmas is setting our minds on the flesh, and how much is about setting our minds on the Spirit?

Things we think about in the Spirit
Things we think about in the flesh

The Feelings of the Spirit; the Feelings of the Flesh

Setting our minds on the flesh is death, and setting our minds on the Spirit is life and peace,[3] so, wherever we set our minds determines the things we feel. For each thought as listed above, describe the corresponding feeling. What kinds of feelings belong to the issues that come from setting our minds on the Spirit, contrasted with the kinds of feelings that follow setting our minds on the flesh?

Thoughts we think about at Christmas
Feelings that follow these thoughts

If you take the time to identify these things, you will notice that positive feelings follow positive thoughts, while negative feelings follow negative thoughts and beliefs. Feelings do whatever our thoughts and beliefs tell them to. If we want to change our feelings about whatever takes place at Christmas, we need to change our beliefs, something Paul calls being “transformed by the renewal of your mind.”[4]

Handling Disappointments in the Spirit

          Many Christians would have to admit that the majority of our thinking about Christmas is about our minds set on the flesh, and the majority of our feelings are fleshly, negative, depressing.
What the negative things of Christmas seem to come down to are these two things: who are the people who are disappointing me because they are not measuring up to my expectations about Christmas? Who are the people I am disappointing because I am not meeting their expectations about Christmas?
Of course, even when relationships have a fleshly focus, as long as everyone is doing their part to meet everyone’s expectations, there can be the appearance of happiness, at least on the outside. For the moment, I’m only addressing the all too common experience of disappointment that accompanies this season.
For each of the issues of disappointment you identified, what would it look like to set your mind on the Spirit about that disappointment? I don’t mean to avoid the disappointment, but to bring the disappointment to God’s Holy Spirit, setting our minds on him about our problems or issues or hurts, and watching where he leads us to fill us up with himself.

Who is
disappointing me?
How do I set my mind on the Spirit?
Who am I disappointing?
How do I set my mind on the Spirit?

I do not expect that everyone has time to fill in these charts. I just wanted each of us to see that we could do ourselves some good in what we expect, and how we feel, by deliberately considering how to set our minds on the Spirit no matter what expectations are met or denied during this season.

In some cases, we may find that the moment we set our minds on the Spirit, we discover we have nothing to be disappointed about, and our fear of disappointing others is in his hands as well.[5]

In other cases, hurts may run so deep, regrets may haunt us from the shadows, and implicit memories spring up at every turn, that we may need to consciously set our minds on the Spirit about those very things. However, even these can be part of our growth in Christ this Christmas season as we set our minds on the Spirit and how he is ready to help us for our healing and growth in our Savior.

Earlier in Romans 7, Paul said this about our ex-relationship with the law of Moses. He wrote, “But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.”[6]

I do not in any way suggest that Paul was speaking about the family laws, rules, and expectations that surround the Christmas season. However, I do love the thought that the same God who released his children from that greater law, could do so with any others, leading us to walk in the new way of the Spirit, and not in any kind of old way whatsoever.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;
against such things there is no law.[7]

© 2015 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] This is a synopsis of what Paul teaches in Romans 7:1-25
[2] Romans 7 and 8, particularly Romans 8:1-11
[3] Romans 8:6
[4] Romans 12:2
[5] Philippians 4:4-8 may bring immediate peace, or start us on the road to get there.
[6] Romans 7:6
[7] Galatians 5:22-23

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