In 2009, 20th Century Fox released the movie, “Avatar,” which became one of the top grossing movies of all time with box office sales approaching $2.8 billion. The movie was set in the year 2154 when humans from Earth are attempting to harvest a precious substance to sustain humanity on Earth from a distant moon named Pandora. However, the prime mining location is guarded by a large tribe of 10 foot tall, blue-skinned humanoids called the Na’vi. In order to infiltrate the Na’vi, the humans recruit a marine soldier to operate an “avatar,” which is a Na’vi-human hybrid that is genetically matched to a human. The avatar is connected to the related human from a distance and looks and acts just like a real Na’vi. From a distance, the mind of the human controls the avatar as if the avatar is that human but hosted in a Na’vi body. Ironically, the Na’vi avatar seems to present an interesting picture that also symbolizes the identity of mankind. How is this like or unlike our actual identity as humans? Do we too have a dual nature? Are we who we think we are, or are we actively ignoring who we truly are?
I began this three-part series focusing on how Lucifer seeks to primarily attack the identity of God with Christians by distracting them away from the Holy Spirit. In this post we will focus on how Lucifer also attacks our identity and for similar reason. We bear the image of the one he hates, God. And he is Hell-bent on attacking anything that looks like his mortal enemy. The image we bear displays our identity as representing the object that we reflect - God. It is our spirit (not our flesh) that is God’s primary image imprinted upon us. John 4:24 says, “God is spirit.” Therefore, we are in His image in our spirit, and not necessarily in our flesh. Therefore, our true identity is our spirit and not the corrupted flesh that temporarily houses it just like the Na'vi avatar. This flesh veneer masks our true identity sometimes even from ourselves. It is the physical part of us that tends to distract us from who we really are in spirit. It is as if our flesh dupes us into believing that it is our physical bodies that truly define us.
And, the enemy uses this confusion between flesh and spirit to attack who we are as well. This is evidenced today by his influence over our culture towards defining each other by our DNA or other physical attributes. But, in truth, we are only defined by that which is eternal and not ultimately defined by that which is temporary. It is our eternity or our destiny that defines who we are. And, it is our spirit that is eternal, not our current flesh. The temporary state of anything is forgotten and superseded by its permanent state. Therefore, we too should not define each other by our current temporary state, but by our permanent or eternal state.
When we were created we were perfect in spirit and housed in uncorrupted flesh. This was our true and destined identity. Such an alignment of spirit and flesh would not allow for identity confusion. However, when we rebelled against God and fell into sin our flesh and our spirit were both corrupted, destining both to physical/spiritual death. In fact, it is not our current flesh that accompanies us into eternity but our spirit and it alone. Realizing our spirit’s fallen destiny, God decided in His great love to rescue us. He knew that man had to pay the price for his rebellion which is what man chose. Therefore, God came and took on flesh as a man so that He could pay the brutal price in our place. Like our pre-rebellious state, when He came His spirit was perfectly sinless and wrapped in corruptible flesh (John 1:14). But, as God, Jesus never sinned and overcame the potentiality of the flesh that He occupied. And, when he died and rose from the dead, His perfect spirit was united with a new, incorruptible and glorified body. However, He could not break the promise of the physical death that we chose. But, He joined us in death in order to lead us into resurrection as a way to rescue us from our chosen fate. And, His death and resurrection is our gateway to a destiny like His.
At the moment that we receive God’s free gift of forgiveness, He justifies us and deposits His perfect Spirit inside of us. This is what Jesus meant when he referred to us being "born again." He famously said in John 3:5-8, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Therefore, when we receive the Spirit of Christ, we are immediately reborn spiritually - with a perfect spirit, His Spirit, (the Holy Spirit). And, since God defines us by our eternal spirit as He is in spirit, from that day forward He declares us righteous and blameless (Romans 3) because that is the nature of our reborn spirit. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” And, Ephesians 4:24 says, “and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” He calls us righteous and blameless because when He sees us He sees the very Spirit of His perfect Son, Jesus, and not our temporary flesh. It is spirit, God’s Spirit, which entirely defines us in God’s eyes. It is who we are because that is what God declares that we are and He has the final and only say. But, we too often fall for the enemy’s distraction and ignore who we truly are by pursuing gratification of our flesh.
Romans 7:14-25 explains the current war between who we are (spirit) and our corrupted flesh (who we are not). It says, “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”
In eternity our deliverance is completed, whereby we will reside in immortality with a perfect spirit and perfect body, both of which will be incorruptible as we did before we rebelled. And, it is in this state that we will spend an infinite eternity. We are foolish to fall for any lesser definition of self.
Lucifer desires to trap God’s image bearers in eternal damnation along with him. Sadly, the converse to a Christian identity is also true for those who refuse to freely receive God’s grace and forgiveness. Their current flesh will die as well. And, their dead spirit will be resurrected into incorruptible flesh. But, incorruptible flesh is a curse to those destined for Hell, an eternity of death housed in flesh that will never die. And, likewise, such an eternal destiny would define Hell’s future residents today. But today we hold the key that will release our fellow image bearers from such a destiny. That key is the gospel of Jesus as outlined above.
And, towards Christians, our enemy constantly tempts us to focus on our flesh because flesh always opposes God’s Spirit. Galatians 5:16-17 says, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” As Christians, we should seek to always gratify God’s spirit at the expense of our corrupt flesh. We should always deny our flesh when its indulgence might distract us from God’s Spirit. This is what it means to be truly “Spirit-led.” If we gratify the flesh over God’s Spirit, we are the opposite of Spirit-led – we are flesh-led, which is a spiritual dead end.
Are aspects of your life characterized by indulgence of flesh over indulgence of Spirit? Do you regularly make decisions in favor of your dying flesh that you know are at war with God’s eternal Spirit in you? Would you rather be free to indulge your flesh than reserve our indulgence only for God’s enjoyment? Christian, don’t ignore who you are. You are a bearer of the very image of God with a spiritual destiny of royal immortality. And, God did everything necessary to reconcile you back to Him for such an identity. In turn, we need to live lives that move in the direction of His Spirit, and away from our flesh. Only then will we truly acknowledge the awesome person that God has made us to eternally be.
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