The greatest battle we will ever fight is with our own flesh. When our flesh is dealt with, we will easily defeat devils. Our Lord Jesus said, " I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me" (Jn. 14:30). Our Lord kept his flesh in total submission to the Father. He never allowed His flesh to rule him, or cause Him to sin. When I speak of flesh, I'm not referring simply to the physical body, but the fallen body and the unregenerate soul with its carnal appetites. The flesh is the sinful nature with its desires, impulses and carnal cravings.
Once you're spiritual you'll easily discern the works of the flesh as the Apostle Paul so aptly says, "Now the works of the flesh are evident…." (Gal. 5:19 NKJV) The Amplified Bible makes it even clearer: Now the doings (practices) of the flesh are clear (obvious)…" (Gal. 5:19 AMP).
This is not so of the natural man; who cannot see that his ways are fleshly (I Cor. 2:14). That's why the natural man is easily deceived by false religions and evil practices. He thinks he is spiritual because of his religious practices rather than who he is in Christ.
Paul goes into the works of the flesh in detail in Galatians chapter five. Notice he calls them "works" of the flesh. The Greek word for works is "ergos" which means actions, deeds, activities, occupation, things produced by one's effort or profession. Our flesh wants to act out. It has its own deeds; its own mode of operation. Our flesh makes it its occupation to work diligently at sin. Our flesh is full of self effort and self assertion. Our flesh man will try to make something happen. Have you ever observed a real "carnal family?" They seem to always have some drama going on. All this drama can be traced to Sins produced by their fleshy ways.
The flesh will "jump at the chance" to manifest. It's just waiting for a moment to tell someone off, or indulge in some sinful behavior contrary to the Word of God. Have you ever noticed how well parties and carnal activities are attended in comparison to prayer meetings?
The flesh will manifest at any age. Babies and toddlers can look so sweet and innocent, but very early in their development they begin to manifest the works of the flesh. They learn to scream if they don't get what they want. Toddlers begin to manipulate and test the boundaries to see how much they can get away with.
The context of this passage tells us that one of the works of the flesh the Galatian Christians were involved in was a critical spirit or fault-finding spirit. Hence the need for pointing out the difference between works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit in the scriptures that follows. In Galatians 5:15 he states, "But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another." The first work of the flesh, I want to cover in this series is Faultfinding.
I. How to Get Rid of A Faultfinding Spirit.
1. Recognize it as a work of the flesh that we are all susceptible to.
A faultfinding spirit or attitude can be a work of the flesh. It is only natural to notice faults and flaws. But what we do with what we notice makes all the difference. It doesn't take a whole lot of discernment to notice things that need to be changed or improved. God gives us the ability to see things that need to be fixed so we can bring forth positive changes and improvements. We must not allow the ability to discern areas that need improvement to move us into becoming critical. When we start focusing more on what's wrong that what's right we have moved into a serious sin. This sin of faultfinding divides churches, families, and marriages. It takes mole hill sized problems and turns them into mountains. It causes us to try to ferret out the gnat sized flaw in our brothers and sisters without dealing with the camel sized defect in our own lives. People who have a faultfinding spirit are usually very ungrateful for the good that is all around them. They are focused on the negative rather than the positive.
I heard a story about a man who had this spirit. One morning he told his wife that he wanted bacon crispy, dark toast and two eggs one scrambled and one fried. She meticulously did as he said and placed the breakfast in front of him. He just began eating. Finally, she said, "well how's breakfast." He said, "It will do." She said, "What do you mean, it's just like you wanted it." He barked, "Well, you fried the wrong egg."
We need to make sure we focus on what's right more that what's wrong.
II. Guard against giving place to a faultfinding spirit.
Not only can faultfinding (criticism, and finger pointing) be a work of the flesh, it can also give place to a demonic spirit that specializes in inspiring people to find fault with every person and every thing we encounter. Just as James reveals to us how the works of the flesh of bitter envy and self seeking can progress from the fleshly realm to the demonic realm, so also can any work of the flesh. Satan and his imps are more than willing to help us sin. If we give place to sin repeatedly we will usually take on a corresponding spirit of darkness to help us out. People who start out being critical as a work of the flesh eventually give place to a demon spirit of faultfinding.
When people take on this spirit, they can become very harsh and critical of everyone and everything. They become pharisaical and legalistic like the Pharisees that were so quick to point out that the disciples were eating with unwashed hands or that Jesus cured someone on the Sabbath. Faultfinders always have issues. They are grumblers and complainers. These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage (Jude 15). They are also usually scoffers. People become the brunt of their proud, snide humor.
People who have this spirit, spread slander, gossip and malicious rumors throughout the body of Christ. They are not afraid to speak evil of those in spiritual authority over them.But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves (Jude 10). I've been amazed at the destruction that this kind of spirit working through unsuspecting pawns of satan can bring to an otherwise loving positive congregation.
Those given to this spirit must have their mouths stopped or they will wreck havoc. Paul instructs Titus, "whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households…" (Titus 1:11).
Usually the person who has this type of spirit, prays very little if they are a Christian. They live for the flesh and have taken on a spirit of pride. They are basically selfish, self-centered and would rather have their own way, than yield for the good of the Church. This sprit can spread. I believe one of the reasons that Joshua was told to command the Children of Israel to keep their mouth's shut while marching around the walls of Jericho is because the might otherwise become critical of the exercise. It really didn't make sense in the natural and man has a tendency to let the natural man do the thinking.
Our only Christ like reaction to people's faults, flaws and mistakes, is to pray for them, not prey on them. Our proper motive is to help not hurt, restore not remove. There is a time, place and person for pointing out flaws or faults we need to work on. Usually our pastors and mentors have this responsibility and it is for the purpose of restoration and spiritual growth. When we do bring a correction it should be in a spirit of love and meekness.
III The Solution to Faultfinding
1. Repent of the sin of fault-finding.
The enemy uses real sins to bring condemnation upon us. He wants us to see our sins as unforgiveable. He wants us to think we're so bad we can't possibly walk the Christian walk so we might as well give up. No, we should seriously and deeply repent to the Lord for our sin, and vow to stop faultfinding.
2. Command spirits of fault-finding and criticism to go.
Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Command critical spirits assigned to help you be critical to get out of your life. Resist future temptations to criticize, fault-find, or verbalize negativity.
3. Become a minister of grace.
Show grace to others. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Pray positive prayers for them. If people make a mistake, be understanding. Don't bite and devour, build one another up. Make a list of the positive things you see in the other person. It's O.K. to point out something your mate or child needs to change, but we should make it a practice to give 80% praise and encouragement for about every 20% of correction. Even pastors who are teaching, preaching, and mentoring need to make sure they are bringing forth positive faith-filled messages to the people.
4. Walk in the Spirit.
We can never defeat the flesh with the power of our own flesh. Flesh never conquered flesh. The only way to overcome the flesh and the corresponding demons it invites to help it, is to pray diligently and get into the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the one who works the fruit of the Spirit and this comes only by abiding in Him.
IV Reasons for Fault-finding.
Prayer keeps us focused on the Lord and filled with the Holy Spirit. This brings forth the fruit of the Spirit, causing us to overlook faults and flaws of others, and respond to people in a righ way. Prayerlessness has the opposite effect. When we don't pray, we begin to notice every fault and flaw of our brothers and sisters. Everyone irritates us. We become critical and resentful of how they treat us, even when they haven't intentionally done anything to hurt us. Carnal gossipers love to fault-find. Otherwise what would there be to gossip about. If believers would mind their own business and be about the business of the Kingdom there would be little time to fault-find. When we stay in prayer we realize we have much to work on ourselves and we also become very understanding of the shortcomings of others. We "consider our selves lest we also be tempted" Gal. 6:1
2. Living for the Flesh
The person who lives for the flesh loves to persecute the person who lives in the Spirit. It has always been this way. People who profess Christ, but don't want to pay the price to live for Christ resent those who do pay the price to live for Him. In the early 80's my wife and I bought a nice piece of land in Oregon and built a log home on it. We had a beautiful place. We worked hard on it to make it nice. My neighbor who lived behind me didn't like to work. His house was a piecemeal sort of run down place with junk all over the place. He liked to visit and talk and gossip. I found out that he was very jealous of my nice home and the things we had done to our property. He would say, "I sure wish I had a place like yours." "You're sure lucky to have a new home and all that nice land." He wanted what I had but didn't want to work for it. I said, "Yes, the Lord has blessed us and we have worked hard." Some believers are like that. They want to shine with the presence of the Holy Spirit. They want the joy of the Spirit. They want the anointing to see powerful results when they pray, but they don’t want to spend the time on their face in the presence of the Lord to receive that kind of anointing. They want others to do their praying for them while they are off having "fun." (personally I think being in God's presence is the most pleasurable experience possible.) You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11)
Moses came down from the mountain with his face shining because he had paid the price, but the children of Israel were "eating, drinking, and playing." Stop living for the flesh and gossip and faultfinding will leave our lives. Live for the flesh and we will always find something to complain about.
3. The Sin of Familiarity.
Miriam and Aaron didn't have a problem cutting Moses to shreds with their tongue. They felt they had a right to be his critic. They were "family." The old saying, "familiarity breeds contempt", is true of the carnal man. He doesn't know how to honor a man or woman of God and yet understand his human side. It is a serious thing to come against the Lord's anointed. Miriam found out the day she began to fault-find her brother Moses. And when the cloud departed from above the tabernacle, suddenly Miriam became leprous, as white as snow. Then Aaron turned toward Miriam, and there she was, a leper (Nu. 12:10).
We call this the sin of familiarity - when people disrespect you because they get close enough to you to see that you're just human. This can be a fatal mistake. We must learn that God puts His ministry gifts into human vessels. We must learn to respect those whom God has gifted and not get critical of their little quirks and personality traits. This doesn't mean we should overlook sin and ungodly behavior, but that we should not stick our noses into the personal business of a man or woman of God and start faultfinding just because he does something that we disagree with. It isn't really someone's business what kind of car the pastor drives. It really wasn't Miriam and Aaron's business that Moses married an Ethiopian woman. God is not prejudiced. We shouldn't be either. I think the Lord made it clear where he stood on the issue. He hit Miriam with leprosy. He later dealt with Aaron. Get into a man of God's personal business and watch out. Leprosy represents death. Rebellion brings spiritual death. The only thing to do with someone who is critical of men and women of God is get away from them, just as you would a leper. Minister bashing is contagious, and it brings death. Don't get involved in it. Miriam is a good lesson for us all. We don't want to be like those described by Jude "But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves. 11 Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah (Jude 10,11)."
Dealing With The Flesh II
The work of the flesh called fault-finding, is one we all need to really deal with. It is so easy to be critical. Church folks can be some of the worse critics. They feel they are "qualified" for the task. This reminds me of a certain poet. Sitting in church, Robert Burns wrote a poem, called "To a Louse" He was amused at the little lice he saw crawling on a woman, rather than listening to the sermon. He used the poem to make a point of how human it is to notice the tiniest flaw in others and be oblivious to our own imperfections. A couple of lines from the poem read as follows: O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us, To see oursels as others see us! In the poem the Louse in question was on an aristocratic woman, one whom Burns senses to be rather proud. This was written during a time of class separation and struggle however, lice seem to know no such boundaries. Neither does the flesh discriminate we all have it to contend with.
When we're in the flesh we so easily find fault with others, but fail to see our own. Only by the illumination of the Spirit can we begin to see the things we need to see in ourselves. Walking in the Spirit will make us much more humble. The pathway to holiness is by the humility of the Spirit. Here are a few more reasons we become critical of others.
4. Proud Judegmentalism.
In the flesh we are prone to think of ourselves as the "king of discernment" however that title is really reserved for Jesus. Our Lord admonished us to Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto you. 3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me cast out the mote out of thine eye; and lo, the beam is in thine own eye? 5 Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. 6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast your pearls before the swine, lest haply they trample them under their feet, and turn and rend you.
A thorough study of the Greek words for judge and the passages that deal with judging reveal that when our Lord says, Judge Not, He's not saying that we're not to discern good and evil, but that we're not to judge with a condemning and harsh attitude that would sentence people to hell or write them off and un-saveable. We are supposed to discern what is of God and what is not, otherwise how can we ever chose the right path for ourselves or help others in their walk with the Lord.
In fact, walking in the Spirit brings us to a place of clear judgment. "But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16 For "who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?" But we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:15)
Growing in the Word also develops correct judgment which is actually more aptly termed discernment. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil (Heb. 5:14).
When we're walking in true spiritual discernment we do see the faults of others clearly, but we are also acutely aware of our own. We become mindful of our need to focus on developing our own personal holiness before trying to help our brother or sister receive their deliverance and victory. We are supposed to discern sin, but be understanding of our common struggle when trying to help our fellow believers overcome theirs. When we're moving in godly discernment our attitude toward them is not one of condemnation and harsh sentencing, but one of intercession, mercy and only once we've been set free that of helping them get free, "considering ourselves unless we are also tempted (Gal. 6:1)."
Proud people are usually insecure people who are wearing pride as a mask. Deep down they feel the need to tear others down in order to build themselves up, comparatively speaking.
The only way to get rid of the carnal sin of faultfinding is to walk in humility by staying on our faces in prayer.
Most people with a critical spirit are ungrateful for their own blessings. Critical people are miserable people. They have lost their joy for living because they have failed to see all the blessings God has bestowed upon them. The Bible says, "all things by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving..." (Phil 4:6). I firmly believe that thanksgiving is attached to prayer and supplication. It is difficult to have a consistent attitude of gratitude without a heart of prayer.
The connection and blessing of grace that flows from God to us when we pray fills our hearts with Joy and gives us a fresh grateful perspective. God tells us to be continually thankful.
"in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (I Thes. 5:18). When we are thankful, we're focused on the positive not the negative. We're focused on what is right not what is wrong. We're in the will of God instead of being out of the will of God. When we're critical and finding fault we're out of the will of God. When God does point out something that needs to be changed He points out all we're doing right first. Read Revelation chapter's two and three concerning
the correction he gives the churches.
Let's work on eliminating faultfinding from our lives. It is one of the biggest works of the flesh. It is a joy killer. It is a strife sower. It is so contrary to the will of God.
Dealing With The Flesh III
The Word of God says in Galatians 5:16, "I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh."
The flesh is the sinful nature with its sinful impulses and desires. It is involves the unregenerate portion of our soul and our bodily appetites. While we can repent of sin and get deliverance fairly easily, we can't so easily get rid of our flesh. We will have it to contend with until we meet the Lord. Putting the flesh down and allowing the Holy Spirit to live and dwell in us and through us is our life long challenge. Here are some pointers that will help you "walk in the Spirit" and not give place to the flesh.
I. Pull the Plug on the Flesh.
The word for walk in Gal. 5:16 is the Greek, word peripateo. Peri means around and pateo is the same word we get our word patio from. It refers to a place where you walk a lot. Just as you walk all around in your kitchen or on your patio, so if we live, walk and become very familiar with moving in the realm of the Spirit, we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.
The phrase "not fulfill" means to "pull the plug." Just as person on life support needs to stay hooked up in order to live. So also when we walk in the Spirit we pull the plug on flesh man and he loses all desire for his sin.
The flesh is always "working" or "wire working." The Word for works is ergos and means activity, occupation. It means things produced by our effort or activity. In other words the flesh is always planning, plotting, scheming, conniving, to get its way. Our flesh That 's why the Apostle Paul calls it the "works" of the flesh. The flesh will work over time in order to keep from praying. The flesh would rather do just about anything than worship, or go to church. That's why people who are undisciplined in their prayer life are destined to live a life in the flesh.
The flesh life is a hard life. "The way of the transgressor is hard." Prov. 13:15 ASV. It is a driven life. People who are in the flesh are never satisfied. They can't to be quiet or sit still. The flesh has to be doing something. The flesh life is a stressful life. The flesh is flighty, flaky, fickle. It can be lazy, neglectful, or proud, energetic, and ambitious. It is filled with excess and imbalance. The flesh can never be satisfied. The flesh man has an agenda of his own and will lead us to a wasted life of carnal pursuits that have no eternal rewards. There is no rest for the wicked man or woman who chooses to live life in the flesh.
The only way to pull the plug on the flesh and start living the good life with the fruit of the Spirit is to walk in the Spirit. Praying, reading the Word, worshipping, attending a good Holy Spirit-filled church where the corporate anointing is strong are ways that you can begin to live the good life. We can only enjoy the fruit of the Spirit as we "walk all around" in the Spirit and abide in communion with Him. Every day we make choices. God says, "choose life" and the good life He tells us to live is the live that only He can give.
Have a blessed weekend.
Bishop Darrell Ellis
Anointed Word International Fellowship