In John 6:63, Jesus is referring to two completely different realms—one is earthly and natural and universally accessed; the other is heavenly and spiritual and those who obtain it must be granted access (v.65). Therefore, spiritual change and insight into the truth cannot take place according to the flesh. Nevertheless, we are still tempted constantly to deny the reality that the flesh profits nothing. How so? First, in the way we view the Christian life, secondly in the way we minister to others and thirdly, in the way we think about the gathering of the local church.
1) How do we think the flesh is able to accomplish something in the spiritual realm, as it relates to our own spiritual lives? Instead of relying on Christ alone for salvation, we populate our own list of righteous deeds and personal attributes that we present before God to be accepted, forgiven and restored. Typically, those are all things that can possibly be done in the flesh, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit.
Or we think that if we wallow in the guilt of our sin and plunge into the depths of emotional despair, that somehow that will atone for our sin. All that is from the flesh because it’s not of faith in the work and promises of Christ.
2) We can also think the flesh is able to accomplish something based on the way we minister to others. If we operate as though understanding Jesus’ teaching is strictly an intellectual or rational exercise, then we will trust in our persuasive techniques more than in the power of the word of God.
Or instead of praying for the Spirit to work in the heart of those we care about, we establish goals that can be accomplished in the flesh—”I feel okay about this person now since he or she is coming to church or I saw him or her reading the Bible.” Those could be great things or they could be absolutely worthless. Who cares if they come to church and read the Bible if there isn’t any life from the Spirit? You can bank on this—when the Spirit is working, there will be godly sorrow involving a Spirit-wrought repentance, described in 2 Cor. 7 and there will be fruit of the Spirit, as delineated in Gal. 5. However, if we are constantly deceived that something from the flesh is actually a work of the Spirit, then we won’t be able to minister to them properly at all and we could unintentionally promote someone trusting in their own flesh.
3) Lastly, we can think the flesh can accomplish something in how goals are set for the gathering of the church. Do we have an expectation to feel a certain way as a result of worshipping with God’s people? The sad reality is that because flesh desires to be entertained, many churches purposely decide to create an entertaining atmosphere, especially with regards to the music and the message.
The stimulation of the flesh cannot produce anything spiritual. Even if people leave the service excited and pumped up for Jesus, that feeling will not last because if that’s all it was, the Spirit was not in it at all. The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of truth and he works hand in hand with the Word of God, so as much as the word is eliminated, that is the degree the Spirit is eliminated as well.
All that being said, let us take heed to Jesus’ words that the Spirit gives life, but the flesh profits nothing.