Featured image for “Identity in Christ Part 5”


If I’m Complete in Christ, Why Do I Still Feel Empty at Times?


Colossians 2:10 states that we are complete in Christ. The word​​ complete​​ means​​ “to be made full”.​​ Nothing is​​ lacking in those who have received Christ by faith. Christ has become our life! All of our God-given inner needs/desires are satisfied by the life of Christ that dwells in us. ​​ 


Then why do we​​ still​​ feel empty at times?​​ This emptiness may be described as – a feeling that something is missing; a lack of peace; depression; restlessness; loneliness; etc. Whenever we choose to live according to our flesh, we “close the door” to the Holy Spirit. We still have the life of Christ, but we cease to experience his life. Romans 8:6 says,​​ 


“For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,”​​ 


Here,​​ death​​ is referring to soulical​​ (pertaining to one’s soul)​​ death. Remember, our soul is where we experience either life or death at any given moment.​​ 


From Freedom to Foolishness!


Our enemy loves to get​​ us​​ to live independent of God, i.e., according to our flesh. Much of Paul’s letter​​ to​​ the church at Galatia was written to warn Christians of the false​​ teachers who were teaching that circumcision (part of the Mosaic Law) was necessary for salvation (i.e., they needed to​​ do something​​ in addition to their faith).​​ Apparently,​​ some of these​​ Christians were starting to believe​​ that lie.​​ In the third chapter of this letter, Paul called these Galatian Christians foolish and suggested that they​​ 

must have been bewitched!​​ In the form of several rhetorical questions,​​ he reminded them how they had trusted in Christ’s crucifixion and how they had received the Holy Spirit because of their faith​​ and​​ not by works of the Law. He also reminded​​ them that they started their Christian​​ life​​ with the Holy Spirit as their guide; then asks them if they are now going to finish it by their flesh​​ (i.e., keeping the Law).​​ 


Know this -​​ Any​​ attempt to keep the Law​​ is​​ always done in one’s flesh.​​ “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.”​​ Galatians 5.18​​ 


When we read about the Christians in Galatia it​​ does sound rather foolish.​​ But sadly, many (most) Christians​​ today​​ are doing the same thing​​ (mixing Law and grace).​​ 


Note –​​ Law and grace are as opposed to one another as are Spirit and flesh!


Freedom to Choose


As I continue to say, we choose​​ every​​ moment to either walk according to the Holy Spirit’s leading and experience life (fullness, peace, etc.) or to walk according to our flesh and experience death (the absence of life – lack of peace, discontentment, emptiness, etc.).


When you hear the word​​ flesh,​​ most Christians immediately have thoughts and imaginations of drunkards, drug users, pornography,​​ and​​ adulterers, i.e., those living immoral lifestyles. And these things​​ would certainly be examples of living according to the flesh. But, most Christians don’t live those types​​ of lifestyles, yet there are times when they are still not experiencing the abundant life Christ gives us when we receive his life.  ​​ ​​​​ 


Walking according to one’s flesh is not always immoral living.​​ Take for example the apostle Paul. He​​ gave his “flesh resume” in Philippians chapter three.​​ Paul said he was circumcised on the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, from the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews,​​ as to the Law, a Pharisee, as to righteousness which is in the Law, blameless. This list​​ would have been considered​​ very impressive​​ by most of the nation of Israel at that time​​ and certainly not immoral.​​ You could say​​ Paul had “good-looking” flesh, but it was flesh nonetheless.​​ 


Paul​​ recognized​​ these things as flesh​​ and went on to say​​ that all of his​​ accomplishments were worthless compared to knowing Christ.​​ 


What Does it Really Mean to Walk According to the Flesh?


For now, I’ll give you the short answer. Walking according to the flesh is anything I do independent of God, whether it appears good or bad.​​ 


Why would a Christian choose to​​ live independently​​ of God?​​ ​​ I can think of three​​ possible reasons -​​ ignorance, unbelief, or deception. We either don’t know who we are and what we have as new creations in Christ, or we don’t believe​​ it, or we are deceived.​​ 


Just Working Hard for Jesus!


Walking according to the flesh can look good or it can look bad. The “good-looking” flesh is the most deceptive of all​​ (because it looks good).​​ Here is my “flesh resume”​​ from​​ 25 years ago –


Regular church meeting attendance; Sunday school teacher; deacon; church organization committee member; work day participant; visitation​​ night​​ participant; regularly shared the gospel with others; etc.​​ 


Those things probably looked good at the time and may​​ even​​ sound good now, but​​ sadly, most of what I was doing was done according to my flesh! ​​ I was trying to get my needs met – acceptance, significance,​​ and love,​​ through my Christian service. I had “religious flesh” and I was proud of it! Yuk!​​ 


Without question,​​ I was deceived.​​ I was trying to get,​​ in​​ my own strength, what I already had in Christ.​​ 


​​ Sadly, my focus was on​​ what I was​​ doing rather than​​ on​​ what Christ had already done.​​ I was believing the lies of the enemy.​​ 


Let me say that none of the activities I was doing were​​ necessarily​​ wrong. But the question​​ that needs to be answered​​ is,​​ “What is the source of the activity?”​​ If it’s from the leading of the Holy Spirit, then it’s good. But if done in one’s own strength (flesh), then it’s not good. Good-looking activities can be wrong​​ and wear you​​ out​​ if they are not Holy Spirit initiated and empowered! (Phil. 2:13)


Ask yourself (and God) –​​ What are the motives behind the activities that I’m driven to do? Remember, our shepherd gently leads us.​​ 


My Struggle –​​ For much of my Christian life, I predominately lived according to my flesh. I was trying to get the praise of man and the favor of God. What I didn’t realize was that I already had the favor of God (as do all Christians) and that the praise of man didn’t matter!​​ 


When I first realized that I was not experiencing the life that Jesus gives us, I knew something was wrong, but wasn’t sure what. I recall something God spoke to my heart during that time of struggle. This is what I heard from God – “I don’t want you to do anything until you know that I love you just like you are. Don’t read your bible, don’t pray, don’t serve me in any way until you know that I accept you just as you are – no performance required!​​ 


I am learning to wait on God and check my motives before I embark on any ministry activity (or any other activity)!​​ 


Scripture References –​​ Col. 2; Gal. 3:1-3;​​ 2 Pet. 1; Rom. 8; Phil. 3; Phil.​​ 2:13. ​​ ​​​​ 



Back​​ Next​​ – Characteristics​​ of The Flesh