September 1, 2021
Flesh Patterns and Coping Mechanisms
Flesh refers to the old ways or patterns by which you have attempted to get all your needs supplied instead of seeking Christ first and trusting Him to meet your needs. These patterns develop as you are growing up in your parent’s home.[i]
— Bill Gillham
We arrived into this world with an empty canvas. Growing up, we have various experiences, good, bad, and in between. It is not the experiences themselves but the interpretations we internalized that shapes our belief system. From day one, parents, siblings, relatives, friends, teachers, couches, and others painted on our canvas by whatever they taught us, things they said to us in love or in anger, and by the behavior good or bad they modeled in front of us. By the age of seven, about 85% of our canvas is covered with various lines, wide, narrow, and in between, and various pictures, in color or black and white. For the rest of our lives, we carry this canvas with us.
The wide lines form a strong grid, called core beliefs[ii]. Not all core beliefs are bad or inaccurate; it is a mixture of lie-based beliefs, truth-based beliefs, and in between. It seems that we are eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil all over again. The core beliefs are the very center of how we see ourselves, the world, God, other people, and the future. Our core beliefs form the lens through which we interpret life, make decisions, and base our self-esteem.
Later on in life, we hear the gospel, and the Holy Spirit convicts us that we are sinners and arouses in us the need for a Savior. By faith (Romans 10:8–10), we accept Jesus as our personal Savior and Lord; we are born again, and we become “a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). However, God does not send any archangel to “erase” our canvas. We come into God’s family with our “grid” the way it has been painted on our canvas from day one until we met Jesus (and even after). From that point on, until we meet Jesus face-to-face, we enter into the process called progressive sanctification (1 Thessalonians 5:23–24). The living Word of God and the Holy Spirit, with our full cooperation, are diligently working to renew our minds—metanoia[iii] (Romans 12:2), and transform our character—metamorphosis[iv](2 Corinthians 3:18).
This is a life-long process. If we cooperate with the Holy Spirit, God is committed to using every life experience: school, family, work, successes, failures, sickness, and so on, to help us become conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:28–30). The Lord can use our entire spectrum of negative emotions: anger, depression, confusion, helplessness, indifference, fear, hurt, sadness, and so on, to expose the fleshly patterns buried deep down inside of us. These lie-based beliefs are like scales over our eyes, preventing us from seeing and experiencing God’s truth and His love. They have an irresistible pull in our lives to live independently of God.
In time, as we position ourselves to receive God’s transformative truth, these lie-based beliefs, upon exposure, are irradiated by God’s Light—Jesus (Ephesians 5:13). All of a sudden, the lie-based beliefs, one by one, lose their influence on us. The revealed truth of God’s Word shines over our canvas (Ephesians 5:14, 2 Corinthians 4:3–6), and the wide lie-based lines, one by one, are erased and replaced with strong truth-based lines. Praise God! And the process continues. Now, in all the transformed areas, we can serve God and others in newness of the Spirit (Romans 7:6). In a sense, this is the way we are supposed to crucify (Strong #G4717 σταυρόω)[v]the flesh, so we can walk according to our core identity—dead to sin and alive to God (Romans 6:11).
This process is not our attempt to improve ourselves or a new positive psychology technique. This is a spiritual process based on our cooperation with the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, through which our fleshly patterns (lie-based beliefs and coping mechanisms), are identified and exposed so we can bring them to the cross to be crucified (Gr. σταυρόω) that the truth may come in and shine in our hearts. This is the power of the Gospel: “For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
May I ask you a simple question? When you squeeze something: a fruit or a toothpaste tube, what comes out? Of course, the answer is that under pressure, what is inside it comes out. Similarly, when we are under pressure, we manifest what is inside of us, the deeds of the flesh or the fruit of the Spirit.
In the process of progressive sanctification, God—the Vinedresser (John 15:1), orchestrates all sorts of situations that apply pressure on us, squeezing us. The squeezing is not meant to hurt us, ruin our lives, or make us miserable, though, many times, this is exactly how it feels. God’s purpose in using various forms of pain is to help us realize what is inside us to clearly see the real source and motivation in our life: the flesh or the Spirit.
As these flesh patterns, false beliefs, and coping mechanisms are exposed, we are in a much better position to agree and cooperate with the Holy Spirit in the process of mind-renewal resulting in spiritual transformation. The result of the entire process is true sanctification. Paul explains clearly: “I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification” (Romans 6:19).
One by one, flesh pattern by flesh pattern, lie-based belief by lie-based belief, one wrong motive at a time after another, is brought to the light. When these things are not hidden anymore and being exposed by Christ’s powerful transformative Light and Truth, their influence over us is broken. (See Ephesians 5:8, 11, 13).
I am so proud of you! Now you are ready to take the self-assessment. Begin the assessment process with prayer:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way. (Psalm 139:23–24)
Proceed in a posture of meditation, being open to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
1. I invite you to take the Flesh Patterns Self-Assessment Test. Go to https://urfm.org/pastoral-counseling download the PDF file.
2. Feel free to schedule a virtual meeting with Valy Vaduva (firstname.lastname@example.org) to process the results.
With love in the service of Christ,
Life Coach/Author/Spiritual Mentor
© 2021 by Valy Vaduva
[i] Bill Gillham, Lifetime Guarantee, (Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR, 1993), 16.
[ii] Rhena Branch, Rob Willson, Core Beliefs and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, “Your core beliefs are ideas or philosophies that you hold very strongly and very deeply. These ideas are usually developed in childhood or early in adult life.” Accessed on July 23, 2021. https://www.dummies.com/health/mental-health/core-beliefs-and-cognitive-behavioural-therapy/.
[iii] Metanoia: change of mind, repentance. Original Word: μετάνοια. Strong #G3341. Short Definition: repentance, a change of mind, change in the inner man. Accessed on October 12, 2016, http://biblehub.com/greek/3341.htm.
[iv] Metamorphosis: “1: (a) Change of physical form, structure, or substance, especially by supernatural means. (b) A striking alteration in appearance, character, or circumstances.” www.merriam-webster.com. Accessed on July 23, 2021. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/metamorphosis.
[v] Stauroo, Strong #G4717, verb: to crucify, to crucify one, metaphorically: to crucify the flesh, destroy its power utterly (the nature of the figure implying that the destruction is attended with intense pain). Accessed on July 23, 2021. https://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/stauroo.html.
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