I’ve previously wrote on the subject of the flesh from a biblical perspective. The flesh truly is my own worst enemy and I promise you friend, it is yours as well. Every human being that has ever lived has inherited a corrupt nature from our first Father, Adam. We can’t help ourselves from rebelling against God because we are naturally rebellious. Left to ourselves, we will always choose to be selfish. This is hard for us as humans to understand. We give ourselves all kinds of credit for heroic, selfless acts. The bible is clear though, even our seemingly best, most noble act falls short of God’s standards of goodness, righteousness. “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” – Romans 8:8.
Any goodness you or I have comes from having surrendered our wills and our lives to the Holy Spirit. When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, he comes to live inside of us (Rev. 3:10) and produces in us what is impossible for us to do ourselves with one important condition. We must always willingly choose to let him lead. God never forces our will. He doesn’t possess us like Satan does. He never forces us to do anything we don’t want to do. He never tries to manipulate us or shame us into doing his will either. God will leave us to the consequences of our decisions if we will not yield but we must never mistaken that for force. We always retain the ability to choose to give God full, unconditional control over our lives. The problem is though, that is easier said than done.
I’m a control freak!
Ok there, I’ve said it. This isn’t any new revelation to anyone that knows me and certainly not to my wife who knows me best of all. It is scary to give up control. It is terrifying to let myself be vulnerable and get hurt. It is frightening to potentially expose my family to harm. My natural human flesh wants nothing of it. It fancies itself a god. My sinful nature thinks the world revolved around it.
Ultimately it comes down to a choice between it or God. Only one can occupy the control seat at one time. Only one leader is permitted. There is only one God or god that must be on the throne of my life. In the end God gives me the choice as to who will occupy the captain’s chair. God will only sit in it if I give him permission. Even more amazingly, He will step away from the controls if I don’t want to submit to His authority at any time. I always retain the last word on whether God’s will gets done in my life. Which will I choose?
I have another confession to make. I have too many times doubted God’s will for me. Questioned my circumstances, double guessed his decisions for me. I’ve resisted his leading and given control of my life back over to my flesh, the internal false god known as my flesh more times than I can possibly count. Every time it has turned out badly and yet like some kind of drug addict who hates himself for it and yet can’t stop injecting himself to get his next high, I fall for the tricks my flesh plays to get me to fall over and over again. I can really relate to Romans 7
“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.” – Romans 7:15-18
After I’ve let the flesh feed on some sin I almost always have remorse as long as I’m aware that I’ve sinned against God. Again like an addict I hate myself for it and find myself kneeling before my heavenly father pleading for his forgiveness. It honestly feels terrible. It is truly humbling. It’s a hard pill to swallow and I know it isn’t ultimately God’s plan for me. He wants something much better for me. He doesn’t want me to live as a slave but as a son. Jesus stated in John 8:34, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” I can attest to the truth of that statement in my life!
Time to cut the beast at the head!
All of this brings me to an important realization. I can’t give my flesh even an inch or it will retake control of my life in a blink of an eye. To borrow once more from the addict analogy, an alcoholic who truly wants to get freedom from alcohol must determine never to drink again under any circumstances. Even one drink is enough to send an alcoholic back into the thick of their addiction. The same can be said of our flesh. I must learn to distinguish between what is flesh and what is Spirit and choose the Spirit while starving the flesh.
Romans 13:14 states, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” No provision means that we have to live away from the edge. Build margin in our life so that we aren’t placing ourselves in the path of temptation. This means different things for different people. For me it means greatly limiting my access to movies and television. It means staying away from sugary snacks and deserts. It means being very careful not to let my eyes wander where they shouldn’t. For someone else it can mean getting away from work, breaking off an unhealthy or controlling relationship. It could mean quitting smoking or drinking or any number of other things.
Galatians 6:7-8 has a great principle that applies here, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” I have to stop sewing to my flesh. I have to build in margin into my life so that I stay away from the things that cause me to undermine God’s control over my life. I must consciously choose to give God what is most precious to me, my family, my career, my life.
By God’s grace I covenant here before you asking God to give me the will to do this daily and moment by moment. I don’t want to listen to the old man of sin in me anymore. He’s a liar, an addict and a failure anyhow. By God’s kindness and grace I choose to live solely for God’s glory and according to his will and leading. What about you?