(The second in a three-part series on the disciple and the battle)
The New Testament tells us that we are at war! It is clear that every follower of Jesus is engaged in a battle that is on three fronts: the world, the flesh and the devil. This blog focuses on the battle against “the flesh”.
What is “the flesh”?
The clearest way to define “the flesh”, in this context, is the way that most contemporary translations do, which is to refer to it as “sinful nature” or “human nature”. We understand that there is brokenness in all humanity. “I’m human” is synonymous with “I’m imperfect”. Speaking about this pervasive moral imperfection, Jim Packer is a laser beam: “We might not be as bad as we could be, but we are never as good as we should be.” In essence, we are incapable of meeting the requirements of God’s moral law.
This indictment of human nature is, of course, as a result of Adam and Eve’s fall. Their original sin has corrupted all humanity by virtue of being passed down to all of us through their DNA. So, as Romans 8:7 puts it, “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God …”. Unbelievers are not just indifferent or apathetic to God. From the point of view of the Scriptures they are at enmity with Him. As a result, they are relationally separated from Him.
The good news!
The good news of the gospel is that once we put our trust in Christ, we are justified before God and that wall of separation is removed. Hallelujah! We in the Western church place much emphasis on being justified before God. It is, as it were, a pronouncement in a court of law that we are now at peace with God. This is our new position before Him (Rom 5:1).
The Eastern church thinks of the sinful nature as a sickness, not just a state of separation. It’s as if our bodies are suffering with systemic blood poisoning. So, their focus is on the process of being cleansed from this disease. Their ongoing pursuit is the experience of sanctifying union with Christ. This is why we are told to continue to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12). Both these views are found in the Scriptures: a new position before Him, and a continuing process being cleansed.
How do we fight the flesh?
Galatians 5:16, gives us an answer: So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. A vibrant, personal relationship with Holy Spirit is the answer! In this passage (Gal 5:13-26), Paul exhorts us to “live by the Spirit” and “keep in step with the Spirit”. When we do so, we will bear the “fruit of the Spirit”.
Holy Spirit, we love you! Empower us to overcome the flesh as we walk in step with you. Amen!
Read Part one: AT WAR WITH THE WORLD