“For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” - Galatians 5:17
From the moment you and I accept and appropriate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as payment for our sins, swearing our undying allegiance to Him, the battle was on. We may not be aware of it immediately, but it isn’t long before we realize there is rebellion in the ranks. Not only does the world around us seem oddly foreign, and the devil even more persistent, we suddenly become aware of a traitor within in league with the enemy without.
Is it any wonder Paul’s Epistles are so filled with references to the reality and power of these inbred impulses passed down from our First Parents? In Ephesians, we’re made aware of weapons of defense at our disposal, but in the case of the flesh, somehow I’m reduced to what seems more like hand-to-hand combat, a battle of wills, as it were. My will against the Spirit’s, as the verse in Galatians says. And consequently, I’m stopped dead in my tracks, spiritually speaking.
Ultimately, wars are won by offensive, not defensive, actions. You cannot only respond to aggression, you must wage war yourself. I believe the flesh utilizes two vehicles to attack us in this mortal battle: the body and the mind. For that reason, I challenge us all to:
1. Wage War on Our Bodies
“…so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” - 1 Cor. 9:26-27
According to the apostle, intemperance leads to uselessness; and your moderation should be obvious (Philip. 4:5). Because Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:25 that anyone who really means business for God will be “temperate in all things,” I hesitate to list things. Suffice it to say, anything that pleases any of the senses has the potential for excess and even destruction. And not the least important is its impact on our spiritual lives. As I heard my pastor once say, “If you want to reach your spiritual potential, learn to tell your body it can’t have everything it wants.”
2. Wage War on Our Thoughts
“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” - 2 Cor. 10:5
The language of this verse has a certain vehemence in its tone, to my way of thinking. Don’t just turn away from high-minded thoughts that dare to question God and His Word, throw them to the ground as you would the statue of an ungodly tyrant. God is serious about this. He speaks in verse four of this chapter of “pulling down strongholds.” It’s as if He wants us to know what a struggle and hard-fought battle it will be if we succeed. Whether they are thoughts of fear, lust, envy, bitterness, pride, or whatever, if they don’t fall within the realm of obedience to Christ, they should be relegated to the unthinkable for the child of God.
Before his death, Paul, the Apostle said, “I have fought a good fight” (2 Tim. 4:7). I know he claimed to have “fought with beasts at Ephesus” (1 Cor. 15:32), but after reading his writings, I somehow think his greatest battles were fought against the little Jew who met Jesus on the road to Damascus. I know that’s my testimony. As much as this world’s culture becomes more and more threatening to me, I still consider the combat with my flesh to be a greater threat to my life in the Spirit under the authority of God. But it’s a battle worth fighting, and, by God’s grace, I intend to stay in the battle. How about you?