under a special agreement with
presents "New Life in Christ" Course 3
under a special agreement with
Every Christian has within him two opposing powers—the flesh and the Spirit. The Holy Spirit wants us to do God's will, but the flesh wants us to please ourselves. Let us think for a few moments about these two powers.
Everyone is born with a sinful nature which the Bible calls "the flesh." This sinful nature is the only nature unsaved people have.
When we are born again a wonderful thing happens. The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us. So the Christian has within him the flesh and the Spirit.
Some Christians believe that their old nature was destroyed or removed when they were saved, but this is not so. God does not remove the old sinful nature when He saves us; instead, He gives us His Spirit to overcome it.
As long as we are in this life, we will have the flesh with us, and it will always oppose the Spirit of God within us. The Bible says,
"The old sinful nature loves to do evil, which is just opposite from what the Holy Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are opposite from what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other…" Galatians 5:17 (TLB)
In this lesson we want to consider this enemy within us—the flesh. We want to see where it came from, what happens when it controls our life, and how we can have victory over it.
What is "The Flesh"?
The flesh is human nature without God. It is what we are in ourselves apart from God. In the Bible God says many things about the flesh, and none of them are good! Here are five:
1. The flesh is very sinful.
2. The flesh will not obey God.
3. The flesh cannot know God.
4. The flesh cannot please God.
5. The flesh cannot be made good.
"I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature." Romans 7:18 (NIV)
In our last lesson, we learned that one form of the flesh is Self—wanting to have our own way. But there is another part of the flesh which has to do with the sinful lusts and desires of the body. Even after we have taken Self off the throne of our heart and made Christ our King, we are still tempted by the sinful lusts and desires of our body.
Where did the flesh come from?
The flesh came from Adam. God intended Adam to be ruled by His Spirit but Adam disobeyed God. When he did he died spiritually. He was cut off from God's Spirit. Adam's soul and body became sinful.
Instead of being ruled by God's Spirit, Adam was now ruled by his sinful soul and body which the Bible calls 'the flesh.' Because he was the head of the human race, Adam passed his sinful nature on to the whole human race.
What happens when the flesh rules?
Do you know what happened when the flesh gained control of man? His body became a "sin factory"! Everyone knows what a factory is. A factory is a building used for the manufacture of certain products.
When the flesh gained control of man, it turned his body into a "sin factory." The Lord Jesus Himself told us what this factory produces. He said,
"For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within, and defile the man." Mark 7:21-23
How God dealt with the flesh
We have already seen that the flesh is not destroyed or removed when we are saved. The flesh is just as sinful as it was before we were saved. It can never be changed into something good.
In order to save us completely, God had to put the "sin factory" out of business. He not only had to forgive our sins, but He had to deal with the flesh.
What did God do? He crucified us with Christ. Why? So that WE MIGHT NO LONGER BE RULED BY THE FLESH. Romans 6:6 tells us that our old self was crucified with Christ in order that the flesh might be made powerless.
God has condemned sin in the flesh. The flesh is still with us, but it has no right to rule over us. Its power over us is broken. We can sin, but we don't have to. We can say "No!" to the flesh. The Bible says,
"Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it." Romans 8:12 (NIV)
"Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires." Romans 6:12 (NIV)
God gave us a New Power
God not only condemned the flesh at the cross, but He did something else. He gave us a new power. That new power is the Holy Spirit.
The Bible says,
"Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts…" Galatians 4:6
Who is the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit is God! He is not just an influence for good. He is a Person! We should never refer to the Holy Spirit as "it." The Holy Spirit is a Person and He is God! We need to remind ourselves again and again of this great fact. "The Spirit of God within me is a Person. God lives in my heart."
The Holy Spirit is God's Gift to each of His children. Every believer in the Lord Jesus has the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. And once the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in our heart He will never leave us. The Lord Jesus said,
"And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you FOREVER." John 14:16
What does the Holy Spirit do?
The work of the Holy Spirit within us is twofold:
1. He battles against the flesh.
2. He produces Christ's life in us.
Let us consider this twofold work of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit battles against the flesh
The power of the flesh within us is very strong. Sometimes it is too strong for us and it overpowers our will. We do things that we do not really want to do. Even the Apostle Paul could not overcome the flesh in his own strength. He said, "I do not do the good things I would like to do, and I find myself doing the very things that I don't want to do."
But God has not left us to try to overcome the flesh in our own strength. He has given us a new power—the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit has taken up the battle against the flesh on our behalf.
He is the Holy Spirit. This means that He hates sin. He is against every sin in our life. The flesh wants us to sin, but the Holy Spirit is against sin. The Bible says,
"For the flesh battles against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh." Galatians 5:17
Which is more powerful, the flesh or the Spirit? The Spirit, of course. But the Holy Spirit does not deliver us apart from our will. We must CHOOSE to be delivered from the works of the flesh.
Suppose, for example, that we have a terrible temper. This is a work of the flesh. We must make a choice. Will we allow it to continue to rule over us, or will we choose to be delivered from it?
God says that the flesh must not rule over us; instead, it must be put to death. Do we agree with God in this? Do we choose to be delivered from this work of the flesh? Then, as we count on our death with Christ, let us ask the Holy Spirit to put the flesh to death and trust Him to do it. The Bible says,
"…if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live…" Romans 8:13b
The Holy Spirit produces Christ's Life in us
The Holy Spirit not only battles against the flesh, but He does something else. He produces Christ's life in us.
The Lord Jesus said,
"He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you." John 16:14 (NIV)
Christ is holy… gentle… loving… pure… kind… patient… unselfish… faithful. The Holy Spirit takes these things of Christ and makes them real in our life. He makes Christ's life to be our life.
"The fruit of the Spirit" is simply Christ's life in us. The Bible tells us how this life is manifested,
"…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance…" Galatians 5:22-23
As Christians, there are two powers within us, so there will always be two ways before us. We can walk in the flesh, or we can walk in the Spirit.
To walk in the flesh means to be under the control of the flesh; to walk in the Spirit means to be under the control of the Spirit.
We have already seen what happens when the flesh rules in man. These terrible sins of the flesh are possible in the life of every unsaved person. They are also possible in the life of a Christian. There is not one sin of the flesh that we are not capable of committing. The Bible warns us,
"So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!" 1 Corinthians 10:12 (NIV)
How can we overcome the flesh?
To keep from fulfilling the lusts of the flesh, we must WALK IN THE SPIRIT. This means that we must be under the control of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul wrote,
"This I say then, walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfil the lust of the flesh." Galatians 5:16
How do we walk in the Spirit?
To walk in the Spirit, three things are necessary:
1. We must set our mind on the things of the Spirit.
2. We must yield to the Spirit.
3. We must trust the Spirit.
Let us think about these three things.
To walk in the Spirit…
we must set our mind on the things of the Spirit.
We should begin each day with a quiet time alone with God, reading His Word and talking with Him in prayer.
Each day, whenever we can, we should turn our mind to Christ and to His Word. As we fill our mind with the things of the Spirit, we are conscious of His control of our life. On the contrary, if we fill our mind with the things of the flesh it will lead to sin and to loss of fellowship with God. The Bible says "to set the mind on the flesh" is death, but to "set the mind on the Spirit" is life and peace.
What are we setting our mind on? What are the things that occupy us? What are the things we spend our time and money on? Trace them to the source. Are they of the Spirit, or are they of the flesh?
To walk in the Spirit…
we must yield to the Spirit.
The word "yield" means "to give in to." We must say "Yes!" to the Spirit, and we must say "No!" to the flesh. Instead of giving in to the flesh, we must put it to death. The Bible says,
"And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." Galatians 5:24
To walk in the Spirit…
we must trust the Spirit.
We cannot overcome the flesh in our own strength. It is the Holy Spirit who overcomes the flesh, and He does this as we trust Him.
As we depend on Him, He produces Christ's life in us, and Christ's life overcomes the flesh.