“The flesh is a worse enemy than the devil himself.” Isaac Ambrose (1604-1664)
This is the fourth in my series of six areas of life we (I) need to be mindful of as we enter 2016.
If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you know what I mean by “the flesh.” Let’s call it that part of us that refuses to submit to God, but wants to indulge itself, no matter what the consequences (and they are often severe consequences).
As brother Isaac Ambrose said centuries ago, “the flesh is a worse enemy than the devil himself.” The apostle Paul put it this way: “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 7:18 ESV).
Sound familiar? We want to do right, but we end up doing that which we don’t want to do. Some would say this is merely a lack of self-discipline, but I think it’s much deeper than that. All self-discipline does is put a leash on the flesh. For most of us, that’s not good enough.
The remedy most of us try—and fail at—is asking God to change our flesh. We want God to zap us into a life of victory over the flesh. Some Christians pray this way for years–and through many tears. Of course, this only leads to depression and frustration when God doesn’t do as we ask and change or subdue our fleshly appetites.
No, God has one—and only one—remedy for the problem of man’s flesh. But that one remedy has two parts. The first part is found one chapter prior to my quote above from the apostle Paul. In Romans 6:5-14 (NKJV) we read:
If we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The exhortation here is to “reckon” as true in our life what God says is true. We ARE dead to sin. God has included us in the death of Christ and in His resurrection as well. Accordingly, Paul tells us to live out in our life what God says is true. Reckon our selves (our flesh) as dead to sin. And further, to reckon ourselves “alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The second part of God’s ONE remedy to the problem of the flesh is found in Galatians 5:16 (ESV). Most of you know the passage:
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
The two-part remedy God offers for freedom from the power of our flesh is: 1) Reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to Christ (no matter how we feel) and 2) Walk in the power of the Holy Spirit and we won’t gratify the desires of the flesh.
That’s God’s way to victory…and it’s His ONLY way.
So here’s the challenge: DON’T bring your fleshly self into 2016. DO reckon yourself dead to sin, alive to Christ, and controlled by the Holy Spirit.