It has dawned on me after more than 30 years of walking with the Lord that we may not need to dig so deep into the word “flesh,” attempting to translate it as “sinful nature” or interpret it in some similar fashion.
What are people’s biggest struggles?
Physically, are they not sexual temptation, gluttony, and the dangers of comfort, such as laziness and lack of drive for the service of the Lord? Emotionally, are they not ambition, jealousy, envy, and other emotions associated with climbing to the top of the social ladder?
Those are all temptations directly linked to the drives of our body. No need to change “flesh” or “body” to sinful nature. Sin does dwell in us in our unregenerate state, but even regenerated, delivered from the power of sin (Rom. 6:14), we live in a body, the desires of which must be controlled.
Note: I am not trying to present a theology that says we have no “sinful nature” as Christians. That sort of thinking is too complicated for me, at least right now. I am trying to make a practical point about our bodies that has helped me and others.
Jesus calls us to live for our Father’s will, not our will, which is so easily driven by chemicals. When I say “chemicals,” I mean the ones in our body that create hunger, a sexual drive, anger, jealousy, etc.
What will we fulfill? Will we live to fulfill the desires of the body, or we live to fulfill the desires of our father in heaven?
Jesus talked about overcoming, and he made incredible promises to overcomers (Rev. 2-3). This, of course, also translates to warnings for those who do not overcome.
But what are we overcoming? Paul says that those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. He also says that he disciplined his body every day and brought it under control.
The next time hormones are raging through your body, driving you to say something harmful to a person who has just wronged you, you will not have to wonder what Jesus wants you to overcome. Will your anger, jealousy, or envy overcome you? Or will you overcome your body and say only what will give grace to the hearer?
When your body says, “I must eat” or “I must be gratified sexually,” you will not need to wonder what overcoming means. Will those hormones overcome you, or will you overcome your flesh, which is just your body and its natural desires?
The practice of walking in the Spirit will help you. Scripture tells us to set our minds on the things of the Spirit if we wish to overcome the flesh. However, in the midst of temptation is not the time to begin to practice this! The mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. The mind that wanders to the Spirit when temptation comes is not going to be enough. We need to sow to the Spirit so that we have a harvest with which to be among those who have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Gal. 5:24).
Whether we like it or not, and whether it fits our theology or not, if we live by the desires to the flesh we will die. By the Spirit we must put the activities of the flesh to death. Painful, but true (Rom. 8:12-13).