Followers of Jesus continually battle three enemies, the flesh, the world, and the devil. We’ve looked at the Devil, and the fallen angelic beings that wage war against us. The second enemy is something within that continually pushes back against the purpose of God and the new person that one becomes because of the indwelling Christ. First, let me explain what the Bible does not intend to communicate with this term. The flesh is not a reference to our physical body, or our skin. While dualism that comes from Greek philosophy teaches that the spiritual world is good and the physical world is bad, this is not the Biblical worldview. Rather, the flesh is a reference to something inside us that pushes back against the work of the Holy Spirit and leads us put self-interests in front of God and creates a resistance to obedience to God.
In Romans 8, Paul gives a lengthy explanation on the difference between the person who is led by the Holy Spirit and the person who is led by the flesh. Paul shares that the flesh is incapable of keeping God’s law, that the mind set on the flesh is death, and that the flesh is hostile to God. The person who is apart from Christ only has the flesh, the sinful person driving them. They are controlled by the flesh. When a person becomes a follower of Jesus, he is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and becomes a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). The Christian is no longer controlled by the flesh, but that does not mean that the old sinful nature ceases to exist. As all of us know, there continues to be something deep within that pushes back on the life of the Spirit, waging war on our Christianity. The flesh wants to sleep in when we feel compelled to arise early to read Scripture and pray, it desires to sin when our heart deeply longs to follow Jesus, it pushes our emotions to lack of control as the Spirit within desires strong character and self-control.
So how do we war against the flesh. A few thoughts.
1. We need to recognize that we are no longer under the flesh’s bondage (Romans 6, Romans 8:1).
2. Submission to the Holy Spirit in our lives is the key (Galatians 5:15-25). In this passage Paul says that the person who walks in the Spirit will not fulfill the desires of the flesh. This is actually the key to this battle. Over and over the Scripture teaches that the battle with the flesh is won as we submit ourselves to the Holy Spirit and His purpose in life.
3. As we live in the Spirit, we put to death the works of the flesh (Romans 8:12-16)