The Flesh. We now turn to the enemy within; the flesh. In the New Testament, the apostle Paul gives us three visuals, complete with action verbs, for defeating the flesh. They are walking in the Spirit, crucifying the flesh, and putting on Christ. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh … those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Gal 5:16,24-25).
Walking in the Spirit is living into all that Christ promised regarding the Spirit’s indwelling. When we allow the Spirit of God to live the life of the Son of God through us, we are walking in the Spirit. And I like the “walking” word picture used throughout the New Testament (Eph 4:1 and others). There is an “action” to walking. It is not a passive activity.
Here are some things Christ promised about the Spirit’s work in our lives. We will hear the continuing voice of Jesus (Jn 10:27) through the Spirit (Jn 16:13). We will be reminded of the words of Jesus through the Spirit (Jn 14:26). The Spirit will be our Paraclete who comes alongside us; helping us to obey Christ’s commands (Jn 14:16). And we will experience the fruit of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal 5:22-23). This is all part of walking in the Spirit.
We have also been called to crucify the flesh; to deal a death-blow to the flesh at every opportunity. The Bible says, “Consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is on account of these things that the wrath of God will come on the sons of disobedience. And in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside” (Col 3:5-8).
Basically, we are to treat the flesh as if it were dead. Do not feed it. Do not listen to it. Do not follow its wishes. Don’t even poke it to see if it is alive. In short, we are to crucify the flesh; treat it as if it were dead. And in its place, we are to put on Christ.
“Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” (Rom 13:14). The picture Paul uses throughout his letters is the idea of putting on the character and attributes and mindset of Christ just as we would put on the clothes in our closet. There is a constant theme throughout the New Testament of laying aside the bad stuff and putting on the good stuff.
“Put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other” (Col 3:12-13). These attributes are what “putting on Christ” looks like.
What might be new to you about this theme is that it is not a drudgery. Laying aside and putting on is not a daunting task. You have been empowered by “Christ in you” to do it. It is not another list, another task to be attempted by our self-effort. It is fully relying on the Spirit to do His work inside us; conforming us to Christ Himself.
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom 15:13). May the God of hope through the power of the Holy Spirit cause you to believe in abounding ways that you can do this. You can overcome the flesh.