Life's "Little" Temptations (Part 1. Lust Of The Flesh)
This is one of a series of independent study articles. (Part 1 of 3 in series)
* all [bracketed] words in Scripture verses is mine *
How many times a day does someone urge you to give in to your temptations? I dare say that hundreds of times a day promptings will crash into your consciousness. And that is only if we are counting the promptings that are audible to all. There are also those urgings to give in by those in the spirit realm, that no one hears but you. And then one must also consider the motivations of our own sinful flesh, which need no prompting, but the desire to sin comes from within.
How many commercials have you heard that encourage things in you that you later regretted doing? Buy that car. Eat that pizza or that candy bar, instant pleasure and instant gratification guaranteed. We immediately recognize such ads as:
"One of life's little pleasures."
"Because I'm worth it."
"Go ahead, you know you want to."
"Be good to yourself."
"Give in to Decadent chocolate."
...and on, and on, and on it goes, with constant bombardment from TV, magazines, media of all sorts, from friends (supposedly) and family thinking they're giving you good advice...
"I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake. I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one. I write to you, little children, because you have known the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you. And you have overcome the wicked one.
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lusts of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever." (1 John 2:12-17)
A mind can only take so much when that mind is not dwelling on God. Then it will rationalize away any mandate against what the flesh wants. We will do the will of the world, the flesh, and the devil and have no power over such until He comes to redeem these sinful bodies.
The flesh; we Christians bandy around this term so much. It is used to describe so much of what we believe in terms of life and human existence. It is our experience before we are saved, and after will be our snare, if we do not live our lives as unto the LORD.
"Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." (1 Corinthians 10:12-13)
But the definition of that term "flesh" though simple to understand, is really a tad bit more complicated to define in the Greek language. The Greek word for flesh is sarx and literally means what lies beneath the skin and contains the life of a creature. So, in the case of animals, sarx was used to refer to that which was eaten and that which was discarded, after the animal's skin was taken for its many uses.The sarx is the flesh. The [sarx] contained the life of the animal and that life was in its blood.
"Only be sure that you do not eat the blood, for the blood is the life; you may not eat the life with the meat [basar Heb. / sarx Gr.]." (Deuteronomy 12:23)
"Whatever man of the children of Israel, or the strangers who dwell among you, who hunts and catches any animal, or bird that may be eaten, he shall pour out its blood and cover it with dust; for it is the life of all flesh. Its blood sustains its life. Therefore I said to the children of Israel, 'You shall not eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off.'" (Leviticus 17:13-14)
In the case of humans, sarx refers to everything beneath the skin and that surrounds the spirit. The sarx, the flesh, is thought to surround the spirit, The life and the spirit are inward. So it was not a leap of logic to refer to the human sinful man as "a fleshly man," since the flesh, the sarx, surrounds the spirit. The inward spiritual man is contained, literally, in the sinful flesh of each person. In this context, we can understand how we, as born-again children of God, can sin so easily. The problem lies in our flesh. We are highly susceptible to suggestion of the world, the flesh, and of course, the devil. We are susceptible, a part of us, our flesh, longs to sin already. Our flesh wants to be pampered, to be coddled, to be given every consideration. It lusts after pleasure and resists everything that would delay that pleasure.
We live in a conflicted situation. It doesn't have to be that way but we ourselves grab hold of sin and fall into sin from time to time. When we, as Christians, live as unto Christ and His righteousness, life makes sense to us for we are "new creatures in Christ." God Himself makes our paths straight. Not that we have no problems, but what we have is the Spirit of Christ taking us by the hand and leading us in the way we should go. When our flesh kicks into high gear we are distracted. There are many reasons that we can identify as our weaknesses or our lusts, "the sin that so easily besets us." When we allow ourselves to be distracted we take our eyes off of Jesus our LORD. What we want becomes more important than what God wants and we rationalize ourselves into sinning, granting what the flesh wants.
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17)
"Teach me Your way O LORD, and lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies." (Psalm 27:11)
"But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full grown, brings forth death." (James 1:14-15)
Paul, the apostle, was inspired to describe this phenomenon when he wrote to the Christians in Rome. He explained the frustration of how one part of him wanted to serve God and walk with Him, but all the time sin was present in him and part of him wanted to sin as well. His heart's desire was to never sin but he found that his flesh longed for it and wanted it, so a sort of "tug of war" happened where sin did win from time to time. It has been my practice to insert brackets into Scripture so, in this case, I think sometimes the language could be clearer if the parts were identified as they are mentioned. I find the explanation is clearer if it is said right after the words of Scripture here, so I have approached this passage in this way. Also, you will see how the Scripture holds up the explanation as it goes along. The problem comes when one takes one or two verses out of context and then comes to the conclusion that Paul was saying that he had no choice but to sin or was saying that it was not his fault that he had sinned. Paul was not saying either of these things but merely saying that "in Christ" it was possible to walk with God, despite the pull to sin and that when one did fall into sin there was a redemption and one did not need to stay in sin.
"For we know the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. [The law that Christians are to obey, (the ten commandments or the Great Commandment of Jesus), not the Mosaic law that was nailed to the cross. I have another influence of carnality, of sin, in me] For what I am doing, I do not understand. [I do not understand why the urge to sin becomes so strong because my desire to serve God is so strong] For what I will to do, that do I not practice; but what I hate, that I do. [I desire and want to love and serve God but find myself drawn to desires that I hate] If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. [I am watching myself do what I know is wrong and it is not what I want and in my flesh I am calling sin good with my flesh, while my mind screams that it is wrong.] But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. [But now I declare that what my actions are calling good is sin that dwells in me] I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. [So I see that I, a person that does not want to sin, sins, because there is something else that I allow to rule. That pull to sin is ever present with me.] For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. [There is a difference in the inner spiritual man and the outer man, the flesh, the sarx. My inward man delights in the law of God that Christians are to love and practice.] But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. [I find there is an active principle of sin that loves to raise its ugly head in me. I cannot remove it from my flesh. It finds me and then seems to capture me as if it is at war with my own spiritual reason]. O wretched man that I am! [I am sickened because of my own behavior, my own desire to sin. I am sickened that I have to admit that my actions call sin good from time to time. I am sickened because I love God and want to please Him.] Who will deliver me from this body of death? [rhetorical question: Who has promised to deliver His children from this body of flesh that if one listens will result in death?] I thank God - through Jesus Christ our LORD! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. [With my inner spiritual man I serve the Lord and walk with Him but if I am not careful I will be serving my flesh instead of God.] There is therefore, now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. [For those who are saved and walk after the Spirit of Christ there is therefore no condemnation] For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. [The law of the Spirit has made it possible to be free from the law of sin and death because I am not condemned for the sin I fall into from time to time] For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." [Jesus covered that sin with His own blood on the cross. He satisfied the law with the Spirit in us, though from time to time I fall into sin. What matters is that I walk in the Spirit. I do not walk after the flesh and I am redeemed by Him. He has made it possible to refuse sin when my mind is stayed on Him.] (Romans 7:14 - 8:5)
"I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)
The born again believer is able to reckon himself dead to sin, as if he was crucified with Christ. He has the ability in Christ to resist the temptation by being "dead" to it. But the person that does not know Christ in that born again relationship is of his father the devil and lusts of his father he will do. He can't help himself. He will fall over and over, or he will replace one lust for another but he will be in constant subjection to his flesh. Thank God that He has given us victory over sin and death! All we have to do is fix our eyes on Jesus and we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
"I say then: Walk in the Spirit and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." (Galatians 5:16)
Do you feel that way? Do you feel like the harder you try to live a pure life the more you fail? Have you even given up trying because you feel it is impossible? If you have felt this way and then sensed the path you are on is wrong, you may have felt trapped and at the mercy of your flesh. You don't have to feel that way. You can have freedom to live a life that you know pleases God with a clean conscience before Him. You can feel fellowship with a holy God like you never thought possible. All you have to do is come before God and tell Him how you feel and that you know you are trapped by your flesh. Tell Him that you are led around by desires that you cannot control. Ask Him to free you because you know that you are enslaved by sin. Pray this:
Dear Jesus, I know that I am a sinner and that is why I feel so trapped by desires that try to run and ruin my life. I feel imprisoned and ask You to free me. Please come into my heart and forgive my sin that threatens to destroy me. I believe that you died for me and rose from the dead. I believe that you are the God of the universe and want to save me. I cry out to You now. I empty myself before You, trusting You with all my heart to save me. Thank You for hearing me. I love You LORD. Amen.
Others in this series of independent articles: