As tempting and as difficult as the world is to deal with (September T&T), we have another enemy that is an even greater danger: the flesh within us. The Bible uses the word “flesh” in different ways, but in this context, the flesh is the evil principle within us that leads us to sin. Although the Lord Jesus partook of “flesh and blood” like us, He did not have the flesh – the principle of sin – within Him. But we do. And it’s awful.
You were born with the flesh already an ingrained part of your nature. When you were redeemed, the flesh was not eliminated. The flesh was not weakened or improved. It is still there in all its ugliness. “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Rom 7:18). However, at that moment of conversion, the Holy Spirit indwelt you. So you still have the flesh, but now you also have the Holy Spirit. Thus within your heart, war has been declared. “The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Gal 5:17 ESV). You may not feel the battle raging 24/7, but war has been declared. The flesh is a powerful enemy. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Gal 5:16 ESV).
Think of Israel, the redeemed people of God. They were delivered from Egypt (Exo 12); then baptized in the Red Sea (Exo 14); then feeding on bread from heaven (Exo 16); and drank refreshing water from the rock (Exo 17). But then the nation of Amalek appeared to fight them (Exo 17:8). Amalek was a grandson of Esau. Esau was there with Jacob (Israel) right from the womb, and struggled against him then. It is like your struggle against the flesh that had its origins from the beginning of your existence. But Amalek did not fight Israel when they were in Egypt! No, it was only when they were redeemed and separated from Egypt and enjoying God’s provision that they faced this war. While in bondage to sin, there is no spiritual warfare within. It is once we are redeemed, and possessing the Holy Spirit that the battle begins.
But notice how this enemy, picturing the flesh, was defeated – by dependence upon God (Moses’ hands upheld towards heaven) and by the use of the sword. I know the flesh is strong and temptation can be intense. But victory is possible: “Walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Gal 5:16, NIV). Through dependence upon God and submission to His Word, you will “abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1Peter 2:11 ESV).
You will struggle against the flesh until you are with Christ. It reappeared against Israel, and Saul lost out for failing to judge it as he should. You must be ruthless with the flesh – it is a wicked enemy. “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom 13:14).