The Temptations of the Flesh8 min read
While we can learn to avoid the Devil and the world, our flesh will remain with us till the day we die. Our old nature and temptation to sin is still with us, and it is deadly. Galatians 5:17 says: “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are opposed to one another; so you are not able to do as you desire.” Our flesh is what both the world and the Devil use to destroy fruitfulness, which is why this can be considered our most dangerous enemy. We must guard our spirit, and what better to do that by than the Spirit’s Sword? Here is what the Scriptures say regarding the flesh:
- Matthew 26:41 “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Romans 7:18 “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.”
- 1Jn 2:15,16 “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”
- 2Co 10:3,4 “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)”
How, then do we fight against the flesh? Through God. And so, we will seek to examine His words regarding the temptations of the flesh and how to live spiritually. Specifically, we will look at Galatians 5:16-26 (Please take time to read it).
Galatians 5:16-26 “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.”
Our Temptation: Uncleanness
The first form of temptation in our list is uncleanness, that is, sexual immorality of any kind. It is becoming increasingly difficult to remain sexually pure – in thought, word, and deed – because we have become increasingly desensitized to this type of sin. It starts simply: first, our consciences are numbed by TV ads, billboards, movies, music, magazines, everyday dress, the beach, etc. The temptation grows, our consciences are seared somewhat more, and suddenly, suggestive words and thoughts aren’t so bad anymore. Pornography, like a drug, becomes more addicting; homosexuality becomes more acceptable; and divorce doesn’t seem problematic. Lust grows and becomes normal, and physical fornication is needed to satisfy… Where does this all begin? It begins with a look and a desensitized mind. We must never make provision for the flesh: it can only lead to ruin.
Our Temptation: Idolatry
Worse than physical adultery is spiritual adultery – idolatry. It’s quite natural to exalt self; it’s quite natural to replace daily communion for friends; it’s quite natural to give place to the devil and things rooted in witchcraft. Subtle forms they may be, but they are all idolatry; they are all sin. God must never be on the secondary level, not at any time. Let us never allow our pastimes to become passions when they are rooted in the desires of the flesh. Whatever it may be – the phone, the TV, the game system, the music – while they are not godless in themselves (unless they are used in defiling ways), they can become the promotion of sin in the worst degree if they entice us to neglect the very One who gave His own blood for us.
A word about witchcraft. In society today, the believer must be tremendously careful. Album covers, websites, books, videos, music, and especially more open forms such as ouija boards or seances – they can/do have a very deep connection with witchcraft, of which the devil is the head. The occult is an extremely dangerous and scary place. We must resist.
And so, we must ask this vital question: Is God unquestionably first in my life? May we honestly answer and resolve to yield our time and devotion fully to Him.
Our Temptation: Strife
Strife, as a work of the flesh, is that tendency toward contention, jealousy, and such when things don’t go our way. This could be characterized by gossip, subtle sowing of discord, or outright and visible anger to those who oppose certain beliefs. We see this in the home, the local assembly, or amongst believers in general. Scripture says contention comes only by pride (Prov. 13:10). This is, then, actually an issue of pride. If we find ourselves in conflict, in whatever sphere of life, it is time to critically rethink our level of humility before God; and we must strive, not with others, but with our flesh, to diminish whatever form of pride we may face. James says “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up.” (4:10)
Our Temptation: Divisions/Heresies
The word “heresies” is the same Greek word used for “sect,” for example, the Pharisees and Sadducees. When it comes to divisions, heresies, and sects, it’s easy to veer to the less orthodox teaching of Scripture. Many would label doctrine an “unimportant;” and when some disagree with the doctrines of other believers, they divide. This is why many cults and false so-called “denominations” teach heresies regarding Christ, origins, Scripture, salvation, etc. We must cleave to Scripture! When Scripture teaches it, let us believe it, defend it, and live it. While it may be tempting to compromise with the world’s teaching and the easier interpretation of Scripture, we must defend Scriptural doctrine. (And if there is a difficult passage regarding doctrine, simply compare Scriptures). Let there be no more departing from the simple teaching of Scripture; let us cleave to the Word.
Our Temptation: Drunkenness
The final general description of the flesh is drunkenness and its results, such as murders and riots. The meaning of the word in Galatians 5 is “intoxication,” generally referring to wine and such. This is undoubtedly a difficult subject. Nevertheless, it is an essential one. We will try to look at it from a Scriptural standpoint.
It’s easy to have a lax attitude towards alcoholic drinks; after all, that is the world’s attitude. However, it is certainly not God’s. The behaviour of the believer is not dependent on the world’s doctrine or what is convenient, but is dependent on what is separate from the world and coinciding with God’s Word. Social drinking, participation in riots/protests, riotous behaviour, etc. – these are obviously not spiritual tendencies. These actions are associated with a wasted life (Luke 15:13, Luke 12:19, 1 Cor 15:32), but we have eternal life. Let us not have an attitude insensitive to these matters, let us not make provision for the flesh, and let us live soberly in Godliness.
Here are some helpful questions to ask regarding alcoholic drinks: Is this the image of the believer or of the typical representative of the world?… What kind of image am I portraying to other’s – my family, my co-workers, my fellow believers, my Lord?… Is this something that I could do without?… What does Scripture say regarding this?
The Fruit of the Spirit
We’ve seen somewhat of general temptations of the flesh, and so now we must know the Biblical method to overcome these temptations.
Our Aim: Those characterized by the list of the works of the flesh are those who do not inherit the Kingdom of God (not suggesting a works-based salvation, of course). Paul writes these things plainly. He then starts a new list, beginning with “BUT…,” telling us that there is a clear distinction from our walk and the unbelievers works. Our aim is this: fruit for God.
Our Approach: 2 Corinthians 10:3,4 “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)” We do not conquer the flesh through the flesh; we are mighty only through God. Romans 3:13,14 “Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. ” Our approach is entirely spiritual.
Our Action: Our simple duty is found in Galatians 5:16 – “Walk in the Spirit.” This means following the Spirit’s leading, obeying His convictions, and bearing fruit for Him.
Our Achievement: When we have learned to live and walk spiritual lives, what is the point? What do we get out of this? Again, Galatians 5:16 – “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” What an achievement!