The Flesh Versus the Spirit

Nathan Ros

Have you ever wondered why you are not as good of a Christian as you know you ought to be? Have you ever been deeply disappointed with something you have done since you have been saved? You might have said to yourself, “I cannot believe I said or did that.” Don’t worry! You are not the only one who has felt that way. Others have faced the same dilemma. When D. L. Moody was asked what his greatest problem was, he replied, “The man I see in the mirror each morning.”

When you got saved, the old sinful nature you had did not die. It is still there. The Bible calls it the flesh, the old man, and the carnal, worldly mind. When you got saved, something supernatural happened! Your spirit became alive and functional. The Bible says in Ephesians 2:1-2, “And you hath he quickened, (the word quickened means “made alive”) who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience….” The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that we are a new creature! The Holy Spirit lives in us!

Even though a change has been made when we get saved, it doesn’t “cancel out” our fleshly or sinful nature. We will live with this until we die. You see, there are three stages of the Christian life: Justification (this is when we get saved), Sanctification (the process whereby we become more like Christ and less like the world—ongoing process as a Christian), and lastly, Glorification (when we receive our glorified bodies and have no more sin). This will happen when we are gone from this body of corruption and are present with Christ.

So, as a Christian, how do we conquer the flesh and live in the Spirit? If both the flesh and the Spirit are present in our lives, how do we conquer the flesh?
Notice below all of the Scriptures that mention these two natures inside of you:

Matthew 26:41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Romans 7:14-25 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 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. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 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. O wretched man that l am! who shall deliver me from the body of this 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.
Romans 8:5-7 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
Galatians 5:17-19 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…

Let me give you a couple observations about the flesh:

1. The flesh has been in your life longer than the Spirit.
Look at the illustration of Abraham and his two sons: Ishmael was born first.  He represents the flesh, born in sin and bondage. Isaac was the second son, he represents the Spirit.

Ishmael mocked and ridiculed Isaac until he and his mother had to leave. The flesh has been around longer than our Spirit, so our flesh is often stronger. Ishmael was 13 years old when Isaac was born and obviously was the stronger of the two.

How old is your flesh? How old is your Spirit? Do you see why there is a battle? The flesh does not want to give up control! When there are two leaders, there will be trouble. The flesh says, “I was here first!” The Spirit says, “The control is rightfully mine!”

2. The only way to have victory over the flesh is by starving it. Simply put, whoever you feed more will win.
A missionary was speaking to an Indian who had become a Christian. The Indian told him how he was having a battle in his heart. He likened it to having a white and black bulldog fighting. “Who wins?” asked the missionary. “The one I feed the most,” replied the Indian.

For us to be strong and overcome the flesh, we need to feed ourselves spiritual and godly things in our lives. Make sure you “feed” yourself with the Word of God, prayer, godly fellowship, spiritual habits, inspirational and God-honoring music, faithfulness to the house of God, and wise and biblical guidance from godly Christians.  These are just a few things you can do to help you “starve out” the flesh!

Nathan Ros

Bro Ros does a great job in every aspect of ministry that he serves in! He leads our Khmer ministry, youth ministry, and is the teacher of the Grace Adult Bible Class. He and his wife have four wonderful children.

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