Temptation

Sparing the Flesh

“The flesh must constantly be put to death.  It can’t be tolerated, catered to, or spared in any way.  If it is, it will devastate you.”  – Kay Arthur

If you are anything like me, you know all to well the truth of these words.  You know the devastation that comes when you give in to the flesh.  You know that sparing the flesh only brings about regret, remorse and spiritual death.

In my Bible study this afternoon, I read these words found in Galatians 5:16-17.

     16     But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.
     17     For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.
New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA : The Lockman Foundation, 1995, S. Ga 5:16-17
 
Are any of you struggling through this battle today?  If I’m honest with you, I must admit that I am.  These words were very timely for me today after having a heart-to-heart with myself and with God last night. 
 
I needed to be reminded of these verses today because I was feeling completely overwhelmed by my flesh.  I felt like I was all alone in my battle.  Even now as I write these words, I feel vulnerable and a little scared.  I feel like I should be farther along in my walk, able to conquer more of my flesh, more resistant to temptation.
 
But here I am, struggling with a battle that the enemy loves to throw at me over and over again.
Most of you, if you are honest, can relate.  We like to think that we have conquered our flesh once and for all.  But then here is comes, lurking behind the corners of our heart waiting for the moment when we are weak and then, like the roaring lion our enemy is, he pounces.
 
Which is why Peter says,
 
” 8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”
The Holy Bible : New International Version. electronic ed. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984, S. 1 Pe 5:8-11
 
After a feeling of defeat last night, I was encouraged again today that I’m not alone in my struggle.  But more than that, I’m encouraged that Jesus has overcome the grave!  He has overcome my sin.  I am clinging to the truth that Jesus Himself will restore me and make me “strong, firm and steadfast.” 
 
So what do we do when we feel defeated?
 
Let’s start with the truth.  In John Acuff’s new book Quitter, Acuff talks about how recognizing a lie won’t make it magically go away, but it can help us reprogram our minds with the truth.  I’ve found this to be true about sin.
 
Last night in my heart-to-heart, I wrote down things that were true about my struggle and the lies that I believe. (I suggest trying this exercise.)
 
In my situation, when I believe the lie, I succumb to the temptation and end up feeling like a loser.  However, when I cling to the truth, I make better decisions, God-honoring decisions, and end up closer to my Savior and feeling better about myself.
 
If this is true, then why don’t I always cling to the truth? 
 
I ask myself the same question every day.  I’m still wrestling with this.  The best answer I can give you, is that on some level I still buy into the lies that the enemy is selling. 
 
Once I give in to my temptation, it is that much easier to give in again and again and again.  This is the cycle of sin.
 
However, the same is true of the converse.  The more I resist the temptation and cling to the truth, the easier it is to cling to the truth the next day and the next day and the next day.  And pretty soon, I actually believe the truth, and the lie has faded in my mind.  But, again, as I Peter says, I must continue to be on guard.
 
So here is my plan of attack for the week.
1 – Stay in the Word.  Filling my heart and mind with the truth of God’s Word is my best defense against the lies of the enemy. 
2 – Be aware of the lies I believe and remind myself of the truth.
3 – Pray.  God’s grace and prayer are two key ingredients to conquering our flesh.
4 – Be honest. Being real with myself and with God allows me to ask for the strength I need.  It keeps me humble and dependent on the grace only He can provide.
5 – Accept His grace.  If I don’t accept God’ grace, I will continue to feel defeated which will feed into my flesh again, leading me right back into the sin I am asking God to help me overcome.  I must be willing to accept Christ’s death on the cross as the payment for my sin.
 
Remember: 
 22     Because of the Lord’s faithful love

          we do not perish,
          for His mercies never end.
     23     They are new every morning;
          great is Your faithfulness!
     24     I say: The Lord is my portion, 
          therefore I will put my hope in Him.
 
The Holy Bible : Holman Christian Standard Version. Nashville : Holman Bible Publishers, 2003, S. Lamentations 3:22-24
 
Yes, God’s mercies are new every morning.  So even though I feel defeated tonight, God’s mercies are new.  This doesn’t give me the right to live in sin and just ask forgiveness every night.  But it does give me hope that tomorrow the Spirit will win.
 
As Monday morning approaches, I am making the choice to be on guard, to walk by the Spirit and to allow God to restore me and make me strong, firm and steadfast. 
 
Who’s with me this week? 
 
 

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