Winning the War With the Flesh

Date: 06/05/2021 
It is possible for us to trade eternal life for the pleasures of sin here on earth. How can we win the war between the spirit and the flesh?

The Flesh and the Spirit - Paperback or Digital (PDF)

The Flesh and the Spirit - Paperback or Digital (PDF)
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Doug Batchelor: It's remarkable to look back and to see how the Lord has led through time. And it's through progression and providence His will is made clear. Throughout scripture, step by step. the Lord has led his people from generation to generation. Even here at Amazing Facts, I clearly see God's guiding all the way from that very first 15-minute broadcast in 1966, from radio to television to publishing to global evangelism. It's evident that God has a divine plan in motion. Friends, the Lord has a plan for you as well. Jeremiah 29:11 says, "'I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you, not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" That great hope is Christ, and, through Him, Amazing Facts is moving forward. But you might wonder, what is God's specific purpose for your life? As you trust God with your life and walk with Him day by day, He will wonderfully unfold His good plan for you. We pray that today's program will be a stepping stone to strengthen your walk with Jesus, giving you clarity and fulfillment in the days ahead. And, remember, stay tuned for the very important free offer following this presentation.

Doug: Now, we're going to begin with a Bible story I think many of you know. But, if you go to the book of Genesis, we're going to talk about beans. Genesis chapter 25, and the wife of Isaac, her name was Rebekah, was barren. It's interesting, in all three of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, their three principal wives were barren, and it was through a miracle they finally had children. You know, Abraham with Sarah, Isaac with Rebekah, and Jacob with Rachel. And each of those children became a type of Christ. So Rebekah couldn't have children. Isaac prayed for her, and, as a result of that, she got pregnant. But then there was complications, you might say. It says, "The children struggled within her." She's having twins. She said, "If all is well, why am I like this?" So she went to inquire of the Lord, and the Lord said to her, "Two nations are in your womb, two people shall be separated from your body. One people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger." Which was very different from the way it was designed. It was usually the first born that would have the leadership.

Now, of course, then, she has these two twins that are very different. And what were their names? Jacob and Esau. It says Jacob was smooth skinned. Esau was hairy. It tells us that Jacob was a peaceful shepherd. He had domestic animals. Esau went after the wild animals, and he was a hunter. And they were about as different as two boys could be. And, of course, mom favored Jacob and dad favored Esau. Esau had a bumper sticker on his pickup truck; it said that, if it moves, shoot it. He was, you know, one of these guys, and Jacob, on the other hand, he was always thinking ahead, Esau thought, I'm going to live in the now when the here.

So, with that in mind, then you go to Genesis 25:29; it says, "Now Jacob cooked stew;" he was making his dinner, "and Esau came in from the field." He had been out on a long hunt, but he hadn't gotten anything, and he was weary. "And Esau said to Jacob, Please feed me with some of that same red stew--" They think it may have been red lentils or something-- "for I am weary." He wasn't just weary; the word weary there, he says, I am famished. "Therefore, his name was called Edom." Edom means red, very similar to the word Adam, which means like red earth. "And Jacob said, Sell me your birthright as of this day." You're the firstborn, you get the birthright. You sell me your birthright.

And, see, they knew that God had promised that the Savior of the world was going to come through the descendants of Abraham and Isaac. Jacob wanted that promise. On the other hand, Esau thought, Oh, you know, that could be a long way off. And what good is a birthright? He actually says that. "He said, I'm about to die. What good is his birthright to me? Jacob said, swear to me this day. So he swore to him, and he sold his birthright to Jacob, and Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils." He got some chapatis and some beans. "And he ate, and he drank, and he arose." It's interesting. It says he ate and drank and tells us that, when they worshipped the golden calf, they ate and drank, and they rose up to play. If he ate and drank, he rose and went his way. Thus, Esau despised his birthright through the Bible.

You'll find that Esau sort of becomes a character who's the champion of the flesh, carnally minded; he wants the here and now. Jacob, he wanted the birthright; he was thinking ahead. Esau got married right away, and he married the local girls. Whereas Jacob was told, no, you marry in the faith, take your time. And they were very different. You can read here in Malachi chapter 1, verse 2 and 3, "Yet Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated, the Lord says."

Now, God does not arbitrarily hate anybody; I mean, you say God is love, but it was the behavior of Esau He hated, to live for the flesh and to be carnally minded. You can also read where Paul says in Hebrews 12, "Lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau who for one morsel of food sold his birthright." And there's a lot of people who say they're Christians that have sold their birthright for less than a pot of beans. It is possible for us to trade eternity for the pleasures of sin for a season. Some do that. That's why this is very serious. So, like Jacob and Esau fighting within Rebekah, all of us have a similar war within going on. The Bible calls it the Spirit and the flesh, or you might call it the carnal nature and the spiritual nature. And it's a conflict that's very real.

We're going to talk today about how do you win the war with the flesh? 1 Peter 2, verse 11, "Dearly beloved. I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, we're passing through this world. Abstain from fleshly lust, that war against the soul." Every time we surrender to the flesh, it wars against the spiritual side. You cannot serve two masters. James 4:1, "From whence come wars and fightings among you--" within the church sometimes. When there's wars and fightings, you know what it is? Paul says, "I'm speaking to you like children because you're carnal." We're not being spiritually minded. Yes, even in the church, a lot of people are living in the flesh. "From whence come wars and fightings among you? come, they not hence, even from your lusts that war in your members?" Romans 7:23, "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:" In Romans 8, verse 7 and 8, "Because the carnal mind," the fleshly mind, "is enmity against God--" It's opposed to God-- "for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be, it cannot be."

So, it's not just my carnal mind or your carnal mind. All carnal minds are at enmity with God. So, then those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Now, do we want to please God? Then we cannot be living lives where we are controlled by the flesh. Instead, we should be controlled by what? The Spirit. We're to walk in the Spirit. Christians are to live in the Spirit. Matthew chapter 26:41, "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." We want to. But even the apostles, they were in the garden of Gethsemane, they kept falling asleep because the flesh was weak. They wanted to pray with Jesus, but they were tired, and they said, "Well, later."

So maybe I should explain for a minute. Why is there this war? Who started this war? I didn't ask to be in a war. Well, you can read in Genesis 2, verse 17, "God told Adam, In the day you eat thereof, you will surely die." And, if you haven't heard, Adam ate it. And he ate it, and death then passed on the human race. Romans 5:12, "Therefore, just as through one man," Adam, "sin entered the world," all of us, "and death through sin." In Romans 5:18, "Therefore, as through one man's offense, judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation."

It just doesn't seem fair that we should be born slaves because of a decision our ancestors made. Have you read in the Bible that the children of Israel, they were slaves in Egypt, not because of their decision, but because of a decision their ancestors made. And so, you could go around pointing fingers and saying, "I'm a victim." But the fact is that we are born in captivity, but Jesus came to save us from our sins. You don't have to stay there. That's the good news.

So, when we talk about being carnal or the flesh, probably ought to define that. What does that mean? Because we're going to talk a lot about that. What specifically is that dealing with? Carnal means anything related to fleshly or worldly, the temporal appetites and desires relating to the body. If you've been to a carnival, you know, how do you say meat in Spanish? Chili con carne and a carnival, you know where that word comes from? It's a Latin word; in the Roman Coliseums, there would be so much bloodshed when the gladiators fought, it was called the carnival. Think about that next time you go to the state fair. Carnival. Yeah, and so, often when it talks about the flesh, you know, you're going from either Greek or Latin. This is one place where the NIV I think gets it right. It means sinful nature.

So, when we say flesh, sometimes we're inclined to think it must be a physical appetite like food or sex or something. No, not necessarily. You're driving in traffic, and you miss your turn, and you realize you can make a U-turn, but the sign clearly says no U-turn. But you look in the intersection, you say, "There are no cameras here," and you look around and you say, "There are no police here, and I'm going to save a lot of time," and you make that turn. That's called the carnal mind. I was wrestling with that yesterday, pray for your pastor. I just thought, I was convicted right after I did it. I thought, "What right do you have to talk to these people about the carnal mind?" Says, "You just made a decision purely not upon what was right but on, I want to do it now, I don't want to wait another quarter-mile for the turn." But we deal with it every day in 1,000 ways.

Jesus wants to go through Samaria, but the people of Samaria say, "If you're going to worship in Jerusalem, don't bother stopping here because you're not supposed to worship in Jerusalem. You're supposed to worship on our mountain, Mount Gerizim." And when they heard that they were not going to receive Jesus to stay in their hotels, James and John said, "Jesus, Elijah called fire down from heaven. Give us power. We will call fire down, and burn them up." And Jesus said, "You do not know what spirit you are of. The son of man did not come to take men's lives, but to save them." Here, you've got the apostles carnally minded. So don't just restrict the carnal mind or the flesh to being like I said, the fleshly needs. It's talking about a whole unspiritual way of thinking. Whenever you think selfishly, you're thinking carnally.

Now you realize Jesus was 100% God and 100% man. Jesus had a body like you and me, isn't that right? Did Jesus get tired, fell asleep in the boat? Did Jesus get hungry in the wilderness? Was He thirsty on the cross? Was He lonely in the garden? But here's a question. Did Jesus ever put His flesh needs above His spiritual needs? Never. What is a Christian supposed to do? Be like Jesus. So, with God's help, we can be new creatures.

Now, this is a life and death, and just in case you are not clear, I'm going to read the Bible. If you have problems with this, take it up with the Lord. Galatians 5:19, "The works of the flesh are evident--" plain-- "which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions--" a lot of arguments are just works of the flesh-- "jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambition, dissensions, heresies, envy, murder, drunkenness, revelries,” and the like, he said, this is not an exhaustive list, of which I tell you beforehand, just as I have told you in time past-- now, friends, please don't miss this-- "those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." We must not be practicing those things. Maybe I misread it, but it seemed really plain to me.

Let me read you another one, 1 Corinthians 6, verse 9, "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?" I want to be in the kingdom. Do not be deceived. Yes, there are people in the church that tell you, "You can continue living a fleshly carnal life. Just trust in Jesus, and you'll be saved." It's not what Paul teaches. "For, if you live according to the flesh--" Look at Romans 8:13-- This is a life and death thing, friends-- "If you live according to the flesh, you will die. But, if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live."

Now there's a battle there. The Bible says, "We fight the good fight of faith." There is a war going on. So, some Christians want to say that, "I know I say this prayer, and I ask Jesus into my heart, and I have no more struggles." That's not realistic. The terms that are used for the Christian life are we strive, we wrestle, we fight, we war, we run. There are battles, and sometimes we must subdue the flesh. How do we do that? We're going to get to that. That's I think one of the most important parts of the message. How do we go about that?

I heard about a boy that was walking through the woods with his grandfather on their farm years ago and, and the grandfather thought, "Well, you know, I've got him alone. This is a good teachable moment." And he said, "Grandson, all of us have two wolves inside. You got a good wolf and a bad wolf. And the good wolf is wanting you to be kind and loving and considerate and just and honest. And then there's an evil wolf, selfish and proud and stealing and hateful." And he said, "You need to make sure that the right wolf is in charge." And he said it was quiet for a little while. And the boy said, "Grandpa, how do I know which wolf is going to win?" And he said, "Whichever one you feed will win."

We have a spiritual nature, and we have-- Paul made it very clear-- and we've got the carnal flesh. If we are feeding the flesh, it is going to get stronger. And, when the battle of temptation comes, you know who's going to win? If we are feeding the Spirit, it gets stronger. So how do we do that? Well, do you all know how to feed the flesh? I think you do. What are you taking into your mind? Sometimes what you're taking into your mouth. What you're taking into your ears and your eyes, what you're talking about, thinking about. You can be thinking things that are spiritual. You can be thinking things that are carnal. How do you feed the Spirit? Feed on spiritual things. This is the bread of life. Read the Word.

When I drive around, I'm listening to sermons, I'm listening to Christian music, I'm trying to feed-- and you know what, I'm just like you. Sometimes I like carnal music, but that's the carnal side of Doug, so he's off the hook, right? He can't help it. There's things I like to look at and listen to that I know are not good for me spiritually. And I have to choose to resist those things because I know where it leads and what it does to me. So, I must actively choose to feed the other side. And I find, when I do that, when I walk with the Lord and I talk with the Lord and I feast on the Word, when temptation comes, I say, "Jesus is right here with me. I'm not even tempted." But, if I keep feeding the carnal nature, and then when temptation comes along, it's already a given.

Which wolf do you feed? Jesus said, "It's the Spirit that gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The Words that I speak to you, they are Spirit and life." Feasting on the word, Galatians 5:16, "Then I say," and this is Galatians 5, 16 through 24, "Walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh." If that's clear, please say, Amen, Surround yourself with the things of God. Talk about God, read, pray, the music you listen to, the activities you're involved in, make sure everything is something God can bless. "And you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh. Whoever abides in Christ," this is what the Bible says, "whosoever abides in Him sinneth not." That means they do not practice a life of sin.

We spend our time abiding in Christ, thinking about Him, wanting to talk to others about Him. "Those who are Christ have crucified the flesh and its passions and desires." They're not on the throne. "If we live in the Spirit," still in Galatians 5, verse 25, "if we live in the Spirit, let us walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another." So how do we win the war? "Fight the good fight of faith," this is 1 Timothy 6:12, "fight the Good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you are called." 2 Corinthians 10, verse 3, "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but they are mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments."

Sometimes the flesh is an argument. Rationalization, you can rationalize anything, do you know that? "Every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to obedience of Christ." Even in our thinking, we get in trouble with our flesh because of what Zig Zigler calls stinking thinking. But if we, by the grace of God, focus our minds on the things that are above-- "I beseech you," Romans 12, "do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your, your mind that you might prove what the good and acceptable will of God is." Romans 6:12, "Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey it in its lust. Do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourself to God as being alive from the dead and your members as instruments of righteousness. Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are under grace, not the law."

And then, going back to Romans 5-- I know it sounds like I'm going backwards-- "As by one man's disobedience, many were made sinners." Who is that one man? Adam. "Also by one man's obedience, many will be made righteous." Christ said, "I'm going to the Father that I can send the Spirit to you." Did He go to the Father? Did He send the Spirit, at Pentecost? Has He revoked that promise? Or is it still accessible? "Through the Spirit of Christ, and just as surely as through Adam we struggle, just as surely through Christ you can have victory." How much is possible if you believe? All things. "And then the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness. Against such there is no law."

Now, we started out talking about Esau and how he's sort of an illustration of the flesh. Jacob was wanting the spiritual blessing, and, of course, he got it. Did Jacob have to wrestle with God? There's sometimes wrestling that goes on. You know, the Bible tells us the grandson of Esau was someone named Amalek. And Amalek, that tribe, they, like their grandfather, they grew up to be a very carnal, evil people. When the children of Israel came out of Egypt, after going through the Red Sea miracle, they praised the Lord, and then they got hungry; God gave them bread from heaven. Then they drank from the bitter waters, and God healed the waters. Then God gave them water out of a rock, and God was doing all these wonderful things for them.

But, out there in the wilderness, this army of violent evil Amalekites came and attacked Israel. They attacked the old, the tired, the hungry, the weak, the stragglers who were on the back end of the group. That's what the devil does. He tries to get you when you're weak. And God told Moses, he says, "You're going to have to fight with Amalek." Yeah, Joshua, by the way, how do you say Joshua in Greek? Jesus? "So, get Joshua, get the fighting men you can get." They were not an army; they were still slaves, but they got the men who could fight. He says, "You go out against them. I'll be up in the mountain. I'll be interceding to God for you." So Joshua engaged the Amalekites the next day, and Israel fought, and Amalek fought, and Moses was up on the mountain, and he had his hands outstretched, and he was interceding to God for them. They could look, they see Moses up there praying for them. They thought about all that God had done to save them. And, as long as they could see Moses interceding for them, they won the battle with the Amalekites.

But Moses's arms got tired because, you know what, he had flesh. And he started to drop his arms. You know what happened? As he started to drop his arms, they no longer saw Moses. Then they put their eyes on the enemy. They started to be defeated. And Moses saw what was happening; he put his arm back up again. I remember in military school when you misbehave they made you stand like this with your arms stretched out. And then the arms went down again, and they started losing again. And finally it says that Aaron and Hur came alongside Moses. Aaron, his name means light. Hur's name means white or splendor. They held up his arms, and then they got the victory, as long as they could see him interceding.

Well, friends, you've got someone that is before the Father spreading out His nail-pierced hands, interceding for you. And, whenever you are tempted and the flesh is battling, look at the love of Jesus for you, look at what He's paid to save you from sin. You will gain new strength. It's love that gives us strength, right?

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