A quick Primer On Spiritual Warfare Copyright John Edmiston 2003 but may be copied & distributed for non-profit use

Overcoming the Flesh Through The Masterful Spirit-Filled Mind (some material from my book “Biblical EQ” EQ is “emotional intelligence”)

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Overcoming the Flesh Through The Masterful Spirit-Filled Mind
(some material from my book “Biblical EQ” EQ is “emotional intelligence”)

The Flesh – And The Good That I Wish I Do Not Do….

Christians are a mixture of Christ-like emotions and evil lusts. While we cannot stop the evil lusts arising within us (because of our fallen nature) we can prevent their controlling us completely. The classic verses on this are Galatians 5:16-18

(Galatians 5:16-18 NKJV) I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. {17} For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. {18} But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Christians are capable of victory because of the Holy Spirit within them. They make get angry but they do not murder, they may feel strong lust but they walk away from the temptation to commit adultery. The Spirit can bring the flesh under control so that it does not do all that it wants to do. We stop short. God pulls us back from the brink of moral disaster through the work of the Holy Spirit.

This leaves us with two obvious questions that need to be answered. Firstly – what is the nature of “the flesh”? And secondly “how do non-Christians, without the Holy Spirit, gain any measure of victory over sin?”
The “flesh” is the set of negative impulses that arise from our fallen bodies. Some translations call it the sinful nature but it is not a “nature” as such. It is physical, it is our physical flesh interfering with our quickened spirit and maturing soul. Its what Romans 7 calls “the law of sin in our members”.
Some people doubt that our sin nature is physical and is grounded in our mortal bodies. However it is quite clear that the “flesh nature” will no longer be with us after we die. All sinful impulses will stop when our body dies. While we are in this body we desire to sin. When we leave this body we lose the desire to sin. Therefore the desire to sin is located in the fallen physical body. If you were to shoot a born-again Christian and then a few minutes later go to Heaven and ask if anything was different about his or her nature they would say “all desire to sin is gone, I have left the flesh behind.” In heaven we shall neither sin, nor desire to sin.
When sin dwells in the flesh it programs our physical bodies to react wrongly by inappropriately activating physical appetites like food, sex and comfort and through the corruption of the natural fight or flight response. Thus the flesh is sum of the demanding impulses of the body that has been disconnected from reference to God and formed habits and neural pathways inimical to the Spirit. Neural pathways are like tracks through the grass that are worn by much travelling. They connect stimulus with response and sometimes with the wrong response.

I will illustrate with a brief incident in m own life. Prior to my conversion I was quick-tempered and would pick fights. After it I of course left this behind. Many years later some friends decided to “ambush” me for fun. In a split second I had my fists up before my thinking intervened and I of course put them down. The reaction programmed into me by sin was still there in my neural pathways and was activated by my previously well learned response to fight or flight situations.

The apostle John says that which is “born of God” cannot sin, nor does it desire to do so (1 John 3:9-11). That part of us that is born of God, that is Christ in us, has no desire to sin. However that which is, in the words of the gospels, “born of woman” does sin. The flesh, born of human genetics inherits the Fall. The “new man” part of the born-again Christian is born of heaven, born of the will of God, born from above and does not inherit the Fall. The “new man” is born of God, free from sin and even free from the desire to sin. Paul says this new nature is “enslaved to righteousness”. Thus Christians are a mixture of the Fallen which born of human genetics and the Eternal which is born of God.

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