Christian Universe ™
War Between Flesh And Spirit:
The War Within
January 3, 2010
Many are confused about conflict within the individual. The apostle Paul explains it well. Our bodies want to have the flesh and its lusts satisfied. Our spirits want to live eternally and to please our Creator. Therein lies the conflict. We are to walk in the Spirit of the Lord, setting our affection on things above, not on things on the earth. If we walk in the Spirit, then we will mortify -- kill off -- the deeds of the body.
War Between Flesh and Spirit:
The War Within
As we have seen in our recent series of studies on things that God takes seriously versus those things that man takes seriously, there emerges the view of a war between the flesh and the spirit.
God says to concentrate on heavenly things, while man says to concentrate on worldly things. God tell us to be spiritual, and man tells us to be fleshly. The truth is that as long as we dwell upon the fleshly things, we are doomed to sin. If we are led by the Spirit of God, then we shall know God’s truth, and that truth shall set us free.
1 Corinthians 2:11 "For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
We cannot know the ways of God as long as we orient our thinking to the flesh. God’s ways are spiritually discerned - meaning recognized for what it is, separate from other things.
John 4:23 “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth: for such doth the Father seek to be his worshippers.
24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth."
Man says, “Touch not, taste not, handle not.” God says, “Set your affection on things above.”
Clearly there is a conflict here. Man has trouble distinguishing between the fleshly and the spiritual. The apostle Paul wrote somewhat about this, explaining that it is a war between the flesh and the spirit.
Romans 7:4 “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
5 For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.
6 But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.
Yet the law is not sin
7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.
9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.
10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.
11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.
12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.
14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.
17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
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.
19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
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.
24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
25 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 8:1 "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
5 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.
6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.
13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together."
The apostle Paul goes into much detail to explain what is taking place. We dwell in fleshly bodies, and those bodies tend to do things contrary to what God wants. The flesh wants that which satisfies the flesh, and produces fleshly fruit. The spiritual being within us wants more. It wants to satisfy God, and produces spiritual fruit.
In Christ, we are set free from that old man of sin, that fleshly person who pursued pleasures of the flesh. Born again, our hearts are oriented toward God, listening to His word, and eager to obey it.
Paul wrote that a list of commandments of what not to do causes us to think and talk about those sins, which entices us to commit those sins. Jesus told us that what is in our hearts comes out in our speech and actions. If we think and speak of evil, we are seduced to do evil.
Matthew 15:18 "But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.
19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man."
If we think on things that are pure and good, we are likely to follow through and do those things.
Philippians 4:8 "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
9 The things which ye both learned and received and heard and saw in me, these things do: and the God of peace shall be with you."
We are the children of God, and as such, must listen to, and obey, our heavenly Father. Paul stated that the inward man, that spiritual being, wants to do the right thing. It thinks on the good, and resolves to do good. But the flesh rears its ugly head and protests, demanding that it be satisfied with pleasures. Therein lies the war. That is why many of us feel torn – pulled two ways at once. It is a battle between the mind, which wants God’s will to be done, and the flesh, which does not care for eternity, but only the present.
Spirituality will only win if we feed our spirits the meat of God’s word, as previously discussed, and grow thereby. We need to leave the basics, once we have laid the foundation, and build upon that solid foundation so that we grow in Christ.
1 Corinthians 3:10 "According to the grace of God which was given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder I laid a foundation; and another buildeth thereon. But let each man take heed how he buildeth thereon.
11 For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
12 But if any man buildeth on the foundation gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, stubble;
13 each man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it is revealed in fire; and the fire itself shall prove each man's work of what sort it is.
14 If any man's work shall abide which he built thereon, he shall receive a reward.
15 If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as through fire."
What we build upon that foundation of Jesus Christ, the prophets, and the apostles, is up to us. We can build that which will not stand the test of fiery trials, or we might use material that shall not only withstand it, but will be purified by the very fire to which it is subjected. Here are some things that Peter mentioned that we need to add to our lives.
2 Peter 1:5 "And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."
If we add these things, in this order, we shall grow in the Lord, and we will bear fruit in the increased knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our spiritual life will keep us from fulfilling the lusts of the flesh.
Galatians 5:22 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 meekness, self-control; against such there is no law.
24 And they that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof.
25 If we live by the Spirit, by the Spirit let us also walk.
26 Let us not become vainglorious, provoking one another, envying one another."
If we are spiritual, and walk in spirituality, we will not be talking about “touch not, taste not, handle not”. Instead, we will be thinking and talking about, and doing, those things that bring forth fruits of the Spirit.