By the title, most readers will assume this blog is about demonic forces. But it focuses on the flesh. The flesh is an enemy from within.
Walt Kelly, author of the comic strip Pogo, created an Earth Day poster in 1970 with the quote, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” His point was that the environment was polluted by people not by some outside force.
Likewise, we are our own worst enemy, so easily succumbing to the flesh rather than following the leading of the Spirit. I always think of the term flesh as our sinful nature—self-focused, self-centered, and self-gratifying. Fleshly traits that stumble our walk in Christ.
I know some of the fleshly traits I routinely battle. Frustration is one.
It causes me to struggle with difficult projects, leaving them unfinished or avoiding them altogether. This often happens when I try to learn a new computer software program.
It prevents me from thinking clearly and soon anxiety consumes me, sometimes I panic. This might happen when I try to navigate massive freeway systems in a strange city or an unfamiliar airport. You too may be able to name a few personal traits that bring you down as well.
While the word “flesh” is used in many ways in the Bible, this blog is focused on the sinful element of human nature as opposed to the Spirit.1
The one thing we should note about the flesh is that it is weak, or a weakness in us. Recognizing this, I believe, will help us defeat it.
In Merriam-Websters Dictionary synonyms listed for weakness are “fault” and “defect.” I tell you this because it seems to be a very important point, a reason why we so easily succumb to the flesh although as a new creation we have the presence of the Holy Spirit within us.
Matt 26:41-“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” ESV
I said this blog was not about demonic forces yet our flesh makes us susceptible to them. Satan is known as a tempter. He knows how to entice us into sin. While Satan is not “all knowing” like God, the forces of darkness are observant, and they can detect those weaknesses (faults and defects) that fall under the heading of flesh.
The instruction Jesus gave took place in the garden of Gethsemane where He went to pray before He was arrested. Fatigued, the three disciples invited to accompany Him– Peter, James, and John– fell asleep rather than supporting Jesus as He prepared for His crucifixion but He was not chastising them. He was looking out for their welfare.
Jesus was talking about “peirasmos.” This word, which is koine Greek, the language the New Testament was originally written in, means trial, temptation, or putting to the test. “When God is the agent, peirasmos is for the purpose of proving someone, never for the purpose of causing one to fall. If it is the devil who tempts, then it is for the purpose of causing one to fall.”2
The flesh “is not automatically sinful, but it is weak, limited, and temporal. Such qualities make it vulnerable to sin.”3
The flesh points us to the temporal, the things of this world, rather than eternal matters. We are told in 1 John 2:16-17 that all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is passing away.
The desires of the flesh is the worldly promise to satisfy a legitimate desire in an illegitimate way. For example, sitting down to enjoy a good meal is legitimate but indulging in gluttony is worldly.4
The desires of the eyes are covetousness, which means we aspire to have wealth or material goods or the possessions of others. The pride of life includes the titles and achievements that give us status in the eyes of others as well as impressive things we own such as a large house overlooking the ocean, an expensive car, and clothes with fashion designer labels.
While Satan can use our fleshly desires to tempt us, the flesh can manifest without demonic assistance. Paul wrote in Galatians 5:19-21 that the works of the flesh are “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and things like these.”
Paul warned that it is a battle within.
Rom 7:18—”For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” ESV
Our flesh battles the Spirit.
Gal 5:17—“For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” ESV
Despite this difference, victory over the flesh is possible. Next week we discuss “how.”
1-What “faults” and “defects” make you susceptible to temptation? Why is it important to identify them?
2-How does your flesh manifest for the world to see and Satanic forces to take note of? I explained within the blog how “frustration” gets the best of me and becomes visibly noticeable.
1-Easton’s Bible Dictionary, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database Copyright © 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc.
2-The Complete WordStudy Dictionary New Testament edited by Spiros Zodhiates Th.D. AMG Publishers Chattanooga, TN.
3- Holman Bible Dictionary. Copyright © 1991 by Holman Bible Publishers.
4-The Tony Evans Bible Commentary Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville, TN.