Bible Study Notes:


Spiritual Warfare
Battlefront # 2: The Flesh


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Understand that walking in the Spirit is a training procedure, you must allow the Holy Spirit to train you in godliness. First, give up your selfish desires and be willing to yield to the Spirit instead of your own will. Then, immerse yourself in the Word of God so that you will know what God’s will is. And be in prayer continually, seeking to hear that still, small voice as the Spirit is leading you.


We fight our spiritual warfare on the battlefield of the mind on three battlefronts: The World, The Flesh and The Devil.

Battlefront # 2: The Flesh:

In the Greek the word translated as flesh or sinful nature is sarx. This is our basic nature or the principle that operates within us from the time we are born physically. It is in rebellion against God, it is self-centered, and wants its' own way.

Though the flesh or sinful cannot be completely eradicated, its' power to operate in the life of the Christian has been neutralized by our being united with Christ in His death. The flesh has no right to reign in the Christian's life, and its' power is broken.

Romans 8:5 Those who live according to the sinful nature [flesh] have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

In the battlefront of the flesh or sinful nature, a person has a choice: to follow the dictates of the flesh or the desires of their regenerated spirit as led by the Holy Spirit.

Notice it says, "have their minds set". In the Greek this is phroneo {fron-eh'-o} meaning to have understanding, or to be wise. A person walking after the flesh understands the ways of the flesh and caters to them. A person walking after the spirit has spiritual wisdom and understands what pleases God.

Phroneo, "to have your mind set", also means to feel, to think; to have an opinion of one's self, think of one's self, to be modest, not let one's opinion (though just) of himself exceed the bounds of modesty; to think or judge what one's opinion is, or to be of the same mind i.e. agreed together, cherish the same views, be harmonious.

So your opinion of yourself, whether modest or not, and you way of judging life follows either the flesh or the spirit. You are agreed with either the flesh or the spirit as to how to conduct yourself. In other words, you cannot follow both the flesh AND the spirit at the same time, because they are two different "mindsets".

Phroneo also means to direct one's mind to a thing, to seek, to strive for; to seek one's interest or advantage; or to be of one's party, side with him (in public affairs). So having your mind set on the flesh directs you to fleshly pursuits, that is what you strive for and what you side with in the final analysis. On the other hand, having your mind set on the spirit aligns you with spiritual things. So what is the result of the mindset you have?

Romans 8:6-8 The mind of sinful man [or mind set on the flesh] is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind [or mind set on the flesh] is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature [flesh] cannot please God.

Paul makes it clear here that if your mind is set on the flesh, then the result is death. You are hostile to God and an enemy of God, you do not submit to God’s law. In fact, you are not even able to submit to God’s law. You cannot please God. However the mind set on the spirit is life and peace, is on "friendly" terms with God, can submit to God’s law, and can please God.

Romans 8:9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature [flesh] but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.

Since Paul was writing to the Roman believers, he reassures them that they are NOT controlled by the flesh, as long as the Spirit of God lived in them. And when we become born again, we receive the Spirit of Christ. So we have the ability to set our minds on spiritual things if we so choose.

Galatians 5:19-21 The acts of the sinful nature [flesh] are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

In writing to the Galatians, Paul lists SOME of the acts of the flesh: all types of sexual sin, idolatry, witchcraft, all kinds of anger and selfishness. This kind of sounds like a script for a soap opera or a movie doesn’t it? How can you tell if you are minding the things of the flesh? Well, are you involved in anything in this list, that’s a sign that you are minding the wrong thing.

The word translated "acts" of the flesh here is ergon {er'-gon} meaning business, employment, that which any one is occupied; that which one undertakes to do, enterprise, undertaking; any product whatever, any thing accomplished by hand, art, industry, or mind; an act, deed, thing done: emphasizing the idea of working.

So the business of the flesh is to bring about these evil products in your life. And if your mind is set on the flesh, it will be constantly working together with the flesh to produce these things. And all this employment pays a wage: "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).

Notice that the acts or works of the flesh are not limited to this list. Paul says "and the like". Also notice that if you are allowing the flesh to do this kind of work in your life you will NOT inherit the kingdom of God. Pretty scary, huh? How many people excuse behavior, such as fits of rage, by saying "I have a temper; I can’t help it". And so on.

What if you are struggling with a sinful habit, such as immorality or anger? Are you damned to hell because of it? One thing that you need to remember is that the flesh or sinful nature is a battlefront – there is a constant warfare going on in all of us against the flesh. Sometimes it seems that our struggle is fruitless and we may fail. But the important thing is to keep struggling against the flesh until you gain the victory!

Mark 7:20-23 He went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him `unclean.' For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man `unclean.'"

This is a list by Jesus of some works of the flesh as well, and He confirms that these things come from within, from your heart (or soul or mind). The mind set on the flesh is full of evil thoughts, which in turn create evil behavior. This is what makes a man spiritually unclean or sinful – having the mind set on doing the works of the flesh.

The flesh is a very powerful force in our lives. How can you overcome it? Sometimes it seems much stronger than your spirit, especially if you are fighting a habit or an addiction. What are some things that we can do to defeat the flesh and keep it from producing its evil fruit in our lives?

Galatians 5:16-18 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

Paul says to live by [or walk in] and to be led by the Spirit and you shall not fulfill the lusts, passions, desires of the flesh. What does it mean to walk in the Spirit?

Understand that walking in the Spirit is a training procedure, you must allow the Holy Spirit to train you in godliness. First, give up your selfish desires and be willing to yield to the Spirit instead of your own will. Then, immerse yourself in the Word of God so that you will know what God’s will is. And be in prayer continually, seeking to hear that still, small voice as the Spirit is leading you.

The word translated "live by" or "walk in" the Spirit is peripateo {per-ee-pat-eh'-o} meaning to walk; to make one's way, progress; to make due use of opportunities; to live: to regulate one's life, to conduct one's self, or to pass one's life.

So in the Christian life, we make our progress and make full use of our opportunities when we regulate our life, conduct ourselves and pass our lives by the Holy Spirit. The law regulates the sinful flesh, but if the Spirit leads us, we are not under a bunch of stringent rules and regulations.

Many believers know to pray in the Name of Jesus to petition for their needs and for wisdom, but leave the Holy Spirit out of the picture. The Holy Spirit has been given to us BY JESUS to be our counselor, teacher and guide in spiritual things. If you don’t learn to hear His voice or know how to receive revelation from Him, how can you know when your prayers are answered?

Hebrews 3:7 So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear his voice…" Revelation 2:7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

The flow of power from God is to pray to the Father in Jesus’ Name, and the answer is sent back by the Holy Spirit. If you do not know how to hear Him or receive from Him, the communication is incomplete. But if you know how to listen to the Holy Spirit, you will become an overcomer and feast eternally on the tree of life in God’s paradise!

The phrase "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" is repeated 7 times in the book of Revelation (Revelation 2:7; 2:11; 2:17; 2:29; 3:6; 3:13; 3:22). Seven is the number of perfection or completion in the Bible, and if you want a complete revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ, you MUST be able to hear the voice of the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 13: 14 (KJV) The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.

Most Christians are familiar with the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ that has brought us salvation and trust, rely on and have faith in the Lord. Most are also very familiar with the love of God and what it means. But the communion of the Holy Spirit is something foreign to them.

The word translated communion in the KJV and fellowship in the NIV in the Greek is koinonia {koy-nohn-ee'-ah} means fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation, intercourse; the share which one has in anything, participation; intercourse, fellowship, intimacy; the right hand as a sign and pledge of fellowship (in fulfilling the apostolic office); and a gift jointly contributed, a collection, a contribution, as exhibiting an embodiment and proof of fellowship.

The word koinonia is used in the NT to refer to the Lord’s Supper (often called "Communion"), our relationship with each other (fellowship), an offering collected to contribute to the needs of fellow believers, the fact that the early believers had "all things in common", and for our relationship with the Holy Spirit.

This communion, fellowship, sharing, intimacy, etc. is NOT a one-way street. When we fellowship with each other we communicate, share, and talk back and forth to one another. It is a personal relationship. The Holy Spirit is a person, Jesus sent Him to be our Teacher, and He wants to communicate with us, one to one.

I Peter 2:1-3 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

When you are born again, born from above, born of the Spirit, saved – the experience is referred to by many names – you receive a new spirit. Before being saved, you are spiritually dead. Afterwards you are made alive in Christ. This new spirit is like a baby that needs to be nourished by the sincere milk of the Word. Your spirit grows as it is fed until you are able to receive "meat" – the full understanding of spiritual things.

This development is not chronological as in physical growth. There are some people who have been believers for years and years who are still spiritual babies because they have failed to nourish their spirits. Their faith is weak and their lives are frustrating. They do not gain victory over the flesh because they are just plain ignorant of the Word. They know what someone SAYS about the Word, they’ve heard a lot of sermons ON the Word, but they don’t KNOW the Word for themselves..

Your spiritual development from infancy to maturity depends on one factor: YOU. As in any endeavor, you will receive what you put into it. If you spend time developing yourself spiritually by feeding on the Word and walking in the Spirit, you can be just as much a spiritual giant as anyone else.

If you neglect yourself spiritually, not only will you NOT progress spiritually, but you will probably cater to the flesh and become more and more of a "flesh creature" instead of a man or woman of God.

Romans 8:13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live,

Here Paul tells us to mortify (or put to death) the misdeeds of the body through the Spirit. Otherwise if you let the flesh rule you, it will bring death. When our bodies want to do something we know is wrong, it isn’t easy to control them. Denying ourselves something our body is used to having because we know it is wrong is HARD. We have to trust the Holy Spirit to put that thing to death in us so it will no longer torture us.

Galatians 5:24-25 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Part of walking in the Spirit or living by the Spirit is wining this conflict with the flesh. Paul describes it as a crucifixion of the flesh with its passions and desires here. Picture the desires and passions of the flesh nailed to the cross and hanging there DEAD.

And Paul adds, not only to live by the Spirit, but keep in step WITH the Spirit. To keep in step with the Spirit, we’ve got to know the Spirit well enough to see where He is going!

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Here we get a little more light on what Paul means by crucifying the flesh. He literally identifies with Christ’s death, and through Christ’s death, Paul became dead to sin. He no longer lives by the passions and desires of the flesh, but by faith in the Son of God.

Galatians 6:14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

In fact, through the cross, not only is our flesh crucified, but also the evil world system that is trying to woo us away from our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of the cross, Paul was able to put to death the influence of the world in his life.

Romans 6:5-6 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with [or rendered powerless], that we should no longer be slaves to sin--because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

When someone dies, they no longer sin, right? So when we realize that we have died with Christ, then we also realize that sin no longer has rule or dominion over us. We have been freed from sin’s mastery and slavery. Christ is now our master, and with Him we have been raised in newness of life.

Romans 6:8-10 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

You can only die once, right? Once death has had you in its grip, it has no more power over you. Since Christ was raised from the dead, he can die no more and is no longer under the mastery of death. And since you can’t sin after you die, sin has no more mastery either. And once you identify with Christ’s death that He died in YOUR place, death and sin are no longer your masters anymore. You live your life by the Spirit to God.

Romans 6:11-12 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.

Therefore, because Christ has died and we identify with His death on the cross, we should count, reckon, or envision ourselves DEAD to sin also, but alive to God. AND we need to kick sin off the throne of our lives and no longer obey its evil desires.

The word translated "count" (in the NIV) and "reckon" (in the KJV) yourselves dead to sin in Greek is logizomai {log-id'-zom-ahee}. It means to reckon, count, compute, calculate, count over; to take into account, to make an account of; to reckon to one's account, to impute. So this involves a mathematical type of equation. On the one hand you have "dead to sin" and on the other "alive to God".

It is also reckoning a thing as or to be something, as useful for or equivalent to something, having the same force and weight. As we’ve mentioned, you can either mind the things of the flesh or sinful nature. Or you can mind the things of the Spirit. Your life must go in one direction or the other. You can substitute the things of the flesh for the things of God, but the result is death.

This word also means to reckon with; to reckon inwardly, count up or weigh the reasons, to deliberate by reckoning up all the reasons, to gather or infer; to consider, take into account, weigh, meditate on; to suppose, deem, judge; to determine, purpose, decide. So counting yourself "dead to sin" is a thinking process in which you gather information and make decisions, based on this fact.

"This word deals with reality. If I "logizomai" or reckon that my bank book has $25 in it, it has $25 in it. Otherwise I am deceiving myself. This word refers to facts not suppositions." So being dead to sin isn’t some fancy or imagined or hopeful thing, it is reality. It is a FACT accomplished by identifying with Jesus’ death on the cross.

Romans 6:13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness

And here Paul gives us some practical advice for reckoning ourselves dead to sin: don’t do what you used to do. Very simple, yet sometimes we make it very hard. How do you stop sinning? You stop. How do you stop a bad habit? You stop.

Simply quit doing what you used to do. Stop offering your body to sin – which makes the parts of your body to become instruments or weapons of evil. You are literally fighting against your own soul when you yield to sin with the members of your own body. Have you ever heard it said: "He’s his own worst enemy"?

INSTEAD, offer yourself to God. Offer to do what He wants you to do. Offer to do good deeds. Offer your body to Him in prayer. Offer your body to Him in service. Offer the members of your body to him as instruments or weapons of right living.

Offer your hands to soothe the hurting, to nurse the sick, and to prepare meals for the hungry. Offer your feet to carry the good news to the lost, to run errands for the elderly, to go where God wants you to go instead of where your flesh demands. Offer your mouth to speak blessing and not cursing, to speak the gospel instead of gossip, and to heal instead of harm. Whenever you feel an impulse to do wrong, ask the Holy Spirit to kill that thing in you, and offer the parts of your body to God for His use.

 

Remember, whenever God gives us a revelation, the devil tries to steal it from us. Guard your hearts and meditate on what you've learned! And put it into practice.

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Original lesson 3/25/99
Revised: May 03, 2001