Are you rolling your eyes right now? At one point, I would have too! However, the truth of the matter is saying "no" to the flesh used to be the norm and not an anomaly. From a biblical standpoint, giving into our flesh disconnects us from God:
7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.
What is meant by “the flesh”?
Sexual desires – Sex can be an incredibly euphoric feeling and experience. God
built it to be that way, after all. However, we use sex these days as a means to an end; like quenching your thirst or taking a pill for a headache. Sex has its place where it’s supposed to be enjoyed with unabashed fulfillment. This place is marriage as pointed out in Matthew 19: 4-5, “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh". I know you don’t want to hear it but it’s for our own good! When you’re giving your body to someone without God’s stamp of approval, you get so caught up in pleasing your body that you ignore the actual spiritual connectedness, or lack thereof, that you may have with this person. When we’re focused on pleasing our bodies in this way, we let our guards down (especially with our clothes off) and the drama in. For those who participate in recreational sex without romantic involvement, sex is reduced to a self centered act devoid of intimacy. Instead it puffs up the ego and gives a false sense of defining self worth.
Gluttony/ over indulgence in food – Eating is comforts us and tastes so good! In fact, most of our American celebrations emcompass food: Thanksgiving dinners, Christmas dinners, graduation dinners, birthday dinners, family reunions, weddings, baby showers, and the list goes on. If it tastes good, we have a tendency to eat until we’re ready to burst! The very large portion sizes we get from restaurants don’t help us either. Overeating is considered one of the deadly sins. Why? because it causes us to be wasteful and withhold excess food from the needy. Gluttony is unpleasing to God as mentioned in Proverbs 23:20-21: 20 Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, 21 for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.
Speech that dishonors instead of glorifies God – We encounter daily frustrations that cause us to yell, fume, and curse. This may include unruly relatives, financial setbacks, job annoyances. travel delays, and my personal favorite: traffic. Although spewing out expletives can allow us to vent and release, we are called to be mindful of what comes out of our mouths. Ephesians 4: 29 says, 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Instead of leaning on our mindless words to comfort us within theses frustrations, we need to rest in the Lord and his promises for deliverance. This is easier said than done but persistence is the key.
What is the common theme between these three flesh seekers? Selfishness. The individualistic nature of our society makes us a bit selfish by default. However, selfishness damages relationships, stifles economic growth (think of the 2008 recession with the subprime mortgages), and robs you of your overall happiness. We were not placed on this earth alone and the body of Christ does not consist of one person. We should be careful of selfish tendencies as described by Romans 2:8, 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. It is our responsibility to take our eyes off ourselves and care for the kingdom of God. Think about how much brighter life would be if everyone just gave a little more of themselves to this hurting world?
Why saying yes to the spirit brings freedom
Abstaining from sex brings freedom because...
…you are released from the worry of pregnancy, STDs, and emotional betrayal
…you can have peace of mind with your spouse in knowing you can trust them to have self control in temptation
…you are released from the condemnation of your sexual past as you have been forgiven by the lord. This allows you to enjoy walking in newness of his glory with each new day!
Refraining from overindulging in food brings freedom because…
…God’s love will satiate you and bring you peace instead of food that will stretch your pocket and your waistline
… having enough will really fulfill you and the urge to acquire things in excess will cease
Controlling our mouths bring freedom because…
… it shows us that our hearts are in the right place. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (Luke 6: 45)
… it allows us to speak life and joy into our circumstances and into the circumstances of others.
It is easy for us to submit to our flesh because it satisfies us in some way. Remember, though, this satisfaction is temporary. Until we allow Jesus to fill our voids by submitting our flesh to him, we will remain on a constant hamster wheel of empty pleasures; never being fully satisfied. Exchanging your fleshly fill-ups for intimate time with God will refresh you and will allow Him to guide you to fullness of joy. When we say “No” to our flesh for the sake of obedience and consecration to God, He will draw near to us. We’ll be able to hear Him more clearly and take heed to dangers he’s trying to protect us from.
Still apprehensive about giving up your flesh? Pray and ask God to deepen your trust in Him and to show you the benefits of receiving pleasure from Him, not this world.
This can be a challenge but it has been the most liberating feeling I’ve ever experienced. Surrendering these areas to God in my own life has made me more disciplined and strong, which is necessary to overcome seasons of trial. Trust me, it is worth the leap. Jesus’ arms are right there to catch you!