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FLESH VERSUS SPIRIT
Victor M. Eskew
The Bible reveals to us that God is a Spirit in John 4:24. Man, on the other hand, has a spirit that has been wrapped in flesh. Since his fall from heaven, Satan has constantly been attacking man in the flesh (I Pet. 5:8). Thus, the battle rages between the flesh, evil, and the spirit, those things that associated with God and His will. These two things have been, are, and will always be contrary one to another (Gal. 5:17). The challenge for the child of God is found in Galatians 5:16. “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”
The first battle between the flesh and the Spirit took place in the Garden of Eden. God’s will had been plainly revealed to the first couple. “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:16-17). The tree about which God spoke was pleasant to the eyes. It was also good for food. In addition, it held the promise of making one wise. In essence, it appealed to man’s fleshly desires. The challenge for Adam and Eve was to walk in the Spirit and not to fulfill the lust of the flesh.
We see this battle again in the life of Joseph. Joseph was sold into slavery at a young age by his brothers. When he arrived in Egypt, a man named Potipher purchased him and Joseph became the steward of his house. Potipher’s wife set her eyes upon this young man. Her desire is exposed in three words she spoke to Joseph: “Lie with me” (Gen. 39:7). As a young man, Joseph would have had sexual urges. An attractive, powerful woman would have been a tremendous temptation. Genesis 39:10 reveals that her enticements were constant. “…she spake to Joseph day by day…” Joseph’s challenge was similar to the challenge of Adam and Eve. Would he walk in the Spirit, or, would he fulfill the lusts of the flesh?
Judas Iscariot also fought the battle between the flesh and the Spirit. The lure for Judas was money. His heart was easily tempted to covetousness. He had not always been successful in winning the battle. As an apostle of Christ, he was the “treasurer” of the group. The Bible says that he “had the bag.” He loved that bag to jingle with gold and silver. Why? Because he would steal out what was put therein (John 12:6). In the course of time, the Jewish leaders sought to arrest Jesus. For them, a few pieces of silver would be a bargain price to pay to have the man who called himself the Son of God to be put away. When Judas and the council met, Judas stood at a crossroads. Would he walk in the Spirit, or, would he give in to his fleshly lusts?
Even our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ had to make the decision between the flesh and the Spirit. While in the wilderness, Jesus had fasted forty days. His body was craving nourishment in a severe manner. Satan was right there to entice the Son of God. “And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread” (Matt. 4:3). Jesus was the Son of God. He did have the power to change the stones into bread. Too, He was suffering the deep hunger pains of a long fast. But, it was Satan who was seeking to be at the helm of his life. Yes, the flesh was strongly opposing the Spirit. Would Jesus walk in the Spirit? Would He abstain from the fleshly lusts?
All of us who are God’s children are involved in this same conflict every day of our lives. The things of the flesh present themselves to us promising happiness, fulfillment, wealth, power, ease, and security. Paul lists several of the fleshly things that man is tempted to do in Galatians 5:19-21. “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these, Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” The Spirit through God’s Word prohibits these behaviors. The question is: “Will we walk in the Spirit, or, will we fulfill the desires of the flesh?”
Adam and Eve choose the flesh instead of the Spirit. On the other hand, Joseph chose to walk in the Spirit. Judas Iscariot also chose the flesh. Jesus, however, walked in the Spirit. Throughout the centuries different individuals had made different choices regarding the Spirit and the flesh. Those who choose to walk in the Spirit maintained a positive relationship with God. Too, their lives were filled with meaning and purpose. Those who yielded to the flesh faced hardship and pain. Their lives were anything less than purposeful.
How would you characterize your walk? Do you truly walk in the Spirit? Does your life conform to the teachings of God found in the Bible? Or, do you find yourself giving in to the lusts of the flesh? Are you more closely aligned with Adam and Eve or Joseph? Are you more like Judas or Jesus? My friend, this is a war of monstrous proportions that rages in each of our lives every day.
As Christians, we were supposed to have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts (Gal. 5:24). Yet, fleshly desires often seem to come back to challenge us. Let’s not be fooled by the flesh. Let’s keep Paul’s words in mind as we fight this battle between flesh and Spirit. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Gal. 6:7-8).