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. Rom 8:13
The first man to die was Adam, and here scripture gives us the reason why he died. Adam died because he followed after his flesh rather than obeying God. This scripture also brings us to realize that what has always troubled the church then and now is the flesh. Much as we would love to blame the devil for the church’s woes, yet it is far much safer to stay with what the Bible says; and here the Bible states that the real enemy of God’s church is the flesh. If that is the case, therefore, there is no doubting the fact that every other gospel preached has missed the mark, except one – the gospel of the cross of Jesus Christ, as it was revealed to the Apostle Paul – “For the preaching of the cross… is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). The revelation of the cross of Jesus Christ is the singular gospel that has power to deal death to the flesh, and to enable those who are called by God to inherit eternal life (Gal. 6:14).
To find ourselves even beginning to understand this revelation is an indescribable grace!
Now, before we go on, let us make sure that we understand perfectly clearly what the Bible means by the word flesh. The Bible itself gives us the meaning right here in Romans 8:13: the flesh, it says, are “the deeds of the body”. Again, the “body” mentioned here is not the physical flesh and blood body that we know of. Rather, it is the innermost part of man, his soul. In Bible language, the “body” is that unregenerate nature of man.
A list of the body’s “deeds” is written down in Galatians 5:19-21:
“19 … adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like.”
These are the things that the Bible refers to as the flesh. They are the things that we absolutely must put off from our hearts in order to enter heaven. God has given us His Holy Spirit for this very purpose.
The Holy Spirit is more than sufficient for this task while, on the other hand, on our own we are completely useless. So what is our role in all this? Our responsibility is to humble our wills to the working of the Holy Spirit and to allow Him to deal with these “deeds” in our hearts. To carry a humble heart is the singular greatest responsibility that man has before God.
I find it interesting that many born-again believers think that they will enter heaven with their carnal ways just as long as they have done some things on the outside… fulfilling some church roles, or obeying some laws and regulations. And yet, throughout scripture, we find that the singular condition for us to be ushered into God’s heavenly Kingdom is for us to put off the old man of the flesh and its lusts by the power of the Holy Spirit.
There are people who will counter that this “requirement” implies works rather than grace. But no. This requirement is not of works nor, indeed, can you do away with the flesh through works. There is no power that can defeat the works of the flesh, except one – the power of God, the Holy Spirit. But God has given us this same Holy Spirit to come live in us. The power of the Holy Spirit, which saved us in the first place, is even more capable of dealing with our sinful nature.
Living in sin or appeasing the flesh is therefore a denial of the Holy Spirit’s power in your life.
That is why the Bible insists that we must be transformed. In other words, the Bible reasons, seeing God has given us His Holy Spirit, there is no reason for a believer to not be transformed into the image of God’s Son Jesus Christ, for which very purpose God has given us His Holy Spirit!
The church wants to ride the sugar train of the flesh and also inherit God’s spiritual Kingdom? No way! And yet today, increasingly, Christians want it that way. They want to sing “Glory, glory hallelujah!” and raise a racket in church while embracing the lusts and passions of the flesh. But God is more interested in us putting off the carnal nature in us than in our singing. God is more interested in a pure heart, for example. He is also interested in us living a morally pure and holy life. God is interested in a heart of mercy, and a heart that can easily forgive. There are many things that God is interested in, and they can only be found in us if we have crucified the flesh and allowed the Holy Spirit to cleanse us.
Paul in Galatians provides us with a list of the things that please God in a man.
“22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (5:22-23).
Such people – people who have crucified their flesh – are free! They are free from any laws. You cannot even tell such a person, “Obey God!” because he has already obeyed Him by putting off the works of the flesh. Praise God!!
Many believers have been taught spiritual warfare, to war against the devil. They boast in being able to confine the devil in the bottomless pit and many other places. But few know how to defeat the flesh. Incidentally, I haven’t read anywhere where it says that if you confine the devil to the bottomless pit you will go to heaven.
But the cross of Jesus Christ teaches us exactly what is needed to please God: it is the mortification of the flesh. Moreover, through the revelation of the cross, when it comes to the devil we learn that, once we have defeated the flesh, we have in effect defeated the devil (Eph. 6:10-18). He cannot touch us.
The Bible is an interesting Book because it does not use half-way words like “maybe” or “probably” or “just might”. But when the Bible says that we will die if we live according to the flesh, it means just that. When God told Adam he should not eat of the fruit that God had told him not to eat for he would die the minute he ate it, Adam thought God had said “just might”. But God had not said that. When therefore Adam ate that fruit, he died immediately.
How much more do you think we shall die spiritually if we fail to deal with our carnal natures? Much more so, I am sure. And yet believers walk about with this mindset of testing God. For that reason, many believers today are dead spiritually, and the Bible declares that some have even died physically as a direct result of choosing to walk in sin (1 Cor. 11:30-32).
That is why we must crucify the flesh. I believe that the first business of the church is to put to death the deeds of the flesh. The power of the Holy Spirit is readily available to us, and we grieve the Holy Spirit when we ignore Him. Even worse, of course, is that when the church fails to take the way of the cross, it fails to grow and become the bride that Christ is awaiting.
The church today appears larger-than-life, and yet it is all a façade. Before we boast of our mega-churches, we must crucify the flesh. God is not really bothered about the size of someone’s church.
Before we sing “Glory, glory hallelujah!” we must crucify the flesh. I haven’t read anywhere in the New Testament where it says that I have to absolutely sing “Glory, hallelujah!”, but I certainly have read that I need to crucify the flesh if I hope to one day make it to heaven.
This is our challenge to obey God.