Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil. Luke 4:1-2
A great building may take years to build, but it can fall in a day. Even so, the greatest men can fall in a day as well. It may not seem fair, but it is the reality of life. And the greater the building, the harder it is to rebuild.
As a christian, your inward desire is to please God. We delight after the law of God according to the inward man (Rom 7:22), but we also have the carnal, fleshly part of us that is yet to be redeemed. Those two parts of us are at war with each other. Paul says in the book of Galatians that our spirit lusts against our flesh and our flesh lusts against our spirit (Gal 5:17). This means that the desire of our spirit is opposite from the desire of our flesh. Our spirit desires good; our flesh desires evil. That’s why you can have times when you desire good and times when you desire evil. The times when you desire evil is the times when your flesh is stronger, and the times you desire good is when your spirit is stronger. Thats why people can go to church and want to serve God (because their spirit is being strengthened there) and then go throughout the week desiring things contrary to God (because their flesh is being strengthened by the world).
This is why Paul says, “Walk in the spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” When your mind is stayed on God and on spiritual things then your spirit is strong and will overcome the desires of the flesh. This is the easier way to live. If you try to live in the flesh and then also resist the desires of the flesh, you will fail. That is why so many religious people fail. Their religion is in the flesh, so their defenses against sin are in the flesh and even though their mind acknowledges that righteousness is good, their flesh has no power to carry it out. The flesh can never carry out righteousness.
Lets take a moment and define “flesh” and “spirit” for those who may not understand. Just like God is 3 in 1, so are we. We are spirit, soul, and body. Paul said, “I pray your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless…( 1 Th 5:23)” The spirit part of us is the part of us that is like God. God is a spirit. This part of us will live forever, it cannot be killed. This is the part of us that separates us from the animal kingdom. Animals have souls, but not spirits.
The next part of us is our soul. Our soul is our mind, intellect, and emotions. Our soul is essential to the operation of our spirit and our flesh. Just like your body wont work without your brain, your spirit doesn’t work without your soul and your body doesn’t really work without your soul. Animals have souls, but their souls are only connected to their flesh since they have no spirit. That’s why animals will only act carnally unless they are trained by us. Our souls can either be trained by your flesh or by your spirit. They can be renewed by the word (Roms 12:1-2) or they can be corrupted by the world and the devil (2 Cor 11:3).
Our flesh is the animal-like part of us. It’s the part of us that desires food and water and sensual pleasure. That is why people who give themselves over to the flesh end up acting like animals. We need to train our flesh like we train a dog or other animal. We need to teach our flesh how to act and behave, otherwise it will simply do what feels good and nothing else. This is the ugly part of us that will not be changed until Jesus comes back. We will have to deal with it for the rest of our lives on earth.
It’s important that you understand all this when you need to overcome temptation. It’s important to understand that it is not your heart that desires to sin, but your flesh. You need to understand that because the devil will lie to you in the hour of temptation and say, ‘See you don’t really love God. Look at how much you love evil.” And instead of agreeing with Him you need to say, “No devil, my spirit desires God. Yes, my flesh desires evil at this moment, but it does not mean that I do not love God, it means that my spirit is weak at the moment.” And then, at that moment, you need to enlist the following methods to escape the temptation:
1 – Speak the word in faith. Jesus said, “It is written.” Speak the word. David said, “I have hid thy Word in my heart that I might not sin against thee.” Prepare for the day of temptation by putting the word in your heart. Then you will have that sword to use when the enemy arrives.
2 – Run. Yes run away if you can. Joseph ran away when he was being seduced by his master’s wife. Paul says to “FLEE youthful lusts.” No matter how strong of a Christian you are, there are times when the desire of the flesh is strong. Running away is good. Get out of the situation. Avoid the situation. Don’t trust your flesh as far as you can throw it.
3 – Pray. Jesus said, “Pray that you may not enter in to temptation.” I pray that all the time. Pray this before temptation ever comes. This also good to do when the desire to sin is strong. Run away first, then go to a place and get on your knees and say, “God, help me! My flesh desires evil, but I do not want to sin against you!” As you stay in His presence and seek Him, your desires will change and your spirit will strengthen.
Above all, you should be diligent to strengthen your spirit every day by studying the word of God and by seeking God in prayer. When you do this you build up yourself to be able to easily resist temptation. But watch out, the moment you slack the devil will come, because he always seeks the ‘opportune time.’