For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. Phil 3:20-21
When we are born into the world we inherit this vile body from our ancestors. It’s a body that is bent on selfishness. It wants what it shouldn’t have. It wants to eat too much. It wants to be lazy. It wants to be mean to others. It gets sick. It gets tired easily. Everyday we deal with it, and everyday we must tell it, ‘No.’ Even today I had to tell my body ‘no’ in the first hours of the day when it screamed ‘I want more coffee!’
Our body is one of our biggest enemies. We must fight against it daily, and daily defeat it with three nails in its cross. If we do not conquer it, it will conquer us. “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, that you abstains from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.” 1Pet 2:11
In Paul’s masterpiece, the book of Romans, he dedicates much ink to this subject. In Romans 7 he describes how the mind wants one thing but the body another; and how the body seems to win all too often. What overweight person in his mind has the desire to be fat? No one. Only they have let the desires of the body overcome the desires of the mind. Even so, many of us desire to do good, we desire to be nice, we desire to pray, to read the bible, to study, to be more intelligent; but the desires of the body rule over us and conquer us.
You never hear anything good about the body in the bible. You only read about it’s lusts and it’s weaknesses. You read about the desire of the saints to finally be free of it. You read about the glory of the new body that is to come. The people of this present world will tell you to embrace the desires of the body, but not the bible. The bible tells us to put to death the deeds of he body.
This doesn’t mean that everything that we desire is wrong. Obviously we desire food because we need it. We desire touch and affection because we need it. We have sexual desires which are not evil, but of God. But notice that our desires so easily get out of control. Our bodies lust after much more than they need. Normal desires turn into addictions and excesses. Out of control desire plagues our entire world and every evil can be linked to it. We smoke and drink and drug and eat and eat. We fight and quarrel and hate and kill. We lust and rape and give ourselves over to unbridled passion. Surely you can see that it is everywhere with everyone. Truly this is a vile body.
But all is not lost! God has given us the tools that we need to overcome, and even though we will not be completely free from this body until the end, we can be its master and it can be our slave.
The key to overcoming the flesh is to go about defeating it the right way. You cannot defeat flesh with flesh (David could never defeat Goliath in the flesh). You cannot set a bunch of fleshly rules for your flesh to follow. It will not work. It will actually make things worse. Haven’t you noticed that the more you forbid yourself something, the more that you want it? Forbidding yourself something only leads to excess when your self-control runs out. Since we shouldn’t forbid ourselves, does it mean that everything is ok? No, it just means we go about overcoming sin in a different way.
A few key scriptures are:
(NKJV) Romans 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
NKJV) Galatians 5:16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
The key word in these scriptures is the word ‘spirit.’ In this translation of the bible the word ‘spirit’ is capitalized. However, in the original Greek nothing was capitalized. When the translators translate the bible they do their best to determine if a word should be capitalized or not. Most of the time they get it right, but I believe they capitalized this word in error these times (and a few other times). By capitalizing this word they give us the impression that Paul is talking about the Holy Spirit when he is not.
Instead, Paul is talking about a way of living and a mindset. It’s called walking in the spirit. The word ‘walking’ denotes a way of life. The bible talks about walking in wisdom, walking in darkness, walking according to His commandments, etc. It’s talking about the manner you live your life or the manner in which you conduct your life. In this case Paul is telling us to conduct our lives in the spirit. Or we could say to conduct our lives in a spiritual way. This is the key to overcoming the desires of the body. The key is to conduct our way of life in a spiritual way. This primarily consists of setting our mind on spiritual realities (Col 3). Paul said in Romans 8 that those who live according to the spirit set their minds in the things of the spirit. These means that we take proactive measures to fix our mind on the things of God. It means that we mediate on the truths of the bible. It means that we give ourselves to prayer.
The bible tells us that this is the method we must employ to overcome the lusts of the flesh. When we set our mind and heart on the things of God we will automatically begin to overcome the flesh. ‘Walk in the spirit, and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.’ This denotes an ‘if/then’ type equation. If we put our focus and efforts on abiding in the Vine (Jn 15), then the power of Jesus through us will enable us to supernaturally overcome the works of the flesh. But don’t try to defeat the flesh with the power of the mind. You will lose. You will forever be stuck in Romans chapter 7. Move on to Romans chapter 8 and you will have the answer.
You must deal with this body as long as you are on this earth. Learn to overcome it and make it your slave. Yet, thanks be to God, we won’t have to deal with it forever. Jesus will take this vile body and give us a new and glorious body that is just like His! It won’t be tired or sick or given to temptation. We will live for God unhindered by what binds us now. Oh happy day – its coming!