I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. – 1 Co 9:22
The phrase, “Conquer Thyself,” came to my mind when I was thinking about this subject. I have heard the phrase somewhere before, but didn’t know who said it. I found that a man named Sir Richard Burton was the one who had said it. I couldn’t find the full context of what he was saying or when in his life that he said it, but this was the full quote that I did find:
“Conquer thyself. Till thou hast done this, thou art but a slave; for it almost as well to be subjected to another’s appetite as to thine own.”
Whether this man ever followed his own advice or not, I don’t know. But what he said is very true. Unless you can conquer the desires of the flesh, you will always be it’s slave.
“I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin,” – Jesus (Jn 8:34)
“Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey?” – Paul the Apostle (Romans 6:16)
So many people who think they are ‘free’ to give in to every desire of the flesh do not realize that they are but slaves. They submit so obediently to every desire of the flesh that they don’t realize that they are being ruled by an iron fist. But let them try to overcome those desires. Let them try to disobey the demands of the flesh – then they will see how much of a slave they really are.
People are slaves to so many things. They are slaves to emotions like anger, jealously, fear, and bitterness. They are slaves to substances like drugs, alcohol, caffeine, prescription drugs, sleeping pills, tobacco, and the like. They are slaves to food. They are slaves to sexual desire, to adultery, to pornography, and to other sexually explicit material. They are slaves to the demons that influence them to lie and steal and fight. All of the human race who has not been set free by Christ has some master that rules over them, even if they hide it so well. They may not be a slave in every area, but each has his master, with each its own level of cruelty.
But I have a different Master. My master is good and cares for me. I have a master that willingly opens the door for me to come in or go out. But, even so, I choose to stay with my Master, because I love Him and He loves me. My Master sets me free from the other masters that are cruel and forceful. My Master is lowly and gentle in heart.
“Come to Me all you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, becuase I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” -Jesus (Matthew 11:28-29)
One thing the Master will teach you is how to conquer your flesh. Even though you have given your heart to God and He has transformed you into a new person in Christ, you still have the old flesh with you. It’s your earthly, corrupt, sensual desires that have troubled the human race since Adam and Eve fell in the garden. The desires in your flesh do not come from an evil origin – every desire has it’s legitamate place. But the Tempter has twisted every good thing into an evil thing. The gift of sex between a married man and woman has been corrupted into free flowing sexual cesspool of disease and emotional shipwreck. The enjoyment of food has turned into gluttony and obesity. A healthy desire for good things has turned into thefts and covetousness.
While we live in this body we will face tempations to give into the passions of the flesh – but we must learn to conquer it.
How can we do it?
The answer is quite simple, but it’s not what you will would naturally think. The natural man also struggles against his own passions, and although he may find some success, he most often fails – or at least fails in some areas. Many people strive to overcome the flesh by imposing rules upon themselves to follow. But this doesn’t work. You will only find yourself in a vicious cycle of failure.
The answer to conquer your flesh is found in this Galatians 5:16: “Walk in the spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.”
The key to overcoming the flesh is to walk in a different world than the flesh. Don’t try to defeat flesh with flesh. Fight flesh with spirit. Jesus lives strong on the inside of you. When you walk with Him, you will overcome the flesh.
When you allow so much of the Spirit of God to come into you, you push out the world and the flesh. I have found that when I have taken the time to be with God and to focus my mind on him, that I have no trouble, or very little trouble with the flesh. Fleshly pleasures pale in comparison to the glory of God. When you are experiencing God, you don’t think about the flesh. The more you can retain God in your thoughts, the less trouble you will have with your flesh.
I remember around the time that I was first saved, that the church I attended had brought in a evangelist for our Sunday night service. I had planned to attend this service and then to go on a date with a girl afterwards to a movie. This was a girl that I had liked for a long time, but had never gone out with. However, that night, at the service, the Spirit of God poured into that church. I stayed in that church, along with many others, hours after service would have normally ended. I completely forgot about my date.
Now, come one folks… You know that this would have had to been the real deal for me to miss a first date with a girl that I liked, right?
I went over to her house after church and she had already went to the movie and came back without me (we didn’t have cell phones back then, so she didn’t know what happened to me). That’s how long I was still at the church. God came in, the flesh went out!
Spending times with God until you are filled with His Spirit, and then keeping your mind stayed on Him throughout the day is the key to overcoming the flesh. This doesn’t mean that you will never have struggles. You’ll still need to ‘beat your body under,’ but it will be much easier with the Spirit of God in you.