Another mark of the mind of Christ is a clear awareness that this world is a battlefield between good and evil. This is obvious, yet a battle often more subtle goes on in a smaller field. It is the conflict that goes on in my life between the flesh and the Spirit. Galatians 5:16–26 describes it . . .
Conflicting desires. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”
Flesh can mean several things, but in this context, it is the “psychological aspect of human nature which contrasts with the spiritual nature.” That is, my flesh is about human reasoning and desires in contrast with those aspects of thought and behavior which relate to God and the spiritual life.
Conflicting choices. “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”
This passage does not say that if I am led by the Spirit, those desires of the flesh will go away. It does say that if I follow God’s leading, then the law of God no longer condemns me. However, this is not passive . . .
Conflicting Behavior. “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
The flesh has inordinate and evil desires. This list is obviously both, but not all of those fleshy desires scream out as being sinful. Nonetheless, if fleshy desires are followed, the end results are awful. God wants me to walk in the Spirit and follow His leading. When I do, then I have entirely different attitudes which produce godly actions instead of sinful deeds. The fleshy desires may pop up, but if my life continually being filled with the Spirit and I follow His leading, those desires will not become actions . . . but there is more.
Continual Crucifixion. “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
This is more difficult to express in understandable terms. “Crucify” is not used to describe anything else than being put to death on a cross. So how can anyone crucify their flesh? The implication is that by putting it to death those evil desires will be dead also.
The Bible is clear that God put me ‘in Christ.’ When He died, I died with Him. I am dead to sin and alive to God. But if certain sins persist in bothering me, I’ve not maintained repentance, which is clearly an ongoing need. However, repentance is painful and often difficult. My flesh doesn’t like it at all. In fact, I have sometimes longed for relief from that struggle and even tried to take that flesh down from the cross . . . but when I do, it leaps to life.
Maintaining repentance means leaving it there. That is, if any jealous, or proud, or malicious, or impure thought invades my mind I must confess it and nail it up there with Jesus at once. If I begin to examine it or consider giving in to it instead of again declaring war on it, I will be in trouble. If I crucify the flesh, I cannot take a claw and draw out the nails.
John says it this way: “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:6–10)
The cross of Jesus Christ is where the battle of good and evil were settled forever. Until our Victor returns, these skirmishes continue in the lives of His people. Yet our Commander in Chief has won the war and if I am going to win my battles, the Cross is the place where I must take them.