Here in America, we face an incredible struggle in the area of personal holiness. In the old days, so many of the things we joke about were considered sin. For example, in the Bible days, laziness was called slothfulness and was considered an absolute sin. (In God’s eyes, it has never changed!) Gluttony was a sin. So was immortality, greed, drunkenness and materialism.
In our modern culture where no one is expected to be responsible for his or her behavior, these things are considered “weakness” or “personal failings” but almost NEVER as sin.
It’s more common for Christians to joke about indulging the flesh than it is for them to cry out to God for strength, help and forgiveness.
God gave you your body and its natural appetites. But, if you fail to harness and control them, they become what the Bible calls in Romans 6:1 “instruments of sin” rather than “instruments of righteousness.” That’s why so many Christians, instead of pursuing God find themselves pursuing the cravings of the flesh. (1 John 2:16).
I ran across this quote by Michael Quoist, “If your body makes all the decisions and gives all the orders, and you obey, the physical can effectively destroy every other dimension of your personality. Your emotional life will be blunted and your spiritual life will be stifled…”
That’s why the Word of God is reminding us of the need to keep our natural desires and appetites under control. Your body is a great and wonderful tool, when harnessed and trained. If allowed to do what it feels like, it can be your worst enemy.
In fact, if it isn’t controlled, it can literally wage war against your soul. (1 Corinthians 9:27). That’s why you have to make sure that your body is your servant, not your master. (Remember? Jesus said that no man can serve two masters.)
When God tells you to present your body as a living sacrifice, and not to be conformed to this world, (Romans 12:1-2). He is hitting especially hard at the practices of the modern Christian.
What could be more conformity to the world than the way we pamper and indulge our bodies, even when we plainly know better?
I’m not talking just about food. (By the way, some people can overindulge in food to the point of gluttony yet never put on weight.)
Any bodily appetite that we don’t get control over opens us up to other areas of overindulgence and self-destruction.
For example, for years, there have been studies that smoking dope will lead to doing other drugs, including heroin and cocaine. Does it really? Yes, in the sense that, once you decide that you ENJOY not being in fill control of your faculties, you’re wide open for other areas to abuse your body. Same with beer drinking leading to other forms of drinking and the use of hard liquor.
The habit of always giving into the desires of your body, whether it’s in the areas of food or drink or other areas, always extends into other areas, if not stopped.
If you refuse to say “no” to an indulgent appetite in one of these areas, you’ll have a hard time saying “no” to dishonesty, or greed, or uncleanness in other areas, “It’s what I call the spillover factor.” That’s why in James 2:2 it says that if you can control your tongue, you can control your whole body.
Then there’s materialism. Right in there with immoral behavior, lust, impurity and evil desires, the Bible lists one that zaps a lot of Christians: Materialism. (Colossians 3:5)
He’s not talking about just having nice things. Or being well paid for what you do. He’s talking about the love of things just because you love them and they make you feel good. It’s the idea of having money or things as a way of altering your mood.
Here are the two ways that materialism tries to destroy your soul.
First, it makes you jealous of the good things that other people have. It makes you envious, and resentful of them. It keeps you discontented, because it causes you to focus on what you DON’T have instead of what you DO have.
Second, it gets you to try to give in to every desire your flesh has, so you get soft and lazy. The plain fact is, that SPIRITUAL SOFTNESS LEADS TO PHYSICAL SOFTNESS.
When aren’t more Christians close to God? It’s this one principle:
WHAT YOU FEED GROWS AND WHAT YOU STARVE DIES.
That’s it. If you feed your flesh, and the fleshy part of you, that’s what’ll grow. If you feed your spirit man, that’s what’ll grow.
So, God tells you to get in the habit of saying “NO” to your carnal desires and appetites instead of giving in to every whim. To stop acting according to your feelings and begin to act according to what’s right.
See, I rarely FEEL like (in the natural) doing what I SHOULD do. I don’t feel like going to bed each night. I don’t feel like getting up each morning. My flesh wants to sleep during the day and stay out all night. I don’t usually FEEL like reading the Bible. Or praying. Or going to church EVERY service. That’s why I have to take control of my body and make it do what God wants it to do instead of what IT wants to do.
The Word tells you what to do in 2 Timothy 2:22. RUN from them. Flee temptations! You don’t make yourself strong by seeing how much of it you can resist. No, most temptations are beat by running from them.
Stay out of the bars. Keep away from the crack houses. Don’t go out on dates with unsaved people. Don’t go parking! Don’t check out or watch “R” or “NC-17” videos. Cancel the Movie Channel, HBO or Cinemax if you have cable.
Next, don’t make ROOM for the flesh to operate. Romans 13:14 says, to make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its sinful desires. Your flesh LOVES to “miss the target!” don’t make room for it to do it.
If you have an eating problem, stay away from the ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT “pig bars”! if alcohol has gotten a pull on you, don’t even go IN to a place that sells alcohol! Especially not alone!
Feed on the Word. “How shall a young person cleanse his ways? By taking heed thereto according to the Word.” Pray. “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.”
What are the basic reasons that most people never rise above their flesh nature?
Because you are more concerned about feeling good, than you are about how GOD feels. You’d rather say “yes” to the flesh than say “yes” to God. You’d rather say “no” to God. You’d rather say “no” to Jesus than to say “no” to yourself.
You don’t REALLY try. There’s something about that particular sin that you actually ENJOY. You tend to think of it as your “bittersweet little friend” than as an enemy of both God and your soul.
You don’t think that sin is serious, or that God means it when He says, “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:13) You’ve categorized sins into those that matter and those that don’t.
You might not do drugs or fornicate, but you don’t think it matters that you don’t tithe…or are unfaithful to God in assembling with the Saints in church each week. Until you realize that all sin is sin, you’ll never seek God’s strength, help and forgiveness.
The Holy Spirit wants to HELP you to walk in God’s victory and strength. To get hold of God and to hang on until you’ve received the help you need. Ask Him to help you seek God until you get a touch from Heaven, a touch from God Almighty, to break off the yoke of besetting sins…and to enter into the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free!