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Secrets of the Flesh

Do you identify?

"In all my Christian life I have been pained to find so many Christians living in bondage and sin, resolving to reform, and falling again. And what is particularly saddening, and even agonizing, is that many ministers and leading Christians give perfectly false instruction upon the subject of how to overcome sin. The directions that are generally given on this subject, I am sorry to say, amount to about this: "Take your sins in detail, resolve to abstain from them, and fight against them, if need be with prayer and fasting, until you have overcome them. Set your will firmly against a relapse into sin, pray and struggle, and resolve that you will not fall, and persist in this until you form the habit of obedience and break up all your sinful habits." To be sure it is generally added: "In this conflict you must not depend upon your own strength, but pray for the help of God." In a word, the message is: Sanctification is by works, and not by faith. Now it is important to say right here that all such efforts are worse than useless, and not infrequently result in delusion." [Dr. Charles G. Finney, Power From On High, (Valley Forge: Christian Literature Crusade, 1982)]

Been there? Done that? Still doing it? Wondering where "the help of God" is? Here’s a secret: The devil is insidious and beguiling, and the flesh wants to be comforted. The devil is tickled to have us busting a gut in a battle against sinful behaviors. Even if we succeed in our effort to cease a particular behavior, he knows we have not only engaged in an equally sinful behavior (trying to be holy and sanctified by self-effort), but will now be comforted and prideful over our great victory. As an added bonus, he will encourage us to share our testimony with others and exhort them to pursue the same false path to holiness while blissfully declaring sanctification by grace, not works. As the testimony goes out you can probably hear the faint sound of another church falling into the morass of legalism and false hope. Pretty soon we will be praying for revival on their behalf.

Here’s another secret: The devil’s objective is not to have us engaged in morally repugnant activities. His objective is to have us acting independent (the mother of all sins) of our Father. As you know, he does this through fleshly beliefs and behaviors we developed under his covert guidance. Now we can react to this "revelation" in one of two ways, or we can respond according to The Way. If the devil is successful we will either scream, "Unfair, I have been victimized," and continue our day having a depressing pity party and inviting other poor souls to mourn with us. Or, being disgusted with feeling victimized, we can wrongly blame God, thumb our noses at Him, and formally declare our independence as William Henley portrays in his poem, "Invictus":

It matters not how straight the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.

As my son would say, "Not!" Both of these reactions are devil traps full of independence and empty of faith. It behooves us to find The Way and respond appropriately. Charles Finney reveals it in the continuation of his quote begun above:

"The Bible expressly teaches us that sin is overcome by faith in Christ. [It] teaches that by trusting in Christ we receive an inward influence that stimulates and directs our activity; that by faith we receive His purifying influence into the very center of our being; that through and by His truth revealed directly to the soul He quickens our whole inward being into the attitude of a loving obedience; and this is the way, and the only practicable way, to overcome sin. There is no exhortation to work by force of resolution, but through and by the inworking of God."

Nothing horrifies the devil more than a Believer’s mind focused on Jesus Christ. When we lean upon Him as our comfort and as we acknowledge His indwelling presence to direct us, educate us, and sanctify us, several things happen. First, our Father says, "Well done." Second, we proclaim in honest testimony, "Jesus did it." Third, a few more gates planted by the devil around Believers and unbelievers fall before the victorious Church of Jesus Christ.

As Believers, we can choose to chase after the flesh with its false comforts, or we can walk in the Spirit and experience real Life. We can either be victims, or false victors, or, we can be free. It is our choice. It is your choice. See you at the gate crashing party!