Last night I had the privilege of leading a Bible study on the Name Jehovah-nissi. In fact, this lesson is a two-part lesson, one of which I have already written about in the article Jesus is the Rock. During the first lesson, we learned that our #1 enemy as believers is not Satan. Our #1 enemy is our own sinful flesh. The only way that we are able to have victory over our flesh is to have an encounter with Jesus Christ, accepting Him as Lord and Savior, receiving the Holy Spirit to guide us moment by moment. Once that happens, we finally have the ability to overcome sin and temptation. We are no longer slaves to our sinful flesh. In this article, I would like to write some practical advice on how to overcome our #1 enemy day by day, moment by moment.
Before we dig into the theme, I would like to examine a verse written by the apostle Paul, a verse that emphasizes the importance of the Word of God, especially for us since we are at war with the flesh on a moment by moment basis.
4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15)
Did you notice that the Word of God has a specific purpose?
- to instruct us
- to encourage us
- to help us persevere
- to give us hope
Do we need to be instructed in the area of spiritual warfare? Do soldiers receive instructions before heading to the battle field? Of course they do, and of course we do as well. When we are instructed by the Word of God, we are encouraged to persevere in this daily battle with our flesh. When we know how fight and fight well day in and day out, gaining one small victory at a time, we have hope and do not grow weary.
I. Jehovah-nissi; the Lord is my banner of victory over the flesh
We fist see God worshipped as Jehovah-nissi in Exodus 17. Israel is granted victory over Amalek, or the flesh. When they were led by God, the Israelites were victorious. When the Israelites did not depend on God, the flesh was victorious. In order to get in the position to be victorious, the Israelites had to have an encounter with the Rock, the Rock had to be struck, and water had to flow. This is a picture of Christ being crucified, buried, and raised to ascend to heaven and send the Holy Spirit to indwell His followers. If you have accepted Christ and are filled with the Holy Spirit then you have the ability to be victorious in your battle with your flesh. If not, you are still a slave to sin and need to be set free. The good news is that Christ died and rose again to set you free. Moses was able to worship the Lord as Jehovah-nissi, are you? Do you realize that victory is already yours and all that you need to do is walk in that knowledge? What keeps you from being victorious moment by moment?
II. The characteristics of my flesh (sin nature)
In order to do battle with the enemy and be victorious, you need to know your opponent. God describes the flesh in His Word and we need to do some info gathering on the enemy and his ways, since this is a battle that we are going to have to fight day in and day out until the Lord wipes the enemy out completely. In Genesis 25, we discover that Amalek has his roots in the man Esau.
- He was driven by the desires of the flesh and not by spiritual things.
- He considered the things of the flesh, instant gratification, more important than spiritual things.
- He had no problem selling his birth right, a gift from the Lord that he did nothing to deserve, in order to gratify his flesh.
- In fact, the text explains that Esau despised spiritual things.
This is our flesh, the sin nature that we are all born with. It despises spiritual things. It wants instant gratification at all costs. It will gladly give up the eternal for the temporal. It will destroy you if you follow it. Finally, it will never be satisfied. Esau was not going to eat that one meal and never be hungry again. A few hours later, his flesh would have been craving more. It can be satiated momentarily but never completely satisfied. The writer of Hebrews gives us some more insight into the flesh:
16 that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal.17 For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears. (Hebrews 12)
The flesh is immoral and godless. The flesh is also unrepentant. It may be saddened because of the consequences of its actions but it does not seek repentance. Our spirit is God’s enemy and our own enemy as well. It enslaves us to sin before we are born again and it fights against us tooth and nail once we have been born again. The good news is that our flesh is a defeated foe because of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If we accept Christ as Lord and Savior, then all we have to do is walk in that promised victory .
III. Saul’s example of battling the flesh
I love the way that the Word of God gives practical examples of the theory that It teaches. If we take a look in the Old Testament, we find real, live people who walked on this earth and faced the same difficulties that we face today, having to choose between obeying God or obeying their flesh. The have a lot to learn from both the positive and negative examples that we find. God does not try to gloss over human nature. He shows people as they are, warts and all, even His own people.
1 Then Samuel said to Saul, “The LORD sent me to anoint you as king over His people, overIsrael ; now therefore, listen to the words of the LORD.2 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. 3 ‘Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” 7 So Saul defeated the Amalekites, from Havilah as you go to Shur, which is east of Egypt.8 He captured Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword.9 But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were not willing to destroy them utterly ; but everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed. (I Samuel 15)
Did you notice what happened to Saul? He only partially obeyed God, which is the same thing as disobedience. He did not utterly destroy the flesh. He left room for it, for financial purposes, under the guide of “sacrifice” to the Lord. Partial obedience leaves the door cracked for the flesh. Not utterly destroying the flesh kicks the door wide open and invites the flesh in, even if you try and rationalize. God responds to Saul’s actions with the following:
10 Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel, saying,11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands.” And Samuel was distressed and cried out to the LORD all night. (I Samuel 15)
God saw and punished Saul accordingly. God is not fooled by our “justification” and rationalization of sin. Saul had turned his back on God and now God was about to turn His back on him.
16 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Wait, and let me tell you what the LORD said to me last night.” And he said to him, “Speak !”17 Samuel said, “Is it not true, though you were little in your own eyes, you were made the head of the tribes of Israel ? And the LORD anointed you king over Israel,18 and the LORD sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are exterminated.’19 “Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD, but rushed upon the spoil and did what was evil in the sight of the LORD ?” 20Then Saul said to Samuel, “I did obey the voice of the LORD, and went on the mission on which the LORD sent me, and have brought back Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. 21 “But the people took some of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the choicest of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the LORD your God at Gilgal.”22 Samuel said, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the LORD ? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.23“For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king.” (I Samuel 15)
Obeying the desires of the flesh over the desires of the Spirit of the Lord brings about consequences. Saul could have been forgiven by the Lord even though he was going to lose the kingdom. He could have turned to the Lord in repentance but he did not. That is what made him different from king David. When David was confronted about his sin, he admitted his fault and repented. Saul tried to blame everyone else and he never repented. The Spirit says “confess and repent” while the flesh says “shift the blame and admit to nothing, don’t even think about repenting”. Repentance brings about healing and restoration. Shifting the blame just makes the condemnation and judgment worse. Are you more like Saul or more like David when it comes to admitting your mistakes and turning to the Lord for forgiveness?
IV. Keys to daily victory over my flesh
- Accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior so that the flesh no longer has power over you.
- Know that the flesh cries out to be satisfied but never will be, even if you feed its desires.
- Know that the flesh is always crying out to tempt you. Do not listen to it.
- If you make a mistake and listen to the flesh, do not shift the blame or rationalize your actions.
- Confess your sin (admit that you were wrong) and run to God in repentance, ready to receive His forgiveness and face the consequences.
- Walk in the knowledge of the fact that you are guaranteed victory over the flesh.
There is much more to learn. Practically speaking, the Word of God will give us the keys to victory. Turn to the Word of God for:
Also, Paul has more to teach us in Romans 12.
1Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Here is a list of a few things that you must do in order to be victorious over your flesh.
- See your flesh as being sacrificed and no longer listen to it.
- Offer your body to the Lord and His service.
- Live to serve God and not your flesh day by day, moment by moment.
- Live a lifestyle of constant worship to the Lord.
- No longer be conformed to the ways of this world. The world calls you to live by the flesh because that is all there is.
- Be transformed on a daily basis by having your mind renewed. The Word of God will renew your mind so stay plugged into It every single day.
- Once you discover the will of God from the Word of God, apply it.
- Know that God’s will is good, acceptable, and perfect.
Stay connected to the source, Jesus Christ. He will lead you in victory. According to II Corinthians 2:14
14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere
The phrase “Christ’s triumphal procession” is very important to our understanding of allowing God to work in us and through us to overcome our flesh. The phrase “triumphal procession” refers to the Roman victory procession called “triumphus” which celebrated the Roman general who was victorious in battle. The entire city would come out to see the procession. The prisoners of war were led in, chained to the general’s chariot and would be ceremoniously executed or killed in the coliseum. The general rode triumphantly in the chariot. It was a place of honor. That is the place where God sets us when we are in Christ. We are in the chariot with Christ and He is the One who overcomes our flesh and its desires. If we stay connected to Him then we are guaranteed victory.
Do you realize that victory is already yours because of what Christ has already done on the cross and because of the resurrection? Have you accepted Him as Lord and Savior so that you can now walk in that victory? Do you realize that your flesh, even though a defeated foe, is very dangerous? Which one are you feeding on a daily basis, your flesh and its desires or the desires of the Spirit of God in you? When you mess up, are you more like Saul or more like David? Do you stay connected to the Word of God so that you can stay connected to Christ and walk in victory day by day? May the Lord help us all learn to say no to the flesh with its deadly temptations and say yes to obedience to Him.