A World of Flesh Comforts
Everything in the world seems to be designed to please and comfort my flesh. On every corner in every city in the world are foods, drinks, comforts of all kinds – all meant to make our flesh (that is, our bodies) feel good.
Trained to Comfort My Flesh
I’ve trained my whole life to be good at comforting my flesh. I’ve spent probably years (in total) of my life on a couch, bed, or chair watching tv/movies, playing video games and stuffing my face full of food and drink. This is how I spent every free moment of my childhood, and its how I spent the majority of my college years. If God had not given me a wife who hates laziness and hates tv/movies/video games I’d be doing the same thing now.
Flesh Is No Help For Following Christ
There is nothing good in my flesh. If and when you see something good come out of me, it is God alone – namely his Holy Spirit. So I can be encouraged if you see godliness in me as it is a sign of the Spirit in me and a reminder of my salvation – but I can put no hope in my flesh whatsoever. It is set against what is good. My flesh is really not my friend at all – I won’t go so far as to say it is my enemy, as Ephesians 6:12 tells us that flesh isn’t the enemy – however I would say my flesh is a vessel whose primary objective is to make itself feel good, which is contrary to the call of my king, Jesus. I am called to deny my flesh, take up my cross and follow Jesus – that is loving God, loving his people to the point of death if he so calls me. My flesh will not power that mission. I must beat my body into submission in order to make it do the will of the Spirit.
Physically “Fit” Habits
But how can we be good at beating our body into submission if we practice giving into its every desire all throughout each day? If we are lazy gluttons who follow the every whim of the flesh, or every feeling we have, we have trained ourselves how to give in to flesh desires. We must practice discipline, hard work and submission to God’s call rather than to the call of our flesh. And this is not easy – especially if you are like me and have lived your whole life the opposite way. I find myself “fat” and out of shape in my ability to say no to my flesh. But it must start somewhere.
Daily disciplines and acts of denying the flesh for the sake of Jesus are the place to start. Here are some examples to get started:
- Get up early in the morning and read your Bible. Regardless of how tired you are, or what you have to do, get up early – preferably at the same time each day. For me my goal is 5:30am.
- Eat healthy. This is an interesting one – most people eat healthy so that they can prolong the life of their flesh – but also so that they can get the physical activity they desire out of the flesh. Our motive for eating healthy is similar but different – different in that we ought to do it as an act of saying no to what our flesh wants, and denying its whims. Its similar in that as we train ourselves in this we too are able to get the physical activity out of our bodies that we desire – namely that it is a body physically able to do the physical work God has given us to do.
- Don’t watch TV and Movies, and don’t play video games. These things really are worthless. The time invested in them is completely and utterly a waste. It feels good in the moment and then is immediately followed by a desire to do it more and in the end you have no value to show for it, other than a black hole in which you spent your time. We do have family movie night once per week. This may be worth continuing as it is a time we are all quietly in a room together doing the same thing and it may be generating memories for the kids of love and togetherness – this may be one redeeming quality of screen entertainment, though it feels pretty limited – there are about 1,000 other things that you could also do which would likely be a lot more memorable.
- Work hard at your job. Work as if you are working for the Lord God as your boss. Work as if you had to give an account to him, face to face each day for how you spent your time. I do not mean to make your job the primary commitment in your life thereby denying your family – we have enough of that and its terrible. I do mean, to deny that part of your flesh that would rather watch YouTube videos and slack off all day, rather than do the work you are supposed to be doing. Somewhere along the lines maybe you, like me, were taught to do the least amount of work possible that you could get away with – that it was cool to be lazy and hate your job. This is utter foolishness. Work is good. When we work hard we sacrifice our flesh for the sake of God – so that we can serve our families. Again, this should be done within a time table framework that still allows you to be physically present for your wife and children. Simply working all day is not admirable if you miss your other responsibilities.
- Exercise. Those good at exercise have shown they have a mastery of forcing their body to do their will. Exercise is hard. It is literally causing your body pain so that it will remain healthy. Logically it makes sense, but physically going through the pain is difficult and most people stop doing it. When you exercise well, you are working to bring your body into submission. The purpose of this is not so we are so physically fit, but so that we create habits of driving our body into submission.
You Can Do This – Its Never Too Late
So, if you are like me and you are terrible at all 5 of these things – let me say that you will struggle to obey God. Not because these 5 things are requirements for obeying God, but because obeying God is almost always denying what your flesh wants to do and if you, like me, make a practice of giving into your flesh often, then at God’s call, you will not want to deny your flesh. But it is never too late to start making small gains, and every effort is worthwhile. You can start now, and God will help you. He will give you the strength to do his work. If we will choose this day who our God will be – either the God of Abraham, Moses, Daniel, Peter and John, or our bellies – our flesh. Put Jesus on his rightful place in your heart, on the throne as your king and against all the cultural calls, all the trainings you’ve had growing up that are contrary, and all the weakness and desires of your flesh – submit to God and deny your flesh daily – make habits out of it. God is with us – run to the very end.