Dying to the Flesh
Followers of Christ are dying daily to the lusts of their flesh that, if not overcome, has us doing things contrary to the Lord’s commandments. Dying to our flesh is the salvation process that takes the remainder of our physical lives to finish the journey the Lord has set before us. A fleshly, carnally minded way of life is given up for men to be saved. Lord willing, we understand and heed the words of the Lord as we lay down our carnal and worldly way of life and follow Him.
Luk 9:23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
Luk 9:24 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.
The sooner one can subdue the flesh, they are hastening the coming of the Lord, which manifests peace and newness of life. Spiritual life comes only through death; as the old life is decreased, the new life increases.
Rom 8:12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.
Rom 8:13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
The Scriptures provide many exhortations and admonishments to remind and encourage us of the necessity that followers of Jesus Christ are dying to the flesh during our sojourn here on the earth.
Col 3:5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry ….
Rom 6:11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Rom 6:12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
The purpose of the Lord is to save all men from their sins which is done by taking every man through a transformative process. All are being moved from a state of spiritual death [dead in our sins, being carnally minded] to being spiritually alive with Christ’s mind and overcoming our sins.
1Co 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
1Co 15:23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.
As we are being matured, we are given overcoming LITTLE BY LITTLE, and thus we learn to obey the commandments of the Lord as we conquer our fleshly lusts which wage war against our soul.
Gal 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
As one progresses in their journey, we increasingly have our faith exercised in fighting the pulls of our sinful fleshly bodies. This is the meaning of dying to the flesh or, said another way, how we are dying to our carnal mind. To become spiritually minded, we are overcoming the carnal mind, defined as spiritual death.
Rom 8:5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
Rom 8:6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
The carnal mind is being subdued for obedience and salvation to manifest. Otherwise, one remains disobedient to the commandments and is not living pleasing to our heavenly Father.
Rom 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
Rom 8:8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
If Christ lives in us, we are striving to obey the Lord and take captive the lusts of the flesh. Our flesh is said to be sin, missing the mark, and not designed to inherit the kingdom of God. Yet with Christ in us, we can live in the Spirit and overcome as we learn obedience.
Rom 8:9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
Rom 8:10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
Dying to one’s flesh results from our engagement in what Paul calls the “good fight of faith.” We endure this fight all the days of our flesh, and it never stops so long as we remain in these clay vessels. We endure to the end and finish the race the Lord has set before us in this age.
2Ti 4:6 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.
2Ti 4:7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
While perfection is always our goal and hope, we only arrive there fully once we are resurrected in spiritual bodies in the next age to come. Yet we always press onward to receive the prize that is the mind of Christ. When we sin, we get right back up to keep the course, knowing even our mistakes are used by the Lord to bring good in the end.
Php 3:13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
Php 3:14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
The opposite of resisting, striving, and fighting to be holy is turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, which we all do at one time or another. We need to be vigilant in pursuing righteousness and holiness at every turn.
Christ As Our Example
Jesus Christ the Lord is our example, and we follow Him in our appointed time, learning obedience to the Father’s commandments. The Lord died on a cross, and we also need to die [to death] on our cross.
Php 2:7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
Php 2:8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Picking up our cross and following the Lord is about laying down our carnal way of life and thinking. We give up that life (being carnal, worldly, sinful) to obey the Lord and reap the reward of salvation. Jesus Christ is our example who sinned not all the while being subject to the same temptations and lusts of the flesh that come upon us mere mortals.
Heb 2:14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
2Co 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
Having been tempted and suffered just like us, the Lord is able to comfort us in our time of need.
Heb 2:18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.
Dying to the flesh does not mean all the enjoyments and pleasures of life are given up. Our focus is on keeping His commandments and we seek to abandon and overcome things that are contrary or which negatively impact our obedience. It is a narrow way we navigate to enter into the kingdom of God. The Lord made all things, and they are to be considered GOOD for the purposes the Lord has made them. His creations were made for the pleasure and purposes of aiding and comforting mankind.
1Ti 4:4 For every creation of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:
The sum of the word that is truth teaches us that while all things are lawful, not all things profit or are beneficial to our spiritual growth. We are being circumspect in navigating our journey and using our freedom in Christ wisely.
1Co 10:23 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.
1Co 6:12 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.
Dying to the flesh requires active engagement in resisting temptation and striving to be obedient in all our behavior. Some key things we are learning to do more and more as we progress include these activities:
- Taking sinful and negative thoughts captive.
- Warring in the heavens against lies and false doctrines.
- Resisting the devil (our carnal mind and its temptations)
- Seeking to live a quiet and set-apart life from the world
We are failing on this journey, but that, too, is all the Lord’s plan, so when we do overcome, we know it is HIM and not of our own strength. The process of salvation requires us to fail often as the Lord uses those failures to teach us and to know it is 100% Him doing all the saving. Rather than be discouraged by our failures, we should be encouraged by the comfort given in the Scriptures and learn from them.
Fullness versus a Measure of the Spirit
The Lord had one key advantage that needs to be pointed out. He was given the Spirit WITHOUT MEASURE when He walked in a sinful body of flesh but remained without sin.
Joh 3:34 For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.
We however are only given the Spirit WITH measure, an earnest deposit, so we have a much more difficult challenge in not falling for the various temptations of the flesh.
Rom 12:3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
2Co 1:22 Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.
Eph 1:14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
Until we are resurrected in spiritual bodies and given the fullness of the Spirit, there is always work remaining to overcome and subdue our flesh. Perfection and having the fullness of the Spirit are not achieved while we remain in fleshly bodies. Yet we patiently wait in the hope of the fullness promised to come.
1Jn 3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
1Jn 3:3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.
When we do fail, we are to confess those sins and move on, striving to do better, knowing the Lord’s promises and purposes in molding His clay vessels.
Rom 8:18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
We always focus on the prize and wanting to please our heavenly Father. We are told many things to encourage us to keep the course despite our many failures. We are to be patient, not grow weary and seek the throne of mercy in our many times of need. Finishing our race is enduring to the end and never stopping the pursuit of holiness and righteousness, striving against our sins.
1Pe 1:15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
It is key to remember that the Lord calls things that are not as if they are already done. Such is the truth that we are dying to the flesh in order to reap the promise of eternal life. We have not fully perfected it, yet we are getting there more and more every day.
Rom 4:17 (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.
As we grow in faith, our results (overcoming) also improve as what we believe is becoming our reality.
Mat 9:29 Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you.
Mat 19:26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
One can indeed do all things through Christ with the requisite measure of faith. As we endure our day of the Lord, big changes will be evident as the Lord moves us closer to the finish line. May these words edify and encourage those the Lord has prepared to hear them.
Grace and peace to all,