E44: The battle tactic you need for fighting the lusts of the flesh
PODCAST: Listen to this episode if you want to be an overcomer!
It is absolutely possible to be an overcomer. An overcomer of sin. And this episode explains why. If you have been struggling for a while in the battle of your mind and are just exhausted from the incessant demands from the lusts of the flesh, you need to listen to this! In this episode, Milenko and Eunice take a closer look at Paul’s words in Romans 7 and 8, and how we can be overcomers by understanding and using this battle tactic!
Transcript: “Living the Gospel” podcast, Episode 44: The battle tactic you need for fighting the lusts of the flesh
This is ActiveChristianity’s “Living the Gospel” podcast. Join us as we explore different aspects of the gospel according to the Bible, and how we can put this into practice in daily life.
Eunice: Welcome to this episode of “Living the Gospel.” I’m Eunice.
Milenko: And I’m Milenko.
Eunice: So today, Milenko, we’re going to talk about the battle tactic that we absolutely need when we fight the lusts of the flesh. And I think sometimes we can feel, you know, when we want to fight sin, that it just feels like the thoughts and feelings are a big mess. And this tactic will really, really help us to know the difference and to fight in our thoughts. So, Paul says in Romans 7:25: “So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” What does he actually mean by this? It sounds like there are two versions of Paul here.
Milenko: It does, doesn’t it? And that’s actually exactly what he’s saying. You were saying before that it can seem like our thoughts, our feelings and that, are a big mess. And this is especially when we want to serve God and we’ve made up our mind: “Now I’m going to be a servant of God; I’m going to be a follower of Jesus; I’m going to live a pure life for Him.” And you’ve got that real determination. And the next thing you know, all these thoughts pop up, and you start being tempted, just like you were before. Nothing’s changed, it can seem. This is where it’s really important to have this battle tactic which, you can say, know your enemy.
Milenko: When Paul’s writing here he says, “With the mind I serve God, and with the flesh I serve sin.” So, there’s actually two things that Paul acknowledges are in himself …
Eunice: Two “I’s.”
Milenko: Two “I’s.” “I” that is my mind, my decision, that new attitude I have.
Eunice: After you gave your life to God and decided you’re going to live for Him.
Milenko: Right, I’m a wholehearted Christian, I’m living for God. That’s my decision. That’s me.
Eunice: That’s the first “I.”
Milenko: But I still have a flesh.
Milenko: The flesh is that which I’ve inherited, like all people have got that in them – the flesh. That is the inborn desire to serve myself, egotism. To serve sin, basically. And this is all the different sins you can think about. Anything from anger and impurity, to discouragement, to impatience. We all know what sin is. And we’re all affected by it in different ways.
Eunice: Because that doesn’t go away after you’ve given your life to God, right?
Milenko: No. So, then you’ve got this clash, suddenly. I want to serve God and at the same time, my flesh is demanding to be satisfied. I feel offended, for example, because someone said something to me. My pride is hurt. What’s the pride? That’s got nothing to do with serving God – that’s sin! So, where does that come from? That comes from my flesh. What Paul writes in Romans 7:18, just before there. That in my flesh, that in me, “… that is, in my flesh,” he specifies, that me that’s my flesh, not my mind, but my flesh …
Eunice: The second “I.”
Milenko: … there dwells no good thing. That’s where that pride comes from. And that’s now my enemy. That’s the battle tactic. Know my enemy. My enemy is that sin that’s coming up.
Eunice: So, then what? Now that I know my enemy.
Milenko: That’s where this clash happens. Now, as a good friend of mine once commented, that means war! That’s exactly what it is. It’s a warfare. And that’s why the Bible is full of metaphors about warfare, about battles, about arms, about weapons, about bloodshed. It’s about this war taking place within me, between my mind to serve God and my flesh, which is the desire to do sin. Egotism.
Eunice: So basically, you’re saying that this flesh is not me.
Milenko: And that’s where the battle tactic is. Know your enemy. Be aware of the fact that the flesh is not really me. Paul calls it, “Me – that is, my flesh.” He really has to specify – that’s my flesh. But that’s because it’s within me, that’s why it’s called me.
Eunice: Yeah, you’re carrying around this …
Milenko: Yeah. And I call this the two “Is” of Romans 7. “I” who serve God, and “I” my flesh. But they are two different things. Both alive, both wanting to live, and one has to defeat the other. That is where the battle lies. And by knowing that the flesh is my enemy – it’s not me, but it’s my enemy – then I can actually fight against it. Then I have an enemy to fight against.
Eunice: Because it says also in Romans 8:12 that we’re not debtors to the flesh. And in other words, I found this translation in the New Living Translation, it says, “Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do.” Which is saying that you’re not a debtor to the flesh, right? You don’t have to do what it says, because it’s not you!
Milenko: That brings to mind an example I once heard, which I thought was really good. It’s about a “squatter.” If you know what a squatter is, a squatter is someone who moves into an empty building, for example, without permission, without paying rent. They don’t belong there. And then the police, or the owner, has to come and evict them and get them out again. And using this example, compared to what we’re talking about now, you can say sin is like a squatter. God created people without sin, but through disobedience sin entered in, and all people have inherited that sin. So, I never asked to have it. It came into me, right?
Milenko: I was born that way, but I’ve never asked for it. So then, you can say, use this example of a squatter moving into your basement. You’re living in a house, and then suddenly one day, there’s this whole family moved into your basement. They’ve never asked, they’re there. What do you do? You don’t …
Eunice: I’d kick them out.
Milenko: That’s what you would expect, right? But just imagine this family then starts coming up and saying, “We want some food.”
Eunice: Oh wow.
Milenko: OK, so then you start feeding them. Then they come up with … then they start making noise and they start, you know, causing trouble …
Eunice: Inviting more friends.
Milenko: Right, inviting more friends. Writing graffiti on the wall and damaging the furniture and so on. And all the time they’re asking for food and you keep feeding them. And suddenly they’re no longer asking for just food, but they’re demanding to move in upstairs, maybe come into your kitchen, or maybe take over your living room, you know, and start sitting in your furniture and using everything there and start messing it up. And they’re moving into your bedroom, and it gets worse and worse! And what do you do? You don’t just stand there and accept it. When they come with their demands, what do you say? No way! You’ve got no right to be here. Get out! And you start kicking them out. And the next one comes up and you do the same, right? And then you have to go downstairs and fix up the mess they’ve made. Clean it up. Repaint it. And then it’s fresh and someone else can move in. But if you don’t do that, they take over, more and more and more. And you can imagine the chaos in such a situation. That this family of squatters and all their friends have taken over your life and your house and you have to go out and work and feed them and they’re just demanding and demanding.
Eunice: And it’s tiresome.
Milenko: It’s really tiresome. And if you think about sin in the same way. That it’s come into your life and it’s demanding more and more, and it’s taking over your thoughts and your actions and everything you do. I mean, sin, it sounds really terrible, like you know, about stealing or murdering, or that kind of thing when you use the word “sin.” But sin is so many things. It’s all these little, petty thoughts. Being offended and being impatient with people, and discouragement, all this egotism, impurity. All those thoughts that come up throughout the day. They’re the demands from the flesh, from the squatter living in you. And what do you do now? Now you have to say – use these words from Romans 8: “I do not owe the demands of my flesh anything.” I don’t owe my flesh to give in to its demands.
Eunice: Actually, you don’t even identify with that. You who own a house are not going to identify with a squatter that doesn’t even work, right?
Milenko: No. I don’t feel sorry for them. They don’t even want to work. They don’t offer to do anything in the house. They don’t offer to pay; they’ve just taken over. And they don’t belong there. And this is exactly the same with sin. It doesn’t belong in me. Sin must be kicked out. It must be put to death, to use the words of the Bible. And that’s what we can do now. And to get our life in order. So, when those thoughts come up, we can say, we can recognize it as: this is a demand of the flesh. This is a demand from the enemy. I don’t owe my enemy anything. Get him out! And to really start working like that. And is this possible? Well, absolutely it is. It says in the next verse there, in Romans 8:13, that, “if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” So, this is something that we can do because we have received the Holy Spirit. And this is where the battle lies. I have to recognize my enemy as my enemy, I have to give it a name. This is not me; this is my enemy. And really disassociate myself with it.
Eunice: That’s a good word.
Milenko: It lives in me, so it feels like me, but it isn’t me. The real me, that’s that decision I’ve made. And now I can go to battle. And God’s on my side because I’m fighting His battles, which is, against sin. And He’s going to give me the strength I need.
Eunice: So, it’s an attitude of mind, that these squatters are not you. And I think that’s super important to remember. Because then also you don’t have to feel guilty for what they do.
Eunice: You actually, like what you said, disassociate from the sin in your flesh. I think that’s a super good word. So then, you’re also not, all day long just, trying to reason with these thoughts, in a way. Or just, you know, trying to figure it out. But right away I say, when I feel this temptation coming up, maybe it’s a temptation to some impurity, you know, “This is not me! I didn’t ask for this. And I don’t want this.” And then that’s it. I’m done with it. And then I keep that mindset, “Yes, I have chosen that I want to choose God’s will, and I want to choose purity, and I want to choose the good.” I think it’s so tiresome actually, to just battle in your thoughts, you know. “Is this me?” Or just trying to figure out if this is coming from my flesh, or whatever. Just right away.
Milenko: It’s got to do with that whole identifying myself as being a Christian; a follower of Christ. Someone who serves God. A son of God, you know? A daughter of God. One who belongs to God. That’s me. That’s my identity. I don’t have to go and explain myself to the squatters every time. “I actually own this house, and well, should I listen to them or not? Well, it’s sort of a reasonable demand, or it makes sense. Or yes, they are hungry. You know, poor things, if they don’t eat, they’ll starve,” and you know. You’ve got all these different things going on. If I identify myself as the owner of the house and them as people that don’t belong there …
Eunice: Kick them out.
Milenko: My sin doesn’t belong there. There’s no question about it. It’s not a tiring process to think about that. Then I have to go to action. I have to do something about it. But it’s me – I serve God. And that’s who I am. And throughout the day that’s how I have it. And at the end of the day, when I look back on the day and I think about all those different things that have come up, it can really feel like I’ve been impure in my thought life, because there’s been a lot of thoughts coming up. But all of that is my flesh demanding something, and my attitude has been, the whole way, “I serve God. I don’t give in to this. I don’t agree with this. I don’t associate with it. It’s not me.” And then I’ve kept myself pure.
Eunice: So, you can really have peace and rest and joy in the midst of being tempted.
Eunice: With this mindset. Because as long as you know that you haven’t wavered from this mindset.
Milenko: Right. And it can really feel like it in the heat of the moment, that this is you, because, you know, the squatters are clamoring so much that it sounds like this is your household. It isn’t your household. They’re strangers. And the same with the sin. It’s not you. It’s not me. It’s not my decision. My decision is to serve God. Not to serve sin. And that’s why there’s warfare. And here we can have victory. Here we can be overcomers. That’s what the whole Bible talks about. It talks about warfare and it talks about overcoming. You don’t read in the Bible about defeat. You don’t read in the Bible about lying down and giving in, and that there’s no …
Milenko: Yeah, and that you can’t overcome. It’s not written about that. Try and find a verse where it tells that. Where it says that the battle may be hard and the battle may be long, and you’re right, it’s not possible to overcome. So thankfully Jesus did it for us. What you can read about is, the battle is hard, the battle might be long, but there is a way out, and Jesus showed us that way. Follow Him and He will give you the victory. He will give you the help.
Eunice: He who overcomes.
Milenko: And that is the gospel. And now we can live that gospel. We talk about this sometimes, “Living the gospel,” this is what it’s about.
Eunice: So, it’s actually fully possible to live a life of victory over sin. You know, I think like, if you ask yourself now, if someone were to ask you, “Are you living a life of victory over sin?” Would you say yes?
Milenko: I would say yes. Even though I’m being tempted. Right in the midst of temptation, it can feel like you’re impure because this thought has come up; you’ve already thought the thought. But I am not giving in to it. I don’t agree with it. I don’t associate with it.
Eunice: It’s not even me.
Milenko: This is not me. Why should I be accused for that? Why should I get condemnation for that? That’s not me. What God wants to look at then is, how do I take it in that situation?
Milenko: That’s what a temptation is also, it’s called a trial. A trial of our faith. That’s another definition of temptation. It’s a trial of our faith. God really wants to see, “How’s he going to take it? How’s she going to take it, now, in this situation?” When those demands come up, when that thought comes up. So, God’s not going to condemn me because that thought’s in my mind. But what He wants to see is, how do I take it? And if I then believe in Him and the promise He’s given me, and the decision I’ve made, then I keep myself pure. And that’s what God’s going to look at.
Eunice: It says also in Romans 8:1 that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. So, I can ask myself, am I one of those who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit? Like we said about Paul with that “I.” That “I” with my mind serve the law of God. And if I know that, then I don’t have to feel guilty when all these temptations are coming up.
Milenko: Right. And the thing is that we need to be realistic. Like, we’re not talking about some unattainable dream. The thing is that we are human beings, we’re weak by nature, our flesh is very strong. And especially in the beginning, when we’re newly repented and newly given our life to Jesus, we’re like little children, we don’t have much strength, don’t have much wisdom. And the flesh is very strong with its demands, and we’re used to giving in to it. And that can happen, that you fall. And it can happen along the way as well. Hopefully less and less.
Eunice: Maybe you gave in in a …
Milenko: But maybe you do give in. And maybe you do let the thought in, that you agree with there and then. Or you also do things that you are not aware of at the moment, but later you see that it was tainted by the flesh. But there, what do we do then? Then we have Jesus who actually went this way, and He paid the price – we’ve talked about that in an earlier episode, about Him being our atonement – and He can forgive us. And we can pray to Him for forgiveness because this isn’t what we wanted to do. We wanted to serve God. And then He more than willingly forgives us.
Eunice: That’s when you really realize, actually you’re so thankful for Jesus. And you realize His heart for you.
Milenko: Right. And that also stirs me up to … He loved me first, and therefore I love Him in return. And I want to live for Him now. And that’s me. The one who loves Jesus. The one who loves God. That’s me. And that’s whom God knows. And Jesus knows. That’s the one He’s longing for, to take home to Himself. And that’s what my life is. So yes, I might fall, but I hate that, I repent from it, I receive forgiveness.
Eunice: It’s not something you want.
Milenko: It’s not something I want. That’s not me. I get up and keep walking. I’m the one walking to heaven, not the one lying in the mud. I really, that’s how I really have to have that mind. And then it is possible. And more and more I can come into this way of thinking, it becomes my mindset, my attitude of heart, that I want to serve God. And this is what I’m busy with.
Eunice: So, to sum up, this battle tactic is to know who my enemy is. My enemy is the sin in my flesh. And I disassociate myself with it. Keep to the mindset that I with my mind serve the law of God. And that’s it! That’s the battle tactic.
Milenko: That’s it! And this life becomes a happy life. I’m serving God and I’m serving Jesus, and my biggest longing is to meet Him, see Him face to face, be able to look Him in the eye, and say, “Yes, this is what I’ve been fighting for!” And then all the rest will fall away, and I can be with Him in eternity. What a fantastic future to look forward to. So, no reason for discouragement, whatsoever! On the contrary, it’s a battle, but this is the battle I’ve chosen to fight, and the battle that God wants me to have the victory in, so He will give me the victory. And yes, I have to suffer; yes, I have to say no to the lusts of the flesh, but it’s a life of victory.
Eunice: Victory over sin.
Milenko: So, a fantastic battle tactic. Know your enemy, and then fight.
Eunice: So, if you’re interested to read a little bit more about Romans 7, Romans 8, we have a bunch of articles on our website. One that I’ll really recommend is, the title is, “The truth about Romans 7 – doing what I do not want to do.” And if you haven’t answered our listener feedback survey we’d love if you could take 5 minutes now to click on the link in the episode description and just let us know what you think so we can maybe bring some of that feedback into the new season.
Milenko: So, thanks for today and goodbye everyone!