What does it mean to be a man who, in every and any circumstance, is first inclined to walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh? Resolved this day to learn, by God’s grace, to be such a man.
There are many considerations that flood my mind when I truly consider this topic, which has become my greatest concern during this present time. At some level, it has been my concern for the 30 years that I have sought to follow the Lord and to grow in Him. No doubt that this concern has steadily increased in my heart over that time, and I would say, especially over the past seven years. But now for these past few months it has consumed my heart and mind. What does it look like for me to be a man without defenses…a man on a single-minded mission to please the Lord…a man empty of the flesh and full of the Spirit…a man who does not quickly respond to unfavorable circumstances with a sharp defensive posture?
Of the many considerations that I feel the need to consider concerning this topic there is one presiding consideration in my mind. I pose that consideration with the following question: What does it look like for me to be completely set about pleasing God and no other, including myself? I came across the following statement from the late missionary Hudson Taylor that I feel encapsulates what I’m driving at in my mind. Taylor’s stated ambition was that his “great business in life is to please God.” This is a fantastic resolution and a biblical one as well. Surely it is rooted in 2 Corinthians 5:9, “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him.”
Such an ambition requires a true understanding of what must be the steepest of hills to climb, the hill of my seemingly all-consuming flesh. A flesh so focused on its own lusts and ambitions. A flesh so consumed with protecting itself against intruders. A flesh that thunders against anything and anyone who would expose its weaknesses. A flesh so proud that it stands in the face of all of life with its fiercest of weapons ready at a moment to cut and slash and kill any force that would weaken it. What could possibly penetrate such a wall of defensiveness and self-protection and self-exaltation?
The scriptures give the answer, of course. The Spirit of God Who has taken up residence in my body and now is set with its own weapons to tear down every stronghold.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.”2 Corinthians 10:3-6
Yes, the Spirit of Christ is a mightier soldier than the flesh. “No weapon formed against it shall prosper.” Isaiah 54:17 This is the war the apostle Paul describes in Romans 7. No doubt the war appears to be hopeless when Paul comes to the end of his flesh and exclaims, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Upon posing the question the Spirit quickly retorts, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” What follows is the most triumphant chapter possibly in all of scripture.
Yes! The Spirit of God is the key to being a spiritual man. I’m resolved to continue to pursue the utter annihilation of the sinful flesh in me and the complete dominance of the Spirit of God living and filling my heart and life. I confess that I am light years away from this goal in some respects and yet, by the grace of God, a fainting breath away at all times. “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” So long as I live here-and-now let me resolve to bring the force of the Spirit of God against this proud and arrogant opponent who lives within me, and to seek the death of my flesh so that the fullness of the Spirit might live!
Father, this seems a daunting task! Yet nothing is impossible for You! Indeed You have promised to achieve this very goal in everyone who truly belongs to You through faith in Jesus the Christ. By grace I make it my aim to work with You and not against You in this goal. Too often I stand in the way of what is truly Your best for me: conformity to the character of Jesus. Forgive me and help me to yield to Your working to bring an end to my flesh. For Jesus’ glory alone! Amen