What is the flesh?
The flesh is more than what surrounds the bones in our body. The flesh is that part of us that gets our emotions out of balance. It’s the part of us that pushes us to say the things we don’t want to hear ourselves saying, to do the things we don’t want to see ourselves doing, to feel the emotions we don’t want to feel, to hear the thoughts we don’t want to hear, to taste the bitterness we don’t want to taste, to think or imagine the things we don’t want to think or imagine.
Why should I be thinking of things that I don’t need to think of? Thoughts that make me edgy rather than at ease. I may be driving, but my mind is way somewhere else. I may be eating but my mind is way somewhere else. I may be staring at the screen but my mind is occupied with imaginations and thoughts that have nothing to do with what I’m seeing on the screen.
Paul went through maybe the same struggle trying to understand what was going on with him. He knew what was good to do, but he finds himself struggling to do it. And in that struggle, he did more evil than the good he intended to do.
“Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” (Romans 7:13-25)
This is a very interesting passage. For Paul to find this essential to write to all believers about, it must have meant how important it was to him. By then, he must have understood that this was a struggle for all believers alike.
When I was filled with the Holy Spirit, I thought I’d never experienced a bad thought again. I thought, “this is it!”. I thought that this feeling of being one with God is going to be every single hour and every single day. This feeling of goosebumps and warmth and complete peace and joy overwhelming me, I thought would always be manifested without any change in volume. But then I found myself in the very shoes that Paul described in Romans 7, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”
The things that I’d want to say to my wife or kids are blurred by my emotions and thus don’t come out as I intended them to come out. In trying to do good, I worry then do evil.
We Christians cannot live without our forgiveness of sins. If Christians were to never sin anymore, then the forgiveness of sins would be just for a time for us. And it would then be for the world and not for the church anymore.
This is one of the reasons, I believe, Paul concluded with the following:
” Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”