Each of us have basic physical and psychological needs. Our psychological needs include a need to feel worthwhile, a need
to feel significant, a need to feel secure, and a need for acceptance or love. Attempts to meet these needs are the basis of much of what motivates us in life and are the basis of our
selfishness which underlies our sin nature. These are the needs of the self. When we attempt to meet these needs by our own efforts we are meeting our needs through the flesh.
The Greek word sarx, translated as the flesh, can also refer to our physical body, our human nature with its cravings, or the sensuous animal
nature of man which is prone to sin. The Bible warns us that in our flesh dwells no good thing. (Rom 7:18) Although it is impossible to reform the desires of the flesh, it is possible
to control them by meeting these needs through faith and dying to the self and the flesh through the Spirit. It is God’s purpose to deliver us from this self-centeredness through faith that
He can be trusted to meet all of our needs.
The Principles of Walking in the Flesh
1. A person is walking according to the flesh when he focuses on meeting his own needs and relies on his own efforts to get his needs
Ro 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.
Ps 81:12 So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust: and they walked in their own counsels.
2. Lust is not of God, but of
the world, which passes away. We are not to lust for or strongly desire evil things which attempt to meet these needs.
1 Jo 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
3. Walking in the flesh
results in fulfilling the desires of the flesh.
Eph 2:3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature
the children of wrath, even as others.
4. Lust leads to
Jas 1:14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and entice
15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth
5. The flesh battles with the
Spirit for the control of the soul.Those who walk according to the flesh cannot please God.
Gal 5:17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that
6. Resisting temptation or
trying to do right through the flesh will eventually fail.
Mt 26:41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Ro 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
7. We are not to make any
provisions to fulfill the lust of the flesh.
Ro 13:14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.
Ga 5:13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
8. Those who walk according to the
flesh cannot please God.
Romans 8:8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 21 Envyings, murders,
drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
9. Walking according to the
flesh will produce many destructive practices which can eventually end in the loss of our salvation.
Ga 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20
Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
10. Sowing or feeding the
flesh will end in corruption.
Ga 6:7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap
corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
11. God’s covenants require
that we cut away or die to the control of the flesh in our lives. In the Old Testament this was symbolized by circumcision.
Ge 17:14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.
Jer 4:4 Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire,
and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.
Ro 2:29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
12. We escape lust through
believing that God will meet our needs according to His promises.
2 Pe 1:4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that
is in the world through lust.
13. Fasting is the first step
in breaking the power of the flesh.
Isa 58:6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose
the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
14. The ultimate answer for
overcoming the lust of the flesh and doing right is to walk according to the spirit.
Ga 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
Ro 8:4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
15. We are obligated to walk
according to the Spirit and mortify the deeds of the flesh, or we will eventually die spiritually.
Ro 8:12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.
Ro 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.
16. When we walk according to
the Spirit, we do not feel the condemnation that accompanies walking according to the flesh.
Ro 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
Counseling Methods and Techniques
1. Deliverance from the flesh
can be difficult. It quickly becomes clear that when a person is walking in the flesh, he is in spiritual bondage. This is because the flesh
provides an opening for the spirits of lust to take more and more control of the person. Because the person is trying to meet his needs through the flesh, he usually does not want to be
delivered. Eventually, due to the heavy consequences that result from walking according to the flesh, he will be willing to repent. At this opportune moment, he needs to repent,
renounce his desire to meet his needs through the things of the flesh, begin fasting, and fully immerse himself in the things of God until the power of the flesh is fully broken.
(For a more detailed plan see the Biblical model in Revelations That Set You Free for overcoming the flesh based on
the story of Esther.)
2. A “dog fight.” illustrates
the battle between flesh and spirit. Although there are now many different variations of this story, this is how I heard it as a young
Christian. An evangelist was preaching on an unnamed native American reservation. As he was walking down the street, he met
one of his recent converts who had had a reputation as the reservation drunk, tough guy, and womanizer. When he inquired how the new Christian was doing, the
Indian replied, “I don’t know. It’s like there is a big dog fight going on in my head. My old, bad dog that wants me to go
back to the bars, is fighting with this new good dog that wants me to go to church, love my wife, and tell others about Christ.” The evangelist smiled and
asked, “Which one is winning.” The Indian replied, “I guess the one I feed the most!” In each of us there is a battle going
on between the flesh (the bad dog) and the spirit (the good dog). I usually use this story to explain to a new convert what he needs to do after he has been
saved. To win that battle we must starve the bad dog, feed the good dog, and not quit!
Principles of Dying to the Self and the Flesh
Self-centeredness or selfishness is the underlying basis of the sin problem. The psychological needs
of the self, which are a need to feel worthwhile, to be significant, to be secure, and to be loved and accepted, drive us to attempt to meet these needs through the flesh. In secular
counseling, the goal is to help the client to better meet the needs of the self and to learn to meet these needs in a more socially acceptable way. Without faith, it is impossible to truly
deal with the problem of the selfishness within. Through faith, God calls us to give up immediate gratification for the far greater rewards of the kingdom of God. These principles of
dying to the self lead us to learn to serve God and His interests as we, by faith, know that He will take care of our needs because He loves us. It is a life exchange of our natural life
(psuche) for the life of God (Zoe). Jim Elliott, who was martyred as a missionary in South America, put it this way: “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to have that which
he cannot lose.” (Through Gates of Splendor, Elisabeth Elliott, 1986)
1. Man looks at his self or natural life as something to
be nurtured and preserved.
Eph 5:29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it…
Php 2:21 For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's.
2. This striving to meet the needs of the self results in the evil symptoms of
self-focus or selfishness. This focus is the basis of evil in the world.
2 Ti 3:2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers,
false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
3. Trying to meet these needs through the flesh leads to a life dominated by the
flesh with its accompanying consequences.
Ga 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are [these]; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath,
strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told [you] in time past, that they which do such
things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
4. Carnal Christians are Christians in which the pursuit of self and the flesh
1 Co 3:3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas [there is] among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? 4 For while one saith, I am of Paul; and
another, I [am] of Apollos; are ye not carnal?
5. If Christ died for us, we should be willing to give up our self-life to live
2 Co 5:15 And [that] he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.
6. We must die to soulical affection.
Mt 10:37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And he that taketh not his
cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. 39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find
7. We must die to self-will.
Mt 16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever will save his life shall
lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give
in exchange for his soul?
8. Dying to the self is our reasonable service and is necessary for fulfilling
God’s purpose in our lives.
Ro 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, [which is] your reasonable service. 2 And
be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
9. This dying to self must be done on a daily basis.
1 Co 15:31 I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.
10. We must learn to esteem riches and possessions lightly.
Mt 19:23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to
go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
11. We must die to our soul-life in order to produce the fruit of eternal
Jo 12:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. 25 He that loveth
his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.
12. We must be more concerned about honoring God than caring what men think
Mr 8:38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his
Father with the holy angels.
13. We must walk according to the spirit in order not to fulfill the desires of
the flesh. Because the Spirit directly opposes the flesh, it is the most important factor in motivating and helping us to die to our soul-life and flesh.
Gal 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
Counseling Methods and Techniques
1. We must give up worldly desires if we want God’s
abundant life. It is an exchange process like emptying a glass of water, so it can be filled with air. If we are not willing to dump out the water of this life, we will never
be filled with the Spirit of God. We only experience the abundant life of God to the degree we are willing to give up the desires of this life.
2. If we will not crucify the flesh, we will receive its
manifestations. These manifestations of the flesh are listed in Galatians 5:19. These deeds are sin and they will eventually destroy the very life we are trying to
preserve. Usually, this can be aptly demonstrated by examining the client’s efforts in the flesh and the resulting consequences that have led the client to come to counseling in the first
place. King Saul was removed as K?ing because he refused to completely destroy the Amalekites which are a type of the flesh (1Sam 28:8). If we will not fully crucify the flesh in our
lives, God may not be able to fully accomplish through us what He has called us to do in our lives.
3. If we try to rely on both the flesh and the Spirit, we will eventually lose
everything. We must help the client understand that without the death of his flesh, he cannot produce the fruit of eternal life. We will either have one or the other.
Those who try to ride the fence and have both, lose both.
4. If we focus on the things of God, worldly things become less
important. What we spend our time on increases in value and in importance in our lives. The old chorus says it best: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful
face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” (Helen Lemmel, 1922)
5. We are to seek servanthood instead of prominence. Even large
secular companies have reached the conclusion that they can increase production by taking the position that they are there to help the employee do his job better and to help him meet his
needs. Servant leadership is dying to self. This is the position that God took in sending us His son.
6. We need to rely on God’s power, not our own. We should
help the client to want to do things God’s way, relying on God’s strength and power; not his own. If the client tries to do what he wants, tries to do it in his own strength, or tries to do
God’s work his way, he will fail and feel overwhelmed with the demands of life. God says that His assignment is easy and if we do it his way, it will bring rest to our souls (Matt 11:30)
With those who have been heavily addicted or might have a strong possibility of falling back into
besetting sins, I add to this story. I ask, “What would it mean in the fight between the two dogs if the Indian goes back to the bar and gets drunk again?” The answer I am looking for
is that “the bad dog is winning.” I then ask, “What should the Indian do then? Should he just say I must not have been saved or this does not work so I’ll just go out to the bar and
feed the bad dog a t-bone steak?” Of course not. He should get a scoop shovel and get a 50 pound bag of dog food and stuff it down the good dog until he is strong enough to defeat the
bad dog. In this way, I try to insure that any relapse will not end in backsliding. I actually had a relationship addicted lady find different church services every night for a month
in order to permanently break off an abusive dating relationship.