A War Between Flesh and Spirit
The package of Oreos in my kitchen cabinet is not my friend. It is not to the answer to why I feel tired. It does not help me feel better when I have had a hard day. As I sit here typing, my little one is on day three of the flu with all that goes along with it. I am worn out and ground down and the package of Oreos is calling to me. It somehow offers hope of relief from my problems. From experience, I know it will actually make me feel worse. Tired, worn out and sick to my stomach from too much sugar is all I am looking forward to. Because it is a temptation from my flesh, my desire to gorge on cookies will only result in making my problems worse. This does not stop me, however, from craving Oreos and other junk food in times of stress, weariness or boredom. My heart is deceitful. It leads me to pine after bad things. The problem, at heart, is a faulty association in my flesh between trashy food and relief. This disconnect leads all people to make bad decisions repeatedly in choices of cuisine, entertainment, and relationships. We choose bad things to try to make us feel good and expect good things to make us feel bad. It is only the Spirit that can heal us, yet we repeatedly crave the things of the flesh.
A Case of Mistaken Identity
We often are stuck in a cycle of mistaken associations in our Christian lives. We treat the things that are bad for us as our treasured friends. We nurture, cater to and defend the sins and vices that seek to destroy us to the utmost. We turn to bad things for relief in times of struggle only to have them increase our pain. God promises if we call out to Him in our struggles, He will answer. Yet, we turn to food, sex, drugs, and booze and expect them to take away our pain. Meanwhile, we treat the directions of God to holiness as burdensome. We expect the things that are good for us and make us alive in Christ to hurt us and cause us to be miserable. We struggle against the boundaries and guidelines laid out for our good by God Himself. They hurt our flesh ( what is hurting us) so we run from them even though they feed our spirits. We call the things that are holy evil and those that are evil, good.
Breaking this cycle of mistaken identity is essential to victory in Jesus. It starts with identifying our enemy in this life. God calls our hearts deceitful, our flesh our enemy and says the world will us to ruin. The world says to follow your heart and listen to your flesh, “Do what feels good!”
Where Does Our Help Come From?
Samson is remembered as a man of great strength from the Bible. He is a hero of the faith. If we read his story, though, it is obvious that he also was a man who struggled mightily with his own sins. He is a picture of the impulsiveness and shallowness of a man ruled by his flesh. He is a man who could never identify his friends and his enemies. He follows his impulses and his heart at every turn. This explains how Samson’s life is filled with great inconsistency and tragedy.
Samson’s high moments in his role as leader of Israel are quite spectacular. He defeats thousands of Philistines, God’s enemies. He is capable of great feats when God works through Samson. His low points are equally spectacular. He marries whoever he wants, sleeps with prostitutes and drinks heavily. He does whatever he feels like on most occasions and seems to care little for the consequences. The results are filled with pain and sorrow.
In a relatively short life, Samson defiles his parents, gets his wife and father in law burned to death and seems to spend most of his time drinking and following after pagan women. These are all terrible things to do for any man. Samson is not just any man, though. He is God’s chosen man picked to lead Israel out of their sin and pain. He obviously does a poor job of it. But why does he go so far astray? He has good parents, a great job, and is chosen by God Himself. Why so many errors? He does not realize the cost of his fleshliness. He doesn’t recognize his enemies in life.
Steal, Kill and Destroy
Just as all things that are good and perfect come from above, Satan is invested in all things bad and sinful. Satan is called the prince of the world and he is doing his best to steal, kill and destroy. His goal is to pick off as many of us as possible as a continuation of his rebellion against the Most High. He has a willing accomplice in the flesh that dwells in each of us. Satan tempts the base in each of us through the desires that dwell in every man. When Samson sees a beautiful Philistine woman, a sensuous prostitute or the pretty Delilah, the temptation comes to him in the form of his own desire. Temptation appeals to our senses because it is born from them. We see, feel and touch and are tempted to see, feel and touch more. When we choose to go further, this gives birth to sin and then leads to death.
Samson consistently feels like doing something and just does it, without thought or regard to God. If it feels good, do it, right? Feelings are consistently depicted as our friends and guides. We all just want to feel happy! Samson’s ultimate fate highlights how wrong this association is for Christians. After doing what feels right with Delilah, where does Samson wind up? He is a captive of God’s enemies, blinded, and used as an object of amusement and derision. Unable to see what is good or bad and in prison is exactly where Satan wants us. Sin wants us helpless, in chains and worked to death serving evil.
Temptations Lead to Death, Jesus to Life
We may not be cavorting with Philistine women but the sins we struggle with today have the same goals for us. They want us imprisoned to sin, blind to the truth and worked to the bone serving addictions. It is so easy to go down the same road to destruction as Samson when our desires lead to temptation. The fleshly desires always seem good at the time since they are formed by our own senses. They always end in pain, loss, and death though.
Do we believe what the Lord said? Satan came to steal, kill and destroy. Jesus came to give us abundant life. Who is our friend? Who is our enemy?
Pastor Tom Neary
Calvary Catonsville Church
Calvary Chapel Maryland