A recent television series called My Strange Addiction features tortured folks with varied compulsions such as bathing in bleach, collecting dead things, or ingesting chalk. Each episode gives curious viewers a glimpse into the lives of those with unusual habits. Sadly, most of these addictions are not habits that give people a full, rich, healthy life.
In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul details the human conflict between living according to God’s law and bowing to the temptations of our sinful nature. Far from casting stones at the sins of others, Paul himself confesses, "So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin" (Rom. 7:25). The Greek word sarx, which Paul uses for sinful nature, is also the word translated elsewhere as "the flesh." Paul is contrasting the life controlled by a mind set on the flesh with one controlled by a mind set on the Spirit. Paul recognizes that a life driven by the carnal yearnings— whether bodily for pleasure, food, or sex; or emotionally for status, power, or control—contradicts God’s law.
Pitting body against spirit was typical of ancient Greek thinking. Sadly, centuries later many Christians are still tempted to view the body itself as bad. But that’s not what Scripture is saying. In fact, as part of Paul’s argument he reminds his audience that God’s own Son was sent in the "likeness" of sinful flesh in order to be a sin offering on our behalf (Rom. 8:3). It’s not the body that is bad, but rather it is the life that is controlled by the desires of the body that kills. To be "obligated" to the flesh, Paul says, is to die. To live a life driven by the Spirit is to live!
Apply the Word
God made human bodies good. Unfortunately, we are constantly tempted to relinquish control to desires of our flesh. Prayerfully identify those areas in your life that need to be submitted daily to the Spirit. Part of God’s promise to His children is that we no longer need to be controlled by our fleshly desires, whether bodily urges or emotional cravings.