In the foregoing messages we have seen that we need to reign in life over sin, death, and Satan, our three main enemies. As the gospel of God, the book of Romans deals with these three negative things. In chapters five through eight sin and death are covered in a full way. Where there is sin, there is death, because sin brings in death. In 16:20 Paul speaks of Satan; he says that the God of peace will soon crush Satan under our feet. The reason Paul did not mention Satan by name before the end of the book is that dealing with Satan is a Body matter, not an individual matter. If you try on your own to subdue Satan, you will be defeated. Satan, the enemy of the Body, can be defeated only by the Body. Therefore, it is through the local churches as the practical expression of the Body of Christ that Satan is dealt with. Only after Paul has covered the church in a very practical way in chapters fifteen and sixteen, does he speak of the crushing of Satan; he indicates thereby that Satan is crushed under the feet of local churches.
My burden in this message is to point out that the three main enemies—sin, death, and Satan—are centered in man’s flesh. Sin, death, and Satan meet together in the “meeting place” of our flesh. Sin, death, and Satan are always together. There is a place in our constitution where these three enemies can meet, and that place is the flesh. From the time of man’s fall, they have been holding a continuous meeting in the flesh of man.
Throughout my Christian life, nothing has troubled me more than the flesh. We should not condemn sin, death, and Satan without realizing that the very center of our problem is the flesh. We simply cannot get away from the flesh; we are unable to walk away from it in the way we can walk out of a building. The reason we cannot get away from the flesh is that it has become part of our being. A number of times I have said to the Lord, “Lord, You are wonderful, and You have done so much for us. Lord, why don’t You take the flesh away from us?” According to my economy, it would be much better for the flesh to be gone.
Perhaps you are bothered by your temper. But the source of temper is the flesh. All our problems originate with the flesh. If it were not for the flesh, we would not have a troublesome temper. Therefore, we may want the Lord to get rid of our flesh. We may think that if the flesh were taken away, we would immediately become very spiritual.
But the Lord’s way is not our way. Consider Adam’s situation in the garden before the fall. At that time, there was no flesh, for sin had not yet entered into Adam’s body to transmute it into the flesh. One day the Lord showed me that it would not be adequate to be like Adam in the garden without the problem of the flesh. I saw that my main problem was not with the flesh; it was with the shortage of the Spirit. Yes, in the garden of Eden Adam did not have the flesh, but neither did he have the Spirit of God in him. He was innocent, but he was also empty. This emptiness gave opportunity for the enemy to come in. If the Lord were to take away our flesh and leave us empty, we would not be able to keep ourselves pure very long. Satan, the subtle one, would eventually creep in. Therefore, we need to realize that our fundamental problem is the lack of the Spirit on the positive side, not the presence of the flesh on the negative side.
In Romans the flesh is exposed in a full way. Using the word “flesh” with a meaning different from that found in chapters five through eight, 3:20 says, “By the works of law no flesh shall be justified before Him.” Here, “flesh” refers to a person, a human being. In the eyes of God every fallen person is flesh. Hence, in 3:20 “flesh” denotes the totality of man’s fallen being. In Romans 7, on the contrary, “flesh” refers only to a part of man’s being, not to the whole person. In chapter seven “flesh” denotes the sinful, wicked part of us, the part indwelt by sin. Our concern in this message is not with the flesh as revealed in 3:20, but with the flesh as covered in chapters seven and eight.
Romans 7:18 says, “For I know that in me, that is in my flesh, nothing good dwells.” Our flesh is the place where evil things make their abode. No matter how good a person may seem to be, at least one part of him, the flesh, is evil. Do not be deceived by a person who is seemingly gentle, kind, honest, humble, and sympathetic. It is still true of him, as it is of everyone else, that in his flesh nothing good dwells.
Throughout the years, I have learned that everyone regards himself as better than others. A husband may consider himself superior to his wife, and a wife may view herself as higher than her husband. Because of false humility, we may not say that we are better than others, but inwardly this is the way we often feel. But no matter how good we may be, we still have the flesh. Through the Lord’s mercy I have come to see His holy teaching that in my flesh there is nothing good.
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