Avis, the car rental company, has a motto, “We Try Harder”. In the natural world in which we live, “trying harder” is commendable, as well as effective. However, in the spiritual realm, “trying harder” is actually lamentable.
Stop Trying Harder!
Trying harder will defeat the Christian every time – in due time. I vividly remember talking to a person who disagreed with me on the above point. The pastor later told me this individual seemed to disagree quite often. In fact, he would use such an opportunity to vent his anger. This obviously was a Christian using “flesh techniques” when trying to convince others of his beliefs. Next, there was a lady who seemed to be devout, active in church, followed the rules, even a leader in that church, yet she too was questioning the activity I referred to as the “flesh”. The man with the negative patterns is obvious, but we are prone to assume that the woman with the positive patterns has actions that are derived from the Spirit. Yet the Bible reminds us people can do “marvelous works” apart from vital union with Christ (Matthew 7:22).
Enemies of the Hidden Life
There are three enemies identified in the Bible that we need to recognize and battle if we are to live the Hidden Life – Christ living IN us. These three enemies are the world, Satan, and the flesh. No doubt, most Christians realize the need to be armed against Satan and the sin of this world. They understand who and what they are. However, most Christians do not understand nor how to identify “flesh.” Many times, they think of “flesh” as skin or their body. This obviously is a stumbling block to really get a grasp on one of the top three enemies to the Christ – life. Flesh is also very different from the “old man”. The old man is the unregenerate human spirit. “Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him. . .” Romans 6:6. (Therefore, it is out of the picture.) Yet Paul said the flesh remains as an enemy: “For I know that in me (that is, IN MY FLESH) dwelleth no good thing . . .” (Romans 7:18).
Your “flesh” can be defined as your “body, mind, will, and emotions under the influence of anything other than Christ.” The flesh can also be defined as “personal techniques for meeting your own perceived needs, apart from Christ.” This does not mean the action has to be defiant toward God. Walking after the flesh is simply relying on your own abilities instead of the resources of God. Do not think of the flesh as something that you naturally find repulsive. It may be very attractive and even look spiritual. I think a good synonym of the word flesh is “self-sufficiency”. We somehow think that we must have abilities so that God can use them to bless others and glorify Himself. This is not true! The flesh will often connect itself to our talents, appearances, education, wealth, upbringing, and countless other things. This is how we begin to depend on ourselves rather that depend on God. We learn to rely on “flesh” to get us through or ahead in life.
Your Abilities are Liabilities
Therefore, my abilities often become liabilities. I have personally run bus routes, preached persuasive sermons, provided for my family, pacified bad behavior, patriotically participated as a citizen, and many other countless things “in the flesh.” Though I have a long way to go, I am learning God’s purpose in my life is to bring me to the place where I totally rest in Him and His sufficiency. Understanding the flesh and what it looks like has brought me closer to this goal that God has for me. I now know that “we try harder” should be replaced with “He never fails.”
Learn to identify, recognize, and fight these three enemies. Nothing will rob you more in this life than self-sufficiency. It is deceptive and wrong. The Christian life is not about “me becoming a better me.” Anytime I place myself in the equation as part of the solution, I am displacing Christ. This is the battle that the “flesh” often wins, and we as Christians, don’t even recognize it! Remember…it’s not me, it’s He!