Three Enemies of Believers-Enemy #3- The Flesh


Strange as it may seem, the worst enemy of the believer is neither the world nor the devil. Both are terrible enemies which make it hard to live the Christian life but the believer’s greatest enemy, according to God’s Word is the flesh.

We read this in Galatians 5:17: For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” Then again in Romans 7:18 we read this: For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells…)

Now, it is not difficult to understand why the flesh is our greatest enemy. The world attacks us from around, the devil attacks us from above, but the flesh attacks us from WITHIN. This is the reason why the flesh gives us so much trouble.


The Bible calls the old or Adamic nature “flesh,” and tells us what it is like. Romans 8:8 says, “They that are in the flesh cannot please God.” Now, the term “flesh” does not mean just the skin and bones that we have on our hands. No, the word “flesh” means the natural man we are by birth. It is used to describe all that we are by nature.

When we were born into the world, we received a sinful nature. We are all descendants from Adam and Eve. The moment Adam and Eve sinned they died spiritually, and they became fallen creatures with a fallen nature. Now, since we are all descended from Adam and Eve, we all partake of their sinful nature. Why? For the simple reason that like produces like.

Did you ever wonder why it’s so hard to do good and so easy to do wrong? Well, it’s because every generation that has come from Adam has a fallen nature. You were born with a sinful heart and nature, and it is just natural for you to sin because you were born in sin. Here’s what Scripture has to say: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me (Psalm 51:5).” Psalm 58:3 goes on to say: The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies.”

This is why children tell fibs. You don’t have to teach children to lie; you have to teach them not to lie. You don’t have to train children to steal; you have to teach them not to take someone else’s things or steal.

Now, it is this nature that we received from the first birth which is referred to in the Bible as “the flesh.” Jesus made this crystal clear when he told the self-righteous and religious Nicodemus, That which is born of the flesh is flesh (John 3:6).” Now, this nature is not taken from us when we are saved but remains a part of us as long as we are on this earth.

Believers need to understand that the worst enemy we have to keep us from growing in grace is our old fleshly nature. We read this in Romans 7:24: O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”


Don’t let anyone tell you that your old nature is dead, or that it has been eradicated. This is not what the Bible teaches. If your old fleshly nature were actually dead, the Bible wouldn’t say in Romans 3: 14, “…. Make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil its lusts.” Then again, if your old nature were dead or eradicated, the Bible wouldn’t say in Galatians 5:17, For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh…”

It would be very nice when we are saved, if God would take away our old nature, but He doesn’t do it. Instead, He gives us a new nature. Peter tells us in 2 Peter: 1: 4 that we are partakers of the divine nature….”

Christians have tried all kinds of religious schemes and joined all kinds of fanatical movements to get rid of their sinful natures. Some have even deluded themselves into believing that their old nature is gone and claim that they don’t sin anymore. This is a lie, for God’s Word says, If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8).”

Yes, we all sin in some way or other and if we say we don’t sin, we make God a liar. God doesn’t want us to sin, but we are all subject to sin and that is the reason for the advocacy of the Lord Jesus Christ. If we weren’t subject to sin, Jesus Christ would just be wasting His time sitting at the right hand of God the Father. We read this in 1 John 2:1, My little children, these things I write to you, that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”


When God saves us He doesn’t guarantee us a perfect life in this world without any failures because we still have the old nature to contend with. All the restlessness, discontentment, and unhappiness which each of us experience comes as a result of this old nature. Listen to what Paul says: For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death (Romans 7:15-24)?” Quite simply the body dominated by sin endures a “living” death.

The intensely personal character of these verses indicate that this was Paul’s own experience as a believer. This is his diagnosis of what happens when one tries to be sanctified by keeping the law. No unsaved man ever delights after the law of God. And furthermore, only a saved person has the inward man, which is the new nature…. So, this shows that Paul was a saved man when he had this experience. Clearly in this wonderful passage of Scripture, Paul tells us that there is a constant warfare going on in the heart and life of every believer. The flesh fights against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.

Now, every honest believer must admit that they have this same experience. How often we fail to accomplish the good we set out to do! In shame we must admit that the evil we don’t really want to do, we find ourselves doing. I am not thinking merely of immortal acts. What about pride, prayerlessness, indifference towards the unsaved, failure to study God’s Word, etc. We struggle to do these things we know we ought to be doing every day of our lives, and the struggle never ceases. Therefore, we have the fight between the old and new natures. Unfortunately, these two natures will continue to be at war with each other as long as we live in this world. This is what the Bible teaches.


Every honest person must admit that the flesh (our old sinful nature) presents us with quite a problem. Now, what are we to do with the flesh? How should we deal with this incorrigible enemy.

There are some who say that we should use self-control and try to curb the desires of the flesh. That is like putting “Jack in the box.” It works fine as long as you can keep “Old Jack” in the box, but at the most embarrassing moment, he is always jumping out with all of his hideousness.

There are others who say that we should try to improve the flesh. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, a well-known preacher in the mid-20th century said, “Think beautiful thoughts, think lovely thoughts, think noble thoughts, and eventually you will be able to bring your mind into subjection to God.” Really? Here is what the Bible says, The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be (Romans 8:7).” This idea that we can improve the flesh and bring it into subjection to God is just not so, because the Bible says “the carnal” mind cannot be subject to the law of God.

As you can see there is no use to try to reform or patch up the flesh, or to try to improve it, or make it better because the flesh cannot be changed. Yes, it may be cultured and refined but it is still flesh. So, the question is “What should we do with the flesh?” We know we have to live with it, but the big question is “How should we deal with it?”

Here’s what the Bible says: Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:11).” Now our old nature is not actually dead, but God says that we are to reckon it as dead – we are to count it as dead. Paul further goes on to say: And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God (Romans 6:13).”

Here you have the secret of victory. The secret of victory lies in yielding to Christ. As long as we live in this mortal body, we are going to have temptations from the flesh, but the Scripture says that we are not to yield our members to sin (the old nature), but we are to yield them to God (the new nature). And this has to be continual, yielding day by day (Luke 9:23).

You can work yourself to death until you’re blue in the face but you’ll never have victory over the flesh (your old carnal nature) until you learn to yield yourself to God. Yield to God daily, hourly, and moment by moment. Send up an SOS of prayer and read your Bible when temptation comes. We can pray at any time or place. We have constant and instant contact with God when we need victory.

Last, but by no means least – we must depend on the power of the Holy Spirit to give us daily victory over the flesh. Notice what the Bible says in relation to the flesh and the Spirit: “…Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lust (desires) of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).” One thing you need to understand is that if you read God’s Word, pay attention to God’s Word, and do what God’s Word tells you to do, you will not walk in the flesh but rather in the Spirit – and your life will be filled with the Spirit and controlled by the Spirit.

This is the way to victory. Yield to the Holy Spirit and never make a move, or never make plans without His leading. Yield everything to the Holy Spirit and you will be victorious, happy, and fruitful.


Leave a Comment

Filed under Oscar Leske / Understanding the Signs of Our Times

Leave a Reply