Taking charge of fleshly desires

disciplineThe following is an excellent, but brief exposition from Paul Chasteen which was published in Charisma. Discipline, control, restraint and restriction of the desires of the flesh should be at the top of the church’s teachings, but they’re not.  Perhaps the explosion of sexual immorality  so common among  Christians can be attributed to this failure to consistently teach and instruct on this important aspect of our holiness.

Do contemporary Christians think that Jesus did not have to discipline his flesh? If he had not, as Chasteen points out he would have disqualified himself from the cross.  Our failure to discipline our bodies to avoid sexual sin prevents us from truly experiencing God and sharing the fullness of God to a dying world.

What’s up with Paul and the struggle with his flesh? Shouldn’t this spiritual giant have been beyond such a struggle? Why would he need to take drastic measures to control his body?

As Christians we are called to discipline our bodies. By “discipline” I mean to take charge of urges motivated by the flesh. Whether we like it or not, the Word is clear that we are to control our fleshly desires.
So why does Paul make such an extreme statement? Mainly because he knows our bodies are not yet redeemed and that they have the potential to impede our spiritual progress.
In verse 27, when referring to the discipline of his own body, Paul uses a strong Greek word to get his point across. The word hupopeadzo conveys the idea of handling roughly or forcing into submission. This was Paul’s attitude toward his flesh.
Romans 8:9-10 tells us that because of sin our bodies are dead. The verses are not referring to physical death but rather to the fact that our bodies are not alive to God, that they do not want to participate in spiritual matters.
For instance, the physical body has no desire to pray or worship. It is dead, so to speak, to the things of God and must be made to cooperate.
As a matter of fact, Paul goes on to explain that our bodies are somewhat unspiritual. Not in the sense that the human body is unprofitable or bad, but rather in the sense that the principle of sin operates through the unredeemed physical body, thus making it not spiritual.
Sin working through the body also can easily sidetrack our spiritual progress. Romans 6:12-13 says: “Do not let sin control the way you live. … Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin.”
If left undisciplined, the body will become an instrument through which sin can dominate.
Paul clearly understood the need to discipline his body, and he took drastic measures to ensure that he kept it in check.  If this great man of God needed to discipline his body, we certainly need to bring ours into subjection—especially since failure to do so can lead to disqualification.

Self control is a fruit of the Spirit equal in importance to love, joy and peace. Its also important to note that discipline without spiritual renewal is nothing more than a form of  asceticism. Anyone can learn to practice self denial (buddhist monks come to mind) but it must be done only under the influence of the Holy Spirit, thus accomplishing the greater goals of holiness.

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18 thoughts on “Taking charge of fleshly desires

  1. Great post Pastor DL!

    This makes me think of the passage of Prop 8 and how 70% of us blacks supported it. That high percentage was somehow attributed to the high number of blacks who are church goers and are taught that homosexuality is wrong.

    But what a lack of discipline because we also have over 60% of children born out of wedlock and a high percantage of children living in homes without their fathers – married or unmarried, high percentage of STD’s and that list that shows sexual promiscuity goes on and on!

    To me it’s just telling that we may have knowledge of sin but without the discipline to control the sinful desires it means nothing! Just imagine the 70% who stand against homosexuality and if they had possessed the discipline to have their own sexual lives in order. Disciplined lives would show a lower percentage of broken homes, out of wedlock babies and etc.

    A very thought provoking article!

  2. Pastor Foster,
    I have been discipled under saints that watch over men’s souls. And if you step out of line, the HOLY GHOST will quicken them and these men and women of GOD will be on your case. They will call you, check on you, visit you, and worse case, if you do not repent…they will pray to GOD on your behalf. It really really is a form of parenting/shepherding. I really think Paul address this. Now I know a lot of people do not like the term spiritual father or mother. But this an necessary aspect of ministry that GOD requires of shepherds and leaders that is called watching over men’s souls. I truly believe this type of ministry is not being used today because of so much leaven in the households of faith. I learned, that you have to be accountable to somebody and every minister/christian needs someone that will show no respect of persons and rebuke them back in line.
    Watching men’s souls is one of the ways that the Church is suppose to use to bring the flesh under subjection. A person can’t do it by themselves. Yes, one may be filled with the Spirit, but christians need the fellowship to draw strength one from another especially when it comes to learning how to take charge of fleshly desires. Because I learned from a lot of old timers, GOD’s Spirit does not strive with man always, Genesis 6:3.

  3. That’s a very interesting statement Bix. I was dissapointed you didnt venture to explain why some in the gcm would agree with the post and in what context.

  4. sorry to disappoint. my time in this type of venue is very limited and i don’t mean to come across as rude.

    Does it really seem that much of a stretch that people with differing views of how certain Bible passages refer to homosexuality (or not) would still agree on the value of struggling with the flesh?

    Do you not think that those remaining chaste until they’re ready to make a lifetime commitment to a same-sex partner aren’t struggling with the flesh?

    On a related subject, I think the gcmwatch rhetorical question (from an entry about Peter Gomes) “What IS a celibate gay christian anyway?” shows a direspect for those [I’m not including Gomes in this reference] whose views about homosexual activity itself may be pretty much in line with the gcmwatch view while their views about homosexual orientation might differ. These are people who are willing to commit to a lifelong struggle with the flesh, and whose convictions are respected within the GCM circles I’m aware of. I’m sorry they’re not respected here.

  5. Bix as to your first question, I would wholeheartedly agree.

    The second one, the logic is errant because a Christian cannot resolve the issues of life with sinful conclusion (a same sex relationship).

    God has already provided the solutions, so why not follow his directions as opposed to creating our own?

    Finally, my ONLY contention with someone who say “struggles with the flesh” in reference to same sex attractions would be their continued choice to identify primarily with a label which is glaringly unbiblical.

    Thats not an issue of respect but rather conformance to the image of Christ.

    Thanks for your time no matter how brief.

  6. For many “gay christians”, their identification as such isn’t intended to be of “primary” focus as you seem to assume, but simply an honest assessment of where their attractions lie and a content awareness that they won’t be changing. I don’t see any basis for judging that to not be conforming to Christ’s image.

    (In some cases, I imagine they may have a “for lack of a better term” attitude about it.)

    GCMW: there is no need for a lack of better term. All who are accept Christ’s lordship are called saints and holy. Why does one who claims to accept Christ’s lordship choose the term “gay”? We are called to work out our issues under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, so they are no different than any other who “struggles”. They may call it an honest assessment of the sexual attractions, but it does not honor Christ, thus does not conform or isnt conforming to his image. Any are welcome to state their case here if they desire.

  7. so it’s the *term* “gay” that you object to, regardless of what is meant? Fine. Putting that aside, do you consider it to be a sign of lack of transformation (a better term than conformation, I’m sure you’ll agree) if someone has reached a place of content awareness that their sexual attractions won’t change? Or are you insistent that that wouldn’t be working out their issues under the guidance of the Holy Spirit? And at this point, let’s assume wer’e taking about someone committed to remaining celibate (and pure in thought) despite their attractions.

  8. Putting that aside, do you consider it to be a sign of lack of transformation (a better term than conformation, I’m sure you’ll agree) if someone has reached a place of content awareness that their sexual attractions won’t change?

    Your wording has little root in God’s Word. That’s evident because this even though Im sure youre aware this is not an APA forum, you are arguing psychology and such arguements please people not God.

    God demands we live according to his terms, not ours. Gay christians want to live on their terms while attaching his name to their mess.

    So you speak of reaching a place of “content awareness”. When will they reach a place of awareness to what God requires? When will they reach a place of awareness of what is holy and acceptable to God? Or is it because they want what their flesh desire SO MUCH, they could care less about what God requires. I could respect someone’s decision if they just were either hot or cold instead of playing a disgusting lukewarm game of faith.
    Jesus said with God all things are possible. He didnt say all things –except your sexual attractions— is possible. Why are they selling God short? I mean is he really that impotent to them?

    Or are you insistent that that wouldn’t be working out their issues under the guidance of the Holy Spirit? And at this point, let’s assume wer’e taking about someone committed to remaining celibate (and pure in thought) despite their attractions.

    Celibacy isnt freedom. Its a choice a person makes but its not freedom (John 10:10). My message to them: you can be free to live an abundant life in Christ. But you cant concoct your own way and spray paint his name on it.

    These people sound defeated. Like they have lost hope and are now rolling the dice to get whatever is left. Where is the victory Christ promised to give us? Thanks be unto God who always causes us to triumph in Christ Jesus.2 Cor 2:14

  9. I’m not seeing a biblical basis for insistence that an abundant and victorious life in Christ, and would necessarily exclude what could be considered imposed celibacy.

    2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (New American Standard Bible)

    Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness ” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

    With due respect, I’ll paraphrase your words: “[This person] sound[s] defeated. Like [he has] lost hope and [is] now rolling the dice to get whatever is left [how ironic we’re just talking about grace]. Where is the victory Christ promised to give [him]?”

  10. I was anticipating a defense of what seems to be your position that there’s a biblical basis for insistence that an abundant and victorious life in Christ would necessarily exclude what could be considered imposed celibacy (or did I misread your position?).

  11. Im sorry Bix, I thought that I had already made that fairly clear in my last comment. Howvever, here’s a bit more.

    I myself early on in my life after homosexuality resigned myself to “the fact” that since I didnt/couldnt/shouldnt be with men sexually, and that I wasnt attracted to women, then my only option was to be celibate for the rest of my life. I wasnt happy with that option, but I felt it was the only one I could live by.

    That was MY thinking. But God has greater plans for me and a awesome life that my limited and defeatist thinking could not quite imagine at the time. Had I settled for my thinking and not give God the room to show me much more —and accept it—, I probably would not have the rich life I now live with my wife of 16 years and my four children. As a matter of fact, I KNOW I wouldnt.

    Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Eph 3:20

  12. In 2 Corinthians 12 vs 8- 12, the Apostle Paul was not at the end of his rope. Some people say that the thorn in the flesh was homosexuality….Paul didn’t say it was or it wasn’t, but …
    1. in verse 7, he tells us why the thorn in the flesh was given unto him ( to prevent him from being exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations that was given to him)

    2. he clearly identifies the thorn to be a messenger of Satan sent to buffett him. (not buffett as in food, but buffett as in getting a royal whupping type of thing)

    So if the thorn was indeed homosexuality, it goes in hand in hand that homosexuality like every other sin is of the devil.

  13. As I understood the Scriptures shared, they pointed out that we can count on abundance, freedom, and victory thru Christ. I would totally agree with that.

    However, at the risk of being redundant, I still don’t see the case was made that there’s a scriptural basis for insistence that an abundant, free, and victorious life in Christ would necessarily exclude what could be considered by some to be imposed celibacy.

    Based on your testimony gcmwatch, the desires of your heart were transformed and provided for in new unexpected ways, and I’m not looking to negate that.

    But for you to basically negate the testimony of content celibate “gay” brothers and sisters in the Lord (that you don’t even know) with such comments as “These people sound defeated…”, is akin to someone who may’ve had their “thorn in the flesh” (assuming we were to know what that was, and it wasn’t my intent to try to speculate on that) removed negating Paul’s testimony of God’s grace being sufficient.

    GCMW: We’re talking possibilities, here. You know..yes we can? But, if you dont see the “case” then I’ll rest mine.

  14. I’ll rest mine as well.

    It was never my intent to imply that it’s not possible for God to change one’s attractions. But I would definately say that He’s not obliged to, just as He wasn’t obliged to remove Paul’s “thorn…”

    Blessings

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