“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” – Matthew 16:24
A man once told my dad that he believed Christians are just weak minded people falling for a silly scam. So my dad challenged him. “If you really believe that Christians are weak then I challenge you to live as a Christian and obey the bible for one month. If they are weak in mind, as you say, and you are not then you should be able to do this with ease.” Within a few days the man had given up the challenge and admitted that it was too difficult. In other words, “he was not strong enough”. You see it takes great strength of mind and spirit to choose to take up your cross daily and follow Jesus, but the more you do, the more He does it through you and the easier it gets.
Young Christian’s often struggle with their flesh, fighting to do what’s right, obey and trust God, avoid temptations, maintain temperance, and walk in the fruits of the spirit. I am often asked how to lessen this struggle and begin to take control over the flesh and bring it into submission. My answer is simple but effective. Kill it.
“For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” – Romans 8:13-14
The word mortify means to kill or to make dead. Galatians chapter 5 list out the fruits, or characteristics, of those who act upon the flesh, and the fruits of those that walk in the spirit. We can not walk in both, we are either being ruled by our flesh (the sin nature), or we are being ruled by our spirit (the God nature). So how then do we mortify the flesh? We crucify it.
“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” – Galatians 5:24-25
Though death is assured in a crucifixion it is rarely instant. It’s a constant barrage of assaults that the body does not like, until it finally gives up. So how does this apply? It’s simple. If you are being ruled by your flesh (carnal wants and desires that oppose the will and word of God) you have to kill it, but it won’t usually die instantly or easily.
The best way to crucify the flesh is simply to starve it out. If you starve the flesh while feeding the spirit, the spirit will begin to overpower the flesh. This is the essence and power of fasting, you are literally starving the flash while feeding the spirit with prayer, Word, submission, humility, and obedience. You are training your spirit to tell the flesh, “no”. However this does not only apply to food, but rather the food is merely an archetype, a training for the real application. In actuality, to obtain great spiritual strength this principal and practice needs to be applied to every aspect of fleshly desires. Sexual immoralities, idolatries, distractions and entertainment, emotions, and temperance. In every area of fleshy desire that we find ourselves struggling in we need to decide to have a fasting mentality. If the flesh is strong and the spirit is weak then you need to declare a fast of that thing that your flesh wants. To force the flesh into submission, you must deprive it of power. That means you must deprive it from getting what it wants. To train the flesh to yield it’s will and wants to the Spirit, you must consciously make an effort to force it to obey when it does not want to, you have to tell it “no”. When you deny your flesh what it wants while giving your spirit what it needs, you feed and strengthen the spirit while you starve and weaken the flesh until eventually the flesh and the desires of it die and you are able to walk fully in the spirit.
“But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” – 1 Corinthians 9:27
I must point out that you can not fight the flesh with flesh so don’t try. You must strengthen your spirit, feeding it on the Word of God, worship, and time in His presence. The more of God you consume the more His Spirit in you will be grown and strengthened, and that (in conjunction with a deliberate weakening of your flesh through intentionally depriving it of power) will give the Spirit rule in your heart and life.
“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” – Galatians 5:16