Recently, I preached from Romans 13:14 which says, "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." In my message, I wanted us to consider what "the flesh" is, and how it functions in our lives. As I was thinking about this, I started doodling on my notes—something that helps me think more clearly (I tend to do it in meetings, which sometimes irritates my friends). Anyway, these doodles gave me the idea of sharing a bunch of the cartoons I drew to try and explain the flesh and how it functions in our lives. So, here goes:
1. This is you. Or us, a human made in God's image. Ladies, sorry you have to identify with a little guy. I'm not sure why he doesn't have a shirt.
2. This is the flesh. He's kind of a Jabba the Hut meets WWF wrestler. The Flesh represents the sinful, corrupted desires of our heart. It's not a reference to our bodies—our bodies are created by God and are good. The flesh represents our sinful cravings to live for ourselves and disobey God's laws and commands.
3. Before Jesus saves us, this is how all of us relate to the flesh. The Bible says that we are slaves to our sinful desires. Our flesh is boss. If you're not a Christian, I'm not trying to offend you. I know this isn't a flattering picture of your current condition but it's true of all of us apart from God saving us.
4. This is what happens when we trust in Jesus. Because Jesus died on the cross and conquered sin and rose again, we are freed from the power of sin. It's no longer our boss. See how the chain is broken? And we get clothes, which is really great.
5. But our flesh doesn't disappear. It still hangs around to entice us. After we're Christians, we're no longer slaves to sin, but the flesh can still tempt us. We can choose to give into temptation and indulge the flesh. This is what theologians call "indwelling sin." Jesus broke the power of sin, but we still live with the presence and influence of sinful desires.
6. That's why the Bible is full of encouragement to fight our fleshly desires. We can't live at peace with it. We have to attack it and deny it. (In hindsight, I guess the "sword of the Spirit" would have been a bit more biblical. Oh well.)
7. The problem is that too often Christians make friends with their flesh. In fact they feed their flesh. We give into our sinful desires. We pamper our flesh. We provide it three rounded meals a day with snacks and dessert. We might think that since we've been freed by the cross it's okay to indulge the flesh. But there's a real problem. When we feed the flesh...
8. ...it grows! And before you know it, the flesh is bigger and stronger than you and starts to push you around. That's why Paul is telling us in Romans 13 that we need to...
9. ...starve our flesh!
That's what we want our flesh to look like. We want the flesh gaunt and feeble.
When Paul says "make no provision for the flesh" he's saying don't feed your sinful desires. Don't do things—don't think things, don't watch things, don't meditate on things—;that strengthen your sinful inclinations.
Let's think for a minute about our media diet. I think one of the biggest ways that Christians today feed their flesh is through what we watch on TV, in movies, and online.
We each need to ask the question "Are the things I'm watching feeding my flesh?"
And if the answer is "yes," it doesn't matter what the movie is rated. It doesn't matter if everyone you know watches it. You need to act on what God shows you. Don't feed your flesh. Don't make provision for your sin. Turn away from it.
• Maybe for you the sensual scenes, or even plots, in certain movies or TV shows increase the strength of lust in your heart. Turn it off.
• Maybe violent movies and shows feed anger and a desire in your soul to use violence to get your way. Turn it off.
• Maybe the advertisements and the values you expose yourself to are feeding your cravings for material things or wrong ideas about your body. Stop watching.
• Maybe the things you watch feed your unbelief and fear. One mother I spoke to recently requested prayer because her dreams were filled with demonic images. She was afraid to sleep. When asked her about her television viewing habits, she told me that she often watched TV shows about real-life crime that were very violent. As we talked, she began to see the connection between what she watched and the bad results in her heart.
Friends, what we view in media becomes our meditation. It either feeds our desire for godliness or it feeds our flesh. Which one are you feeding?
If you added up the time you spend reading God's word, praying, listening to sermons or reading Christian books, how would it stack up against time spent watching TV and movies? If you give more of your time to worldly entertainment and pursuits, is there any reason to be surprised that sinful desires are so strong in your life? No. If we're feeding the flesh, it's no mystery that we're not growing in holiness.