Fight the Flesh

The true Christian is called to be a soldier, and must behave as such from the day of his conversion to the day of his death. He is not meant to live a life of religious ease, indolence, and security. He must never imagine for a moment that he can sleep and doze along the way to heaven, like one travelling in an easy carriage. If he takes his standard of Christianity from the children of this world, he may be content with such notions; but he will find no countenance for them in the Word of God. If the Bible is the rule of his faith and practice, he will find his course laid down very plainly in this matter. He must “fight.”

With whom is the Christian soldier meant to fight? … The principal fight of the Christian is with the world, the flesh, and the devil. These are his never-dying foes. These are the three chief enemies against whom he must wage war. Unless he gets the victory over these three, all other victories are useless and vain. If he had a nature like an angel, and were not a fallen creature, the warfare would not be so essential. But with a corrupt heart, a busy devil, and an ensnaring world, he must either “fight” or be lost.

He must fight the flesh. Even after conversion he carries within him a nature prone to evil, and a heart weak and unstable as water. That heart will never be free from imperfection in this world, and it is a miserable delusion to expect it. To keep that heart from going astray, the Lord Jesus bids us “watch and pray.” The spirit may be ready, but the flesh is weak. There is need of a daily struggle and a daily wrestling in prayer. “I keep under my body,” cries St. Paul, “and bring it into subjection.”—“I see a law in my members warring against the law of mind, and bringing me into captivity.”—“O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”—“They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”—“Mortify your members which are upon the earth.” (Mark 14:38; 1 Corinthians 9:27; Romans 7:23, 24; Galatians 5:24; Colossians 3:5)

—J. C. Ryle
Holiness (London: William Hunt and Company, 1889), 76–77.


Crucifying the Flesh

And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
Galatians 5:24 (KJV)

By flesh we are here to understand carnal lust, the workings and motions of corrupt nature; and by the affections we are to understand, not the natural, but the inordinate affections; for Christ doth not abolish and destroy, but correct and regulate the affections of those that are in Him.

And by crucifying the flesh, we are not to understand the total extinction or perfect subduing of corrupt nature, but only the deposing of corruption from its regency and dominion in the soul; its dominion is taken away, though its life be prolonged for a season; but yet, as death surely, though slowly, follows crucifixion, (the life of crucified persons gradually departing from them, with their blood) it is just so in the mortification of sin; and therefore what the apostle in this place calls crucifying, he calls in Romans 8:13 mortifying. “If ye, through the Spirit, do mortify,” if ye put to death the deeds of the body. But he chooses, in this place, to call it crucifying, to show not only the conformity there is between the death of Christ and the death of sin—in respect of shame, pain, and lingering slowness—but to denote also the principal means and instruments of mortification, that is the death, or cross of Jesus Christ, in the virtue whereof believers do mortify the corruptions of their flesh.

The great arguments and persuasives to mortification are drawn from the sufferings of Christ for sin. In a word, he doth not say, They that believe Christ was crucified for sin, are Christ’s; but they, and they only, are His, who feel as well as profess the power and efficacy of the sufferings of Christ, in the mortification and subduing of their lusts and sinful affections.

—John Flavel
Adapted from The Whole Works of the Reverend John Flavel, 2:369.

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