So just what exactly do you think Paul meant in Romans 13:11-14 when he said: “make no provision for the desires of the flesh.” I am pretty sure he meant; No—None—Nix–Nil—Naught—Nothing–Not one iota–Zero—Zilch—Zip—Zippo. Is that even possible? Read more and find out.
Assuming that I have adequately restated Paul’s position and we are not to make any provisions for the flesh, then we need to get to the heart of what he means by “the flesh.” Just what are those desires of the flesh?
Our spirituality is all about preserving our soul, right? Our flesh is bad, isn’t it? Essentially our mortal body just weighs down and entombs our spirit. The focus of our eternal life and union with God is all about resisting and rescuing our soul from the prison of our body. So Paul is telling us that any of our human desires are bad and they need to be snuffed out and eliminated. Is that it?
Not so fast! Many heretical movements over the centuries like Gnosticism and others painted the body and its desires as all bad. This is not the theology that we as Christians and followers of Jesus Christ adhere to.
We believe that both our body and our soul are masterpieces of God. We believe in the resurrection and immortality of the body and the soul. The desires of the body for things like food, water, rest, and even sex are not in and of themselves bad. If however, these desires become like “gods” and consume our thoughts and actions then these desires of the flesh can lead us away from our Heavenly Father and they need to be snuffed out and eliminated. This is what Paul is warning us about.
We get some further clues from Paul when we read: “Let us then throw off the works of darkness.” After all Paul was writing to the people of Rome. Rome at that time was a perverted place when the sun went down. Ancient Rome was a place of nonstop prostitution, child-sex and orgies. It was a place also of fierce rivalries and jealousy.
Then along comes Paul with this message to those Romans, “put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy.”
In Galatians 5:19-21 Paul expounds further on the works of the flesh. Here he wrote: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.”
In other passages of Paul’s writing such as Romans 1: 29-31, he goes into even further detail about the desires and misuses of the flesh. Basically Paul uses the word “flesh” as a form of literary encryption representing all of the sins of our humanly desire. Pride, that sin that underlies all other sins, works to convince us that we can use our bodily gifts from God for things other than what God intended. We often begin to see everything and everyone as a source of pleasure, power or control. This is what Paul was guarding us from.
Finally, Paul said to put on the “armor of light”. Jesus is that armor. As human beings we are too weak to resist our fleshly temptations. We wallow in the darkness of our desires. What are your fleshly desires? Are they greed, envy, rivalry, ruthlessness, drunkenness, lustfulness, pornography, adultery, gossip, or idolatry towards earthly things? Are you consumed by the desire for more money, stored treasures, power or recognition? Are you all about self-gratification or the exploitation of others?
Paul exhorted the people of his time and he exhorts us to make a radical change in life. He calls us to completely abandon these evil distortions of God’s gifts to us and to be filled instead with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit instills in us the desire to live a virtuous life. It is only when we submit to GOD and not our “fleshly passions” that we can find the strength to live the true life of a Disciple of Christ.
The season of Advent has just begun. We are in a time of preparation. Paul tells us that it is the hour now for us to awake from sleep. We must put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.
Maybe we could all make a list of the struggles of the flesh that grab our attention and most frequently trip us up. Then perhaps we can examine these issues further to see what provisions we make in our lives that leave the door open for us to easily fail in our attempt to follow our Lord’s call.
What’s on that list of things that you do in the darkness? What are those things in your life that you mask over so that others won’t see your short comings? Be vulnerable. Bring these struggles to the light. If you are making even the smallest provisions to accommodate these areas of sinfulness in your life, STOP!
Paul really did mean it when he said to make no provisions for these fleshly desires, and when he said it, no meant no!
Dear Heavenly Father thank you for all of the gifts that you have given me. I have all too frequently succumbed to fleshly desires. During this Advent Season as I prepare for the celebration of your Son’s birth, make me ever more mindful of any provisions in my life that make it easier to stumble and fall and give me the strength to root them out of my life forever. Amen!
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