How to Live a Life Denying Your Flesh
How to Live a Life Denying Your Flesh
What is Denying the Flesh and How Do We Deny the Flesh
Do you desire to be consistent? Want to prioritize what is truly important in your life? These are key to living a life denying your flesh. Subscribe today to get my free Checklists for a Consistent Morning and Evening Routine that include time in the Word of God and prayer. We will try to answer the questions about denying the flesh through a look at Jesus' life, and what denying the flesh means. Please also read the related posts at the end for a fuller understanding of righteous living, walking according to the Spirit, and not in the flesh, having a pure heart, and how to deny the flesh. How do you teach your children about suffering in life? What and how do you teach your kids about Jesus' death and resurrection?
What do you do to consistently live a challenging life in Christ? What areas in life are you tempted to take the easy way out? Are you denying your flesh in any way on a daily basis? As we are in the weeks leading up to the celebration of Jesus Christ's Resurrection (Easter), I thought it good to think about His sacrifice and what that means related to denying your flesh. But, this is a study that can be done any time of the year!
I hope that these thoughts will help you think deeply on Jesus' sacrifice. How much did Jesus do for you? How much have you been forgiven? Is anything too much to ask of you from Him? May these thoughts lead you to ponder how you can lay your life on the altar for your Lord and surrender to Him more fully. He desires your consistent walk with Him, prioritizing His goals for you.
This topic is so broad with so many side-topics, it’s hard to corral it into one pen of thoughts. One could write a lengthy book on whether, and in what ways, pursuing an easy (or easier) life is detrimental to one’s spiritual progress. Because I cannot write a book here on the subject, I’m going to look at just three points in a discussion of this weighty question (with the understanding that it is only the “tip of the iceberg”):
To Grow Spiritually, and Be a True Disciple, Should You Be Denying Your Flesh?
1) Jesus Christ’s example,
2) Denying the Flesh to Strengthen the Spirit, and
3) Some Scriptures which are helpful.
Denying Your Flesh
1) Jesus Christ’s Example
Reading Luke 2 this morning in our family devotions, I was struck with the extreme conditions of Jesus’ birth: born as a baby and placed in a manger full of straw! Was that really necessary? Why did God choose such an extremely humble birth and life for His Son? God chooses our birth, and He is Sovereign. But, He didn't choose a painless or easy life on earth for His Son.
Jesus’ Whole Life Pointed To The Cross
Jesus’ life was like one long arrow pointing and leading up to His death on the cross for us, in payment for our sins. That’s what it was all about. Saving His people by paying for our sins, and salvation through belief in His death and resurrection. At the end, crucifixion was a shameful and excruciating way to die. From a human, fleshly perspective, from the beginning to the end, Jesus’ life was “challenging,” to say the least. He definitely did not take the easy way out. (Praise God for the Resurrection of Christ!!)
Christ did nothing wrong–-He never sinned. And yet he suffered, he was reviled, he was threatened, and ultimately he was killed. He didn’t look for trouble, but he wasn’t looking for a “cushy” life. He wasn’t asking, “What’s in this for me?” He wasn’t looking for “fun.” We are to "follow in His steps."
Christ is King. The life that we associate with that status is a far cry from what He experienced on earth, yet we, instead of “following His steps” think that we should live like kings, quite often, as children of the King. When I think of Christ’s earthly life, and how much He suffered out of love for me, and how comfortable my life is, it is very convicting.
There are examples in the Bible of Godly people who were very poor, but also many who were very rich! It is not the riches, but the love of money, dependence on wealth, or things, that God seems to condemn. Money can be an idol whether we are rich or poor. Denying our flesh doesn't necessarily relate to wealth. If we search our hearts, and examine our hearts, asking God to show us what sin is there, He will reveal to us where there is repentance--turning back to God from sin--needed. To deny our flesh may be just a willingness to respond to Christ, whatever He leads me to do. Jesus exemplified this best in the Garden of Gethsemane, when He said, "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." (Matthew 26:39)
The Word of God says Jesus “learned obedience through the things which He suffered.” If Jesus had to learn obedience, and suffering was the way God chose for Him to learn it, it should cause us to have a different opinion and attitude towards suffering in our lives. Should we introduce it into our lives and the lives of our children on purpose? this is a controversial topic. My opinion is that saying No to myself in the small daily ways that arise, doing the right and righteous thing when I have a choice between two or more things and the unrighteous thing presents itself, disciplining myself to obey the Word and God's commands, rather than obey what my flesh wants to do--all these things are denying the flesh. I believe, and my experience bears this out, that God will allow suffering enough--I don't need to go looking for it.
2) Denying The Flesh To Strengthen The Spirit
But, yes, we should bring on "suffering" in one sense. “Is she crazy? What’s she talking about? Is she masochistic or sadistic or something? Pretty soon she’ll be telling us to physically beat ourselves to be more spiritual!” No, no, no, hold on! Hear me out!
The Horrible “D” Word
I’m only talking about “discipline.” You know, that horrible D-word which means pain to your body and being, but which makes you a better person? And, your body more physically able to work and to look better? (And when inflicted on your child’s behind, brings about a sweet, happy contented child?) Yes, that D-word.
Hebrews 12 talks a lot about it. It speaks of Jesus, “Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.”
The author of Hebrews continues, “My son, despise not thou the chastening (discipline) of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons: for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?…Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us and we gave them reverence.”
(The writer of Hebrews assumes parents are applying the rod to their children. It's a given. This is Biblical chastisement, and discipline. Assumed to be given from a loving earthly father to his child. We should discipline our children because we love them, and because they need to learn obedience through the things which they suffer! It is assumed that fathers will discipline their children. And this is the basis on which we are to receive discipline from our Loving Heavenly Father! It proves we are His children.)
The purpose of God’s chastening, or disciplining, of us follows: “…he (chastens us) for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.”
But we’re human. And we’re sinful. And then there’s Satan. So, the truth is, our fleshly desires get in the way of our seeing suffering and pain from God’s perspective. Satan tells us that our lot in life is way too difficult already and we certainly aren’t “avoiding” hard things. And there’s no reason to look for ways to make life more difficult, right? But God's perspective may be quite different, if we look at Scripture.
"Why do we assume we must suffer and lift heavier weights to discipline our bodies and make them stronger, but think we should make it easier on ourselves and lead a cushy life to grow stronger spiritually?" Wendy Gunn
What Do You Do When You Want To Get Physically Stronger?
Well…when you want to make your physical body stronger, what do you do? You exercise, right? And more specifically, perhaps you lift weights. You absolutely DO make things more difficult for whichever muscles you want to become stronger! The premise behind weight-training is to place resistance against the muscle, causing it to have to “push back.” That strengthens it. (Not that I am an expert:) However, you do it little by little, carefully protecting the body in order to make it stronger, not to injure yourself. A good analogy.
What Do You Do When You Want To Get Spiritually Stronger?
It’s the same in your spiritual life. Sailing along on a bed of ease doesn’t work any of your spiritual muscles. We grow stronger spiritually when we are pressed with difficulties, overcome obstacles, and travel through times of trial and temptation. The adversities of life are the spiritual weight-training program of the Lord. Any person who’s disciplining their physical body through exercise knows there’s some agony and pain involved. (And any child receiving discipline from a loving parent knows there’s some pain involved.)
“Now no chastening (discipline) for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” v. 11 And if you’re also dieting, you know that you have to deny the flesh what it wants in order to obtain a greater good. Denying the flesh in order to grow in the spirit is a strong theme throughout Scripture. Acceptance of the discipline and chastening imparted is the attitude I seek. Gratitude. Contentment. A meek and gentle spirit.
The apostle Paul describes some of his life’s experiences in 2 Corinthians 4: he lists being troubled, perplexed, persecuted, cast down. Also, 2 Timothy 3:12 states, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”
Why should our life be easy, then? Only because our flesh desires it.
This post was written originally before 2020, and most of us would say we didn't float along on a bed of ease through that year. However, we still have it very easy, here in the United States--no matter how you look at it--compared to so many, especially if we look back in history! My son loves history, and has been quick to remind his dad and I of historical events: plagues, World Wars, national disasters, and so many things in history much worse than what we have suffered in the recent past.
"Sailing along on a bed of ease doesn't work any of your spiritual muscles!" Wendy Gunn
The world, and even certain Christian circles, would tell us this is the best goal: seek to satisfy every desire of the flesh. Aim for a problem-free existence, pamper yourself–You Deserve It! (Self-Care is a Big Topic right now! When defined wrongly, it is the opposite of what the Bible teaches.) If you don’t want to do it–then don’t! If it’s fraught with difficulty, it must mean you’re not supposed to do it. You’ve got enough problems and responsibilities in this life without looking for more–try to eliminate the bumps in life every way you can. Smooth sailing, wind at your back all the way, success at every turn. We are looking at extremes, and I'm saying that those aren't your goal.
It comes down to the flesh vs. the spirit, once again.
We are not to walk in the flesh, fulfilling the appetites of the flesh, but to walk in the Spirit. Romans 8:5-6, 13–“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh, but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death: but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 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.” Please read my two posts, "You Must Heart Change," and "Deep Cleaning Your Heart, Soul, and Mind," for more on these subjects that relate to the heart of the matter, spiritually cleansing, and having a pure heart.
Do you Struggle With Consistency In These Areas of Discipline?
There are some very simple and homely examples from everyday life which are “where the rubber meets the road” for me. Here are discipline issues where I'm tempted to let the flesh get the upper hand. They're not "suffering" but ways that I believe Satan can get a foot in the door, nonetheless. Maybe you can relate.
Do you, like me at times, struggle with consistency in any of these areas? These first examples are the hardest for me to know when I must deny the flesh, and when it is ok, because sometimes it's fine to do these things, and sometimes they're sin! Wisdom and discernment must be exercised. I will not try to tell you what to do, because I believe God wants us each to listen to His Holy Spirit, and let Him lead, and the answer will be different at various times.
Do I get up when my alarm goes off, or fall back asleep for 15 more minutes (maybe hit the snooze button three times)? Do I walk past the cupcakes in the bakery counter, and ignore the cookies and chocolate cake on the buffet table or say, "Oh, it's ok to indulge once in awhile"? Do I put my feet up after a “hard day,” and watch a feel-good chick-flick, when household tasks are crying out to be completed?
Am I willing to risk experiencing the pain of rejection, embarrassment and shame, by boldly sharing the gospel with others who God puts in my path (including those closely related to me)? Perhaps I need to purposely cause some pain to be experienced in order to cause my spiritual muscles to be strengthened?
"The world encourages us to eliminate the bumps in life every and any way we can. Smooth sailing, wind at your back all the way, success at every turn--that's the life. How does that fit in with denying your flesh?" Wendy Gunn
3) Scriptures which help me:
Romans 12:1-2–“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God; which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Proverbs 6:6,10-11–“Go to the ant, thou sluggard: consider her ways, and be wise:…Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that traveleth, and thy want as an armed man.”
1 Peter 2:19-24–“For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth: Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not: but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously: Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”
2 Cor. 4:16-18–“Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For which cause we faint not: but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory: While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal: but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
Proverbs 4:7ff–“Wisdom is the principal thing: therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.”
Matthew 10:38-39–“And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”
May thoughts of Jesus' sacrifice lead you to ponder anew how to live a life denying your flesh and how to lay down your life on the altar for your Lord.
In conclusion, I believe that denying the flesh is not a one time thing, or an act we perform once a year, and feel righteous about. I believe that, like everything in our Christian life, it is a heart issue, and we must seek God to know how to obey Him from the heart. Because we are all uniquely-created by God, denying your flesh will be lived out differently in each life, home, and family.
7 Steps to Denying the Flesh:
- We should look to Christ's example.
- We should study the Scriptures.
- We must obey and walk in His steps.
- We should not flinch or turn away from suffering that He brings or allows.
- We should teach our children about suffering.
- We must faithfully and especially teach our kids about His death and resurrection for our sins, in order that they, too, might be saved, and live for Christ.
- We should pray and ask Him what denying the flesh should look like in our own lives, ask forgiveness where we are not walking in the Spirit, and not impose our standard on others.
As you prepare your heart in this Lenten season leading up to the remembrance of Jesus Christ's death and the celebration of His Resurrection (Easter), may these thoughts of Jesus' sacrifice lead us to ponder "how to live a life denying your flesh" and how Jesus would have us lay down our life on the altar anew for our Lord.
Related Posts For More Thoughts on Denying Your Flesh:
- How to Be Saved through Jesus Christ
- How to Teach Your Kids About Jesus' Death and Resurrection
- Righteous Living Routines
- Deep Cleaning Your Heart, Soul, and Mind
- How to Teach Your Children About Suffering In Life
- How to Be Humbly Grateful For Criticism (I think this might be denying my flesh in a sense, to admit I could be wrong! And, to humble myself to listen to another's point of view. To recognize that I have been wrong, or offended someone, and to ask forgiveness, when needed.)
The first thing to do is subscribe to get your set of Checklists for Consistent Daily Routines.
Some ideas to use as a family to be more consistent in God's Word: Copy Scriptures, and meditate on them. Write out a verse, have your kids copy the verse, and then ask what jumped out from that verse, is there a word or phrase that was especially meaningful? Write a few lines about it. Is there a command, instruction, or encouragement for you to apply? Talk about the verse with your children, and ask them these questions! You'll be amazed at what a difference consistency in God's Word will make in your home and family! God will show you what it means to deny your flesh and live for Christ more and more, by His Word transforming you!
Romans 12:1-2: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
Have a Great Week Making Your Home For God!
I help overwhelmed young Christian moms have clarity and consistency prioritizing God's unique goals for their home, family, and life through courses and coaching.
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Wendy Gunn helps young Christian moms have clarity and consistency prioritizing God's Unique Goals for their home, family, and life through courses and coaching.