Bible Reading: Romans 8
Romans 8:12-13, “So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
Galatians 5:16, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”
As you know, Cookie Monster suffers from a serious cookie addiction. His voracious appetite for cookies is obvious, for he is always thinking about and demanding cookies. Though his favorite variety is chocolate chip cookies, no cookie within his reach is safe. Devouring cookies occupies his thoughts. He can never be satisfied with just one cookie! In his spare time, he peruses cookbooks looking for pictures of cookies and new recipes. He begs cookies from friends and even strangers. Sometimes, under advice from his handlers, he tries to stomach healthy foods like fruits and even eggplant, yet it is cookies he is always longing for. Unbeknown to most, Cookie Monster has tried to defeat his addiction. He tried support and accountability groups to no avail. He tried hypnosis, but that also failed. He heard of a drug which would suppress his appetite, but that didn’t work either. He even joined a religious organization, which forbade eating cookies altogether, yet no amount of external force put a stop to that dreadful longing to eat cookies. Were it not for the fact he is a fictional character, Cookie Monster would suffer from severe obesity.
“But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” It is impossible for the flesh to win the battle when it comes to our fleshly desires. At the heart of Paul’s dramatic plea in Romans 7:24 was the reality that the flesh is not able to do the right thing in the choices we make. That’s the same message we find in Galatians 5:16: “But I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” There is only one thing that can work such that a person “will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” There is no other means or mechanism whereby the desires of the flesh can be subdued. Cookie Monster’s addiction was relatively innocuous, but Galatians 5:19-21 speaks to a host of other works of the flesh which are both debilitating and destructive. How then is it possible to put to death such deadly desires?
Jesus performed miracles and even cast out demons by the power of the Holy Spirit, yet the Pharisees blasphemously ascribed the power behind his works to Beelzebub, the prince of demons. In a part of his response, Jesus argued, “how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man” (Matthew 12:24-29). The point is this—it’s going to take something stronger than the flesh to defeat the flesh in its sinful desires. The Spirit alone can do that! Victory over sin—the putting off of ugly sinful vices that they might be replaced with beautiful Christ-like virtues is a work the Spirit of God alone can do (Galatians 5:16-26). No amount of human devising, determination, or effort can serve as a suitable substitute for that. What is prescribed for us instead is a moment-by-moment walk in which we yield to and depend on the Spirit. Such a walk is characterized by prayerful dependence on the Spirit, and ongoing attentiveness to the Word of God (Colossians 3:16-17)! The Spirit in you is well able to do that which you could never do!
JUST A CLOSER WALK WITH THEE
I am weak but Thou art strong;
Jesus, keep me from all wrong;
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.
Just a closer walk with Thee,
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.
Thro’ this world of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who with me my burden shares?
None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee. [Refrain]
When my feeble life is o’er,
Time for me will be no more;
Guide me gently, safely o’er
To Thy kingdom shore, to Thy shore. [Refrain]