Friday, September 9, 2016

Keeping Your Body Under


But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
I Corinthians 9:27

We are made up of three distinct, yet inseparable parts of

body          soul (mind, will, emotions)         spirit.

When we do not know Jesus, the operating principles of our life revolve around our body and feeding the desires of our flesh. It is not that the body is in any way evil, it simply has fleshly needs that it wants met. The body wants as much pleasure possible with the least amount of pain. Discipline is when the mind and will step in and tell the body “No!” or pushes us to do things that are beneficial for us longer term, over the short term. 

The process of personal growth is to learn to put body and soul in harmony to achieve those things that are beneficial in life. If we allow our body to rule our minds we may sit around, gain weight, and feed all of our senses and appetites without regard to the long term destruction of such behavior. It is only a maturing mind that can step in and tell the body, “No, you can’t do this, or eat that right now.” The body obeys because it has no will of its own. Only the soul makes choices, and the body goes along with the choice, all the while it may be telling the mind it is not happy about it. If the flesh gives enough negative signals, the undisciplined mind will relent and cave in, and the flesh wins, but the person loses.

What sets the human apart from other animals is that we can choose to do the right thing no matter what our circumstances, feelings or desires. The body develops bad habits that it enjoys because it always seeks pleasure. Payback and hurting someone who you think has hurt you can result in a strong fleshly feeling of self-gratification. “That will teach him,” or “Boy, did she deserve that!” “I hurt so I want others to hurt,” has a pleasure behind it that most don’t realize they are even feeling. The flesh is controlling the mind and will and our own stated values get left behind.

When one violates their values they end up in a box of denial, no longer wanting to see reality about themselves, and instead preferring to live out the lies they believe. The fleshly mind covers up its failures by creating self-justifications for why it allows the body to consistently do and say things that it knows are wrong or undisciplined. Worst of all is when the undisciplined mind gives up on its own values and says, “You just need to accept me the way I am. I will never be perfect!”

In a marriage, the lies often revolve around justifications for feeling hurt, and staying hurt. As soon as a fleshly spouse feels hurt, real or perceived, they go into protection mode or attack mode to protect them. In this box, we have no hope of seeing reality clearly, nor do we care much about reality. What is most important is showing that we are right and he/she is wrong. As we do so we demand apologies and punish with our body language and words, because it makes our flesh feel better.

So where does Jesus come into this saga? What if the person is a Christian?

The good news for the Christian is that once we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, His Spirit unites with our Spirit and we become one with Him. The initial stages of this looks much the same as the baby Christian begins to grow up into Christ Jesus:

body         soul (mind, will, emotions)         Spirit

Notice that the little s in spirit now is a big S representing the Holy Spirit who now lives inside of us. We still must contend with the flesh sending the mind signals that it wants to be continuously pleased, but now our mind has help by getting input from our Spirit telling us that we need to be discerning of our fleshly desires and pleasures. Romans 7 is the perfect example of what it looks like for a Christian who is getting constant signals from a flesh that cannot please God, and from the Spirit of God Himself directing the believer into the truth.

“For I delight in the law of God after the Spirit: But I see another law in my flesh, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my body.  O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin."
Romans 7:21-25

The Biblical facts are that once a person accepts Jesus as Savior they are to move forward with the help of the Spirit of God, who now is inextricably linked with their spirit, to serve Jesus as Lord. We now have a whole new set of operating instructions that has been given to our mind, not to seek after the flesh, but the things of the Spirit. God says that His Spirit is to win all of the time, not sometimes, not part time, but we are to be always focused on God’s Word. We are to please our Lord and Savior over pleasing our flesh. God’s Word makes it clear about this:

“But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”
Romans 8:9-10

Oswald Chambers writes:
“Every Christian can have his body under absolute control for God. God has given us the responsibility to rule over all “the temple of the Holy Spirit,” including our thoughts and desires {1 Corinthians 6:19}. We are responsible for these, and we must never give way to improper ones. But most of us are much more severe in our judgment of others than we are in judging ourselves. We make excuses for things in ourselves, while we condemn things in the lives of others simply because we are not naturally inclined to do them.”

So what does this look like for a Believer?  The body is to be kept under the Spirit and mind that is set upon God’s ways and God’s Word:


Renewed Mind


We are repeatedly told to walk in the new Spirit who lives inside of us and to allow our minds to operate according to God’s Word and promises. This means allowing the Spirit, united with our spirit, to rule our minds, and our body. Paul makes it clear that he “keeps his body under.” This means he disciplines his body and makes it his slave so that he can serve the Lord Jesus without disqualification. Our mind is to be set on the Spirit and eternal things, not the worldly pleasures that the body seeks.

Tell me, believer, are you currently feeling disqualified? Do you find your body is under the control of a mind that is focused on God’s Word or do you chase after your fleshly desires freely feeding it with the things of the world and its worldly pleasures? Do you find yourself regularly serving Jesus as Lord, or must you go regularly back to the cross and beg forgiveness for sins that you should have grown out of long ago? Just as personal growth is getting the mind to discipline the body and seek higher values; spiritual growth is getting the mind to follow the Spirit who lives inside of us.

No one is advocating any perfect Christians here, but what we are saying is that we can never glorify God in the way God designed us to be as saints until we put our body and flesh under the Spirit of God and His rulership. We are called to walk in newness of life which looks like the things God says is true in His Word.

Self-betrayal of one’s values takes an awful toll on any person, but it has devastating consequences on a believer who betrays his own values given in God’s Word. My heart is saddened when we work with couples where one or both spouses is regularly acting like a non-christian towards the other,  yet they go to church together, and may read their Bible and pray. These believers are following the flesh, all the while believing that somehow God will bless them because “grace abounds.”

Please, believer, learn to walk in the Spirit and what you believe in. If Jesus says we are to love our enemies and treat all with kindness, why would any Christian mistreat their spouse? Put your body, your bad words, ugly moods and bad behaviors at the foot of the cross, and stop quenching the Spirit of God inside of you. Too many Christians do not realize that they are under the chastisement of the Lord. If the Christian will not discipline himself, God will do it, as He promises to grow us up into Christ. Put Jesus on the throne of your life by allowing His Spirit to rule you according to His Word, and then watch and see His promises come true in your life and marriage.

The Christian was never intended to take this journey of spiritual growth alone. God gave us His Spirit and fellow believers, especially our Christian spouse, to help us keep our body under the control and discipline of the Spirit. Our spouse can help us with reminders and disciplines in a way that we cannot do ourselves. Ask your spouse to help hold you accountable for all areas where your body and flesh rule over the Spirit and the Word of God. Set up strict disciplines as the apostle Paul admonishes us to buffet and beat the body into submission. Did Paul do this literally or figuratively we do not know, nor is it important, so long as we too make such a strong commitment to keep our body under and make it body our slave, instead of being slaves to fleshly things.

Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Ephesians 4:22-23