We are continuing in our spiritual warfare series, Spiritual Soldier. I have designed each of these training posts to help you grow in your faith, understand the battlefield and the strategies of the players, and give you tactics to become successful in spiritual warfare.
Today I want to introduce 12 ways to fight the flesh, temptation, and sin. Some people do not consider these spiritual battles but if you have ever tried to conquer these three foes with your own willpower you realize quickly that they are spiritual battles. We must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to be victorious in these continuing battles.
Strategies against the Flesh
By “Flesh” I’m not referring to your skin but to the former desires you had before you met Jesus. It would be great if they just went away, but they stick around. We must choose to be dead to them and here are some strategies on how to accomplish that goal.
Before I give you these strategies out of God’s Word realize that these battles with the flesh will continue to surface. But just because you will face these battles does not mean you cannot experience victory over them by the power of the Holy Spirit in Christ.
The only way you lose battles to the flesh is by giving in to them and giving up. Old friends will call up and want you to go out and do what you did before you met Jesus. You will encounter things from your past and former desires will raise their ugly heads. So what do you do?
First, crucify the flesh with its desires (Galatians 5:24). While talking about walking by the Spirit he speaks of the war between the flesh and the Spirit. They are contrary to one another.
So we choose with each action whether to follow the Spirit or the flesh. Paul introduces 16 works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19). These are the dark things we did before we met Jesus and he cleansed us from our unrighteousness. We must not return to these things again.
To return to the works of the flesh in any form challenges the Spirit’s work in our hearts. The devil and his demons want us to return to the vomit of our former lives. He wants to prove that Jesus’ power is not strong enough to overcome what we used to be.
Instead, the spiritual battle comes through allowing the Holy Spirit to cultivate his fruit in us. He challenges us to build godly character that glorifies Jesus. The works of the flesh bring death. But the fruit of the Spirit brings life in us. Paul introduces nine characteristics of the Spirit’s resulting work in our hearts and lives (Galatians 5:22-23).
Those who practice the fruit of the Spirit have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Spiritual warfare against the flesh continues to remind you that Paul speaks in the past tense. You “have crucified” your flesh once and for all.
Things you have killed stay dead. So the spiritual battle has already been won. But you must constantly remind your spirit and heart that these desires are gone in you. That is the battle every time they want to knock on your door. Jesus raises the dead. But our desires stay dead.
Next, take up your cross daily and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23-27). If we want to call ourselves disciples, we must deny ourselves, our former desires, and follow Jesus. To follow Jesus is to do what he teaches instead of what we want to do.
Jesus’ teachings and commands go against human nature. He calls us to be what He wants us to be rather than what we used to be. Our spiritual battle is to deny ourselves, our desires, and our own agendas for His.
Jesus changes our desires to be for Him and to do what advances His Kingdom. We seek the Lord instead of our desires. Jesus stresses that this is a daily decision. With our actions and words we show whether we follow Him or have returned to our desires.
When we turn to our resources instead of to Jesus in prayer or are too ashamed of Jesus to share with others we are falling back on our old ways. It is a daily spiritual battle to abide in Jesus and follow Him.
We must be disciplined in Jesus (Hebrews 12:3-13). The writer of Hebrews encourages us that discipline hurts at the time but helps us in the long run (Hebrews 12:11). So discipline is not easy but it is one of the best weapons against the flesh. Let us strive to be disciplined in the Lord. The Holy Spirit will help us with discipline.
A final battle tactic to fight the flesh is to live out your identity in Christ. I will talk about identity in Christ in more detail in my next training. But when we understand with our minds what it means to be identified with Jesus our fight with our flesh becomes easier.
Jesus has changed us completely so that our fleshly desires from the past are no longer our focus. He gives us new desires that focus on Him instead of the world. We can’t just understand who we are in Christ. We have to live as the people He has made us to be.
When we live out our identity in Christ we storm the gates of Hell and take back territory from the enemy. We experience spiritual victory because we become the people Jesus is making us to be. We glorify God as we serve Jesus with excellence.
Strategies against Temptation
Temptation is one of the biggest problems for many Christians. We have such a hard time warring against temptations that seem to pop up everywhere. We must face two types of temptation.
The first type of temptation is something we can plan for. It doesn’t happen every day and when we are tempted we know it is one of our weak spots. It comes directly from our former passions. We see the game Satan plays with us.
The other type of temptation surprises us. It seems to pop up out of nowhere and we didn’t have a plan going in. It grabs our attention and demands we deal with it on the spot. We have a few tactics to use against surprise temptation.
When we are tempted by former passions we are not surprised. The things that tripped us up before we met Jesus will continue to bother us. So how do we deal with these types of temptation? We must have a battle plan before they happen.
Find scriptures that deal with that desire and temptation. Memorize them so you will have ammunition when these temptations happen. Paul tells us God provides a way of escape from temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). So when we know the Scriptures to speak to the temptation as Jesus did against Satan (Matthew 4:1-11) and have a plan on how to avoid it or address it we can be victorious.
Another approach to these temptations from former passions is to ask a fellow Christian to become our accountability partner. When these desires are exposed to the light they lose their power over us. You cannot fight these temptations with willpower or by keeping them hidden. If you think you are controlling it, it is controlling you.
To find great qualities in an accountability partner, choose a Christian of the same gender who cares about you and wants to see you destroyed temptations in your life. Find a Christian who is further along in Christian maturity than you. Meet regularly, perhaps once a week, and be honest with your answers to the questions. Pray together for your success against temptation.
For the second kind of temptation, the ones that surprise you without warning, my mentor gave excellent advice to me when I was a teenager. God gave us two weapons against surprise temptations. The first is your neck and the second is your eyelids. Close your eyes and turn your head away from the surprise temptation.
Second, realize your temptations stem from your former desires. Before you met Jesus you enjoyed doing sinful things, or things that led to sin. But you know that sin leads to death. Refer to the first part of this training to deal with former desires.
Third, don’t blame God. James provides excellent counsel for dealing with temptation (James 1:13-18). He tells us not to blame God for our temptations because they come from us, from the evil desires we used to have.
He tells us that God is not tempted by evil. It cannot manipulate Him in any way. Also, God does not challenge us with temptation. The Holy Spirit does not send temptations our way. Those come from our desires, the world, and evil spiritual forces. God is always on our side.
Finally, a fourth tactic is to thank God for all of his good gifts. James continues to tell us that God does not send temptation, rather He brings good gifts our way from heaven (James 1:17-18).
All good gifts come from God. Chief among his good gifts is salvation through hearing His Word. And that’s just the beginning of the good gifts He sends our way. Trust that God is sending you good gifts as you fight the spiritual battles surrounding temptation.
Strategies against Sin
Many Christians continue to fight battles against sin. One of my friends in Bible College asked me if I loved Jesus as much as I hated sin. Sometimes we forget that the best way to deal with sin is to focus more on Jesus.
The battle against sin is a spiritual battle. But it was won by Jesus on the Cross of Calvary. Because He is sinless, He didn’t have to die. Only sin can kill you. Jesus gives eternal life because He never sinned. Understanding that sin leads to death is a tactic that helps you to trust in Jesus and stop sinning.
Practice being dead to sin and alive in Christ (Romans 6:1-4; Ephesians 2:1-4). This second tactic against sin is part of being who you are in Christ. My favorite image of being dead to sin is a hunter who shoots a deer and pokes it. The deer doesn’t move.
In the same way, we are dead to sin as Christians. Jesus has taken away our sin and forgiven us. When sin knocks on your door you are not home. When temptation comes looking for you it finds no response to its wares.
Third, practice the tactic of acting against the world system. God’s high standards are your aim. You don’t mix God’s standards with worldly standards. If the world tells you to do something contrary to God’s commands you must obey God (Acts 5:20; Galatians 1:10).
A final effective battlefield tactic against sin is evaluating yourself regularly. Look at what you have done this week. Look at your thoughts and words. Have you honored Christ? Does the Holy Spirit convict you of anything? If so, confess your sins because Jesus is faithful and just (1 John 1:9). He forgives and you continue walking with Him. You can conquer sin with these tactics.
There’s a lot here in these 12 tactics against the flesh, temptation, and sin. You can win the war against all of these enemies of your soul. Walk with Jesus and these will never be able to touch you. Walk in victory!
Don’t give any quarter to any of these foes. Don’t think that you are beating them on your own. Don’t let them master you. Can you think of any other tactics against these three enemies that bring victory to believers? Comment and let me know how you wage war against them.
In our next battlefield training we focus on how understanding and practicing our identity in Christ brings victory in the spiritual realm. Join me to find out what our identity in Christ says about us and how it brings spiritual victory.