The Pull of the Flesh (part 1)

imageA few weeks ago I posted, Christians Have A New Heart! Old One Gone! That post is about how we Christians receive a new heart upon conversion, upon accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

In other words, we Christians are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and have been reconciled to God beforehand at the cross of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

It was a eureka post with me because I had always believed that all of us Christians were still maintaining a darkened heart – a heart that is evil and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). Instead, our new heart is a teachable one. It has God’s laws written on it (Jeremiah 31:33). Yet, if that is so, why do we Christians still sin? Why do we still struggle with vices and habits that we know are detrimental to us and our relationship with God and our fellowman?

Is it the heart that’s the problem for us Christians? I believe not. Is not the heart where adultery, immoralities, etc. emanate (Matthew 5:19)? Yes, with the unconverted, the non-Christian. But not so with believers, the saints, who make up the church. It is the pull of the flesh that is responsible for sinning.

The apostle Paul struggled with this pull. The book of Romans 7:15-20, states:

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

Habit Developing Brain
The human brain is a complex organ which monitors all of our senses and emotions. It is amazing how marvelously it functions. But, when subjected to highly stimulating situations, it “learns” to want more. And it holds on to what it learned by etching or developing what scientists call, synapses. These synapses are points where electrical signals passes from one nerve cell to another1.


Practicing the piano

Also, do you ever wonder how anyone can play beautiful music on a piano that has several black and white keys? By continual practice they develop “muscle memory” in their fingers which can play a song almost without looking down at them. They can play it without looking at the music score. It is the brain that is very much involved with this piano playing skill.

Sinful habits develop that way. They somehow become ingrained into us and when practiced continue desiring us to sin. It is a pull against what we know we should not do.

When a habit is formed, smoking cigarettes for example, pleasure hormones and synapses develop within the brain to cause desire in the person to continue to smoke at another point in time – even when he wants to quit.

Anyway, as long as we have this brain and this body, we will continue to sin and have this pull of the flesh. The senses – sight, hearing, touching smelling and tasting work together to have us experience the pleasures the body learns and continues to yearn. I realize I may have oversimplified and overstated all this, but my point is that our sinning is largely a function of the flesh and not of the heart.

The Power Of God
I urge Christians now, after understanding some of the mechanisms that encourage us to sin, to take heart (pun, or whatever it is, intended). Many, if not all Christians, often sigh:

The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41).

bible swordThe context of the last verse was said by Jesus Christ during His last hours before His crucifixion. His body was soon to become weakened during imprisonment and ultimately put to death. But His spirit remained strong. He said that it is through watchful prayer that we become strong against temptation. What else can we do to counter the pull of the flesh?

1) Think on whatsoever is pure…. (Philippians 4:8).

2) Put on the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5).

3) Put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18).

4) Rely on the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 6:11-14).

5) Rely on the power of the Word to speak to you and convict your heart to repent, change (Hebrews 4:12).

6) Draw on the grace of God in your moment of need (2 Corinthians 6:1-2).

Our Future Body
Please note that after Jesus Christ returns and we are raised with Him, we will have new bodies that will not become negatively affected by any detrimental habits against ourselves or against our neighbor.  I am sure our new bodies will be similar to the one we have now, and will be capable of doing much more!

There is much I can say about this future body that I may express in a future post.


Jesus and the woman taken in adultery. – Gustave Dore

Do Not Sin Again?
A woman was brought to Christ with the intention of her being condemned by stoning (John 8:1-11). The enemies of Christ wanted to see what Jesus would do in this situation. Christ, however, said, “Woman, your sins are forgiven. Sin no more.”

What?!! Sin no more? Do you think this woman never sinned again from then on? Did she remain sinless for the rest of her life? No. Christ was telling her to discontinue in the particular sin she was particularly practicing. She most likely became one of His disciples and later received the Holy Spirit.

Jesus forgave our sins at the cross but we all still sin. There is sin that easily besets us that should be discontinued (Hebrews 12:1). I believe that it is not only through our efforts that sin, any sin, can be stopped. I believe it takes the power of the Holy Spirit and the development of new habits that will replace our old ways. It will take the mind of Christ in us. And, mostly, it will take a fresh approach as to how we perceive sin.

When we repent of our sin, we should not berate ourselves as perhaps losing our salvation or downplaying ourselves into believing we are no longer the children of God. We must view sin as what it is, something for us to be angry at when we commit it and recognizing that Jesus Christ has already dealt with it on the cross.

This is a new perspective on how to view sin. The more we focus on a sin(s) the more we will struggle with it. It all revolves on depending on Christ helping and giving us strength. It is all about God’s grace, about God’s strength and about our attitude toward sin.

In summary, it is the pull of the flesh that goes contrary to our desire to live perfectly before God. And it is because of this pull of the flesh that “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”

But our hearts are new! We have God’s law written on it! We have God’s Holy Spirit and Christ residing in us. All of this are on our side as we resist the pull of the flesh.

Let us be grateful, thankful and full of praise toward Jesus Christ, who has dealt with our sins when He died on the cross and that there is no longer any condemnation to those who put their hope, their trust and their hearts on Him.

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1.   “Cambridge Dictionaries Online.” Synapse. Web. 02 Feb. 2015.



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