Romans 8:13 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. —KJV
This is not a popular topic these days, which makes it all the more important to talk about. It has become a giant elephant in the collective room of the civilized world. Everywhere you look, you hear people talking in one sentence about their faith, and in the next, about doing things that are obviously contrary to the will of God.
No one seems to blink when this happens. It has become an acceptable way of practicing the Christian faith to many. God has become a mere object of sentiment. A Being that exists in minds to bring comfort, and rescue when life gets tough. There is a romantic idea of Someone who makes no demands, and gives lavishly.
This is a false gospel. It is delusional thinking, and I think more people need to stand up and say so.
‘The Gospel’ means good news. So let’s bring into question whether a soft gospel really is good news. In our natural condition, which Christians call ‘the flesh,’ we have a heart that is desperately wicked. It is bent toward darkness, death, and enmity toward God. Without any restraints those things are its natural end.
Most people are born with external restraints already in place. Parents, teachers, religious leaders, and government officials. But this is not enough. This ugly, festering, rotten thing which is our sin nature still boils to the surface in terrible ways.
This is why we are commanded to mortify the deeds of the body, and why it is part of the good news which is the Gospel. It happens by repenting of the works of the flesh, and being born in the spirit, through faith in the work of the cross and the resurrection of Christ.
Notice that in the verse shown above in Romans it says that killing the deeds of the body brings life. Killing that which is death brings life.
Many say this type of belief system is too ascetic. Based on seeing how much we can live without, in order to gain spiritual strength. That the intentional accumulation of miseries leads to the zenith of spiritual wealth for the eternities—but leaves us haggard and empty right now.
This is not the case at all. Psalm 16:11 says: You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forever more. —ESV
So we can see by this and many other verses that enjoyment is a great part of our walk with God. It is only our flesh that needs to suffer, and fortunately our flesh is temporary.
There are spiritual pleasures in abundance that more than make up for the fleshly losses we endure. And they are accessible in this life. It is not a far off dream. Notice that the verse in Psalm says there is fullness of joy in His presence. We have access to His presence now!
So no, it is not good news to be entangled in our fleshly desires now and to suffer for it now, and perhaps through the eternities. The good news is that the truth will set us free, and the truth is that our flesh needs to be crucified. We need to start looking at grace as an opportunity to escape the grasp of sin, not an opportunity to indulge in it with impunity.
Also let me clarify that I am not advocating divisions over small differences of opinion here. But there are some things the Bible makes clear about the lusts of the flesh and the will of God. And if we can put ourselves in the center of that will, and mortify the flesh, we will reap great rewards—now and forevermore!