Lust of the Flesh

In the Garden of Eden, Satan first appealed to the lust of the flesh. The fruit looked good to Eve, so why not have a bite? “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1). Notice that the devil said “any tree” when God said only “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (2:17). Satan distorts and questions the Word of God when he attacks the mind.

The key to winning the battle for your mind is to recognize tempting thoughts for what they are and practice “threshold thinking.” Take that first thought captive to the obedience of Christ. It is not a sin to be tempted, but entertaining those thoughts will lead to sin. If you consider them in your mind, your emotions will be stimulated in the wrong direction and your willpower will crumble. You should avoid any discussion with Satan’s mouthpieces, which Eve failed to do when she answered, “God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die’’’ (3:3). Notice that she added the restriction, “you must not touch it.” Don’t continue to dialogue with the tempter – the person pushing you for sex or to have another piece of pie. “Let your ‘Yes’ by yes, and your ‘No,’ no, or you will be condemned” (James 5:12).

Satan had piqued her appetite for the forbidden fruit, and she saw “that the fruit of the tree was good for food” (verse 6). Her initial “no” was now a “maybe.” It was through this same channel of temptation that the devil attempted to get Jesus to turn a rock into bread, which prompted Christ to quote Deuteronomy 8:3: “Man does not live on bread alone.” There would have been nothing wrong with Jesus eating bread at the end of His fast, except that it wasn’t the Father’s will for Him to do so. He made His decision by verbally quoting Scripture, and that was the end of the dialogue. He was not about to act independently of the Father’s will.

Eating is necessary and right, but eating too much – or eating the wrong kinds of foods, or allowing food to rule our lives – is wrong. Food sustains life, but it does not guarantee life, which is God’s gift to those who trust in His Word and live by it. When we fast, we suppress the most powerful appetite we have, because food is necessary to sustain life. In a similar way, sex as intended by God is beautiful and good, but sex outside of marriage, fornication and selfish sex are out of bounds and enslaving. If we give in to the temptation to meet our own fleshly desires independently of God, we are yielding to the lust of the flesh.

We all have residual flesh patterns that become points of vulnerability, and Satan seems to know just what buttons to push. What could be tempting to one person may not be at all tempting to another. It is important that we recognize our weaknesses and not subject ourselves to unnecessary temptation. We should also restrict our freedom for the sake of weaker Christians.

Dr. Neil

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