“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” Romans 7:18-19
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Eph. 6:1-12
Which is it?
When faced with a temptation to sin, am I the only one who struggles to know the difference between the work of “The Flesh” and the work of “The Enemy?” It is clear from Romans 7, that there is a war going on inside the embodied soul between my flesh and the indwelling Holy Spirit. But Eph. 5 is also very clear and it tells us we don’t wrestle against flesh and blood but with The Enemy and his minions. According to these two passages we are in a war with our Flesh and with our Enemy. If we are in a war, then it would seem to be important to know who or what we are fighting against. Is there a way for the Christian to know the difference between the flesh and the Enemy? I think so.
Let’s get practical. The next time you face a strong temptation to sin, stop and ask yourself a question. What direction is this temptation coming from? There is a way “The Flesh” works. And there is a way “The Enemy” works. The direction of the temptation will give you insight as to whether it is your flesh or The Enemy.
Romans 7:18-19 tells us how the flesh works. The Flesh works from the inside out. When we are struggling with covetousness, anger, idolatry, the love of money, or lust, those temptations are happening on the inside. The flesh is in battle with the Holy Spirit and it is leading you into sin. That is how the flesh works, from the inside out. External fruit sin reveals internal heart sin. The battle rages on.
But what about the Enemy? Well, the Enemy has restraints placed upon him. He cannot work on the insides of a believer. He must work from the outside in. He must tempt the flesh from the outside because he does not have access to the mind or the heart of the Christian. “But he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.” 1The Evil one does hot have access to the insides of the Christian. So he must shoot his arrows. I wish there was a Bible verse that said something like that?! Oh, wait! “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.” 2 The Enemy has to work from the outside in. His tactic is to shoot his stringed arrows into the flesh baited with temptations. The flesh works from the inside out. The Enemy works from the outside in, shooting his arrows.
Brothers and sisters, we are at war. War with the flesh and war with the Enemy. If we are going to be in the fight, we need not fight blindly. Know who your fighting. Don’t blame the Enemy for your flesh and don’t blame your Flesh on the Enemy.
Remember. The flesh works from the inside out. The enemy works from the outside in. Now, without fear, engage in battle fully assured that the battle has already been ONE!
11 John 5:18, ESV
2Eph. 6:16, ESV