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Chapter 8 - The Starvation Diet
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. - Romans 8:13
Hindering our Christian walk is our inclination toward what is called the flesh, old man, or sin nature. The process of 'mortification' (putting to death) is a continual one (present tense active). What is indicated here is not so much a death by action, but rather by inaction. If we do not feed the flesh, it will starve.
But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. - Romans 13:14
People who have gone to Alcoholics Anonymous or even have tried dieting know how hard it is to fight against what the body desires. However, Christians do not have to solely rely on their own strength (ironically also the flesh) to try to muster the ability to purge out the old desires. The idea of 'not' providing for the flesh is coupled with 'putting on' the Lord Jesus Christ.
Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: - Colossians 3:9-10
That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. - Ephesians 4:22-24
For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. - Galatians 3:27
The references to 'putting on' and 'putting off' use a sort of clothing illustration that pictures that with which we surround ourselves, move within, and carry with us. The clothing analogy can only go so far. Also pictured is a renewal in knowledge and in the spirit of our mind. This appertains towards internal processes.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. - Romans 12:2
Here we see a transformation accomplished by the renewing of our mind. It is contrasted with being conformed to this world. We can think of conformance as imprinting or being molded. The world, which has been designed to resonate with the flesh, exerts a powerful force to draw us into its systems. However, Christians have the opportunity to be 'transformed' by having our minds reconfigured from a worldly orientation to a heavenly one.
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: - Philippians 2:5
For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. - 1 Corinthians 2:16
For us to 'let' the mind of Christ be in us, we have to make room. We have to be aware of our carnal and fleshly inclinations and make no provision for them. It is not so much a matter of our mastering them as it is a matter of our losing interest in them.
There has to be a sort of mental rearrangement. More than a brief acknowledgment that Jesus is good and we should be like him only to just go on with our normal engagement with the world and the routine of our daily lives, we need to change what we value and we seek. Unless this changes, we will keep 'feeding' the flesh and unable to walk by the Spirit. Dormancy favors the flesh.
Solomon captures some of the passion with which we are to apply ourselves to a life lived for God;
My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly. He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints. Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path. When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul; Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee: - Proverbs 2:1-11
Here we can see an example of how a motivation and directed action towards the things of God would automatically start a process of starving or allowing to die those more base inclinations of the flesh. In addition, we can observe that we are able to increasingly receive the things of God.
The 'if / then' statements describe not only a promise, but a description of a process whereby we are able to draw nearer our Lord.
It is not by strength that we are able to restrain the flesh, rather it is by the power of disinterest. It is intended that the Christian would be so grateful for salvation and so eager to receive all that God has to give that this passionate reaction would almost automatically start the starvation and death of the flesh by neglect and disinterest.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. - Matthew 5:6
The Christian life is not so much about not sinning. It is not even so much about doing good. It is about letting God work through us for not only our own good, but the good of others. One can picture this cooperative state brought about inside of us as we learn to let go of those things that serve self and embrace that which demonstrates the love of God.
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