Combating Sin’s Grip on the Fallen Flesh
“The minding of the flesh means death, but the minding of the spirit means life and peace.”—ROMANS 8:6.
1. For what purpose were humans created?
“GOD proceeded to create the man in his image, in God’s image he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27) An image is the reflection of an object or a source. Thus, humans were created to be a reflection of God’s glory. By manifesting godly qualities—such as love, goodness, justice, and spirituality—in all their endeavors, they bring praise and honor to the Creator, as well as happiness and satisfaction to themselves.—1 Corinthians 11:7; 1 Peter 2:12.
2. How did the first human pair miss the mark?
2 The first human pair, created in perfection, were well equipped for this role. Like mirrors polished to a high finish, they were capable of reflecting God’s glory with brilliance and fidelity. However, they allowed that high finish to be tarnished when they deliberately chose to disobey their Creator and God. (Genesis 3:6) Thereafter, they could no longer reflect God’s glory perfectly. They fell short of the glory of God, missing the purpose of their being created in God’s image. In other words, they sinned.*
3. What is the true nature of sin?
3 This helps us to understand the true nature of sin, which mars man’s reflection of God’s likeness and glory. Sin makes man unholy, that is, unclean and tarnished in a spiritual and moral sense. All mankind, being descendants of Adam and Eve, are born in that tarnished and unclean state, coming short of God’s expectation of them as his children. And the outcome? The Bible explains: “Just as through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.”—Romans 5:12; compare Isaiah 64:6.
The Grip of Sin on Fallen Flesh
4-6. (a) How do most people view sin today? (b) What is the outcome of modern views of sin?
4 Most people today do not think of themselves as unclean, tarnished, or sinful. In fact, sin, as a word, has practically vanished from most people’s vocabulary. They will perhaps talk about errors, indiscretions, and miscalculations. But sin? Hardly! Even to those who still claim to believe in God, “his teachings constituted a set of moral beliefs rather than a moralistic code, the ‘10 suggestions’ rather than the 10 commandments,” observes Alan Wolfe, a professor of sociology.
5 What is the outcome of this way of thinking? Denial of, or at least the ignoring of, the reality of sin. This has produced a generation of people with a badly distorted sense of right and wrong, who feel free to set their own standards of behavior and feel responsible to no one for whatever they choose to do. To such people, feeling good is the sole criterion in judging whether a course of action is proper or not.—Proverbs 30:12, 13; compare Deuteronomy 32:5, 20.
6 For instance, on a television talk show, young people were invited to express their views of the so-called seven deadly sins.* “Pride isn’t a sin,” declared one participant. “You’re supposed to feel good about yourself.” Regarding sloth, another said: “It’s good to be like that sometimes. . . . Sometimes it’s good to sit back and give yourself personal time.” Even the narrator provided this succinct comment: ‘The seven deadly sins are not evil acts but, rather, universal human compulsions that can be troubling and highly enjoyable.’ Yes, gone along with sin is the feeling of guilt, for, after all, guilt is the very opposite of feeling good.—Ephesians 4:17-19.
7. According to the Bible, how are humans affected by sin?
7 In sharp contrast with all of this, the Bible plainly states: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Even the apostle Paul acknowledged: “I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, there dwells nothing good; for ability to wish is present with me, but ability to work out what is fine is not present. For the good that I wish I do not do, but the bad that I do not wish is what I practice.” (Romans 7:18, 19) Paul was not here indulging in self-pity. Rather, because he fully realized how far mankind has fallen short of God’s glory, he felt all the more painfully sin’s grip on the fallen flesh. “Miserable man that I am!” he declared, “who will rescue me from the body undergoing this death?”—Romans 7:24.
8. What questions should we ask ourselves? Why?
8 What is your view of this matter? You may acknowledge that as a descendant of Adam, you, like everyone else, are imperfect. But how does that knowledge affect your thinking and your way of life? Do you accept it as a fact of life and simply go along doing what comes naturally? Or do you put forth constant effort to combat sin’s grip on the fallen flesh, striving to reflect as brightly as possible God’s glory in all that you do? This should be of serious concern to each one of us in view of what Paul said: “Those who are in accord with the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those in accord with the spirit on the things of the spirit. For the minding of the flesh means death, but the minding of the spirit means life and peace.”—Romans 8:5, 6.
Minding of the Flesh
9. Why is it that “the minding of the flesh means death”?
9 What did Paul mean when he said that “the minding of the flesh means death”? The term “flesh” is often used in the Bible to denote man in his imperfect state, ‘conceived in sin’ as a descendant of rebellious Adam. (Psalm 51:5; Job 14:4) Thus, Paul was admonishing Christians not to set their minds on the sinful tendencies, impulses, and desires of the imperfect, fallen flesh. And why not? Elsewhere Paul told us what the works of the flesh are and then added the warning: “Those who practice such things will not inherit God’s kingdom.”—Galatians 5:19-21.
10. What is meant by “minding”?
10 But is there not a big difference between minding something and practicing it? True, thinking about something does not always lead to doing it. However, minding is more than just having a passing thought. The word used by Paul is phroʹne·ma in Greek, and it denotes “way of thinking, mind(-set), . . . aim, aspiration, striving.” Therefore, “the minding of the flesh” means being controlled, possessed, dominated, and driven by the desires of the fallen flesh.—1 John 2:16.
11. How was Cain minding the flesh, and what was the result?
11 The point is well illustrated by the course that Cain followed. When jealousy and anger rose up in Cain’s heart, Jehovah God warned him: “Why are you hot with anger and why has your countenance fallen? If you turn to doing good, will there not be an exaltation? But if you do not turn to doing good, there is sin crouching at the entrance, and for you is its craving; and will you, for your part, get the mastery over it?” (Genesis 4:6, 7) There was a choice before Cain. Would he “turn to doing good,” that is, put his mind, aim, and aspiration on something good? Or would he continue minding the flesh and focus his mind on the bad tendencies lurking in his heart? As Jehovah explained, sin was “crouching at the entrance,” waiting to pounce on and devour Cain if he would allow it. Instead of combating and ‘getting the mastery’ over his fleshly desire, Cain allowed it to dominate him—to a disastrous end.
12. What should we do so as not to go “in the path of Cain”?
12 What about us today? Certainly we do not want to go “in the path of Cain,” as Jude lamented regarding certain ones among the first-century Christians. (Jude 11) We should never rationalize and think that a little indulgence or liberty taken here or there is harmless. On the contrary, we should be alert to identify any ungodly and corrupting influence that may have come into our heart and mind and quickly remove it before it takes root. Combating sin’s grip on the fallen flesh starts from within.—Mark 7:21.
13. How can a person be “enticed by his own desire”?
13 For example, you might catch sight of a shocking or gruesome scene or a particularly suggestive or provocative image. It could be a picture in a book or a magazine, a scene on a movie or television screen, an ad on a billboard, or even in a real-life situation. That in itself need not be alarming, since it can—and does—happen. However, this image or scene, although it may have lasted just a few seconds, may tend to linger in the mind and resurface from time to time. What do you do when that happens? Do you immediately take action to combat that thought and get it out of your mind? Or do you allow it to dwell in your mind, perhaps reliving the experience each time that thought comes up? To do the latter is to risk setting off the chain of events described by James: “Each one is tried by being drawn out and enticed by his own desire. Then the desire, when it has become fertile, gives birth to sin; in turn, sin, when it has been accomplished, brings forth death.” That is why Paul said: “The minding of the flesh means death.”—James 1:14, 15; Romans 8:6.
14. With what are we confronted daily, and how should we react?
14 Living as we do in a world in which sexual immorality, violence, and materialism are glorified—being openly and liberally featured in books, magazines, movies, television programs, and popular music—we are literally bombarded by wrong thoughts and ideas every day. What is your reaction? Do you feel amused and entertained by all of this? Or do you feel as did righteous Lot, “who was greatly distressed by the indulgence of the law-defying people . . . tormenting his righteous soul by reason of their lawless deeds”? (2 Peter 2:7, 8) To succeed in combating sin’s grip on the fallen flesh, we need to be resolved to do as the psalmist did: “I shall not set in front of my eyes any good-for-nothing thing. The doing of those who fall away I have hated; it does not cling to me.”—Psalm 101:3.
Minding of the Spirit
15. What help do we have to combat sin’s grip on us?
15 Something that can help us to combat sin’s grip on the fallen flesh is what Paul went on to say: “The minding of the spirit means life and peace.” (Romans 8:6) Thus, rather than be dominated by the flesh, we must let our mind come under the influence of the spirit and thrive on things of the spirit. What are they? At Philippians 4:8, Paul makes a list of them: “Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are of serious concern, whatever things are righteous, whatever things are chaste, whatever things are lovable, whatever things are well spoken of, whatever virtue there is and whatever praiseworthy thing there is, continue considering these things.” Let us take a closer look and get a better understanding of what we should continue considering.
16. What qualities did Paul encourage us to “continue considering,” and what does each involve?
16 First of all, Paul listed eight moral qualities. We, of course, realize that Christians are not restricted to thinking only on Scriptural or doctrinal matters at all times. There is a wide range of subjects or topics on which we can set our minds. But the important thing is that they must measure up to the moral qualities specified by Paul. Each of the categories of “things” cited by Paul deserves our attention. Let us consider them in turn.
□ “True” involves more than just being true or false. It means being truthful, upright, and trustworthy, something that is real, not merely giving the appearance of being so.—1 Timothy 6:20.
□ “Of serious concern” refers to things that are dignified and respectful. It evokes a sense of reverence, something that is lofty, noble, and honorable rather than vulgar and low.
□ “Righteous” means meeting God’s standard, not man’s. Worldly men occupy their minds with unrighteous schemes, but we are to think on and take delight in things that are righteous in God’s sight.—Compare Psalm 26:4; Amos 8:4-6.
□ “Chaste” means pure and holy not only in conduct (sexual or otherwise) but also in thought and motive. “The wisdom from above is first of all chaste,” says James. Jesus, who is “pure,” is the perfect Example for us to consider.—James 3:17; 1 John 3:3.
□ “Lovable” is that which incites and inspires love in others. We are to “consider one another to incite to love and fine works,” rather than put our minds on things that arouse hatred, bitterness, and contention.—Hebrews 10:24.
□ “Well spoken of” means not just being “reputable” or “of good report” but also, in the active sense, being upbuilding and commending. We set our minds on things that are wholesome and upbuilding rather than demeaning and offensive.—Ephesians 4:29.
□ “Virtue” basically means “goodness” or “moral excellence,” but it can mean excellence of any kind. Thus, we can appreciate the valuable qualities, merits, and accomplishments of others in line with God’s standard.
Promise of Life and Peace
17. What blessings result from “the minding of the spirit”?
17 When we follow Paul’s admonition and “continue considering these things,” we will succeed in “the minding of the spirit.” The result is not only the blessing of life, that is, everlasting life in the promised new world, but also peace. (Romans 8:6) Why? Because our minds are protected from the evil influence of fleshly things, and we are no longer so greatly affected by the agonizing struggle between flesh and spirit as described by Paul. By resisting the influence of the flesh, we also gain peace with God “because the minding of the flesh means enmity with God.”—Romans 7:21-24; 8:7.
18. What battle is Satan waging, and how can we be victorious?
18 Satan and his agents are doing everything they can to tarnish our reflection of the glory of God. They try to gain control of our minds by bombarding them with fleshly desires, knowing that this will eventually lead to enmity with God and to death. But we can come out victorious in this battle. Like Paul, we too can proclaim: “Thanks to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” for providing us with the means to combat sin’s grip on the fallen flesh.—Romans 7:25.
The Bible generally uses the Hebrew verb cha·taʼʹ and the Greek verb ha·mar·taʹno to denote “sin.” Both of these words mean “miss,” in the sense of missing or not reaching a goal, mark, or target.
Traditionally, the seven deadly sins are pride, covetousness, lust, envy, gluttony, anger, and sloth.
Can You Explain?
□ What is sin, and how can it develop a grip on the fallen flesh?
□ How can we combat “the minding of the flesh”?
□ What can we do to promote “the minding of the spirit”?
□ How does “the minding of the spirit” bring life and peace?
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Cain allowed fleshly tendencies to dominate him to his own ruin
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Minding the spirit means life and peace