When we talk about fleshly desires, many things should come to mind. Fleshly desires are, in essence, any desire that we have here on earth. A desire to eat, drink, have relations with other people, etc. Each and every inclination and desire we have comes from an earthly root. That is, until we receive the Holy Spirit and we desire new spiritual things. In this study, we’re going to talk about the difference between fleshly desires and spiritual desires and discuss the constant conflict and battle between them.
The apostle Paul recognizes there is a struggle every person goes through in this life. It is the struggle between choices we have to make, deciding between right and wrong and what to do when a situation arises. Our passions and desires drive and motivate these actions and many times we don’t do what we know we should or do what we know we shouldn’t. Paul recognizes this in his own life and he describes it in Romans 7:15, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Later on in verse 19 he says, “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do-this I keep on doing.” This is something everyone can relate to, even if they are not a Christian. There are situations in our lives, practically daily, that come up and we know what we should do and we don’t do it. The other situation is when temptation arises and we know whatever it is we shouldn’t do it and yet, without fail, we do it anyways giving in to the temptation. This is all because of the spiritual battle that’s happening every second of every day. It is the battle going on in your mind between God and Satan over your mind and soul. How do we not let Satan win? How do we overcome Satan? By the power of God, through the Spirit.
Not all fleshly desires are bad. We must eat and drink to keep us alive and those desires are not necessarily bad. It is the sinful desires of the flesh, love of money, sexual immorality, and hatred that are evil. If we live by the flesh, we will desire these physical things, but if we live by the Spirit, we will desire spiritual things. Romans 8:5 says, “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” If we have the Spirit living in us, then we will desire spiritual things and thus win the battle over Satan in our mind about what we desire.
We must remember though that Satan doesn’t give up easily and he will continue to attack us and tempt us, and we will give in. There will never come a time in these bodies, on this earth, that we can say we’ve reached a point in which we can never sin. There will never be a time where we can say we can’t sin no more. We will continue to sin. So what is the point of the Spirit? The Spirit gives us power to say no to these temptations and not desire them. Does this mean we will never sin? No. What it does mean is that we have the power to overcome sin and our desires will not be to sin but not to sin, which will allow us to say no to sin (Romans 8:12-13). This also means sin no longer has a grip on us, we have been set free from sin (Romans 8:2). This means that even though we sin, we are not chained to the penalty of sin, which is death. Because we have the Spirit living within us, we have been set free from this bondage and can have eternal life.
This does not mean that we can keep on sinning just because. Paul addresses this issue in Romans 6. Paul says that even though we were set free from sin, we should devote ourselves to obeying God and righteousness. Paul says in Romans 6:22, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” Because we have become “slaves” to God, or obedient to God, it leads to holiness which leads to eternal life. If we have not accepted Jesus and have not received the Spirit, we are still chained to sin, which leads to death.
In conclusion, the sinful desires of the flesh will always be trying to pull us back in. When we have the Spirit, however, we will not desires all these sinful desires and we can focus on the spiritual matters of life. This does not mean we will never sin, but it does mean that we will not be consumed by the sinful nature because the Spirit is within us and when we have the Spirit in us, those sinful desires dissipate.