But the Lord has told me to say to you,This is what the Lord says: I will overthrow what I have built and uproot what I have planted, throughout the earth. Should you then seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them. For I will bring disaster on all people, declares the Lord, but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life.Jeremiah 45:4-5
What is the root of all our troubles with the flesh? It is seeking great things for ourselves. That is behind the naiveté, the secret vengeance, the treachery and murder, the unjustified fear, the pious deceit, the baseless hopes, the misdirected blame, the insolent rebellion — all of these arise out of a heart which longs to have glory that belongs to God. That is the basic problem, is it not? As we look at this we say to ourselves,
Who is sufficient for these things? How can we lick this terrible enemy within? The only answer, of course, is the cross and the resurrection of Jesus. This is all that has ever been able to deal with the flesh in man's life: the cross which puts it to death; the resurrection which provides another life in its place. That is the glory of the gospel.
Near Watsonville, California there is a creek that has a strange name: Salsi Puedes Creek. Salsi Puedes is Spanish for
Get out of it if you can. The creek is lined with quicksand, and the story is that many years ago, in the early days of California, a Mexican laborer fell into the quicksand. A Spaniard, riding by on a horse, saw him and yelled out to him,
Salsi puedes! (Get out if you can!) which was not very helpful. The creek has been so named ever since.
That is what the flesh is like. We struggle to correct these tendencies ourselves, but we cannot do it. Only God has the wisdom to do it. That is why Jeremiah's word in the tenth chapter comes to mind again. He said,
I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps. And we are driven again to the wisdom of the Proverbs:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and lean not unto your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6 KJV)
Nothing else will do it. Your own heart will deceive you. If you follow your own desires, your own likings, you will end up trapped. Only the wisdom of the Word, only an honest acknowledgment of what is going on in your life will suffice. Bring it to God and tell him the whole thing, and trust him to have put your flesh to death on his cross. And rely upon his resurrection to live by from there on, upon his power and his grace to lead you through. It is his knowledge of this tendency of the flesh which has led our Lord to include in the Lord's Prayer the little phrase which I pray every day, and I hope you will too:
Lead us not into temptation.
Father, I pray that you will indeed lead me away from temptation. Lead me from this evil thing within me from which I cannot by myself escape. Deliver me from evil by the power of the redeeming work of Jesus Christ.
What are identifying characteristics of the flesh? Have we learned to recognize the root problem? Are we choosing God's glory over our own, His power over our weakness?