The older I get, the more I realize the need to be mindful of what I eat. I have found that if I plan meals ahead of time, I eat so much better.
So as I am planning lunches and dinners for the coming weeks and looking for healthy recipes, I am also mindful of the discipline of feeding my spirit. We are really good at feeding our flesh, aren’t we? But the flesh is never satisfied. We are always hungry for more.
“Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the son of Man will give you.'”John 6:26-27, NIV
Jesus is talking about food for our souls. The truth is that we are three-part beings: we have a body, soul, and spirit.
“May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”1 Thessalonians 5:23
The Greek word for body is “soma,” which refers to our flesh, our senses, the part of us that relates to our environment. The word for soul is “psuche,” which refers to our life as it relates to others, our personality–the mind, will, and emotions. The word translated spirit is “pneuma,” which is literally the breath of God–the part of us that relates to God and lives forever.
When we are lost, we are controlled by the flesh; once we surrender our lives to God, we are to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. But our old sinful nature will wage war against the Spirit of God within us. We must surrender daily and crucify the sinful nature in order to walk in the Spirit.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”Galatians 2:20
“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature, but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.”Romans 8:5-9
The “sinful nature” referred to here is the flesh which wages war against our spirit for control of our souls (mind, will, and emotions). So how do we learn to live by the Spirit and not this sinful nature?
We have to stop feeding it.
If we continue to feed the flesh with what it desires–whatever sin is controlling us and keeping us from walking in victory–it will continue to demand more. But if we starve the flesh and feed the spirit–that part of us that desires more of God–we will eventually be satisfied. The problem is that starving the flesh is painful, and we don’t like pain.
The good news is that if we will endure it for just a little while, eventually our soul be satisfied with what pleases our spirit. And when our soul is satisfied, the flesh will stop hungering for more.
For example, if I replace some of my bad habits with reading the Bible, listening to Christian music, or prayer, at first my flesh will still be crying out for the comfort of those old idols. I will struggle for a little while, and it will hurt.
But eventually, as our spirits are being fed with the things of God, our mind becomes renewed,
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”Romans 12:2a
our will begins to change,
“For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”Philippians 2:13
and our emotions become stable
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”Psalm 37:4
When the soul is satisfied, the flesh is easier to ignore. Whatever we feed grows; whatever we starve dies. The question is, “Do we trust God enough to go through the pain to our flesh?”
I know from experience that I will often continue in a bad habit because of the comfort and pleasure, even if it is temporary. I have to make a daily decision to crucify the flesh. What helps me do that is spending time with God.
You see, the more we seek Him, the more we know Him. The more we know Him, the more we will love Him. The satisfaction of life in the Spirit is no match to the temporary pleasures of the flesh. Our spirit is eternal. It longs for the presence of the Eternal One.
And when the spirit man is satisfied in Him, the soul will be at rest. The mind, will, and emotions will follow.
“Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits–who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”Psalm 103:1-5
“For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.”Psalm 107:9
Good things. That’s what He longs to satisfy us with as we surrender those things we think bring us comfort and instead trust Him with what our hearts really need–the peace, presence, and love of Christ.