But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
(Romans 13:14 ESV)
I stumbled across this verse yesterday and I was stunned. For the last week, the issue that has been weighing on my mind has been dying to self. Now, most of us may be inclined to shrug it off. "Self obsessed?" we balk, "Oh no, never! I'm not at all like that...what's to worry about?" But in true and full honesty: most of us are.
Romans 13:14 contains one of those rare "magic formulas" for intimacy and a true love for Christ-dying, completely and fully, to self. When we measure ourself up against the culture, we feel fine. We may not be proud or arrogant, we may not put ourselves at the very first point in our lives, and we might not literally love ourselves. Actually, we may hate ourselves, and we think, "Well this isn't my problem, because I'm terrible, and there's no way I put self first!" Well let's look a little closer.
As you probably noticed, this verse does not say "self." It says "flesh." Desires of the flesh are not just things that we do with our bodies-in essence, flesh is the opposite of spirit. But what does that encompass? Obviously it covers the really bad stuff, the givens, like murdering, stealing, etc, but honestly, what does the verse say again? "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." There are two options here, and we find this all throughout Scripture: The Lord Jesus Christ, and flesh. Let's expand on "flesh" and "self."
"Flesh" and "self" are pretty much the same thing; if you are walking in the desires of the flesh, you are putting self first. As I said before, you may not see it that way. But anything and everything that is not eternity-oriented that you are making a priority in your life is self-oriented. Even if you don't only look out for "number one," think: if you think yourself of no worth, you are still thinking of yourself. Everything that is not of God that has a reigning position in your life can be traced back to self, no matter what it is.
There is a clear theme in the Bible: to live in Christ, you must die to self. Dying to self means this: putting on the Lord Jesus Christ, and not listening to the desires of your flesh, as the verse says. This means that you have to bring Jesus Christ into the place of honor in your life: the throne, but to put Him there, you're going to have to kick self off first. And not just that, but you'll have to make sure that self doesn't make an army to kick God off your throne again. What does that verse say again? "...and make no provision for the flesh." That means NONE. So knock out the army metaphor I just used. It means that every single time self (flesh) tries to round up just one soldier, you squish them both and change so they can't come back from that direction again. Kicking self off and bringing God in is the ONLY way you can ever discover a true intimacy with Christ. I'm not saying that if you kick self off, you'll automatically discover Christ-but if you try and give it effort you will. But you won't discover Christ unless you kick self off the throne-that means throwing all your expectations out the door for His expectations-so getting rid of your dreams, desires, and ambitions. That doesn't mean they won't be fulfilled-but the only way for them to be truly fulfilling is in Christ. The only way.