Perhaps you’ve heard this short but incisive analogy:
There was a man who had two dogs. The dog he fed most became the biggest and healthiest.
Likewise, every follower of Jesus has two natures: Spirit and flesh. Whichever one we feed will grow to be the biggest.
In all we do, whether it be our thoughts, attitudes or behaviors, we are either feeding our Spirit or feeding our flesh. Our practices and disciplines provide nourishment to either the Spirit-side or the flesh-side of our being. If we pour most of our energy into earthly entertainment, amusements, pleasures and distractions, we are likely feeding the “dog” of our flesh.
The flesh is that part of us that is natural, and is typically marked by selfishness. The flesh has one goal: to make sure we are pleased.
Another aspect of the flesh is that is is opposed to the things of God and the spirit. Rather than having a bent towards good and holiness, the flesh craves sin and evil. Simply put, our flesh is rebellious to the things of God. On the other hand, the things of the Spirit draw a person toward God.
When a person puts their faith in Jesus, God’s Holy Spirit comes to dwell in them. Meaning, before Christ we had a single tenant: the flesh. But after responding to Christ, we hold both Spirit and flesh.
And that’s where the analogy of the two dogs comes in. How we grow and who we become depends on whether we will feed the flesh or feed the Spirit.
Paul wrote these words regarding the proper approach to dealing with our ingrained flesh and the indwelling Holy Spirit:
ROMANS 5:8-11 (ESV) ~ For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
If we consistently fill our minds with fleshly thoughts, it stands to reason that we will, at least to some degree, act in accordance with our mental preoccupations.
Know this: the flesh is always hungry and will goad you to feed it. But to feed the flesh means we starve the Spirit. It’s simply impossible to feed both. They weren’t made to peacefully coexist.
In the book of Galatians, Paul offered this teaching:
Galatians 5:16-17 (ESV) ~ But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
The flesh desires sin. The Spirit desires holiness. The result? They are categorically opposed to one another! Thus, the we have only one option regarding the flesh: we have to starve it! And at the very same time we are starving the flesh, we are to nourish ourselves by chasing after those things that draw us closer to God.
It could be through Bible reading.
Or going to church.
A life of spiritual pursuits is one of the best ways to smoke out the cravings and influence of the flesh.
Look at your life. Is it a life characterized by a pursuit of/passion for God? Or is your life marked by attitudes and actions more in line the sinful flesh? Whatever you determine to be true about your life is likely based on which one your feeding.