When Starving is Good

In a message on Galatians 5 preached many years ago, John MacArthur noted that one proven way to kill something is to starve it. Now that may sound cruel, but MacArthur wasn’t referring to physical humans or even to animal;. he was referring to “the desires of the flesh;” about those propensities and inclinations to do what “I WANT” that are inside the heart of every human.

In Galatians 5, Paul draws a sharp contrast between what he calls “the desires of the flesh” and “the fruit of the Spirit.” It’s really a very simple image to grasp. In the heart of every Christian there is an ongoing conflict between what God desires (the Spirit) and what I desire (the flesh). Paul says plainly that these are “against” one another and “opposed” to one another (ESV).

If you’re a Christian, then you obviously desire the Holy Spirit to ‘come out on top’ in this fight with the flesh. Perhaps you’ve noticed in your own life that the “fruit of the Spirit” (5:22) has given way to the “works of the flesh” (5:19). How do you give God’s Spirit His rightful place in your heart? After all, verse 24 of Galatians 5 says, “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

Take MacArthur’s advice: starve it.

It’s simple, really. Whatever you feed will grow and live. Whatever you starve will wither and die. The reality is that too many professing Christians are feeding the desires of the flesh, and too few are sowing to the Spirit. If you’ve read this far, stop now for just a moment and think. Decide if there are things in your life that you know are feeding the desires of your flesh.

Inevitably, you came up with something. The best thing that you can do – the thing that will honor God and build your faith – is to get rid of whatever thing is feeding the desires of your flesh. Even if it is of great personal cost, do what is right and count it as the cost of discipleship, remembering the words of our Lord:
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Matthew 16:26, ESV)

Quantity Yields Quality

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a hundred times: it’s not the quantity of time that matters, it’s the quality of time.

Well, there is a gold nugget of truth in that statement, but how does one find a gold nugget? Likely by spending a lot of time mining for gold. In our day and time, there is a prevailing sentiment that we can manufacture or conjure “quality time.” I believe this is mistaken, and here’s why:

The moments of greatest quality often catch us by surprise. If you’re a parent, think about how many times your plans to connect as a family have been spoiled because your children didn’t share your desire for quality family time. The point is this: quality time happens in the course of quantity time. This is why we can’t put “quality time” in our schedule and just expect it to happen.

This principle can likewise be applied to time spent in prayer. We cannot come to God in prayer haphazardly and sporadically and expect to have times of effective, fervent prayer. E.M. Bounds said it this way:


Things Above

The first few verses of Colossians 3 are verses that help clarify our identity as Christians, while also giving clear and simple instruction for the believer.

[1] If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. [2] Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. [3] For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. [4] When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (ESV)

Verses like these help the Christian answer the question, “Who am I?” Let’s be honest, we all have conception of who we are as individuals, and even an image of who we’d like others to think we are. But for the Christian, there is a definitive answer to this question: we are those who are in Christ.

In Colossians 3:1, Paul makes a rhetorical conditional statement: “If then you have been raised with Christ…”. In other words, ‘you Colossian believers have been raised with Christ, and because this is the case, you should “seek the things that are above.” And really, we could answer the question, “Who am I?” in just this way. We are those who seek the things that are above because we have been raised with Christ.