In the mid 1990’s, DC Talk had a song called “What if I Stumble”. At the beginning, they read a quote from Brennan Manning’s “Ragamuffin Gospel” that said, “The greatest single cause for atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” That quote has always spoken to me and has challenged me.
When we get close to Easter, the story of Peter denying Jesus three times usually gets brought up at some point. We give him a hard time because he denied Jesus with his lips, but we often don’t think twice about things we do that deny Jesus with our life. One of my favorite quotes has been, “Preach at all times, and use words when necessary.” It’s a challenge for me to try to live a life that points others to Jesus. The problem is that in our flesh, it’s impossible. There is a constant struggle in each one of us between our flesh and God’s spirit living in us.
Paul perfectly described our feelings in this struggle in Romans 7:24 when he said, “Oh what a miserable person I am!” (GNT) He went on about the struggle, and how to win it, in Romans 8. Verse 12 says, “Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do.” To win the battle more times than not, we have to learn to repeatedly tell our flesh a resounding, “No!” We are not obligated, as Paul said, to obey the flesh.
If you struggle telling your flesh, “No,” you’re not alone. It’s something we all struggle with. We can get better at it by learning to deny our flesh through fasting and prayer. We can do it by reading God’s Word instead of something else. If we want our lifestyle to match the words that come out of our mouth, it begins by listening to God’s Spirit within us and being led by Him. Jesus forgave and used Peter despite his vocal denial. God can forgive and use us too. Winning this battle within us and living a lifestyle that preaches God’s Word starts with one “No” to the flesh. Thanks to God who gives us that power by living in us.