“These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.”
“but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.”
“Indulgence” means a filling up, gratification, satiety. It is the process of indulging in or procuring the satisfaction of certain desires or needs. The flesh is of no value to remedy the indulgence of the flesh. Asceticism has no value in conquering the flesh. Asceticism treats the body as an enemy. God’s view is that the body is an instrument of godliness. Self-chosen acts of self-sacrifice will not overcome the flesh.
When we deny body appetites, it simply makes it hungrier. If we try to lose weight by a severe diet, we binge later. Denial arouses desire. We do not nourish the spirit by the neglect of the body.
Emotional self-effacement is no remedy against the indulgence of the flesh. Giving up food for Lent or observing holy days will not overcome the sin nature. Legalism is on the side of the sin capacity. Legalism facilitates the sin capacity. Only God’s plan of grace can combat the sin capacity.
Denial arouses desire; grace counteracts the flesh.
Whenever we become dynamic in our spirituality, the Devil uses religion as a counter punch. Severity to the body is evidence of specious piety. Asceticism is utterly hopeless in checking the indulgences of the flesh. We cannot control the flesh by rules.
The cross is the only answer. True spirituality accepts the crucifixion of the flesh by the cross. We please God by accepting his evaluation of human nature and depend wholly on grace.
We should beware of legalistic piety. Those who go around looking pious are liable to lie about other things too! We can appear to others as godly, but at the same time, sin can rage inwardly. Anger, vengeance, and resentment inside can fill our minds, and no one can know it. We cannot regulate the internal by externals. The only way we can conquer the inward life is by the life that Christ gives.
Asceticism invades God’s providence and cannot control the flesh. The flesh merely goes underground and manifests itself in pride. The flesh cannot please God; that is why he dealt with it so radically at the cross. God does not want us to pander to the flesh but to accept its crucifixion. We are to walk in the fact of the cross provided by grace.
The famous Bible teacher H.A. Ironside struggled with pride. After a period of struggle, he went to a friend for advice about dealing with this pride. Someone counseled him to put signs on his front and back with large written Bible verses about pride. He was to carry them throughout the city streets, calling out these verses. This was designed to abolish his pride. Dr. Ironside said that he followed that advice. When he finished, his first thought was, “There is no other person in this area dedicated enough to do such a thing!!!”
All of these errors have one thing in common–they lose sight of Christ!