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Discover the following episodes by clicking the titles or navigating to the episode in your app:
“5 Ways You Take God’s Job” (episode 22)
“How the World Trains Your Kids to Fail” (episode 24)
“Training Your Children to Rebel” (episode 43)
“The Four Children” series (starts in episode 55)
“Are There Failure Philosophies in Your Home?” (episode 61)
“Why Do Your Children Do What They Do?” The Merest Christianity series (starts in episode 95)
“What is a Good Kid?” (episode 103)
“Your Kids Need an Interpreter | helping your children navigate the world’s delusion” (episode 104)
“How to Know if Your Child is Addicted” (episode 114)
“Teach Your Children to Obey” series (starts in episode 138)
“Family Worship” series (starts in episode 191)
“Your Child's Bungee | the nature of sin and parenting” (episode 199)
“Parenting a Zombie” series (starts in episode 200)
“What is Your Child's Sin?” (episode 237)
“Children and Shame” series (starts in episode 260)
“Why Your Family Has Ups and Downs” (episode 274)
“What Is Your Family Idol?” (episode 282)
“The Battlefield on Which the Family Will Be Lost” (episode 283)
“Parenting Angry Children” series (starts in episode 287)
“Parenting Fearful Children” series (starts in episode 305)
“The Hidden Sin in Our Homes” series (starts in episode 309)
“Why Does My Family Argue? | and how to stop” (episode 331)
“The Most Beautiful Part of Parenting” (episode 341)
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Click "Read More" for today’s Episode Notes and Transcript.
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Hey, you guys. Welcome back.
Earlier I said that the second episode in this series may be the most revolutionizing Truth we parents could learn. We absolutely must stop treating our family members like they’re the enemy.
However, once we really accept that Truth, today’s subject needs to grab us by the throat and demand that we believe it. Today we’re talking about the most diabolical spiritual enemy we could ever face — a friend, someone we thought was on our side, but someone who was a backstabbing double-agent all along.
This is a hugely important Truth, but even though it’s something we probably already know, again — unfortunately — we don’t live like we believe it.
This knowing-something-but-not-believing-it is the awful reality of every human being who’s ever walked the earth. Romans 1:21-23 puts it this way: “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.”
We take what we know, and we substitute it for a diaper bag full of lies.
Before we jump in to today, I want to invite you to check out the TLP Store at TruthLoveParent.com. We have a bunch of biblical parenting products from artwork to clothing to courses. Our goal is to add more and more educational materials as soon as we can, but we also like to give you comfortable and fun apparel. My wife and I love our hoodies from the TLP Iconic Collection, and all TLP Friends get a free Iconic shirt when they subscribe at TruthLoveParent.com.
I know the shirts cost a little more than I would want them to, but just know that a portion of every purchase supports TLP and helps us to continue producing all the amazing free resources we put out.
And while you’re at TruthLoveParnet.com or TakingBackTheFamily.com, you can download our free episode notes and read the transcript from our shows.
Now, let’s talk about the third, final, and most dangerous spiritual enemy in our homes.
All the best systematic theology books make it very clear who our spiritual enemies are because the Bible makes it clear. There’s Satan and his demonic hordes, there’s the World System that works like Satan’s propaganda machine — pumping thousand of gallons of Failure Philosophies into our eyes and ears every day, but then there’s the double-agent — the spy whom we trust with our very lives, but who ends up poisoning us while we continue in our blindness convinced they’re doing us a favor.
And who is this most vial of enemies? The Bible calls it “the Flesh.”
“Whoa! Aaron, hold the phone! Haven’t you been haranguing us for the past four episodes that our struggle is not against flesh?”
You are totally right, and I stand by every word.
As always, we need to understand what God’s communicating or we risk falling into very deep, confusing, and damning theological heresies.
The word “flesh” is used multiple times in many ways in the New Testament. In Mark 10:8 (and tons of other passages) it refers to a husband and wife becoming one.
The joint terms of flesh and blood together often refer to humans in general. Obviously, Ephesians 6 uses it this way, but in Matthew 16:17 Jesus tells Peter that people didn’t convince Peter that Jesus was the Messiah, the Heavenly Father did.
“Flesh” by itself is also used to refer to the physical dimension of mankind. In John 3, Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be born again. Nicodemus struggles understanding what Jesus means and asks if he needs to return to his mother’s womb. Jesus says, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
Jesus also uses the word all throughout the book of John to refer to his body when He speaks of eating His flesh and drinking His blood. By the way, if you’re new to the Bible and the church and you’re not sure what Jesus means by that, allow me to at least say that He’s not advocating cannibalism nor is He talking about the Catholic understanding of transubstantiation. He’s metaphorically speaking of the necessity of all people needing to find their complete satisfaction and spiritual nourishment in Him if they hope to have an eternal relationship with God.
And though it may seem like Jesus is referencing the physical bodies of His disciples when — in Mark 14:38 He tells them that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak — I believe He’s referencing another definition of the Flesh because — throughout the rest of the New Testament — the authors start using the word “flesh” in a new way, and they must have gotten this from Jesus’ teaching as well.
The first concrete usage of “flesh” to refer to something non-physical shows up in Romans 7:5-6 where Paul tells us “while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.”
How had Paul previously been “in the flesh” but not now? It’s clear that Paul wants us to understand that “the flesh” and “the sinful passions” are synonymous.
And this starts a chapter and a half long treatise on the differences between the spirit and the flesh. Now keep in mind that he’s not talking about the difference between the physical body and the spirit. Let me give you some examples of what I mean from Romans 7 and 8.
Romans 7:18-20, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.”
Romans 8:5-9, “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.”
And Romans 8:12-14, “So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”
So, here’s what we know about this enemy called the Flesh.
1. When it refers to our spiritual enemy, the word “Flesh” describes our sin nature.
In Romans 5:12 we read, “just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.”
Because Adam was the representative of all mankind, and because we were all in Adam when he sinned, we all are stained by sin. We can’t escape it. Our sin makes us enemies of God who are absolutely incapable of pleasing Him. And our sin will send us to hell.
This is the whole reason Jesus came. He lived a perfect life, died, and rose again because there was no way we could ever be free from our sin outside of His redemptive work, but this is a discussion for another episode.
2. The Flesh isn’t trying to kill us so much as it makes us dead to begin with.
Colossians 2:13, “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions.”
Romans 8:6 tells us, “For the mind set on the flesh is death.”
This is why the Bible frequently uses the language of death to describe not only the future of unbelievers, but also their present state. This is also one of the main foundation stones of our “Parenting a Zombie” series. Unsaved children are spiritually dead, and when we live like fools, we’re making the same decisions that spiritually dead people make. We’re acting like zombies.
And the reason the Flesh starts and ends in death is that . . .
3. Nothing good comes from the Flesh.
Romans 8:7-9, “The mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.”
Romans 7:18, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.”
Jeremiah uses different terminology when he tells us that our heart is desperately wicked and deceitful, and Isaiah informs us that our absolute best attempts at righteousness are nothing more than filthy — bodily fluid soaked — rags.
I hope you’re getting the picture.
And I hope you’re understanding why I’m against the whole self-esteem movement. And I say this with all the love I can possibly muster for every member of every family listening to my voice. The only thing keeping me from a relationship with my Creator and eternal bliss is me. In my flesh I can’t please God, and the best I can do is gross and vile.
I am not a pretty snowflake full of amazing potential and inherently good. I come into this life as an enemy of God.
Do I have potential? Only when I submit to Christ.
Can I do good? Only when empowered but the Holy Spirit.
Am I valuable? Only when I’m fulfilling the will of God the Father.
But — left to myself — I’m a puny, self-worshipping, sociopathic hedonist, and the last thing I need is to be okay with that.
And the same goes for everyone in your family.
“But Aaron, if people don’t have self-esteem, it will lead to self-destructive behavior.”
No, that’s not what happens. Follow me here — it’s my self-esteem that ultimately leads to my self-destruction. When I take those bodily-fluid soaked rags and wrap myself in them because I think it makes me look beautiful, when I allow myself to be deceived by my desperately wicked heart, when I wallow in my inherent death and complete inability to know God in and of myself . . . that’s when things get bad.
Then let’s imagine a person like that being told that they’re worthless and that they’ll never amount to anything (which — by the way — are not true things to say to anyone, and you’d be a horrible person to do so), but if this individual who’s filled with his own self-esteem because he’s worshipping himself and doesn’t know God has his god of self attacked, all he’ll be able to do to reclaim some sense of self-value is to engage in all sorts of even more self-destructive behavior — more self-worship.
But remember, that new self-destructive behavior is going to be motivated by the fact that they esteem themselves so highly in the first place. Their golden idol of self has been displaced, and they will do all sorts of crazy things to demand that everyone bow down before it again.
Let’s take a stereotypical girl. She doesn’t find her identity in Christ. She loves herself and does everything she can to live a pleasurable, discomfort free life. Why does she do this? Because she’s esteems herself and doesn’t want to experience any kind of pain.
Well, this girl goes to school where she’s constantly torn down by her classmates. She starts to hate school and the other children and begins struggling with feelings of depression. She cries herself to sleep every night, refuses to tell her parents about the problem because she’s afraid her parents will say something and the other kids will hate her more. She’s spiraling into a dark hole from which she can see no escape. So she tries to escape her pain on her own. She turns to music, perhaps eventually to drugs and alcohol. Of course, that’s expensive, so perhaps she becomes the girl every boy wants to know. It’s free, the world says it’s fun, so she gives herself away to anyone who will have her just so she can feel accepted. Maybe after finally realizing that the boys were just using her for their own self-worship and pleasure, she finally tries to dull the pain in her spirit by cutting her flesh. But the weight is too much for her to bear on her own, so she takes her own life . . . leaving behind a letter that condemns everyone in her life for treating her like garbage.
And every professional will tell you that this girl could have been saved had she just had more self-esteem. And they tell us she would have had more self-esteem if the people in her life esteemed her more.
Now, please understand that I’m not justifying anything the other children or her parents did. I’m never going to excuse anyone’s sin. But we have to stay focused on this girl.
What if — instead of being the center of her own universe — she were a follower of Christ who found her identity in her Creator and Savior? What if — even though it was very hard — she didn’t care what the kids at school said about her because she believed what the Lord said about her?
This girl would talk to her parents because she would know how important they were in her life. She would know that God gave them to her to help her and lead her. When she struggled with being persecuted and taunted, and she felt tempted by her Flesh to give into self-pity, she would fight that backstabbing enemy by thinking on things the are true. What are those things? They have nothing to do with how “valuable” or “special” she is. Her mind would linger on how valuable and special God is. She would find her peace and strength and joy and contentment and gratitude in God’s identity that would feed her identity.
She wouldn’t need to esteem herself because she would pour that esteem into the Almighty God of the Universe.
Self-esteem is the polar opposite of humility. Self-esteem is a modern term for pride.
Psalm 138:6; Proverbs 3:34; Matthew 23:12; I Peter 5:5, and James 4:6 all communicate the idea that “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
In fact, the Matthew 23:12 passage puts it this way: “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”
Merriam-Webster defines self-esteem as being “a feeling of satisfaction that someone has in himself or herself and his or her own abilities.” Notice the self-focus.
The word translated “exalt” in Matthew 23:12 refers to lifting something up. It talks of me attempting to lift myself up by my own merits — to raise my own happiness in and of myself.
But Jesus says that people who try to exalt themselves will be humbled. The only way to truly be exalted, to be esteemed, is to humbly esteem God — allowing Him to be the one to exalt us. God will always exalt us higher than we could ever esteem ourselves.
So, what is it to esteem God? It starts with us realizing that we are sinners.
“But Aaron, how can anyone be happy realizing that they’re nothing more than vile sinners on their way to hell? That sounds depressing!”
You’re right, it would be depressing if that were the end of the story.
Imagine — if you will — that you want to purchase a house. So you tell a friend about your desire, and they remind you that you don’t have a job and are completely broke. Not only that, you already have a ton of debt. If that were the end of the story, it would be sad. You wouldn’t be able to achieve your dream of owning a home. Who knows what someone in that position may feel or do.
But what if that friend reminded you of your financial situation, but then said, “You know what? I have a friend who could help you out with that. He’s a great guy, and I’m certain that he’d be willing to help you take care of your debt, get your finances in order, and start down the road to owning that dream house.”
Wouldn’t that be exciting news?
You see, in a world with no one to help us, we need to lie to ourselves about how awesome we are because we all know — deep down inside — that we’re not that amazing. We’re small, finite, and alone.
I’ve never counseled an arrogant, self-possessed individual who didn’t in their heart of hearts struggle with self-worth — who didn’t hate themselves for some reason or another.
Most people who act the most entitled experience some of the darkest moments when they really see themselves for who they are.
In the same way, the Christian’s joy and satisfaction and peace and contentment and pleasure and comfort doesn’t come from us or anything we do, it comes from God.
If I were self-entitled, then I would expect everyone — including Jesus — to do nice things for me because deep-down inside I believe that I deserve it. But when I see myself as the spiritually destitute person I am, and when I’m grieved by that down to my core, and when I humbly turn to Christ with nothing to offer Him, and when He out of the goodness and love and grace and mercy of His very character lavishes redemption and sanctification and love and power and position and eternal life for no other reason that He is good and glorious and holy, then I will rejoice even more because I — an undeserving sinner — has been given the most amazing gift in the entire universe!
My joy and peace doesn’t flow from me. It can’t. It doesn’t matter how much I esteem myself, I will never experience the edifying and encouraging elation of salvation until I esteem God first and foremost above all else.
This is why in Luke 14:26-27 Jesus says, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate . . . his own life, he cannot be My disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
This is why I describe the Flesh as a double-agent.
Satan and the World are trying to convince me that there is nothing more important than my happiness and me getting my way. I can scream and cry and hit people with baseball bats and devote entire YouTube channels to my rage because the world isn’t doing what I want it to do.
Self-esteem has created the snowflake-social-media-activist-victim mentality that is absolutely pervading every single mainstream idea currently flowing through the airwaves into our living rooms, ear buds, and classrooms.
But we will not experience true happiness until we realize that we need to be saved from ourselves. My best friend — me, myself, and I — needs to be replaced with The Best Friend who sticks closer than a brother and sacrificed Himself to purchase someone who doesn’t even deserve His love.
Alright, enough with the self-esteem tirade for a moment.
Absolutely nothing good comes from my Flesh. I am only able to do good and please God when I submit to His will and am empowered by His grace.
In review . . .
1. When it refers to our spiritual enemy, the Flesh describes our sin nature.
2. The Flesh isn’t trying to kill us so much as it makes us dead to begin with.
3. Nothing good comes from the Flesh.
And 4. For all of these reasons, the Flesh is our most deadly enemy.
No one in hell will be able to blame Satan for being there. No one will be able to blame the World for being there. No one will legitimately be able to blame the mean kids at school or their parents or their pastors. Everyone in hell will be there because they submitted to their own sinful delusion instead of God. They — like Satan — tried to exalt themselves above the throne of the one, true God.
We’ve talked about how Satan can possess people and influence world culture and use all of that to tempt us to sin. But James reminds us why we sin. James 1:14-15 teaches, “each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”
It’s my sin that will kill me.
And even if I’m born again and in no danger of an eternity in hell — relational carnage, painful consequences, and personal instability will only ever come as a result of the sin that was conceived in and by my personal lusts.
If you were part of our James Bible study, which all TLP Family members can watch for free at TruthLoveParent.com, then you remember that there are two words used for temptation in James 1.
We’ll talk more about the temptation of Christ in a later episode, but basically these two words refer to temptation that comes from the outside of me and temptation that comes from the inside of me. Satan and the World can tempt me all day long, but if I don’t want any part of what they’re selling, I’m not going to give in because I’m not tempted from the inside of me.
For example, someone can tempt me all day long to take drugs, and I never will because there is absolutely no appeal. Nothing in me wants to take drugs. But there are plenty of wicked things that do appeal to me. The things that I want — in my sinful flesh — are the things to which it’s really hard to say no.
Now, Satan is smart enough that he doesn’t waste his time tempting me with drugs. He uses that on people who struggle with that. But he knows me too well. So he takes his cues from my own sin struggles. He uses his propaganda machine which surrounds me all day long and tempts me from the outside with the same things that tempt me from the inside.
And when Satan works in this world to surround me with all right right temptations, and my sinful Flesh latches on to and lusts after the sinful things I think will make me happy, that’s when sin is conceived and death results.
Self, the Flesh, my own sin nature is the one who deals the death blow.
Now, before we finish up today — and I thank you for your patience — I’d need to address a sliver that may be working itself into some of your minds. Maybe you’ve already given it a voice, and perhaps there’s something that seems off about what I’ve said, but you’re unsure what it is.
Allow me to put it into words: How can I say that your rebellious son isn’t the enemy and that you need to stop treating him as if he were, and then in the next breath say that your son’s sinful self is the greatest enemy in his life?
That is a desperately important question that highlights why it’s so incredibly easy to get the two confused.
This is not the show to discuss it. I plan on addressing it in all necessary detail later on, but I do want to establish 5 points for your consideration:
Listen, I know this has been a hard episode. Our Flesh hates to be uncovered. It works so hard to convince us that it’s everything good in us — our courage and ambition and inspiration and value. So, when the Bible reveals that our sin is convincing us to exchange the worship of God for the worship of the creation, it reacts with vitriol. It tries to convince us that “he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” “He’s just one of those Christian fanatics.” “God wants us to be happy. Don’t listen to what that Debbie Downer has to say.” “You need to esteem yourself. All the experts know it’s true.” “Don’t let him talk about your kids that way!”
And a million other lies.
My friends, the Truth will set you free. The Truth that your family’s greatest enemy is your family’s sin nature will unlock the chains of relational distress and sibling bickering. It will liberate your home to pursue the things that really matter in an atmosphere that will be welcoming and joyous.
Now, if you would like to learn more about our struggle with sin. If you’re interested in discovering the details about how we can want to do right on one hand and yet still desire sin on the other. If you’re curious why the world tells you that your kids are basically good even though it’s so natural for them to do genuinely terrible things, I want to encourage you to listen to the episodes I have linked below.
In fact, if you’re part of the TLP Family, you can click on the link below to find all of our episodes about the nature of sin in one place.
If you’d like to join the TLP Family, there’s a link for that in the description of this episode as well.
Remember, if we want our children to grow up into Christ, we must parent in truth and love.
To that end, join us next time as we move from the truth about the spiritual enemies to the spiritual battlefields.
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