Five Ways To Squash an Instinct

We’re a generation that’s more separated from death than our ancestors. I grew up hunting, fishing, and being around farm animals. Animal deaths were a part of our life. It’s rare that I see my food die anymore (unless I stab my cheeseburger before I put it in the ministry).

Our agriculture class in high school used to be to kill a hog as one of our projects. It showed us the whole process of meat processing from squeal to sausage. I never particularly like the killing part and the shrill screams of the pig showed that he wasn’t crazy about it either.

Most of our killing today involves video game monsters. But, each of us has to “kill” something in our spiritual life–that old man, that old way of doing things (the “old man” isn’t your husband, ladies).

Here Paul shows that even for the Spirit-energized believer, putting the flesh to death can be loud, messy, and uncomfortable. But we can do it.

“For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Rom. 8:13, NKJV)
J.B. Phillips says it like this:

“So then, my brothers, you can see that we have no particular reason to feel grateful to our sensual nature, or to live life on the level of the instincts. Indeed that way of living leads to certain spiritual death. But if on the other hand you cut the nerve of your instinctive actions by obeying the Spirit, you are on the way to real living.” (Rom. 8:13)

Paul describes this same process to the Galatians in vivid terms:

“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Gal. 5:24, 25, NIV)

“Put to death,” “cut the nerve,” “crucify the flesh,” all these powerful images flash on our spirit to emphasize that denying our sexual desires outside of marriage, strangling our tongue when it wants to gossip or lie or be smart alecky, overruling our proud heart when he’s certain that his brother needs to be put in place, letting humility take the place of pride in our religious actions– these things and many others aren’t easy to do.

But, to walk in the Spirit we’ve got to put the actions that rise from our flesh, our instincts from before Christ, to death.

And how they squeal!

The difference is that now, by the Spirit who strengthens us from within, we can do it. Before we failed even when we self-righteously thought we were doing it better than others.

Living by faith in the Lord Jesus and in His power working in us opens the door for a whole new sweetness in our relationship with God.

“All who follow the leading of God’s Spirit are God’s own sons. Nor are you meant to relapse into the old slavish attitude of fear—you have been adopted into the very family circle of God and you can say with a full heart, “Father, my Father”. The Spirit himself endorses our inward conviction that we really are the children of God. Think what that means. If we are his children we share his treasures, and all that Christ claims as his will belong to all of us as well! Yes, if we share in his suffering we shall certainly share in his glory. ” (Rom. 8:14-17, J.B. Phillips)

So, how do you kill an instinct?

1.    You carefully compare what you’re feeling and desiring with God’s Word, the Bible. If it’s not worthy of the Lord … whap! “But, David, it’s not easy.” Do I ever know it! The Cross wasn’t easy for the Lord either but He did it for us.

2.    You constantly let the Spirit of God sift through your attitudes and feelings. We legitimize things that don’t please Him by justifying questionable actions and attitudes. We might even give them spiritual names, but there is no fooling the Spirit who dwells within us. Listen to Him.

3.    Be careful that you don’t act from an oversensitive human conscience that fears to trust God fully and wants to justify himself by his efforts. Some people live in slavery, constantly afraid that their smallest action will get them in trouble before God. How do I know what’s from the Spirit and what’s from me? Experience in living and applying the Word to your life. We don’t always get it right but God judges our heart. He shows us if we let Him.

4.    Get a friend to help. When we can talk with others we’re stronger. When a friend says, “And how’s the battle going in that area this week?” it makes us more responsible through the week.

5.    Constantly remind yourself how much your Father loves you. Remember how precious you are to the Lord Jesus. Memorize Zephaniah 3:17 and 1 John 3:1-3 and other verses that hammer home the truth of God’s love to your spirit. Nothing can separate us from that incredible love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:35-39)

Squash the squealing old man and let the power of the Spirit’s life flow through your everyday life. That’s so much sweeter than cowering in fear or trying to walk when we’re swelled up like a proud spiritual frog!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *