It was 5 AM on a Friday morning when, out of a sound sleep, I got punched in the nose–not from a fist, but from a powerful odor. It was the unmistakable smell of a skunk, and it was coming from inside the house! I got up to investigate and found our dog, Honey, sitting outside our bedroom door, having been sprayed. I walked to the kitchen to see what the visitor had done. Trash from the toppled garbage bag was scattered across the kitchen floor. Alas, the last one to bed didn’t lock the “doggie door.” Our dog had heard the commotion in the kitchen and confronted the visitor. However, this black cat had a distinctive white stripe down its back. The visitor responded by spraying its arsenal, filling our house with the rotten smell ! 
(Not realizing the potency of the odor, our other daughter went to the hospital for her shift as a nurse and I dropped off our twins at school. Before returning home with a carpet cleaning machine and various cleaning and deodorizing products, all three Woodwards were sent home due to their unmistakable, arresting fragrance. So, Friday became an all-hands-on-deck cleaning day. Ugh! After extensive cleaning, airing, and using an electronic air cleaner, in a couple of days the house was mostly free of the stench.)
My only consolation from this episode is to make you thankful that this hasn’t happened to you and to introduce this article’s theme. We’re going to investigate the topic of the sinful flesh which trips us up as disciples of Christ. To use Martha’s words (from the KJV, John 11:39), it “stinketh.”
A Definition of “flesh”
Let’s take a closer look at this issue. What is the believer’s enemy–the flesh? “Flesh” denotes that aspect of the believer which consists of the residual beliefs, memories, responses, habit patterns, and coping mechanisms which have been acquired in this fallen world. It consists in the “programming” that’s based in our mortal body that negatively influences the mind, will, and emotions (the soul). The flesh inclines us to attempt to get our ultimate needs met apart from Christ. Flesh patterns are based upon our strategies of living independently of God.
Before salvation we were “in the flesh” because, “That which is born of flesh is flesh” (John 3:6a). However, after being regenerated by the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ our position changed to that of being “in the Spirit” because “that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (Rom. 8:9; John 3:6b). Now the believer is called upon to put off the attitudes and actions which derive from the old flesh patterns, i.e., to not walk according to the flesh or slip into a carnal condition (1 Cor. 3:1-3).
The apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 5:19-21: “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like…”
In overcoming the flesh, it is important to gain precise understanding of what part of us was crucified. The “old man” (who you were in Adam positionally and spiritually) has been put off at conversion and is now out of the picture (Rom. 6:6; Col. 3:9). Then, what part of us still remains as a present obstacle to spiritual growth? Watchman Nee commented on the latter:
“Let us note carefully that though the flesh may be so put to death that it becomes ‘ineffective’ (the real meaning of ‘destroy’ in Rom. 6:6), it endures nonetheless … Regenerated life does not alter the flesh; co-crucifixion does not extinguish the flesh; the indwelling Holy Spirit does not render it impossible to walk by the flesh. The flesh abides permanently in the believer. Whenever the opportunity is provided for its operation, it will at once spring into action.”
Satan uses the flesh to tempt us to doubt our salvation, or disbelieve the provision for abundant living which Christ has made for us. We confess that our flesh remains selfish, proud, and independent, no matter how far the believer progresses in spiritual maturity this side of glory. As Paul testified, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good [when I try to live under the Law] I do not find” (Rom. 7:18).
A Prescription to bypass “the flesh”
Can we get victory over these attitudes and behaviors through rigorous introspection? No, that doesn’t help much. Charles Solomon observed
“Many Christians, and those fitting the description of neurotic behavior, almost without exception spend much time in looking inward … The result? The more they look inward, the more miserable they become, in spite of the fact that they may view their self-searching and self condemnation as proof of their sincerity, or as a kind of punishment by which they get even with themselves … At best, our searching can only turn up garbage, and sorting garbage is a most depressing avocation. Too, if we could ever complete the interminable task, we would wind up with neatly sorted piles of garbage, but still blind to the source of all garbage–self.”
The One who should do the searching of our soul is the Holy Spirit. As the Psalmist said,
“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting”(Psalm 139:23,24).
When He convicts us of sin, He also points us to the fountain of cleansing (1 John 1:9). This contrasts the devil’s strategy. When Satan accuses us, he uses guilt to attack our sense of fellowship with God, attempting to turn us away from Christ our Advocate (1 John 2:1,2; Rev. 12:11).
So how can you overcome the negative influence of the flesh? Here are some essentials:
1. Look unto Jesus, not yourself. He is your source of Life. (Heb. 12:1,2; Col. 3:4)
2. Reckon your “old man” [who you were in Adam] crucified with Christ, and buried with Him. As a child of God, the new you has been raised with Christ, and ascended with Him. Therefore, you’re free from the authority of sin and have a new identity as a “saint” (Gal. 2:20; Rom. 6:6-10; Eph. 2:4-7; Col. 1:2,4).
3. Depend upon Christ’s resurrection life to “put to death” the actions of the body which would express the desires of the flesh (Rom. 5:10; 8:13).
4. Walk in the Spirit, yielding to His power and control (Eph. 5:18). “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).
We can’t get rid of the “skunk” of the flesh until we leave this mortal life; it’s a stinkin’ visitor until we get our glorified, spirit-oriented body (1 Cor 15:44-57). However, we are called and equipped to not spread that fleshly “smell” with carnal attitudes, words, or behavior. Under the rule of grace we have a higher calling–to walk in the Spirit!
“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place” (2 Cor. 2:14).
Our Father, we confess that in our flesh nothing good dwells. We now look unto Jesus and depend fully upon His resurrection life in us. May we walk in the Spirit as a good testimony of your transforming grace. Amen.
 I assume the skunk’s odor-spraying capacity is a result of the curse placed on the earth after the fall in Genesis 3 !
 Thayer’s Lexicon: Flesh = Gk. “sarx.” It is used 1) flesh (the soft substance of the living body, which covers the bones…), 2) the body…, 3) a living creature (because possessed of a body of flesh)…, 4) the flesh, denotes mere human nature, the earthly nature of man apart from divine influence, and therefore prone to sin and opposed to God. [This article is dealing with usage # 4. The flesh- is a sin-stained and sin-trained inward tendency that is in the child of God, but does not denote his new spiritual nature. The case for using the biblical terminology instead on conventional terms is discussed here: Does the Believer Have a Sinful Nature?“]
 Watchman Nee, The Spiritual Man, vol. 1 (Christian Fellowship Publishers, 1977 edition), p.102,103
 Charles Solomon, Handbook to Happiness (Tyndale), p.84.
Copyright 2003 by John Woodward, second edition. Permission is granted to reprint this article for noncommercial, ministry use if credit is given to the author and GraceNotebook.com. Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version (Copyright by Thomas Nelson).