But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.Romans 13:14 (ESV)
This week I have been meditating and focusing my thoughts on this verse from Romans where Paul sums up his teaching on how love is the fulfillment of the law. I was leading a small group through the larger passage of verses 8-14 and we spent a good amount of time discussing what this verse looks like in our lives as we seek to not only put on Jesus but to make no provision to gratify our fleshly desires. This really is a double requirement in life as it would be difficult to have one and not the other. How can we put on Christ, but continue making provision for sin? How can we stop making provision for sin, if we are not putting on Christ? Paul’s encouragement and challenge is to do both at the same time. For as we put on Christ, we will necessarily want to rid ourselves of those fleshly desires and no longer seek their gratification.
As I pondered this verse throughout the week, I focused mainly on what it means to make no provision for the flesh. Provision is an interesting word choice in that it is a word that I am familiar with but actually had a difficult time defining in simple terms. I landed on the understanding that Paul is saying I am to not be actively engaged in planning, preparing, or arranging to gratify the desires of the flesh. The line of demarcation needs to be clear and identifiable. When I am making provision for sin, I am actively seeking to engage in the gratification of the desire. I make exceptions, excuses, or justifications for why it is seemingly right to “just do this one thing” that maybe doesn’t fully gratify the desire itself but will provide me with some level of gratification. This is making provision for the flesh.
In my weakness of understanding and faith, I can easily make arrangements to gratify these desires without truly seeing my faulty thinking. I convince myself that what I am listening to is not that bad or that what I am watching is necessary to be part of the conversation at work. I allow my thoughts to drift and wander into forbidden areas because they are just thoughts after all. This is making provision to gratify the desires of the flesh. Each step along this line makes it easier and easier to continue on and feed those fleshly desires. I often don’t understand that by making provision for these desires I am nurturing and caring for them as I would a plant that will continue to grow and thrive in my heart until it overtakes all of my life. The answer is to simply make no provision for the flesh.
There is only one solution to making no provision for the flesh and that is to put on Christ. Earlier, Paul called us to put on the armor of light. In both cases, there is an understanding that I am to do this action with intentionality and purpose. To put on Christ is not an act that happens to me. Paul tells me that I must choose to put on Christ and actively clothe myself with Him. Just as I get up and dress myself every morning, I am to put on Christ first and foremost. Putting on Christ is not an afterthought, but is the primary activity of my daily life.
I don’t know that I have fully come to understand what it means to put on Christ in a meaningful way. I am still thinking and contemplating how this looks in my life. I can say that it is helpful to think about putting on Christ as a garment. It is necessary for me to see my ever-present need for Jesus as I walk this journey of faith. To make no provision for the flesh, I continually need the strength and power of Christ to work in and through me. I need to always put on the Lord Jesus Christ at every single moment. For as I put on Jesus, I am putting off the desires of the flesh. And as I put off the desires of the flesh, I will necessarily seek to cover myself with Jesus.
Heavenly Father, open my eyes to the multitude of ways that I continue to make provision for gratifying the desires of my flesh and lead me toward a life of humility, repentance, and faith clothed in the wonderful grace and mercy of Jesus. Reveal to me the heinous nature of my sinful desires. Show me the true darkness of my inner thoughts. Let me see the depth of my need for a Savior. Then… Show me Jesus. Show me Jesus with his open arms stretched out to receive me over and over again. Show me how to clothe myself in the love of Christ and go forth with me into the world.