But put on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
we live in a hyper-sexualized culture, when we read Paul's phrase above,
“desires of the flesh,” we tend to think about sexuality. This is especially
true if we read older translations that speak of “lusts of the flesh.” Though
desires of the flesh may lead to sexual immorality, Paul is speaking about an
important way to understand how we operate as human beings.
The Bible's view of human motivation is "What the heart desires, the will chooses, and the mind justifies" (This is attributed to Thomas Cranmer). In other words, if I want something, I will choose it, and then mentally justify that it is good to choose it. This works not only with desiring evil things, but with desiring good things too much. We are gratifying the desires of the flesh, not only when we desire evil and then choose it, but also when we desire a good thing too much and choose it, and then sin.
Let me give an example: comfort is a good thing. But too easily, I can desire comfort too much so that on a bad day I can eat too much or eat very poorly. Why did I eat poorly or gluttonously? Because I wanted comfort too much. My desire for a good thing (comfort), led to choosing a sinful behavior, which my mind justified as a good idea. This is what it looks like to gratify the desires of the flesh.
It goes something like this. I desire comfort too much, so I am tempted to sin by gluttony. But instead of seeking comfort in food, I remember Jesus. During a stressful day, I remind myself and seek to have another remind me of the gospel, so that I seek comfort in Jesus and not in overeating. I pray. I remind myself that Jesus is Lord and he will provide; he cares for me, and he restores and redeems me. I remember his love for me, and I remind myself of past ways Jesus has delivered me from my fears. As I am doing that, my heart begins to turn away from wanting comfort in food to experiencing comfort in Jesus, and then I don't over eat.
This is the battle for the heart: submitting our disordered heart to God in Jesus, and asking the Spirit through the Scriptures and trusted counselors, to restore order to our desires so we don't gratify the desires of the flesh.