24 May Starving the Raven
You know how in movies like Star Wars or Lord of the Rings, there’s this pitting of good against evil, light against darkness? Galatians 5 tells us about the pitting of the flesh against the Spirit: “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (v. 17).
These are the contrary, or opposite, forces within you. Here’s how I like to look at it: inside of you live a raven and a dove. The raven represents your flesh, while the dove represents the Spirit. That analogy comes from the story of Noah and the flood (see Genesis 8:1-12).
After days and days of drifting on the waters, Noah’s ark finally came to rest on Mount Ararat. Soon after that, Noah started seeing the mountaintops all around him. So he opened the window of the ark and let out a raven. But the raven didn’t come back. Why a raven, and why didn’t it come back? Because ravens are carnivores; they eat dead flesh. So when that raven went out from the ark and didn’t return, Noah knew it had plenty of nasty things to feed on.
So Noah waited another week and let out a dove. And the dove did come back, and it had an olive branch in its mouth. That told Noah things were starting to live; trees were blooming. Noah waited seven more days and let the dove go again, and this time, it didn’t come back. Why a dove, and why didn’t it come back? A dove is an herbivore—it eats plants, which means things were finally springing into life.
How does this relate to the flesh and the Spirit? Let’s look at the raven. Galatians 5 says, “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” (vv. 19-21).
Those are all ugly things, aren’t they? They’re what the carnivore craves. And if you eat this stuff, if you glut yourself on these things, then you’re going to turn into that stuff. Garbage in, garbage out, as they say. A fleshly diet brings death as surely as a fatty diet brings death.
Now, maybe you do some of these things. I do. Sometimes I have uncleanness. Sometimes I have contentions. Sometimes I experience selfish ambition. But does that mean I’m not saved? No—just read verse 21: “Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Notice the word practice. We don’t want to make these things a practice in our lives—perfecting the art of doing them. That’s the key.
So what should we make a practice of doing? When it comes to the flesh, the Bible says we should starve it. Paul said, “Make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Romans 13:14). In other words, don’t give evil an inch of leeway. When that raven comes knocking, don’t even answer the door. That’s where we need to begin.