Firstly, the flesh and the old man are not the same thing. You may think this is merely a technicality, but it is not.
The old man is crucified with Jesus. And while remembered in scripture as something to totally divest and not return to, the old man is no more. If the old man still had life, the Holy Sprirt could not have been given on the day of Pentecost. But because the old man died being crucified with Jesus, believers are wholly sanctified and the Holy Spirit is given to us freely and fully, (or else the Spirit could not enter the temple – this principle is illustrated repeatedly in the old testament). Therefore we conclude that the old man is no more.
But we have this power (the Holy Spirit) in earthen (fleshly) vessels. And the flesh and the world are related because the flesh is of the earth and of the same substance as the world.
Therefore, drawn to the world and susceptible to the lies of the devil, it is the flesh that actively troubles us, (not the old man) because it “lusts” against the Spirit, the word lust indicating a longing for the things of the world working against the truth and leading of the Holy Spirit.
But the Spirit is against the flesh and the true Christian responds to His call, forsaking the world and all it holds, allowing God to create a new man in His image.
Now religion is the flesh attempting to mimic or imitate the true life of God. And the flesh loves religion, that is why there are so many false religions and antichrists in the world. And churches forsake the true power of God and fall into religion because practicing religion is easier than being a Christian – it costs nothing.
But Christianity and religion are two very different paths and if you believe in him, it is time to ask God to completely remove all religion from your heart and instead, to create Christ in you by his Word.
So, the old man and the flesh are not the same thing, and the old man is dead and done away with. But just as God sent his Son in the flesh, he leaves us in the flesh, allowing certain lusts (temptations) to remain, leaving some of our enemies in the land to teach us that the flesh (and the world) have absolutely nothing to offer him.
Remember Cain? Singled out in scripture as a fornicator, in love with this world and confident in the flesh, he offered the work of his own hands thinking God would be pleased. But it was not accepted. Well the absolute most deceptive and despicable lie of the flesh is the insidious thought that we have anything to offer God. I say the thought that we can do something to merit God’s favour is insidious, because it creeps in without us being aware. That’s why Jeremiah calls the heart of man deceitful and desperately wicked, adding, “who can know it?” It is also the reason why Cain had no idea his offering was an offence to God.
And so God leaves his children in the battle with lust to humble and bring us to the ultimate recognition that the flesh (and this world) have absolutely nothing to offer him. This is how we learn the “exceeding sinfulness of sin” and the true corruption of the flesh.
But believing that we are still battling the old man, many Christians are led into discouragement and offence. And instead of forsaking themselves and the world, they fall into a substitute.
But beware. Practicing religion is easier than being a Christian because it costs nothing.
Religion is a subtle imposter, but you can recognize it. Religion does not require you forsake everything, but true Christianity does. Religion does not require you give up our own thoughts and your own ways to follow the man Jesus, but true Christianity does. Religion does not require that two wills become one, but Chriatianity does.
Religious “christians” cannot comprehend the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit. Neither do they follow him or understand their body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Why? Because until we forsake everything we are servants of the flesh, aligned with the world, allies of the devil, and the best we can do is blindly practice religion as a deceptive substitute for faith.
But the true believer’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is on the throne, and there is power. And when the true church is assembled, the Holy Spirit is in control, Jesus is all in all, and God is manifest in all of his power. This is how the true church of Jesus Christ is identified. Just like Janes and Jambres, religion cannot mimic the true power of God.
Flee from religion and every other dead work of the flesh.