What do you do when your battle chooses you? What do you do when a conflict shows up and you did not choose it? Let’s study a veteran’s account of the conflict that is happening inside every believer’s heart between the Spirit and the flesh.
At the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Romans, he spends some time explaining the cause of our conflict. The cause of our conflict in life is sin. Sin has destroyed our innocence with depravity and desolated our lives with death.
In the first three hopeless chapters of Romans, the Apostle Paul talks about the wickedness of our corrupted natures. Then, in chapters 4-5 he introduces Jesus as the one who liberated us from sin’s dark dominion. This is the good news of the gospel!
Yet, sin no longer has the power over us. From the moment of salvation, we have been freed from slavery to sin to become servants of righteousness.
Romans 6:12-14 says, “Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires. And do not offer any parts of it to sin as weapons for unrighteousness. But as those who are alive from the dead, offer yourselves to God, and all the parts of yourselves to God as weapons for righteousness. For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under the law but under grace.”
However, sin is still present within us. It constantly fights to take control of our hearts and minds from our new Master. Romans 7 says:
“For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”
Romans 8 brings exciting news; the Holy Spirit provides a new way of living. We cannot conquer by ourselves the sin that indwells us. However, now with the Holy Spirit residing in us, we have the necessary reinforcement to overcome sin so we can truly live for Christ.
Paul identifies two battle fronts on which the struggle is played out:
- The external battlefield
Galatians 5:13 says, “For you were called to be free, brothers and sisters; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh but serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself. But if you bite and devour one another, watch out, or you will be consumed by one another.”
Sarcasm, gossip, selfishness, these are just a few of the visible struggles that take place among Christians. You can hear the bullets of bitter words as they explode from people’s lips, you can see the devastation caused by greed, pride, and lust.
Marriages are wiped out, children are maimed, unborn babies are slaughtered, people are starved and abused, livelihoods are destroyed, and relationships are left in rubble, just to name a few.
The second battlefront is more subtle, but just as real.
- The internal battlefield
Galatians 5:17 says, “I say, then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want.”
Inside every believer, there is a battle between the sinful craving of the flesh and the righteous desire of the Spirit. However, we often dismiss or forget this battle because it is a spiritual battle in a realm we cannot see.
Galatians 5:19-21, “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I am warning you about these things, as I warned you before, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
What Paul describes here is the lifestyle of the lost person, not the Christian. In other words, he is describing someone whose life is not just occasionally marked by these sins but is consumed by them their entire lives.
When the flesh dominates a believer’s life, these sins can and will reemerge at times. Sometimes so much so that you might think a person is unsaved. If this is you, let me tell you that you are probably experiencing a hardness of heart to the Spirit and things of God. However, there is a better way!
What happens when the Spirit takes control?
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things.”
The choice is yours. You can, as Paul says in Romans 8:5, set your mind on the things of the flesh, or you can set them on the magnificent things of the Spirit. You will become a follower of whichever master you choose to obey.
Five Righteous Things the Holy Spirit Desires for You
- He desires to give you a life that is habitually characterized by genuine peace.
“Now the mindset of the flesh is death, but the mindset of the Spirit is life and peace.” Romans 8:6
- He desires to take away fear and give you closeness with Jesus.
“For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. Instead, you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!” Romans 8:15
- He desires to give assurance so you can kiss doubts goodbye.
“The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs, heirs of God and coheirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” Romans 8:16-17.
- He desires to assist you in prayer.
“In the same way the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with inexpressible groanings. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27
- He desires to give you focused spiritual awareness.
“We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28.
Pastor Chris Williams
To learn more about Pastor Chris and his teaching, visit us on the web at fcfamily.org and make sure you subscribe to receive these weekly encouragements in your inbox.