The Struggle is Real
A man was sitting at a stop light one morning. The lady in front of him was going through papers on the seat of her car, and when the light changed, she ignored the fact that it had turned green. She sat there until the light turned red again. So, the man behind her began screaming epithets and beating on his steering wheel. His expressions of disgust were interrupted by a policeman, gun drawn, tapping on his window. Against his protests of, “You can’t arrest me for hollering in my car,” the officer ordered him into the back seat of his police car. After about two hours in a holding cell, the arresting officer advised him he was free to go. He said, “I knew you couldn’t arrest me for what I was yelling in my own car. You haven’t heard the last of this.” The officer replied, “I didn’t arrest you for shouting in your car. I was directly behind you at the light. I saw you screaming and beating your steering wheel, and I said to myself, “What a jerk. But there is nothing I can do to him for throwing a fit in his own car.” Then I noticed the cross hanging from your rearview mirror, the bright yellow “Choose Life” license plate cover, and the “Jesus Is Coming Soon” bumper sticker, and I thought you must have stolen the car.” – (Copied)
Nothing seems to turn people away from Christianity more than that of inconsistency - observing people who say one thing yet do another. Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines inconsistency as - "not persistent, lacking firmness of constitution or character, and lacking harmony of conduct and practice with profession." Sadly, this is all too common in Christian circles today, it can easily hindering our witness.
Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, tells us in Romans 6:6 and in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that as born-again believers, having received the Lord Jesus Christ and the accompanying indwelling Holy Spirit, each of us is a new creation. The old self enslaved to sin has been crucified. As such, we ought no longer to be comfortable with our old sinful ways, and we should desire to turn from them seeking God’s will for our lives. The Bible says in
but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,
When we come to the fifth chapter of Galatians, Paul instructs us about the indwelling Holy Spirit’s work in the daily life of the believer. We need to recognize that while the Holy Spirit has decisively defeated the flesh through our union with Christ in His death, not every believer is living a life of victory. As long as we are still in this body, we remain imperfect and there remains in every believer a remnant or vestige of sin which the Bible calls the flesh. This remnant of sin causes a continual and fierce struggle in which the flesh wars against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.
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.
John MacArthur says, “The Spirit-led life is a life of conflict, because it is in constant combat with the old ways of the flesh that continue to tempt and seduce the believer.”
Grant Richison has said, “A spiritual titanic tug of war takes place in every believer. The non-Christian does not have that same kind of struggle for he is nothing but “flesh.” He has no other reference point. Once a person comes to know Christ, he enters a significant spiritual struggle.”
That struggle actually involves three enemies that war against the Christian: the world, the flesh and the devil.
Many believe that the devil is our greatest enemy. The Word of God says that he is the “prince of the power of the air” and walks about as a roaring lion seeking to destroy believers. However, though Satan is a formidable enemy, he is not our greatest enemy. The cartoon character Pogo had it right when he said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Our greatest enemy dwells within us: it is our flesh.
What is meant by Paul when he speaks of the flesh?
For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
The Struggle is Real...
How does the flesh manifest itself in human beings? The Bible answers the question this way:
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; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Examples of the flesh’s outworking in the world are evident. Consider a few sad facts taken from a recent survey on the effect of pornography in America. According to the study, every second in the U.S.:
• $3,075.64 is being spent on pornography • 28,258 Internet users are viewing pornography • 372 Internet users are typing adult search terms into search engines
And every 39 minutes, a new pornographic video is being created in the United States. Such statistics underscore the statement made by the prophet Jeremiah who mourned that...
“The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
Daily we are faced with the choice of either walking according to the flesh, corrupted by sin, or walking in the Spirit. There is a sharp contrast between "walking in the Spirit" and "walking according to the flesh."
In Eph. 2:1-3 we read,
And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.
It was in these three areas that Satan tempted Christ in the wilderness. When considering these three, we see that walking after the flesh is our attempt to get our needs and wants, our longings and desires met independently of God,
the lust of the eyes can be seen as seeking self-fulfillment; in other words, “what I can have or get in this life”.
The lust of the flesh can be seen as “what I can do, experience, or take pleasure in in this life”,
while the pride of life - “what I can be, achieve, or be seen as in this life”.
In each case, the focus is on “I” apart from God. Christians who “walk after the flesh” foolishly take their perspective and focus off God's glory and when that happens even that which may be good becomes sin.
When a believer walks according to the flesh he or she conforms themselves to the fallen world and starts craving the things of this world in violation of the command of Romans 12:2 not to conform or pattern one’s life after this world.
In contrast to walking according to the flesh, Paul writes in Galatians 5:16, “Walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lust (or desire) of the flesh.”
When you walk in the Spirit you allow Him to guide your conduct wherever you go and whatever you do.
Jerry Bridges wrote, “To walk by the Spirit is to live under the controlling influence of the Spirit and in dependence upon Him… Practically speaking, we live under the controlling influence of the Spirit as we continually expose our minds to and seek to obey the Spirit’s moral will for us as revealed in Scripture. We live in dependence on Him through prayer as we continually cry out to Him for His power to enable us to obey His will.”
For the believer, this path is not optional.
In Ephesians 5:18, we are told not to get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless living, but be filled by the Spirit. This is not a suggestion but an imperative, a command. Understand, When Paul is talking about being filled with the Spirit, he is not talking about having the Holy Spirit indwell you. If you are a believer, you were baptized and indwelt by the Holy Spirit the very moment you were saved.
Concerning the Christian, Romans 8:9 states
But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.
Paul under the inspiration of the HS, is commanding that you and I yieldingly live continually under the controlling influence of the Holy Spirit. Every Christian has the Spirit, but the Spirit does not have every Christian. Simply put if you are a believer you have all the Holy Spirit you will ever need and He demands to have all of you.
It’s clear from God’s Word that walking or living according to the flesh produces a number of unfortunate consequences.
Paul gives us a list of the out-workings of walking according to the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21 which fall into three main categories: sexual sins (immorality, impurity, sensuality), religious sins (idolatry, sorcery), and social or communal sins (hatred, hostilities, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing and the like).
There is a stern warning given in verse 21 when Paul says, “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” The word "do" refers to the habitual practice of such things. This is more than falling into a sin through weakness and carelessness. Paul is speaking about those who live in sin as a settled choice and principle of life.
Understand I am not saying that Christians are sinless. Even many true believers can and will fall into the sins listed in Gal. 5:19-21, but the important point is that the sin is not continual in one's life.
1 John 3:9 says,
Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.
As believers, while in this body, we still sin daily, but we cannot habitually sin without conviction or God’s discipline. If we are guilty of any of these sins, we must confess them to the Lord and turn from them.
The Struggle is Real…but remember this, we have newness of life in Christ and must live accordingly.
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
We keep in step with the Spirit when we are in full compliance with the will of the Spirit. We understand what His will is through the study of the Word of God.
2 Peter 1:3-4 states
as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
We are to ask Him for insight into His Word. As we spend time in the Word, the Spirit illuminates the Scripture, so we know exactly what the Word of God calls us to do. His Word then directs our steps and helps us to keep in pace with the Spirit. That what Paul means when He says, Walk in the Spirit. We must depend on Him consciously for everything we do, clinging to Him in the face of temptation and difficulties.
The story is told of an evangelist who was preaching on an unnamed native American reservation. As he was walking down the street, he met one of his recent converts who had had a reputation as the reservation drunk, tough guy, and womanizer. When the preacher inquired how the new Christian was doing, the Indian replied, “I don’t know. It’s like there is a big dogfight going on in my head. My old, bad dog that wants me to go back to the bars, is fighting with this new good dog that wants me to go to church, love my wife, and tell others about Christ.” The evangelist smiled and asked, “Which one is winning.” The Indian replied, “I guess the one I feed the most!” In each of us there is a battle going on between the flesh (the bad dog) and the spirit (the good dog). To be victorious in the daily battle we must starve the bad dog, feed the good dog, and not quit! (copied).