There is a conflict that doesn’t exist until a person is born again. A war that the world has no interest in preparing Christians for, but ensures the struggle is invisible until we enter the Kingdom of God.
Because of the above reality, its important for us in the Body of Christ to be aware and reminded of some truths that can assist us in how we approach this unavoidable struggle.
The battle I am talking about is the one between the flesh and the Spirit.
What’s the deal?
Lets first get to the heart of the matter. In Galatians 5:17 we are told that The flesh sets its desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. (in another version it says that you are not free to carry out your good intentions.)
Unfortunately, while Christians are living in their bodies, there will always be some kind of clash with the Spirit, at least until we get to go home. Why? Because if we are honest, when we read what Paul has to say in Romans 7:18, that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh, we know its true for us as well.
The remainder of verse 18 says that for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. Am I the only one who experiences this when it comes to practicing what I would like to do, but often doing the very thing that I hate instead? The deal is that while on this earth Christians have no other choice but to experience this problem. It’s not new or going away.
For those struggling with this struggle – You are not alone
I know there are brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering because they feel like they are not good enough, or they have failed in the flesh so many times they cannot see a way forward. A reminder that there is no condemnation for those that are in Christ, so if you are feeling defeated, as real as that state is, it’s important for you to know that you don’t have to stay in that space, and God has provided a way forward for you.
My current battle is with the use, or should I say the over use of my phone. The scrolling of Facebook and YouTube has wasted a lot of time that God has given me, and often I feel extremely frustrated and mentally exhausted after staying connected for to long. While this issue is on and off, it is a battle and needs to be dealt with. What about you, is there something that you are struggling with, in your flesh?
What the battle is not!
Thankfully God has not left us in the dark when it comes to this stuff. We are told in the book of Ephesians that Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Jesus also said that his Kingdom is not of this world
So on one hand the problem is our flesh, but responding with our flesh is not an option. (well it is but looks where it gets us- nowhere fast!) Because the kingdom we have been born again into is not of this world, we cannot approach the battle like every other kingdom. Think of all the battle scenes in the big budget movies that you have seen. What comes to my mind are the images of battle ready soldiers on the line waiting to get into it. While their leader gallops up and down the ranks on their war horse giving the speech that will cause those he commands to all at once roar and chant while waiving their weapons in the air.
Sadly many Christians think this is how they should approach the conflict with their flesh. The only thing that wins here is the law, and then we are left right back where we started. To stand firm in the freedom that Christ has given us as mentioned in Galatians 5:1 says, the first thing we must realise is that the battle is not won by acting like we are in control.
Being led instead of leading the charge.
Earlier I mentioned that the world does not prepare us Christians for this conflict. If anything, it makes it hard for us as citizens of the Kingdom of God, especially when it comes to the our approach to this supernatural conflict between the flesh and the spirit.
The world encourages go getters, the louder you are the better, you have rights so go get what you deserve and most of all it suggests that you are powerful and within you lies the answers that will give you what you want.
The Kingdom of God encourages the complete opposite!
Most Christians understand the above truth in their head, but how we live often looks more like the world and what it encourages. It’s time we gave up the illusion of being in control, and take up the practice of regularly admitting that we are not able to meet the standards of God’s Kingdom.
This is probably one of the hardest things for Followers of Jesus to do, to come before God and and admit that we are not as powerful as we once thought we were. Because we are so used to responding in the physical, the thought of a spiritual approach, especially when it comes to the flesh, is hard to grasp and even more of a challenge to practice.
In Galatians 5:18 we are told that if we are led by the Spirit, we are not under the law. A couple of things that would be really important to take note of here
- We are to be led. This is instead of us trying to control and do better.
- And when we are led we will not be under the law. When we are not under the law, that’s where we experience freedom.
If you are still reading, I want to suggest that the real winning against the flesh, doesn’t actually have anything to do with the two steps I have mentioned above.
It is the daily practice of coming to God poor in spirit and mourning your struggle with the flesh. This is the beginning of freedom in the struggle you are experiencing
I believe that this practice is all important in our day to day living as followers of Jesus, and by making this a priority, it is only then will we see the fruits of the Spirit on display. Not only that, we are also told in the beatitudes that Blessed are the poor in Spirt and Blessed are those who mourn. It means happy are those, but not the type of happiness that depends on circumstances, nope, that’s the way happiness works in the world. This is the type that runs very deep and is life changing.
Father God we are thankful that you have rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us us to the kingdom of your beloved son, in who we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Because of this we need learn what it means to be citizens of your Kingdom. Lord, there is still a bit of the world in us and that makes choosing your ways sometimes hard. Help us to live with the tension of the conflict between the flesh and the spirit and enjoying our freedom in Christ and lead us in the way everlasting. – Amen