Winds of Challenge- How to Win the War Between Flesh and Spirit
March 5, 2020
Winds of Challenge- How to Win the Battle Between Flesh and Spirit
The Modern Pilgrim’s Progress #9- Pilgrim faces challenging headwinds as she attempts to keep up with the Good Shepherd
Every waking moment of every day, we make choices. Small choices. Large choices. Choices that reveal who is in charge, our old nature or the Holy Spirit. Choices that reflect the kingdom of light or the kingdom of darkness. Choices that enrich our lives or degrade them. Choices that affect others around us for good or evil.
Doughnut or protein bar?
Couch potato or exercise?
Sleep in or devotional time?
Cheerful or grumpy?
Kindness or impatience?
There are times we face more choices than this in less than ten minutes. Life can come fast and hard. And doing the right stuff can be even harder. In Galatians 5:17 the Apostle Paul addresses this issue. “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” As children of God, we want to please him. We want to behave like Jesus, but our old nature will buck that at every single turn.
For me, it’s like this. I used to be a sugaraholic. If I had a fat book to read, I could polish off an entire bag of Oreos. Or a pan of brownies. Or a whole can of Garrett’s caramel corn. (It’s a Chicago thing) In time, I damaged my pancreas. Because I chose to. Because I listened to the wrong coach, my old sinful nature.
When faced with a decision between junky and healthy snacks, there are two coaches competing for my allegiance. My flesh says, “You deserve a treat, it’s just a little sugar.” That voice, ironically, always sounds syrupy and smooth. The other voice is the Holy Spirit, jumping up and down and shouting, “You’ve got better choices! Go for the strawberries instead. Maybe just a smidge of chocolate drizzled on top.”
In this life, every choice I need to make will create a rivalry for coaching rights between my flesh and the Holy Spirit. Which coach will I follow? I know which one I want to follow and so do you. How do we do that? How can we stay in step with the Holy Spirit? Here’s some ideas.
Acknowledge that choices are moment by moment and that will never change in this life.
New believers sometimes think that once they commit to following Jesus Christ, past behaviors and patterns will curl up and die. Even mature believers, who should know better, are baffled at how strong the pull of the flesh can be.
Listen, Satan is enraged whenever he loses another follower. He will look for inroads into a believer’s life. Our own flesh is an easy target. All he must do is plant a juicy temptation in front of our old nature and he knows he’s got a chance.
As we mature, we will not be tempted in the same ways, but I like what Joyce Meyer says about this. “New levels, new devils.” Satan may not be able to lead me into the back end of an Oreo bag anymore, but he will find other weak spots in me. Like selfishness or fear.
Realize that whichever nature you feed will become stronger.
Honestly, it gags me now, to think of eating even one Oreo let alone a bag. God transformed my appetite when I started following his recommendations. He retrained my tongue and destroyed my cravings. God is willing to do this in any area of my life where the old nature tries to dominate. But I must cooperate, choose his voice, and follow his direction.
As another example, did you know that when we look at pornography, the same chemicals are released in our brain as when narcotics are used? The same sense of pleasure and euphoria can occur. An instant craving is created that will grow until a decision is made to starve that craving and allow God to redirect your mind and body towards healthy pursuits.
Are you faithfully feeding the old nature or your new one? What are you reading, watching and listening to? What are you talking and thinking about? Who do you spend time with? Doing what?
“What is this feeding in me?” is a great question to ask ourselves throughout the day.
Understand that keeping in step with the Spirit is more attitude than effort.
We cannot grow the fruit of the Holy Spirit through determination. We cultivate love, joy, peace patience, goodness, meekness, kindness, gentleness and self-control when we yield and cooperate with him. Humility recognizes that Me, Myself and I are incapable of sustaining a continuous yield of this fruit. I could do patient for a day, maybe. Possibly self-control for an hour. Depends on who pushes my buttons.
Only the Holy Spirit can do the internal work in me that creates lasting change. And work stops when I don’t cooperate. Each morning, I need to ask him to fill, change and empower me. Some days I do that with a song, like this one by Selah.
Holy Spirit fill us with your fire.
Give us your desires.
Hold us close to you.
It’s presumptuous of me to assume the Holy Spirit will fill me without me asking. After that, it’s a matter of listening and obeying.
As long as we breathe earth’s air, our old natures will be at war with the Holy Spirit. What will you do today, that’s different from yesterday, to cooperate with the Holy Spirit? What things in your life need to die of starvation? What will you feed to your new nature today?
Here’s some Scriptures that are food for the soul which longs to keep in step with the Spirit of God.