Sometimes, I do what I don’t

The constant struggle between flesh and Spirit plays out in the decisions we make in our everyday lives.

It seems as if we can sometimes forget that sin is actually pleasurable. Oh yes, I am well aware of the grievous effects of sin, namely that its wages are death (Romans 6:23), but that does not give me an outright disdain for sin. 

Think about it. There are a myriad of things that people do routinely that are, in reality, not good for them. Eating junk food. Smoking. You name it.

It only makes sense that someone would do something that is not good for him or her unless they enjoy what they are doing! So is the case with sin.

We should understand, however, that as born-again Christians we have been crucified to the world. Galatians 6:14 states, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

Furthermore, Galatians 2:20 reads, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Sometimes I wonder, though, if I am supposed to be so dead, why am I so alive? Why does it seem as if my connection to the world has not been severed? If Christ lives in me, why does it seem like I cannot feel him?

Then, to compound these questions, I go and read passages like Romans chapter six. Verses six and seven of that chapter read, “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.”

Ok, great. I can get with that. I have been freed from sin, so I should not have to worry about it anymore.

But then I continued reading.

Romans 6:11-12 offers, “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.”

What? I thought I was done with sin. The same passage that says that I have died and been freed from sin also gives me the responsibility of not letting sin have free reign in my life. Why is this?

Well, let us look into the heart of the matter. First, scripture substantiates that all men are sinners. Romans 5:12 states, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.”

As the Apostle Paul rightly states, “[we] were dead in [our] transgressions and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), and, subsequently, God “made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions” (Ephesians 2:6).

Through the work of the cross, God has allowed those who believe in Jesus to be raised with Christ from death (sin) to life (righteousness), by the sanctifying work of the Spirit (2 Thessalonians 2:13).

It is the Spirit of God, then—the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead (Romans 8:11)—that gives the believer the power over sin, so that sin is no longer his master. Effectually, 1 John 5:4 declares, “For everyone born of God overcomes the world.”                                                                                              

The proclamation of being crucified to the world in Galatians 6:14, then, means to reject the viewpoint of the world (1 John 4:5) that consists of the three essential ingredients of sin: “the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does” (1 John 2:16).

Now that we have been crucified and raised with Christ, it is our responsibility to walk righteously. Sure, God has pronounced us righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21), but there is practicality to living a life that honors God. First John 2:6 plainly states, “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.”

Our desire to live godly lives stems from the love that God has poured into our hearts, by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us (Romans 5:5). This, automatically, creates a conflict between a desire to please God and a desire to please ourselves, through sinful pleasures.

Understand that though we have put off the old self with its practices (Colossians 3:9), we still live in a body that is composed of flesh. Romans 7:18a reads, “ For I know nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh” (ESV). The NIV version equates “flesh” with “sinful nature,” as human temperament inclines us towards sin and makes us naturally deserving of God’s wrath (Ephesians 2:3).

This tug-of-war between flesh and Spirit brings us to Galatians chapter five.

This text has been a real blessing to me. Universally, believers can look to this text to strengthen themselves against past desires. Personally, it encourages maintaining the freedom I have found in Christ.

For the longest time, pornography was my constant struggle. It had a grip on me stronger than white has a grip on rice! Through the power of the Spirit, and God’s word, however, the Lord delivered me from that struggle.

Though I have been delivered, the desires remain, and I have to make sure that I do not open the door to that sin once more.

Appropriately, Galatians 5:1 opens the chapter with, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Christ did not set the captives free that they would be bound in their new life, but for the purposes of freedom. He has released the shackles that made us prisoners of sin and death and given us life more abundantly (John 10:10).

Freedom, then, is our responsibility, as we are told to stand firm and not allow the yoke of slavery to be once again placed on our necks.

Paul then goes on to talk about being bound to the law by becoming circumcised, as opposed to righteousness through faith. This is relevant in the believer’s struggle with sin because to submit to the law is to be bound by sin.

Romans 3:20 states, “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.” (See also Romans 7:7-11.)

Galatians 5:9, then, states, “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.”

Paul says this in relation to the false teaching of the Jews throwing the Galatian Church into confusion. This, however, is easily relatable to the believers struggle against sin.

Ephesians 4:27 reads, “And do not give the devil a foothold.” The yeast that ruins the batch of dough has the same affect that giving the enemy room does for the believer—ruin. If we do not close the door when temptation comes (as innocent as it may appear), then we will fall right into sin.

Sin, as a result, can take us to places where we do not want to go, because the yoke of slavery begins to restrict us and control our movement.

Our solution, though, is found in Galatians 5:16. It reads, “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”

Because the flesh and the Spirit desire what are contrary to one another (Galatians 5:18), we must make sure that we are feeding ourselves spiritually by fellowshipping with the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit, in and of itself, is the power of God and is the strongest force in the earth (1 John 4:4). However, our interaction with the Spirit determines how much of his power will be made manifest in our lives.

This is why fasting and praying are essential. Fasting serves to starve the flesh while intensifying our sensitivity to the Spirit. Prayer is how we stay connected with God, giving us a constant flow of the Spirit in our lives.

A life deficient in fasting and praying is one that is more susceptible to follow the prompts of the flesh rather than the Spirit. Romans 8:13 tells us that it is “by the Spirit that you put to death the misdeeds of the body.”

To have success against sin and to keep from backsliding, we must be energized in our faith. Jude 20 says, “But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.”

Ephesians 6:13 solicits, “Therefore put on the whole armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after your have done everything, to stand.”

After listing all that the armor entails, verse 18 says to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions.”

The Holy Spirit is vital to our entire existence—in this life and the next—and is the key to overcoming sin in our lives. Our call is to fan into flame the gift of God (2 Timothy 1:6) not to put out the Spirit’s fire (1 Thessalonians 5:19).

Therefore, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 6:25).


~ by christianballenger on December 1, 2011.

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