The Internal Battle for Control

For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. (Galatians 5:17-18)

As Christians, why do we do what we don’t really want to do, and why do we not do what we really want to do? In Romans 7, Paul describes this internal conflict from his personal experience. He concludes, Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. … So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. (Romans 7:20,25b)

This internal battle of the mind and will is unique to believers, all of whom have the Holy Spirit indwelling them. (Unbelievers may be bothered by their conscience—which serves to painfully alert them to their sin, but their motivation is not to bring glory to God.)

Once we surrender our lives to Christ, our sinful nature doesn’t simply disappear—it must be resisted and restrained by submitting ourselves to the control of the Spirit. Since we now love and trust God, we strive to honor Him through our obedience to His law that He has written on our hearts. 

This battle is not easy. If we become lax in our fellowship with God by neglecting our spiritual disciplines (studying God’s Word, prayer, worship, etc.), we then give an opening for our sinful nature to speak louder to us than the Spirit. Therefore, as we’re making out choice, we normally follow the leading of the nature within us that grabs our attention the most, and we often choose to sin.

However, the battle is necessary. The Lord warns us, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 5:20) Here, Jesus Christ teaches us that unless saved-by-grace Christians are more moral than the moralists, who hope to save themselves by their meticulous obedience to the law, we will not enter God’s kingdom. 

And yet, the ultimate victory in battle for the Christian is assured. Paul wrote, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6) So, press on to win the prize for which God has called you heavenward.

By Jim Connell

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