The flesh sets its desire 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.
True or false: Christians have more struggles in this life than non-Christians. Interestingly, that statement is true. The Bible says when we become a Christian, God gives us a new nature that desires to please God. But we still have a remnant of our old sin nature with its selfish desires. As a result, our new nature and our old nature are constantly at war with each other. What happens when a Christian chooses to regularly follow his old set of desires? The result is what we call a carnal Christian, somebody who lives like an unbeliever.
In the Corinthian church, there were a lot of carnal Christians–Paul called them “men of flesh” (1 Corinthians 3:1). This week, we are going to study the consequences of carnality and the cure for carnality. But first, I want you to notice the characteristics of carnal Christians.
First of all, carnal Christians are slaves to their old nature. When you become a Christian, the power of your old nature is broken. Look at Colossians 2:11: “In [Christ] you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ.” Paul was saying when we became a Christian, God performed spiritual circumcision on us, the “removal of the body of the flesh.” That word “removal” is an unfortunate translation because our old nature has not been removed, but its power source has been cut. That old nature has no more power over our lives than we choose to allow it to have. Though the power of the old nature has been broken, its influence remains. Paul wrote in Galatians 5:17, “The flesh sets its desire 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.”
Imagine two horses, one representing your old nature and one representing your new nature, and they are pulling against one another. How do you make sure your new nature wins? You want to starve the horse that is pulling in the wrong direction to diminish its power, and you want to strengthen the horse that is pulling in the right direction. It is the same way with the tug-of-war in your heart. If you want your new nature to win, you have to starve your old nature. You have to refuse to feed it. You have to quit watching those things, reading those articles, and being around those people who pull you away from the things of God.
Many of us regularly feed that old nature, and we wonder why we give in to temptation. We have to starve our old nature. But that is not enough; we also have to strengthen our new nature that desires to please God. We have to grow up by growing strong.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Growing Up by Growing Strong” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2010.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.