Walk In the Spirit and Overcome!

Spirit vs LawThere is a wrestling match going on inside every believer in Christ. It is the war between the Holy Spirit Who has intertwined Himself with our very being and our flesh, that part of us that acts and decides apart from the influence of God. One of the most common questions Christians ask is, “Will I ever be done with the fight, or will I always struggle like I do now?” And the answer is yes and no.

Obviously, we’ll be done with the fight and live on in infinite victory when Jesus comes to put an end to the war forever, but in this life, is real victory possible? The answer is twofold.

In Galatians 5:16-18, Paul tells us on the one hand, that it is impossible for the believer to overcome the power of the flesh. He says, “you cannot do the things that you want.” He also said in Romans 7 that he was always involved in a battle between the flesh and Spirit and couldn’t seem to feel any sense of total victory. The battle rages on. In our flesh, and as long as the old, dead body of sin hangs around, we are rendered virtually incapable of any triumph – we wrestle on.

Thankfully, however, there is a contrasting thought that, though seemingly a paradox, runs alongside our inability to overcome. It is the absolute and abiding power of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives. Paul says, “You cannot do the things that you want, but if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”

We typically think of the “law” in the Bible as the mosaic law, the commandments and ceremonies that Moses gave to Israel. But the word “law” in this context more likely refers to the nature of things, such as the law of gravity or in this case, the law of our flesh. As lost sinners, we are bound to the natural law which essentially binds us to a life of continual sin. But…

If you are “led by the Spirit” however, there is freedom from the law. Galatians 5:16 is a key verse in the Christian life, “This I say then, walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Each verb tense is continuous, so literally, anytime you are continuously walking in the Spirit, you will not be fulfilling the lust of the flesh. Anytime you are not walking in the Spirit, you’ll be susceptible and vulnerable to the intense desires of the flesh, which by nature, craves the fleeting pleasure of sin.

You’re going to fail again. Why? Because you’re made of flesh. But in this moment you can have victory if you’re willing to be led by the Spirit of God. The question then becomes, are you more yielded to His control now than you used to be? Are you growing in your submissiveness to Him? Are you making forward progress in your intimacy with God?

Thank God the ability to overcome the flesh is not in me – it is in God. My willpower alone will usually let me down, but the power of God operating within me by the presence and influence of the Holy Spirit is unstoppable. Don’t just say “no” to sin, say “yes” to Almighty God!

Demolishing Strongholds

Living Room FortI love having what I call “family fortnights,” nights when our family builds a fort. Sometimes we break our sectional sofa apart and turn pieces of it up on end, stretch blankets and bedsheets over it all and create a fort. In the imagination of my toddler, this creates a special fortress of protection from the elements and our enemies. In the mind of my wife, I’m making a mess of her living room, but she’s in the fort too.

Satan loves to build forts too. The Bible refers to them as strongholds, which are essentially miniature outposts he establishes as he scales the walls of our hearts in an attempt to completely harden and destroy us. If we are unaware of these strongholds, we can slowly surrender more of our spiritual territory over to him without even realizing it. For example…

  • We fail to forgive our ex-spouse for abandoning us, so we refuse to get close to people in the future.
  • We suffered a moment of abuse in our youth, so we buy the lie that we weren’t worth protecting.
  • We were exposed to pornography in adolescence, wiring our brains to seek pleasure in illicit imagery and creating a lifelong battle with lust.
  • We were offended or hurt by someone within the church, so we turn against the very idea of church.
  • We can’t explain some of the Bible’s difficulties, so like dominoes, our beliefs turn into skepticism about God.

And the list goes on. The point is, Satan will use the smallest of experiences to create pockets of festering infection in our lives that can ultimately spell the ruin of our relationships with God and other people.

Or…

We can fight with the weapons God hands to us. We can demolish the strongholds and lies that bind us using God’s truth. We can invade the territory the enemy has taken by praying, calling on God to act and watching Him respond. Paul said it this way,

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.

– 2 Corinthians 10:4 (NIV)

He’s willing to fight for you and to equip you for battle. And here’s the best part… the war itself is already won. Jesus died for your sin and rose again in victory over Satan, sin, death, and the grave. We just have a few more skirmishes to fight with the floundering armies of darkness.

Winning the War Over the Flesh

There is a universal battle in the lives of believers between the flesh and the Spirit. We waver between doing what our fleshly instincts tell us to do and doing what God is telling us to do. This is a timeless battle.

As we look through the life of David, we’ve come to a spot in his life where I believe he was struggling greatly in this battle. Out of six chapters of 1 Samuel, we learn at least four lessons about what our flesh is prone to do. I want us to consider these as well as what God wants us to do as the winning alternative…

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Real Christians Hurt… And Show It

As Paul concluded his second letter to Timothy, he expressed some hurt. Demas had forsaken him. Alexander the coppersmith had caused him much harm. At one point, no one was willing to stand with Paul. Rejection, criticism, and abandonment hurt! The world is watching believers to see how we’re going to handle it all.

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Hate Sin or Hate Self

Moments ago, I was spending some time in prayer and I was confessing known sin in my life. As I prayed, I said, “God, I’m sorry for this sin, I ought to hate this sin.” Almost instantly God spoke to my heart and I blurted out what I heard Him say, “Brandon, you’ll either learn to hate your sin, or you’ll wind up hating yourself.”

As we confess sin and seek the Holy Spirit’s power to overcome it, we ought to remember that we have a new identity in Christ. We are not to be subject to a very popular but perhaps erroneous “miserable sinnerism” (coined by J. Sidlow Baxter) but rather we are to see ourselves as forgiven and freed. Sin no longer defines us, Christ does, if we’ve been washed once for all in His blood.

In order to preserve a close intimacy with God and forward spiritual progress, I desperately need to see myself as “in Christ,” to see sin as something to be loathed, and to see cleansing as a continuous need. If we loathe ourselves, we’ll give up. If we exalt ourselves, we’ll blow it because of pride. But if we hate sin and exalt the indwelling Christ in us, we’ll see the victory!

I Want to Climb Higher

In today’s devotional reading from J. Sidlow Baxter’s book Awake My Heart, there is a particularly moving paragraph that not only puts into perspective what the Christian’s worldview ought to be, but also inspires us to remember the ultimate end of that worldview…

Christ’s people were never meant to live at the world’s sea-level. We are meant to have a mountain view, the long view, the wide view, the really understanding view. We are meant to see the happenings of our time in the light of inspired prophecy, through the eyes of the Holy Spirit, from the high view-point of the divine purpose, and with our gaze on the ultimate victory of Christ.

He then closes out the writing with a sample prayer of commitment for the coming year that I want to make my own:

I will give not less than thirty minutes each day to prayer. I will commend my Savior in earnest conversation to at least one person each week. I will read consecutively each day from both Old and New Testaments. I will allow nothing in my life which might in any way compromise the name of Jesus.

The Motivation of Sure Success

“But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” -1 Corinthians 15:57-58

When I was in Junior High, I had a Nintendo game system and a particular baseball game in which you could pre-program the statistics of your team to make them better. You were allowed a certain number of homeruns for the season and you divided them among your lineup as you felt best. I would stack the first seven batters with all of the statistics so that I would end up winning almost every game against the computer. In a 162-game season, I’d end up winning about 150 games! Cheating? You decide.

One thing I know is that the odds are already stacked in our favor. You may feel like Satan’s punching bag today, but God has already insured your success. Satan is defeated, or at least he is as good as defeated. When darkness shrouded Jesus on the cross, Satan had his brief glimmer of limelight, but when the tomb was opened, Satan’s doom was sealed! Now God’s Word says clearly that every believer has sure victory, certain success, absolute assurance of final conquest.

We often wonder at God’s ways. If you want your people to work hard, why guarantee their salary? Why not give them a quota, some incentive to earn their keep. But remember that the very nature of salvation is that it’s a free gift from God. The gospel would not be so glorious if it could be earned by our labor. Instead it is too lofty, too high for us. It is so glorious it is unattainable. God’s eternal riches are reserved for those who, in absolute humility, fall on their faces before His throne in worship and adoration. May His name be praised! We’ve won, now let’s get to work!