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Our Daily Conflict: The Spirit vs the Flesh


Our Daily Conflict: The Spirit vs the Flesh
 
 

Dear Brother Bob,
I have a question concerning a spiritual matter that Satan is really using to get at me...  I am a recovering Alcoholic and attend AA regularly.  I am having trouble trusting GOD completely at times.  I say that he is in charge but I take it back and then impose my will on my life.  This is about the time chaos begins.  Can you please tell me how to totally surrender to GOD's will, or is this just part of the spiritual battle we all must face.  Thank you for you attention and time.
Signed, X
 

Dear X,
The problem you describe is universal to all Christians, whether they will admit it or not. It is so universal that Paul the Apostle writes about it at length in the book of Romans, that he himself was struggling with this. This is also summarized in the book of Galatians in these verses.

Gal 5:16-18 (KJV) 
This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, 
and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 
{17} For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: 
and these are contrary the one to the other: 
so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 
{18} But if ye be led of the Spirit, 
ye are not under the law.

Or as the Living Bible puts it:

Gal 5:16-18(TLB) . 
{16} I advise you to obey only the Holy Spirit's instructions. 
He will tell you where to go and what to do, 
and then you won't always be doing the wrong things
 your evil nature wants you to.
 {17} For we naturally love to do evil things that are 
just the opposite from the things that the Holy Spirit tells us to do; 
and the good things we want to do when the Spirit has his way with us
 are just the opposite of our natural desires. 
These two forces within us are constantly fighting each other
 to win control over us, 
and our wishes are never free from their pressures. 
{18} When you are guided by the Holy Spirit, 
you need no longer force yourself to obey Jewish laws.

So there is a spiritual struggle going on inside every person at all times. Before we are born-again and Christ lives in our heart by the person of the Holy Spirit, we have no choice but to follow the sinful path because we are fallen creatures, cursed because of Adam's sin, and unable to display the Glory of God. We are a slave to sin. 
Rom 3:23 (KJV) 
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

BUT, once we repent of our sin, both the actions and the condition of sin, and turn away from them, and invite Jesus Christ to come into our hearts and to make us born again, then we get a new life from God, and the Holy Spirit comes to live inside us. We still may  be tempted to sin, but now the Holy Spirit in us gives us the power to say "No" to sin. It is then our job to continually say "no" to every temptation to sin, and there will be a lot of them, and let the "saying no" become a habit, replacing the old habit of just giving in to sin. 

And one more thing, "the principle of replacement". If you have a sin that continually presents itself, let's just say for example, it is listening to really bad rock and roll music. This music leads you into thinking about all kinds of sins, sex, drugs, violence, whatever. It would make good spiritual sense to stop listening to it ever again. But then, you have a vacuum. If you stop listening to all music, you will probably miss it, and eventually you will go back to the sleezy rock and roll. But if you replace the "bad" music with "good" music, and say, only listen to uplifting Christian music, or beautiful classical music, your desire to hear music will be fulfilled and you mind will be led back to God instead of back into the gutter. 

The same is true in your case being a recovering alcoholic: you know you have to stay away from all forms of alcohol. But you can't stop drinking all liquids. So you do a "replacement" in kind, and drink club soda instead. So you still get the benefit of drinking liquids without the corrupting influence of alcohol. 

In fact you have to even stay away from the places where alcohol is sold or consumed,  because this will tempt you by the smell and the sight of others drinking it, and the comradery of a tavern experience. So you replace all that with something which uplifts you and gives you the opportunity of experiencing Christian fellowship and service to the Savior: you join the choir or take part in some volunteer service at your church where you will get the fellowship we all need, but will be uplifted in doing the Lord's work, and being around those who love and serve Him.

I also remember this analogy about the spiritual conflict in a Christian's life that may help to clarify the issue. Someone once said that the Christian life is like putting two fighting-dogs in a burlap sack. They will inevitably fight each other, and the one who wins the fight is the one who you feed the most. And so it is in the Christian life... we have two adversarial spiritual natures in our lives. The one that will habitually win over the other will be the one that you "feed" and nurture the most.

I have copied below a relatively long passage below from the Living Bible in Romans. This is admittedly really long, but it clearly states the problem and the solution. Paul's discussion of this actually starts earlier in Chapter 7, but this part covers it pretty well.

Rom 7:18-25 (TLB) 
I know I am rotten through and through 
so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. 
No matter which way I turn I can't make myself do right. 
I want to but I can't. 
{19} When I want to do good, I don't; 
and when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway. 
{20} Now if I am doing what I don't want to, it is plain where the trouble is: 
sin still has me in its evil grasp. 
{21} It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, 
I inevitably do what is wrong.

 {22} I love to do God's will so far as my new nature is concerned; 
{23} but there is something else deep within me, in my lower nature, 
that is at war with my mind and wins the fight 
and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 
In my mind I want to be God's willing servant, 
but instead I find myself still enslaved to sin.
 {24} So you see how it is: 
my new life tells me to do right, 
but the old nature that is still inside me loves to sin. 
Oh, what a terrible predicament I'm in!
 Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly lower nature?

 {25} Thank God! It has been done by Jesus Christ our Lord. 
He has set me free.
{Rom 8:1-21} So there is now no condemnation 
awaiting those who belong to Christ Jesus. 
{2} For the power of the life-giving Spirit--
and this power is mine through Christ Jesus--
has freed me from the vicious circle of sin and death. 
{3} We aren't saved from sin's grasp by knowing the commandments of God because we can't and don't keep them, 
but God put into effect a different plan to save us. 
He sent his own Son in a human body like ours--
except that ours are sinful--
and destroyed sin's control over us 
by giving himself as a sacrifice for our sins. 
{4} So now we can obey God's laws if we follow after the Holy Spirit 
and no longer obey the old evil nature within us. 
{5} Those who let themselves be controlled by their lower natures 
live only to please themselves, 
but those who follow after the Holy Spirit
 find themselves doing those things that please God. 
{6} Following after the Holy Spirit leads to life and peace,
 but following after the old nature leads to death 
{7} because the old sinful nature within us is against God.
 It never did obey God's laws and it never will.
 {8} That's why those who are still under the control of their old sinful selves, 
bent on following their old evil desires, 
can never please God.
 {9} But you are not like that. 
You are controlled by your new nature 
if you have the Spirit of God living in you.
 (And remember that if anyone doesn't have the Spirit of Christ living in him, 
he is not a Christian at all.) 

Rom 8:12-17(TLB)
 So, dear brothers, 
you have no obligations whatever to your old sinful nature 
to do what it begs you to do. 
{13} For if you keep on following it you are lost and will perish, 
but if through the power of the Holy Spirit you crush it and its evil deeds, 
you shall live. 
{14} For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 
{15} And so we should not be like cringing, fearful slaves,
 but we should behave like God's very own children,
 adopted into the bosom of his family, 
and calling to him, "Father, Father." 
{16} For his Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts 
and tells us that we really are God's children.
 {17} And since we are his children, we will share his treasures--
for all God gives to his Son Jesus is now ours too. 

And as if that weren't enough scripture, if a christian does sin, there is always 1John 1:8-9, which is the way to confess it and ask God's forgiveness, and to get right with God again.

1 John 1:8-9 (KJV)
 If we say that we have no sin, 
we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 
{9} If we confess our sins, 
He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, 
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

I am also recommend that you read, "My Heart, Christ's Home. This is also an excellent "exercise" in pursuing total Lordship of Christ in one's life. If you haven't done so before, go through it again, perhaps with a new understanding of what is at stake. 
God Bless you, Brother, in your walk with Jesus. 
In Christ.......brother bob....<><

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