The war within: Spirit vs Sin

For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
-Galatians 5:17
The flesh vs the Spirit.
For Christians, the Sprit filled life is meant to be a life of growth and maturation.
But just because Christians have the Holy Spirit in us, it certainly does not mean that everything in life suddenly becomes easy or that we never struggle with sin.
We’re simultaneously saint and sinner. You’re still sinful yet forgiven by God. And verse 17 is helpful in understanding the Christian life.
Because even though you have the Holy Spirit, you still have a sinful nature and the two are at war with each other. The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh.
The flesh, our sinful nature is never in agreement with the Spirit. There’s a war raging within every believer.
And no matter how long you’ve been following Jesus, no matter how well you know the Bible, no matter how much time you send in prayer, no matter how loudly you sing in worship, on this side of heaven, that war never stops.
You’ll never be totally free of it in this life.
You’ll never be so mature as a Christian that you’re past this internal Spiritual conflict.
And that should be encouraging in the sense that: if you are struggling, if you are going through a Spiritually difficult time, not to get totally down on yourself and condemning yourself.
Not to look at your life, and think “well shouldn’t this be easy.”
Because you have a sinful nature. And that opposes the things of the Spirit.
The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh.
Now, don’t misunderstand me.
On the one hand, we should be encouraged that we are not alone in that.
The most Godly person you can think of still has struggles, still has days where they’re Spiritually flat. Still has situations where they don’t walk in the faith they should.
But at the same time, don’t misunderstand me and think “Oh, so it doesn’t matter and it’s ok to keep falling into sin.”
No, this passage mentions the struggle, mentions the war.
But you still have to fight it!
It’s hard to have faith permeate every aspect of our lives.
From the time we wake up until the time we go to bed.
In our interactions with people who are unloveable. In our stressful situations when we don’t know how things will work out.In our unfulfilled hopes and desires. In the mundane moments of life. It can be easy to get complacent and to sit back. For things to be ok but not great.
It’s hard to love God with all of our heart, with all of our soul, with all of our mind, and with all of our strength.
Because there’s a war raging.
Think of how hard it can be to find 30 minutes or an hour everyday to read the Bible.
To just sit with God. To not look at a cell phone or check email. To not get up and look outside. To not start talking to your spouse or your kids instead. To not cut the time short.
To not start thinking more about what needs to be done that day, or that week, or thinking about your grocery list. But for a few minutes, to be totally, singularly focused on the Lord and basking in the light of his truth and goodness.
No distractions.
It’s hard.
And maybe some days, man, it really does go that smoothly.
But was it that good yesterday? Is it that good everyday?
Just to find some time just for you and God.
It’s hard.
Because the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh.

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Josh Benner is the associate pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in Minnesota.

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