How To Win The War Within (Part 1)
I ask you to think back to the day that you were born again? Do you remember the freedom, peace and joy that you experienced? Do you remember the amazing feeling when you realized that your fears and burdens had been removed and your sins had been washed away?
- You had a new love for God
- You had a new outlook on life
- You had attained eternal life
- You wanted to learn all there was to know about God
- You wanted to tell everyone what Jesus had done for you
- You wanted to serve the Lord in any (and every) way possible
Then shortly after that amazing transformation the enemy mounted an attack! You were tempted to sin and ...YOU DID JUST THAT! The guilt and shame was overwhelming and you felt miserable. Then the enemy began to whisper words of doubt in your mind. He makes you ask certain questions to yourself:
- How could you do such a thing if you were really a Christian?
- How could you have such thoughts if you were really born again?
- How could you say those things if you were really a child of God?
Then (along with the doubts) discouragement sets in.
In salvation you did not just get a free pass out of Hell and receive a home in Heaven. You also enlisted in God's Army and you were placed on the frontlines of a war! You are not involved in a small battle, you are in the midst of an intense war... A WAR WITHIN!! - I am referring to the war between the flesh and the Spirit. Galatians 5:17 ...the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other...
Many Christians that you encounter are living defeated lives! And I believe that much of the blame belongs to the church. For far too long the Church has put all of the focus on professions of faith, baptisms and numerical growth and has neglected to "make disciples" It is a great joy to see someone born into the family of God but there are countless people who have prayed a prayer and hove no idea what comes next.
> The U.S Army has recruiters who seek out and enlist men and women into the Army. They tell those individuals of the great benefits of joining the armed forces. After the individual signs up they are sent to basic training and then they receive specialized training. They are provided with weapons and trained how to use them. Before that soldier is ever sent into battle they are prepared for what they will face from the enemy.
In many cases the church's evangelism process is the equivalent of a recruiter convincing someone to join the Army and then sending them directly into battle without any knowledge, skill, weapons or training. As a result, many of our brethren are in the heat of the battle facing certain defeat!
- Maybe you are here and you have asked this question... "If I am truly saved then why do I sin so easily and so often, even when I don¡¦t want to sin?
It may encourage you to know that the Apostle Paul faced that same struggle- Romans 7:18 And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can¡¦t.19 I want to do what is good, but I don¡¦t. I don¡¦t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.20 But if I do what I don¡¦t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.21 I have discovered this principle of life¡Xthat when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.22 I love God¡¦s law with all my heart.23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.
- Adrian Rogers so rightly stated that "The Christian life is not a playground, it is a battlefield" - It is a war! And today I would like to walk through these verses and see "How To Win The War Within"
I will go ahead and tell you just "How To Win The War Within" in fact the answer is found in verse 16 - Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh
The key to victory is clear, but the battle is not an easy one! In order for us to truly "follow the Spirit", we must understand the differences between the Spirit and the flesh. So let's' look to verses 16-21 and see the contrast between the flesh and Spirit.
I. The Flesh
Dr. W.G. Scroggie said that "The flesh may be defined as "man's fallen nature under the power of sin." It is the evil principle in man's nature, the traitor within who is in league with the attackers without. The flesh provides the tinder on which the devil's temptations can kindle. - J.O. Sanders, Enjoying Intimacy with God, Moody.
- Here in our selected text we find:
A. A Concise Description Of The Flesh - v19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
¡§The flesh¡¨ refers not only to the physical body, but also the mind, will, and emotions which are all subject to sin. We are told that "the works of the flesh are made manifest"... this means that they are made clear. When you follow the desires of the flesh it will be obvious by your actions. Paul gives us a rather extensive list of the "works of the flesh"
He speaks of things such as:
- lustful pleasures
- outbursts of anger
- selfish ambition
- wild parties
This describes one side of the battle that we face. Keep in mind that your soul may be saved but your flesh is as lost as it ever was! And that flesh still has evil, worldly and sinful desires... desires that must be dealt with! Consider:
B. The Corrupt Desires Of The Flesh - v17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh:
The flesh and Spirit have desires that are contrary to one another. This is where the battle comes in! We find ourselves in a place where we have desires to do both good and evil!
The cuckoo bird never builds its own nest. It flies around until it sees another nest with eggs in it and no mother bird around. The cuckoo quickly lands, lays its eggs there, and flies away. The thrush, whose nest has been invaded, comes back. Not being very good at arithmetic, she gets to work hatching the eggs. What happens? Four little thrushes hatch, but one large cuckoo hatches. The cuckoo is two or three times the size of the thrushes.Over time, the bigger cuckoo wants the smaller thrushes out of the nest¡Kso a battle begins. The cuckoo wages war against the thrushes. Eventually, the cuckoo wins the battle by throwing the smaller thrushes out of the nest. http://www.biblecenter.com/sermons/thebattlewithin.htm
Just like the cuckoo bird, the FLESH IS A BULLY! And when you least expect it, the flesh will make its presence known! And the flesh is corrupt! - Romans 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing:
If you want to know how corrupt the human flesh is... just look at our society:
- Child molesters
- Domestic violence
There is no limit to the evil that can come from a life lived in the flesh! And even in the believer the flesh is an ever present force to be reckoned with! Consider:
C. The Constant Distraction Of The Flesh - v17b and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
The spirit and the flesh are constantly fighting one another.
- Have you ever just been minding your business, and then the flesh begins to desire something that you know is wrong?
- Maybe you have been somewhere focused on the awesomeness of God and meditating on His greatness and then those evil desires creep up?
- Have you ever been in the middle of a prayer and all of the sudden your mind drifts to something other than the prayer?
- Have you been present in one of those amazing worship services and everything other that worship is on your mind?
- Have you ever been looking at the preacher nodding your head and smiling wand all the while you are going trying to figure out where you are going for lunch when he stops?
- Have you ever had the desire to do what is right but find yourself doing what is wrong?
If you are saved you have faced all of these issues from time to time... you are min the middle of a WAR!! You desire good and evil all at the same time!
Your Spirit wants to pray... your flesh wants to watch that sitcom!
Your Spirit wants to forgive... your flesh wants revenge!
Your Spirit wants to study... your flesh wants to go to sleep!
Your Spirit wants to witness to that lost loved one... your flesh want to let some one else do it!
Your Spirit wants to tithe... your flesh wants to spend!
Your Spirit wants to love... your flesh wants to hate!
Your Spirit wants to go to church... your flesh wants to go to the ballgame, hunting or just stay in bed.
The flesh is a constant distraction... the battle between the flesh and Sprit is ever present in the life of a believer. Sometimes the battle may seem to tough... remember that you do not have to fight this war on your own! We must live and fight by the Spirit of God. Remember what Paul said back in - Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
We can experience victory when we follow the directions given in verse 16 ...Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. Let's take a little time and look at the other side of this battle. Consider:
II. The Spirit
At the moment of our conversion we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. - 1 Corinthians 6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.
When Paul says for us to walk, he is speaking of a lifestyle of obedience. We are to follow the direction of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives. When we are confronted with temptation...when our fleshly deisres come upon us we MUST YEILD TO THE SPIRIT!
A. The Privilege Of The Spirit - v16a This I say then, Walk in the Spirit,
The Spirit is a privilege that applies only to those who are born again.
- Romans 8:9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
In chapter 4 we saw the fact that we are privileged to be adopted into the family of God! Here we see the amazing fact that the Holy Spirit dwells within us. He leads, guides and directs us. This is just another awesome element in our personal relationship with the entire Trinity!
- Notice also:
B. The Protection Of The Spirit - v16b Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
When we are obedient and follow the direction of the Sprit we will not give in to our fleshly desires. There is no guarantee that we will not face temptation but when we walk in the Sprit we can overcome and have victory over that temptation.
When we walk in the Sprit we will be protected from the sin and consequences that come as a result of the evil works of the flesh!
- 1 Corinthians 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
When you follow after the flesh you are forfeiting the protection that comes from walking in the Spirit!
Just as we saw a list of the works of the flesh, we also have a list that covers the fruits of the Spirit. Notice down in verse 22:
C. The Proof Of The Spirit
Paul says that the Holy Spirit produces certain fruits in our lives:
This is the proof of the Spirit life! - Verse 17 tells us that ..."the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires."
When you compare ¡§the works of the flesh¡¨ with the ¡§the fruit of the Spirit¡¨ you can know whether you are walking by the Spirit or being controlled by the flesh. It is also an indicator of salvation! A lost man will never truly posses all of the fruits of the Spirit apart from Christ!
- I ask you to take a moment and take a test... which list describes you better?
1. Are you living a life that is marked by - sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these
2. Are is you life marked by - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
You say that you are saved...I hope so but the scriptures tell us that there WILL be fruit in the life of a believer!
The problem of the Christian life is based on the fact that so long as the Christian lives in this world he is, so to speak, two trees¡Xthe old tree of the flesh, and the new tree of the divine nature; and the problem itself is, how to keep barren the old tree and to make fruitful the new tree. The problem is solved by walking in the Spirit (C. I. Scofield, in MacDonald, William ; Farstad, Arthur: Believer¡¦s Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments.
Are you LED by the flesh or are you LED by the Spirit? The verb ¡§led¡¨ indicates voluntary submission
YOU make the decision as to WHO will lead you!
YOU decide if you are going to listen to your FLESH!
YOU decide if you are going to be submissive and obedient to the SPIRIT!
A story I heard illustrates this truth: "A young man, determined to find help for his troubled life, walked to a neighboring church. He told the pastor that his life was meaningless and in constant turmoil. He wanted to make better choices, but couldn't.
He described the conflict: "It's as if I have two dogs constantly battling within me. One dog is evil, while the other is good. The battles are long and difficult; they drain me emotionally and mentally." Without a moment's thought, the pastor asked, "Which dog wins the battles?" Hesitantly, the young man admitted, "The evil dog."
The pastor looked at him and said, "That's the one you feed the most. You need to starve that dog to death!"
Are you feeding the good dog or the evil dog? Are you following the lusts of the flesh or the direction of the Holy Spirit? If you truly desire To Win The war Within, then you must follow the Spirit!