Summary: In the Spiritual battle we fight every day, sometimes the worst enemy we face is ourselves, our sinful nature.

We are in a battle. Every day, every hour, every minute. As we had already studied:

Ephesians 6:12 (NASB95) For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Last week we looked at the devil, but we as Christians must realize that the devil may affect circumstances around us, the devil may tempt us, but the devil cannot make you do anything. It is our flesh that is weak. It is our sinful nature.

In his book, Being the Body, Charles Colson writes, “What Oprah is preaching is not particularly new. It’s just that the combination of her public access and immense influence, as well as the particular appeal of her own earnest search for meaning, make it uniquely twenty-first century. The Church of O encourages people to ask all the right questions about life, meaning, service to others, identity—and then to look in precisely the wrong place to find those answers. Within.”

Unfortunately, the answers aren’t within—that’s where the problem lies. We’re all sinners—not Saviors. The answer is outside of ourselves. We don’t need personal reflection; we need a Savior. One who can forgive us and save us from our sins. [1]

Answers to life are not found within. That's clearly the wrong place to look. The Bible clearly states:

Jeremiah 17:9 (NASB95) “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?

Today we will look at the battle we face every day. The enemy is within – our flesh. The fact is for most of us, in living the true Christian life, we are own worst enemies.

Galatians 5:16–26

A man who strolled out of a hardware store with a smile on his face and a brand-new chainsaw in his hands. He was told it could cut down five big oak trees in an hour. Twenty-four hours later, however, his smile was gone. Frustrated, he was back at the store complaining that the saw would never cut five trees in an hour. "It took me all day to cut down one tree." Puzzled, the store owner stepped outside with the saw, gave the cord a swift pull, and fired up the steel-toothed beast. Its deafening roar sent the customer stumbling to get away. "What’s that noise?" he gasped.

This is exactly how most Christians try to live. Claiming to have the Holy Spirit but never filled with the Spirit’s power or trusting in the Spirit. The fact is, life is a struggle: A struggle physically. A struggle emotionally. A struggle Spiritually.

Our war is not against physical things, but against evil in heavenly places. We have many foes in this battle, the first we have to contend with is ourselves. As stated earlier, often we are our own worst enemy.

Galatians 5:16 (NASB95) But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.

The lust of the flesh. What exactly is that? The fact of the matter is we have a sinful nature. We got this sinful nature at birth. We inherited it all the way from Adam. It is in our genes – it is genetic. We are faced with the lust of the flesh or said another way, our sinful nature. Paul is telling the church in Galatia that they must walk in the Spirit to avoid succumbing to that sinful nature.

Galatians 5:17–18 (NASB95) 17 For 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. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.

This is the problem: There are two natures in the believer (I am preaching to Christians here). And they are at war with each other. The Spirit and the flesh–our sinful nature, in constant conflict. Then throw in temptation form the devil for good measure. This spiritual battle rages inside of us. Paul thoroughly understood that. He wrote much concerning that conflict between the Spirit and our sinful nature.

Romans 7:15–21 (NASB95) 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. 17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.

Can anyone identify with Paul? Paul cried out in his desperation:

Romans 7:24–8:1 (NASB95) 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. 8:1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

So the question is quite simple – which one do we gratify? The Spirit or our sinful nature? The answer is obvious, but not so simple. Let’s examine our sinful nature for just a moment.

Galatians 5:19–21a (NASB95) 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these …

Wow, what a list! Let's just briefly look at this list of evils:

immorality – the Greek is "porneia" from which we get our word “pornography.” The KJV uses the old world “fornication.”

Lewdness and debauchery – immorality without shame.

Idolatry – anything we place before God.

Sorcery – [NIV witchcraft] – Greek: "pharmakeia" from which we get our word pharmacy – meanings to dispense medicine, but in Paul’s day it took a negative meaning because it was closely associated with drugs used in occultic practices involving interaction with evil spirits. Yes, there were drugs and a drug problem even in Paul’s day. a surprising note I found in studying this word, it was also closely associated with abortion. They knew what drugs would cause a woman to miscarriage.

Enmities is another word for hatred.

Strife – discord – the result of hatred.

Jealousies – bad feeling about others good fortune.

Anger – When a person is angry, they are not in their right mind. That's why the warning about do not sin in your anger.

Dissensions – factions – causing discord among ourselves.

Envying – nothing more than covetousness, wanting want others have.

Drunkenness, carousing – excessive alcohol - wild partying, things done while drunk. The NIV translate this as "orgies.'

This is not an all inclusive list. Paul adds: “and things like these.” We can obviously add to this list. Let’s look at the rest of verse 21.

Galatians 5:21b (NASB95) … of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

There are those who will be quick to point out that this is "hate speech" in today’s culture. “How dare you say I am not going to heaven!” "Who are you to tell me what is right and wrong?"

Do Christians fall into these sins? Yes – but the question is, do they remain there? The key word here is “practice.” Are these the things a Christian practices – are their live characterized by these things? If the answer is yes, then we can legitimately question whether that person is really saved. Paul said a similar thing to the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 6:9–10 (NASB95) 9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.

These things are also the works of the flesh. Some will say, “doing what comes naturally.” As I said before, many in today’s world would call this "hate speech." But I’m just preaching the Word of God. If we look into it, we would truly call it “love speech” because God is giving warning to the world. God does not desire that any perish but that all comes to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

In writing to the Corinthians Paul adds:

1 Corinthians 6:11 (NASB95) Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

Yes, there were those in Corinth caught up in those detestable sin, but they were saved out of those sins. We need to understand about these sins because this is how the world operates: “If it feels good, do it.” “Why is it wrong if it feels so right?” “How can something that feels so good be so wrong?” “God made me this way so it must be ok.”

The problem with many in our world is that right and wrong is determined by human logic, by human reasoning, by human emotions and feelings, but not by the Word of God.

Proverbs 14:12 (NASB95) There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.

Look at the world around us Check out the news. We have a world that has given in to the flesh. A world and a culture that does whatever they feel like doing. Paul warns young Timothy about those in the world:

2 Timothy 3:1–5 (NASB95) 1 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.

We see this all around us and the world will pull us in unless we are following the Spirit. What does it look like to follow the Spirit?

Galatians 5:22–23 (NASB95) 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Take note here. In the previous verses (19-21) Paul said all those nasty things were the deeds or works [plural] of the flesh. Whereas, here in verse 22, Paul talks about the fruit [singular] of the Spirit. There is one fruit of the Spirit that manifests itself in nine Christian graces. Quite a list. We can fake acting out one or two of these items, but to display all these fruit, every day, requires the work of the Holy Spirit. I will not get in the particulars of all these fruit, perhaps a subject for another sermon, but we pretty much understand them. These are all description of the one fruit we produce from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

What fruit or deeds are we displaying? Jesus says:

Matthew 7:16–18 (NASB95) 16 “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.

So how does this work in real life? Does a real or true Christian produce bad fruit?

Galatians 5:24–25 (NASB95) 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

We who are in Christ, have crucified the flesh – our sinful nature. I don’t know about you, but I have to crucify the sinful nature daily. Choosing to walk in the Spirit is a daily choice, and hourly choice and sometimes minute by minute, moment by moment choice. The devil (last week) uses all the devices at his disposal. Book of Job – he tried to draw Job away from God and to make Job sin against God by taking away all he had and inflicting him with pain. Then God allowed the devil to try and make Jesus sin. The devil tempted Jesus. Why do you think the Bible calls him the Tempter?

The devil knows our weaknesses. We must walk in the Spirit. “Walk” in the Greek is a military term. In means to be in a line, like ancient soldiers going to battle. The NIV has “keep in step.” Those who have marched in a military formation knows the importance of being “in step.” Are we in step with the Spirit?

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NASB95) No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

Walking in the Spirit means looking for that way of escape. Paul wrote this in the context of idolatry, pagan worship and all the sinful and sensual practices that it all entailed and was designed to pull at the sensual desires of the flesh. Considering all of this, we must look at verse 14.

1 Corinthians 10:14 (NASB95) Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

When we see the path the Spirit has laid out for us – take it. The Holy Spirit will not force His way on us. He waits to be depended upon. When the believer depends on the Spirit, the believer will not yield to the sinful nature.

What are we yielding to? The Spirit or our sinful nature? It takes practice. It requires us to be in constant step with the Spirit.

If you do not know Jesus, you do not have His Spirit. You are a slave to your sinful nature, whether you realize it or not. To be a “good person” means having to resist your nature on your own. And you are still dead in your sins. We are not to look within ourselves for the answers of life, but to the Savior. Living life as a Christian is being in step with His Spirit.

[1] —Being the Body, p. 181 Illustration by Jim L. Wilson