By Ross Gilbert
Paul wrote a letter to the Galatians to answer questions about the battle within, a battle which is within each of us as well. He says, “But I say walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh, 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. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Galatians 5:16-18 (NASB)
In his letter, Paul reminds the church in Galatia, and us today, that Jesus didn’t only die for us, but that we died with Him too. That can be a challenge to grasp, can’t it? If we look and feel alive, who actually died? Paul answers that question, telling us that it was our sinful nature that died. Our sinful nature is the nature we had when we arrived here on planet earth and that is what was crucified with Christ. It’s dead, it was buried and no it longer lives. Instead, Christ now lives in us, so the life we live now we live by faith. We live by relying upon Jesus Christ, the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself up for us.
It’s not you and your strength that provides victory,
it’s Jesus Christ that provides victory
over sin and temptation.
We are neither flesh nor spirit. Our new nature, the life of Christ, is righteous through and through. Paul says in verse 17 that the flesh’s desire is against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. For these are in opposition to one another that we may not do the things that we please. The flesh is indwelling sin that is present in our flesh or mortal body. Paul describes this thing called “sin in the flesh” in Romans 7 as something that is not him.
When trying to understand this battle within, it is so important to understand that the “Spirit” Paul speaks of in Galatians 5, is the Holy Spirit, one of the three Persons of the Holy Trinity. Wherever you have one, you have them all: Father God, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The battle within exists because sin in the flesh wants to control your new nature.
Its desire for you is to satisfy legitimate desires apart from the will of God. It speaks to you in first person, saying “I,” “me,” “myself,” it even adopts your accent. It knows where you lack, where you are weak and it knows your history. For example, as a spouse who is feeling unloved, the flesh could possibly entice you to satisfy your desire with pornography or with illicit relationships to feel loved. But instead of experiencing what you were hoping, you are left miserable. When you sin you are miserable because you are doing what is against your nature.
You were made a new creation to pursue life in Christ but the flesh entices you to seek life in things that instead bring death.
This may sound like a hopeless battle, but the Holy Spirit came to set you free, not control you. You were set free simply so you would be free. Jesus never commanded people to come and follow Him, He always invited them.
In John 7, Jesus says, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come unto me.” And that is what the Holy Spirit does, He recognizes our legitimate desires and invites us to experience true life and satisfaction in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
There is a titanic battle between the flesh and the Spirit going on inside you, but no matter who the battle is between, it’s not your job to overcome it!
And you can’t overcome it, that is why the Spirit is warring on your behalf. Instead say: ‘God, here I am. You love me and I love you and you're living in me. What do you want to do in me right now?’ The battle within is only won by trusting Jesus to overcome the flesh for you.
So it is not your willpower that overcomes the flesh, it’s Christ in you that overcomes the flesh. And He has a perfect record against it! Will you trust Jesus to fight the battle for you?