The Apostle Paul was an awesome, powerful man of God. Amazing miracles were done by his hands. Handkerchiefs that were brought from his body were laid on the sick and they were healed. He was a man consumed with the purposes of God.
Yet, this powerful man that was used mightily of the Lord, said that he had a struggle. A conflict within. And it’s a struggle that every believer can relate to, if we’re honest.
Let’s read what he says in Romans 7.
(Romans 7:15-25 NLT)
(15)I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. (16)But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. (17)So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. (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—that 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. (24)Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? (25)Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.
Paul, the man God used to who healed the sick and blind said, “I don’t understand myself. I want to do what is right, but I don’t. Instead, I do that which I loathe, I hate.” He was being very transparent.
He desperately wanted to do right. He agreed with it, but didn’t always practice it. Can anyone relate to Paul’s struggle here? You don’t want to sin. You really want to live holy. You don’t want to have impure thoughts. You don’t want to complain or be ungrateful. Being wasteful with finances is something you don’t set out to do each day.
With everything within, you want to please God, live holy and fulfill His purposes for your life.
But, there’s this war. Another power within that wars against the Spirit.
And when you give into the desires of your flesh, you absolutely hate it. Like Paul, you feel miserable. You almost feel defeated. And the enemy heaps on the condemnation, guilt, shame, and frustration. He points the finger at you and wants you to focus on your inability to change yourself.
Let’s look at this battle a little bit more.
(Galatians 5:17 NLT) The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.
The flesh wars against you living the life of self-denial and sacrifice required of a disciple of Christ. Because the flesh desires and what it wants, when it wants it.
As disciples of Christ, part of denying ourselves means that we say no to the desires of our flesh. No good thing lies within our flesh.
(Galatians 6:7-8 NIV)
(7)Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. (8)Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
We can’t seek to satisfy our own carnal desires. Because no good thing lies in our flesh, as we sow into the flesh, by giving into it’s desires, we reap corruption and death from that sinful nature.
It is a real battle for your soul.
And if you are going to have victory in this war, and yes you can, you must understand that even this battle between flesh and spirit, is the Lord’s battle. Because, even with all of your good intentions, you are powerless over the flesh. You can’t do it alone. But, as Paul said, “Thank God!” The answer, or the victory we are seeking in this battle, is in our Lord Jesus Christ.
We can’t do it without Him. Our human efforts are nothing.
We have to trust in the power of One greater than ourselves. We need Him. He enables and empowers us to win the battle within.