One of Satan’s most destructive schemes is to convince the believer that all is well, and there is nothing to be concerned with.
“You’re doing so much better than that person over there,” the serpent slyly hisses. “You don’t need to worry about making any particular changes in your own life.”
But this is not for you. The apostle Paul was keenly aware of his own sin, and he knew well that acknowledging that he was the chief of sinners — a title that you and I can also honestly lay claim to — was the first step in winning the warfare within.
Paul wrote, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:15-19).
Scripture makes it clear that there is warfare going on inside of every believer. Why? Because there are two natures inside us battling to sit on the throne of our lives. The first nature is the one that comes by natural birth. As children of Adam, we are dead in trespasses and sins and our fallen nature is utterly dead to the things of God.
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).
We are self-centered, self-absorbed, self-focused and most assuredly, we desire above all else to be self-ruled. But when — by grace through faith — we are raised from death to life, we are given a new nature that begins to do battle with the old. It is through our regeneration that the battle begins, setting up the dichotomy of the new and old natures.
“Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want” (Galatians 5:16-18).
We must remember that our new nature is absolutely perfect. It is spotless, blameless and totally righteous. It is incapable of sinning because it is the nature from above. And yet we still sin because our old, sinful nature desires what is contrary to our new, perfect nature.
Those who know this truth cry out with Paul, “Oh wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24).
But Paul did not leave us to ponder what the answer to that anguished cry might be; he immediately responded to his question with the answer, the only answer: “Thanks be to God — through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25).
Who will win?
You may have heard the legend about the Cherokee Indian chief teaching his grandson about life. I’ve altered it slightly here, but the point of the story is unchanged.
“There is a terrible fight going on within me,” the old chief told his grandson. “The battle is between two wolves. One of them is evil — filled with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed and idolatry. The other wolf is good; he is filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. That same fight between the two wolves is going on inside you, my son, and it rages inside everyone you meet.”
The boy looked at his grandfather, wide-eyed and asked, “Which wolf will win?”
The old chief smiled gently. “The one you feed will win.”
It’s easy to figure out which of our two natures will gain the upper hand in the war within: it’s the one we feed! If we are more focused on the things of this world, seeking to gratify our old nature, then our sin-nature will get the upper hand. But if keep our eyes fixed on things above, the new nature will win the day.
A winning diet
So, there is the second step in winning the warfare within – feed the new nature. And how do we do that? By the means of grace:
Regular church attendance
Small group participation
When we focus on things above, we rise above the battle within and allow God to feed our souls with his truth and to fashion us into the image of his beloved Son.
So . . . what nature have you been feeding lately? Do you perceive any need to change your diet in order to win the warfare within? Remember, with God on your side, you are always on a winning team!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. Never forget that…Amen.
Tommy Boland is senior pastor of Cross Community Church in Deerfield Beach. He blogs regularly at tommyboland.com.