29 Mar The Conflict Within
Some situations just have a way of bringing out the worst in us. Have you found that to be true? Maybe you lost your cool in the Walmart parking lot when someone took the spot you were waiting for. Maybe your kids pushed your buttons and you blurted out unkind words. Or maybe you cold-shouldered that family member you never really like being around.
Being kind doesn’t come naturally to most of us, does it? Scripture teaches that we all have weak, vulnerable areas in our lives where our flesh rears its ugly head. It shows up in a sharp tongue, in jealousy that breeds constant competition, in an explosive temper that goes off too easily, even in oversensitivity because of deep wounds.
For me, it’s anxiety. Sometimes I can have a sharp tongue, too. That’s the flesh at work. And the only way to overcome these things is through the Holy Spirit of God. The only thing that beats the flesh is not willpower, but the power of the Spirit in your life.
In Galatians 5, Paul instructed believers to “walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh” (vv. 16-17).
Do you ever get a craving for a hamburger? Trust me, your flesh craves way more than that. Your flesh lusts after things you ought not to want. And it’s all because of sin. With the fall of man, sin entered the world, and it’s been a battle ever since. Your unredeemed humanness, your flesh, craves sinful pursuits.
Now, I want to make a caveat here: when the Bible talks about “the flesh,” it isn’t talking about your body. Your body is neutral. The flesh, on the other hand, is the old nature that still dwells in you even after you get saved—it’s the needy you, the nasty you, the naughty you, the neurotic you. And this old nature fights against your new nature in Christ. Your body simply follows whichever one wins.
Think of this conflict like breaking a wishbone. At Thanksgivings past, I always hoped I’d be one of the cousins who would get to pull apart the turkey wishbone. Well, in that illustration, you’re like a wishbone that the Spirit and the flesh fight over.
Why is it such a tug-of-war? Because your new nature in Christ craves things that the old nature doesn’t. They have different appetites. Before salvation, you just did what the flesh wanted. After salvation, you have this whole other force working inside you, and there’s a conflict there. I liken it to the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or Bruce Banner in the Marvel universe—he’s really nice until he gets angry and becomes the Hulk. That’s kind of like the conflict inside each of us as believers.
And as much as you would like to rid yourself of that conflict, fully eradicating it won’t happen until you are glorified in heaven. But even so, thanks be to God, because He has a plan for you to begin to conquer the flesh through the power of His Holy Spirit living in you. We’ll begin to unpack that next time.