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 5:17)

“We have met the enemy and he is us.” (Walt Kelly, Pogo)

Sadly, one of the most powerful enemies that Christian soldiers face is themselves.  As if battling trials, tribulations, and persecutions directed at them from the world wasn’t enough; as if the Devil’s lies and accusations didn’t already drive us toward despair; now we must also face up to the awful truth that our own sinful nature is at war against the light of Christ within us.

The good news is that the same Gospel which frees us from the terrible consequences of our sins also trains and equips us to fight back against the temptations of our flesh.  Now that we’ve taken the time to learn about some of the “weapons of the faith,” we will examine some of the enemy’s tactics and strategies for assaulting our faith and undermining our ability to effectively witness in an ungodly world.  God has given us a whole arsenal of weapons and armor, and part of our discipleship is learning to use each of them to combat the evil we face throughout our walk of faith.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the boots of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit; all of these weapons God gives to us, along with His own instructions on how to use them properly.  We can also look to the example of faithful warriors from the Bible, from the history of the Church, and from our own friends and family to see how these spiritual arms can be employed in God’s service.

For every type of assault we face from our sinful nature, there are several spiritual weapons specially designed for our defense which can help us to fight off that particular temptation.  As we grow in God’s Word and are strengthened in faith, let us pray that God would give us the power to employ these weapons effectively in our fight against evil and not fall into temptation.  May He grant us success as we push back against the forces of darkness, ever resting securely on the firm foundation of faith in Christ’s atoning sacrifice.

“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissentions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like…Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:19-21; 24-25)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, in Your grace You have given us mighty weapons for our defense and for the furthering of Your Kingdom.  Mercifully teach us to use these weapons, that we may bring glory to You and show a dark world the light of Your love; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord.  Amen.

NOTE: I will not be posting tomorrow, July 4th, as we celebrate our nation’s independance at N. Morrisotwn.  I will begin our examination of some of the temptations of the sinful nature listed in Galatians 5 on Thursday.  Until then, rest and celebrate, praising God for the great country and the freedoms He has given us!  Thank Him by using these freedoms to worship and witness publicly - and thank the men and women of our armed forces for their sacrifices as well!

See you Thursday!

Spiritual Self-Defense

“He will not let your foot slip – he who watches over you will not slumber” (Psalm 121:3)

When I look at my self carefully, I don’t always like what I see.  I see a self that constantly wants to do what God in His love forbids.  I see a self that relies on its own powers and abilities instead of trusting the Lord.  I see a self that is sinful, arrogant, and weak.

I see a self that needs defending.

It’s some comfort to know that I’m not alone in this assessment.  In fact, St. Paul came to the same conclusion when he looked at his self: “So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.” (Romans 7:21-23)

So much for comfort.  If St. Paul couldn’t defend his self from the attacks of the world, the Devil, and his own sinful flesh, then I figure I’m pretty much toast.  I know Paul called himself the “chief of sinners” and all, but let me you – there are days when I think I could teach him a thing or two about being a sinner (and not in a good way).

It’s fairly evident that if my self is going to be defended against evil, it had better not be left up to me to get the job done.  I haven’t the strength to resist even the pettiest temptations and attacks that Satan throws at me.  So, who you gonna’ call?  “I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1)

St. Paul came to the same conclusion: “What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25)  Thankfully, it isn’t up to ourselves to defend our selves in our spiritual self-defense.  My self is protected against all evil by the One who has already rescued me from sin, death, and the power of the Devil.

We may be able to delight in God’s law as we see the inherent goodness and holiness of His will for us, but we could never live up to its requirements, so it brings only death.  But through the power of the Gospel, the Law has been fulfilled and we are saved from the dreadful consequences of our failure.  God’s love, shown though Jesus’ death and resurrection, not only justifies us before His judgment seat, but it also transforms our hearts through the Holy Spirit, empowering us to live as His children and disciples.  And yet our defense doesn’t come from self; it comes from God through Christ Jesus.

In the coming devotions, we will examine many of the individual ways we are attacked spiritually in our walk with God.  Praise be to God that through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, we are daily enriched in faith, strengthened in will, and renewed with the drowning of the Old Adam in us so that we can stand firm against the Devil’s assaults as we minister to the world.

And even so, we will stumble; we will fail to live perfectly and will allow many thrusts, jabs, and slashes to get through our defenses.  But underneath, we have the ultimate protection – the cloak of Christ’s own righteousness that renders us immune to the accusations of the Evil One.  In His incredible mercy and grace, God uses even our failures to testify to His power and goodness through the free forgiveness we have in Christ.  Be blessed by this knowledge, and let it defend your self against all evil.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, teach me to delight in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties.  Give me grace to always point to Your love and forgiveness in every situation.  Strengthen and defend me against all the attacks of the Devil, that I may always honor You before men; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, my Lord.  Amen.