It is impossible to walk closely with God when we insist on following our own path. We cannot follow Jesus and continue live in our sin at the same time. To continue a lifestyle of sin prohibits us from having the type of relationship with God that He wants to have with us.
The problem is that at times it seems we have this dual personality. On the one hand we have a desire to follow Jesus and to trust in the power of God to change our lives, this is the true desire of our heart. On the other hand we are tempted to sin and to do our own thing, this is the craving of our flesh. We struggle with these desires and a battle between right and wrong rages within us. It is an internal battle, one only known to us, hidden from all others.
Recently I had my 5-year-old nephew, Alexander, stay with me. One of the things we did was watch Spider-Man cartoons. One of Spider-Man's enemies is a villain by the name of the Green Goblin. The true identity of the Green Goblin is Norman Osborne. Osborne wants to do good and he struggles against the Green Goblin side of his personality, actually carrying on a conversation with himself. Norman Osborne isn't a criminal, but the Green Goblin is. It is a battle that Norman Osborne cannot win, and no matter how hard he struggles he eventually gives into the part of him that is the Green Goblin.
I see this as such a good illustration of our lives. We don't want to do the evil our flesh desires, but rather we want to follow Jesus and obey God. With our flesh always right there beckoning us to give in and surrender to sin it is nearly impossible to overcome sin and follow Jesus. Our will power is not enough to keep us from giving into the temptation we face.
We cannot struggle against the desires of our flesh simply by our will power. We are not strong enough. One reason we cannot win this fight by our strength is because we get a reward for our sin. If there was not some form of pleasure connected with our sin we would not do it. That is why so many sins, if not all, are addictive. Our sins give us a certain "high" which we enjoy. Yes, we may feel guilty afterwards, but there is a pleasure for a moment.
A second reason we cannot overcome our sin and win is because sin has already defeated us. We are trapped in the sin’s power, and therefore we are at its mercy. Sin has us wrapped in chains and we do not have the key to unlock them and live with true freedom. We need a hero, someone to rescue us from the grips of sin.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Romans 7:21-25; ESV)
Jesus is the hero we need to bring freedom to our lives. In Jesus we find forgiveness for our sins, purpose for our lives, and hope for the future. These things are all needed if we are going to discovery victory over the sin that holds us in its clutches.
What does all this have to do with our struggle against sin right now? We need to remember that our sin is already taken care of. The sin we have in our lives is not who we are (Romans 7:17, 18). When we have been united with Jesus we become God's children, priests, saints, and a holy people belonging to God.
We also need to remember that instead of focusing on the struggle, we need to focus on following Jesus. By listening to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and doing the things God tells us to do in His Word (not just avoiding the things He has commanded us to avoid) will reshape our lives. Instead of a life lived by the flesh we will live our lives by our hearts, the new hearts God has given us. As we learn to live by these hearts we will become better equipped to take on the temptations or our flesh.
It certainly becomes tiring fighting this constant battle with sin. At times we feel like giving up and living like the rest of the world does, looking for ways to satisfy the desires of our flesh. I want to encourage you not to give up. The flesh is temporary and it cannot off you any real satisfaction. Only a relationship with God can provide us with what we are searching for in our lives.
Don't be misled. Remember that you can't ignore God and get away with it. You will always reap what you sow! Those who live only to satisfy their flesh will harvest the consequences of decay and death. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So don't get tired of doing good. Don't get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time. (Galatians 6:7-9; NLT)
I hope you have a battle raging inside of you. I pray that you experience this ‚"dual personality" of the flesh and the spirit. It is through this battle that we know we are on the road God wants us to be on. If there is no struggle that is an indication that we are not following God. So for my battle weary comrades I want to encourage you not to give up, keep on fighting. Our faithfulness will be rewarded. That is the promise of God.