THE INWARD BATTLE

Scripture Reading: Galatians 5:16-26

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” (Galatians 5:16,17)

We all know the raging battle that takes place within us. Paul experienced it — “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” (Romans 7:22,23). We want to obey and honor Christ. We want to please Him; but we easily give way to the sinful desires of our flesh. The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh. The battle can become intense at times and we experience terrible conflict within ourselves.

How then do we get the upper hand in the battle? “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” What does it mean to walk by the Spirit? We have already established the fact that the Spirit of God permanently indwells us. He lives in us, for our body is His temple (I Corinthians 6:19). We must learn how to practice the presence of the Spirit, that is, to be acutely aware of the fact that the Spirit of the living God lives in us. To walk by the Spirit means that we practice His presence and appropriate His power, which enables us to yield to His will rather than to the desires of our flesh — “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11). The very power of God’s Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is available to us. But we must learn how to appropriate His power, for we can never be victorious in the inward battle in our own strength.

To walk by the Spirit means to yield to the Spirit rather than yielding to our sinful desires. When we do so, we will not gratify the desires of the flesh. I must first practice the presence of the Spirit by acknowledging that He lives within me. I must draw off His power, and then I must yield to the Spirit’s will. I must make a conscious choice to obey the will of the Spirit rather than giving myself over to the sinful desires of my flesh. When the battle is overwhelming, I must appropriate His power. This enables me to crucify my flesh — “And those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (v. 24). The Spirit can and will give us victory in our inner battle between the flesh and the Spirit, if we trust in Him and rely on His power to do so.

Spirit of the living God, the battle inside of me is intense at times. Forgive me when I fail to rely upon You, and instead yield to the sinful desires of my flesh. I confess that the struggle is great. I want to please and honor You, O Spirit; but I often give way to the powerful desires of my flesh. I say things that I wish I had not said, and I do things that I wish I had not done. Grant me Your power, O Spirit, to fight the battle and to gain the victory over my flesh. Enable me to crucify the flesh with its passions and desires. I acknowledge that I cannot do this in my own strength, but I have Your power which will enable me to win the battle.

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