Learn how you have the advantage in the war over your heart which wages between your flesh and your spirit. How you fight this battle will determine not only your relationship with God but how you fulfill you purpose in life.
DOES IT EVER FEEL LIKE there’s a conflict that constantly takes place inside of yourself? As if there’s a “war” taking place in your heart between the part of you that wants to do the right thing and another part which wants to do the wrong or selfish thing? Right now there is constant battle inside over how we are to act, think and believe. When we have been wronged or even when people have done the right thing to us we can have many different thoughts on how to respond. Some thoughts are good, others bad, even if they appear good in our own eyes.
This is all important as we continue our growing understanding of not just the Holy Spirit but our daily life as believers of Jesus. When we declare that the Holy Spirit is a regular part of our lives we must accept that He is not just some abstract fragment of God far away somewhere. For Christians the Holy Spirit is the living part of God that is housed inside of us. When we learn to hear His voice over that of our own then we can truly have fellowship with Him and live among others as a good witness for Christ. When we learn to listen and trust His voices then we can have the advantage in this war for our hearts.
Where does this whole conflict come from?
In Galatians 5:16-17 Paul shows us the source of this struggle: it’s the war between our flesh, which is our fallen nature and our spirit, which is the part of us that has been made alive through Jesus.
Galatians 5:16-17 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. (NKJV)
We must first understand that we are a being of two realities, therefore we have two natures within us striving for control. One of these natures is the one that desires to please God and the other one that is in constant rebellion against God. This second nature is what was in control of us before we knew Christ, our old flesh/self focused sin nature. The nature that looks out for only me, myself and I, it is our physical needs, wants and desires. It takes the physical needs we require to survive and supercharges them and forces us to go above and beyond to satisfy every desire no matter the cost or consequences.
However as Christians who have been made alive through the resurrection and have been adopted into the New Covenant we have both of these natures vying for control of our every thought and action. Now our spirit is alive and is trying to live according to God’s standards while the flesh is trying to lead us back to living according to our own standards.
A Heart Torn Between Two Masters
One of the best examples of this dual nature at work in the believer comes from Paul in Romans 7:14-24. Here Paul lays out one of the greatest struggles faced by a believer, that although we are saved, redeemed and made righteous
the flesh’s desire to sin and act selfishly does not automatically disappear. We see and know that we still have struggles to do the right thing at times and at others we have no will to do what we know God wants us to do in a given situation.
The good news for us is found in Romans 7:25 where we see that there is a hope for us through Christ.
Through Christ we have the ability to receive forgiveness of sins when we do follow after the will of the flesh. With Jesus and the Holy Spirit living inside of us we have hope to prevail, as long as we are aware of the battle between the flesh and spirit taking place. That is why prayer and taking moments to stop and wait on God is so crucial in many instances. When we don’t stop for a moment and bring God into the picture we are exceedingly more prone to following the will of our flesh, because it seeks instant gratification and can’t stand playing the waiting game.
Turning The Page
When we come to Romans 8 the secret of winning this war for our heart is revealed. It’s interesting to note that in the original Greek manuscripts there is not a division between the end of Romans 7 and the beginning of Romans 8, it is the same paragraph. Far to often we create and artificial divide between chapters 7 and 8 and tell both others and ourselves that we live in either one of the two chapters. But the reality is that it’s the same thought in action, here Paul is painting not a picture of condemnation in chapter 7 but of one of victory for the believer. That while we still struggle with these issues we also have access to our daily victories through Christ.
Romans 8:5-6 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
In Romans 8:5-6 we find our first key: what we set our minds to will determine how we act and respond. If we are only concerned about ourselves, our will and our feelings then we will inevitably turn towards acting in a fleshly way. On the other hand, if we are mindful of the Spirit of God living inside of us and thinking about His will and feelings first then we will walk according to the ways of the Spirit. We begin by making willful choices on how we are to live and interact with others and how we follow God.
We see the same truths spoken of by Paul also in Galatians 5:19-21 and Ephesians 2:1-7, in Galatians Paul describes several examples of living according to the flesh. While in Ephesians Paul highlights the spiritual influences which lead many to follow after those selfish ways of the flesh along with the solution to the problem, Jesus and our hope for eternity.
The Soul is the Heart of Our Being
We have talked about how the flesh tries to lead us to sin and how our spirit (and the Holy Spirit living in us) tries to lead us closer to God but there is a third power at work among all of this turmoil, the soul.
The soul is the combination of our mind, will and emotions, in Hebrew it is also called our heart, it is the center of our being here on earth and it is the one which both the spirit and the flesh are trying to dominate. Our spirit is eternal, it is how we communicate with God and this is the point of contact between the natural and supernatural realms. The flesh represents our bodily needs such as food, drink, sleep, sex, self preservation and so on. In its current state these are the only things that the flesh cares for and it does what ever it can to get as much of these things as it can.
This leaves the soul in the middle to pick and choose which of these parts of our being it will submit to and follow. Our soul is not just mind, but also our desires, memories, intellect, it’s the captain of our choices and it’s the part of our being that made the choice to accept Christ and receive salvation and forgiveness. Let’s go back to Romans 8 to see how this plays out.
Romans 8:5-8 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Here in Romans 8 we see the interaction between the spirit, soul and flesh, Paul lays out how desires and urges begin in one place but are acted out in another.
Be it good thoughts, urges and desires from the spirit or from the flesh. It is the soul which casts the deciding vote on how and what we are to act upon. In Romans 8:6 we see clearly that a mind set on flesh will bring about death, be it spiritually, emotionally, intellectually or physically. On the other hand, the mind set on the spirit brings life and peace.
The Greek word for life here Zoe and doesn’t just mean natural life but also the kind of life which makes up the soul and the spirit. When we follow God’s will and ways and live a life under the control of our spirit it brings about life and peace not only in an intellectual sense but also in a spiritual and in a natural way.
On the other hand if we continue to allow our flesh and carnal nature to rule over our lives and thoughts Romans 8 shows us clearly that our mind becomes hostile towards God and will not allow itself to be subjected to the love, power and expectations of God (also Romans 2:5-11). Which is why Paul says in Romans 8:8 “So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God”. Paul can make a declaration like this because of what God spoke in Isaiah 55:8-9. Even Jesus eluded to this contrast between the ways of the spirit and the ways of flesh throughout His ministry when He spoke about the ways of the Kingdom, how He expected His followers to act and in nearly every parable.
The War Of Heart Choices
Seeing all of this we must accept that the ways of the flesh will never be in alignment with how God sees the world and how He wants us to live. If left unchecked our flesh will always chose the exact opposite of what God would have us do (or at the very least corrupt our motives for doing the right thing), because the flesh is focused on itself, its true god.
Is our current situation hopeless? No for we have been given an unfair advantage in the war over the control of our heart. Our spirit is not alone for we are also in living communion with God and through the Baptism of the Holy Spirit we have the living God present in us to give strength to our spirit so that it can speak loud and clear to our soul (Romans 8:9-14, Galatians 2:20).
We must come at this war over the soul from a mindset that the spirit actually has the advantage over the flesh, but only if we allow it. Through patience we learn the ability to not act impulsively when situations arise, we must always give God opportunity to speak and intervene within our spirit and soul.
At every opportunity we should be in internal fellowship with God so that we will always be aware of how we are to act, speak and believe in any situation. Walking in the spirit requires effort, while walking in the flesh only requires inactivity. Our living everyday relationship with God and our ability to live out the call on our lives will not be decided by natural means but will be decided by the battle raging within ourselves.
Question: How would you act differently in your daily life if you were constantly aware of God’s presence all around you and how would that impact the war within you?
Are you looking to develop your relationship with God and better understand the Bible? Pick up a copy of one of my books today.
The War Within Our Heart Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
WHEN IT COMES TO UNDERSTANDING WHO GOD IS we tend to be comfortable in the identities of Jesus and the Father. Yet when it comes to the Holy Spirit He feel less like a familiar neighbor and more like some hermit in that creepy house at the end of town. Throughout the Old Testament we hear of God moving through the prophets and the nation of Israel. While in the New Testament we are focused on the works and words of Jesus, however what we usually don’t realize is that the Holy Spirit is working right there along side them.
On a technical level the Holy Spirit is the third member of the trinity and is an equal part of the godhead along with Jesus and the Father. The Holy Spirit is the part of God in which we can interact with on a daily basis. He is the personal part of God which we have not only living inside of us but is a part of the world around us, as the tangible presence of God on the Earth (2 Corinthians 13:14, John 5:6-8).
The Holy Spirit is Closer Than Your Trusty Smartphone
Some people tend to see God as being far off in Heaven and Jesus is right there beside Him, while the Holy Spirit is here on the earth and is never far away. Through salvation and baptisms the Holy Spirit not only becomes part of our lives but comes to live inside of us. We can’t just reduce that truth to a Christian phrase or a theological topic, but we must come to a living reality of that truth in our own lives.
The Holy Spirit wants to be known by us and we must be just as willing to know Him. That is the purpose of this first section to better know the Holy Spirit and develop a living relationship with Him here and now. To take away any walls of separation between us and the trinity. To live in the fullest possible measure of God’s presence and purpose for our lives.
We see The Holy Spirit at work in many ways throughout the Bible all the way back at creation in Genesis 1:2, 26 we see the spirit hovering, waiting to create, waiting to bring life to the natural realm we live in. Fast forward to the baptism of Jesus and we see Him at work again as the one who empowers Jesus to fulfill His mission to redeem mankind (Matthew 3:16-17).
After the death and resurrection of Jesus we see the power of the Holy Spirit at work through the apostles and the early church in the book of Acts.
The Holy Spirit was moving in the same way He was during Jesus’s ministry because we have been given the same authority to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and the do the same. The Holy Spirit isn’t a type of magic to be invoked He is the power and presence of the living God who is looking for those willing to not only have a relationship but be willing to do was the Father calls them to do with their lives.
One With Jesus And One With Us
The Holy Spirit’s role can be seen clearest through Jesus’ words about His unity with the Father. (John 5:36-40, John 8:28-29). The same relationship that Jesus lays out concerning His relationship with the Father should be the same for us and the Father today. The Holy Spirit, aka God’s presence on the earth should be just as open and vivid to us as it was to Jesus during His earthly ministry. The Holy Spirit does not glorify Himself, but the Son. This does not speak of an inferiority in His standing in the Trinity but reveals the role of the Holy Spirit in the plan of redemption. That is why we must never forget that the Holy Spirit came to make real the things of Jesus, that through Him the same power that was at work through Jesus is available to us today (John 16:13-15).
Unlike in the Old Testament where people were kept a safe distance from the Spirit of God, in the Gospels, Jesus signaled a change in how the Holy Spirit would relate to men and women. No longer would there be a separation where only the high priest on one day a year could experience the presence of God but all people at all times could be that near to God. Before the people would fear and quake at the presence of the Father, now under the New Covenant the barrier of sin is gone and God through Holy Spirit has deposited His presence into us. No longer are just the prophets and patriarchs privy to a special relationship with the Creator but everyone who have called Jesus their Messiah and Savior.
The Holy Spirit Reveals The Father
Another key role of the Holy Spirit is that He takes the all of the things we associate with the Father and reveals them to us (John 16:12-16). We see this modeled over and over with Jesus as He only said and did what He heard from the Father. That same relationship is available to us today, and not just for a select few such as prophets or leaders of large churches. All who are willing to listen and obey can hear the voice of the Father.
This leads to another one of the Holy Spirit’s roles, the one who would empower His church to do what God called it to do. He helps the church be an authentic witness to the world just as we saw in Acts 1:8.
Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
The Holy Spirit wasn’t just sent to help the church metaphorically or emotionally, but He is here to help the church move in power. Be it power over sin, hopelessness, or the fallen state of the world. He also brings to us gifts of wisdom, knowledge and even (at times the most needed manifestation) miraculous power which sees the dead raised, people healed and testimonies which cannot be denied come to pass. You see as believers we are nothing more than living lightbulbs and the Holy Spirit is the electricity which generates light for people to see Jesus.
Starting with the apostles and carrying on to today we are all called to be proclaimers of the gospel. From the beginning God knew that Jesus’ physical presence would leave but He would send the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ place to work through and with believers (John 16:7).
The Holy Spirit came in this “new way” when Jesus’ physical presence left the earth and now uses everyday believers such as you and me to continue the ministry of Jesus and to expand the Kingdom. Everyday people who are willing to follow the Holy Spirit and not just the elite few. We all have our own places of influence and people we can reach that others will never be able to. If we give Holy Spirit room to move in those areas imagine what could happen, with Jesus’s resurrection and ascension the promise of John 7:39 is NOW in effect.
John 7:38-39 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
Living As If The Kingdom Is Already In Effect
When we begin to accept that the Holy Spirit is the living and active presence of God that lives within us then and only then can we have a true impact on this world. When we no longer look at Him as being some type of mystery or some genie certain denominations talk about we begin to understand. The God we read about in the Old Testament and the Christ we preach about from the New Testament lives inside of us and is looking to continue the work He began so long ago.
The same compassion and power Jesus walked in is available to us today, but with that the same standard of holiness spoken of by the Father in the Old Testament remains. The Holy Spirit has been unleashed to bring people to the cross, to work in power and to ensure that Christians live according to the standards which have been lovingly set by the Father.
John 16: 7-11 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
Are you looking to develop your relationship with God and better understand the Bible? Pick up a copy of one of my books today.
The Holy Spirit aka the Forgotten Part of God Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.