The human soul is constantly struggling to choose between the prompting of the Holy Spirit and the inciting of our fleshly desires for the world. Through the renewing of our mind, we become equipped to distinguish the “false beliefs” of this world from the “absolute truths” of God.
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15 NIV).
As we learn to submit our mind to God, our soul progressively becomes patterned to submit itself as well. Through faithfulness over time, we will become more in tune with the ways of God, and much less aligned with the lies of the world.
What’s at Stake?
To understand the battle within our hearts, we must first acknowledge that we are in a war of sorts. Battles are merely smaller components of a bigger picture. By definition, battles involve combat between two persons or factions, and they consist of any type of extended contest or struggle. As Christians, we are in a spiritual struggle of some sort on a daily basis. Our spiritual battles are real, even though we cannot physically see the attacker.
It is important to educate ourselves on the nature of spiritual battles, even if we can’t fully comprehend the reason for the fight, and often overlook its impact on our daily lives. War is very controversial in today’s physical world, so it is common for our beliefs and convictions about war to spill over into the spiritual realm, where there is a battle going on regardless of our opinion on the subject. We are either victors or victims in our spiritual battles! Jesus has come and conquered. The war is already won in the heavens. But we must choose for ourselves how we will respond to that reality.
Jesus told us in Matthew 28:18 that, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” This verse is not only about our being saved from the penalty of sin. It is also very much about us experiencing every-day victory over our struggles, which adds up to victorious living in Christ here on this earth.
The Battle Is Partly Spiritual…
Many of us do not want to put much thought into a world we cannot see, when the world we do see is hard enough to deal with in itself. If we choose to ignore or not believe in the spiritual realm – let alone the spiritual nature of our inner battles – we will find ourselves not only confused and frustrated but will be extinguishing the peace that God has promised each of us, as well. Enlightening ourselves about the spiritual realm is half the fight. God has provided us everything else we need in order to come out on top.
“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 NLT).
As Christians, we believe Jesus accomplished these things in the spiritual realm when He lived in the physical realm on earth. We believe this with the eyes of our heart, instead of with the eyes of our physical bodies. By believing in Jesus, we believe that He died to conquer the works of the devil so that we might be set free. There would have been no need for Jesus to come to die for us if life was limited to just the physical world.
… Partly Worldly
Earlier we read in Romans 12:2 that we are to no longer conform to “the patterns of this world.” This phrase is referring to how the people collectively choose to live on the earth. As Christians, we are to not conform to the norms of how others live, but to live in ways that honor God and reflect the nature and character of Jesus. Not better than others, just different.
In John 17, Jesus speaks of how we are to live in the world yet not be influenced by the ways of the world. It quickly becomes clear that if we are in the world but not of the world, we are going to encounter conflicts and misunderstandings.
The world holds animosity towards those who follow Jesus today, just as it did in the first century. We are not called to be a reflection of the world, or worldly, but we are sent into that world to reflect the grace of Jesus Christ to those we know and love, as well as those we might consider our enemies.
… And Partly Within Ourselves
For some of us, the toughest battles we fight are fought within ourselves. Nearly every day I have a counseling client say to me, “I’m my own worst enemy.” You may very well feel the same way.
Because of the shame we encountered throughout our childhoods, we can easily see how the enemy uses the circumstances and situations of life to destroy us. We can accept the truth of how the world lures and tempts us, because we’ve fallen prey to it many, many times. To some degree, we can understand that the battle in the spiritual realm is ongoing and real, even though we cannot see it. But, to wrap our arms around what is going on within our own hearts and minds can be the most difficult, exhausting battle of them all.
We must learn to fight against the very nature within us. Don’t be fooled. Just because we may have walked a church aisle a long time ago or can recite scripture after scripture in the King James version, we are not exempt from the battle within. True change requires a radical shift of our heart.
“But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator… Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:8-13 NIV).
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