The War Within

By Rev Dr Clive Chin

“The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God” 
(Rom. 8:7-8).

The world in its fallen state is opposed to the things of God. There is a constant temptation for us to take our focus off our Creator. The world tempts us to adopt its ungodly affections and actions. If we are not vigilant, we will succumb to this enemy.

Yet, not only must we fight the world, but we must also fight against the flesh. The Bible warns us against the lust of the flesh, and Augustine illustrates this lust in a famous story from his Confessions. He talks about an episode from his youth when he stole some pears from a neighbour’s orchard simply for the thrill of the theft. He did not steal because he was hungry—which we might understand even if we do not approve—but simply because the pears were there. There was no rational explanation for the sin except the love of sin. That is the lust of the flesh taken to the extreme, that is, doing evil when we reap no tangible benefit.

We must fight against the lust of the flesh because of our fallen condition. God has made us new creatures in Christ, giving us a real affection for godliness. Until we are glorified, however, we still have to deal with the remnants of our fallen nature. Sometimes we want to do what is good and yet do the opposite (Rom. 7:7-25). Conversion changes the direction of our lives, but sometimes we fall back into the old ways of sin and death. Paul, in Rom. 8:1-11, exhorts us to put the flesh to death and to walk by the Spirit. There is within us a spiritual battle between who we are in Christ as God’s holy people and who we were in Adam as slaves to sin. 

As we grow in Christ, we begin to see the depth of our sin because we begin to see the darkness of the heart. We take more notice of the ‘secret sins’—the inward hatred, envy, covetousness, and other attitudes that God forbids but that our neighbours cannot see. To grow to spiritual maturity, we must put these things to death and develop godly affections such as contentment, peace, joy, and love.