“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do . . . . For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out . . . . Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:15, 18, 24-25)
Like every true Christian, I struggle with a spiritual split personality. No sooner do I think I am on the road to doing good than I discover “evil is right there with me” (Romans 7:21). My spirit wants to speak well of others but my sinful flesh is drawn toward gossip. My spirit wants to give to those in need but my sinful flesh grasps what is mine. My spirit wants to follow Christ but my flesh wants to go its own way. It seems at every corner I come face to face with my counterpart—my sinful self.
I know I cannot win this war on my own—and it is a war. Paul says the spirit and the flesh “are in conflict with each other” (Galatians 5:17). But he also said if we “live by the Spirit,” we will not carry out the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16). The answer to my struggle is to let Christ lead the way—to follow His Holy Spirit every day. If I give Him all my temptations, “he who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). As believers in Christ we did not receive a spirit that makes us a slave to fear, but we received the spirit of sonship (Romans 8:15). If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31). In all things (including our own sinful ways), we are more than conquerors through Christ (Romans 8:37)
My spiritual split personality has an upside: it makes me grateful. When I see who I am in my fleshly nature it makes me so grateful for who Christ is. When I see my sins, I am grateful for my Savior. When I struggle, I am grateful that God’s new birth has given me an awareness of righteousness. (How terrible would it be to live perfectly content with the sins of the flesh?) And when I confess my sins, I am grateful to be the daughter of a loving Father who forgives me (1 John 1:9).
Yes, every Christian has a spiritual split personality. But I know that, by the power of God’s Spirit, I am becoming one with Christ more and more each day.
Heavenly Father, Thank you for forgiving me when I yield to my flesh. Help me to stay focused on Christ by being filled with the Spirit, moment by moment. Amen