“When you gaze at the sun, it makes everything else dark. When you taste honey, everything else is bland. So, when your soul feeds on Jesus, it takes away the sweetness of fleshly pleasures.”
Scripture tells us that for the true believer, there are two primary opposing forces in this life. The first is the old man that will one day pass away (the flesh) and the second is the new man that will live unto all eternity (through the Spirit). These two creatures are completely different; they have different ways of thinking, different desires and different actions. Both will also be attracted to one of two ways; the broad way (of the world) and the narrow way (through Christ).
If you are truly born again by the Spirit of God, you will know that there is always a battle raging within you – regardless of your ignorance or reluctance to heed its cry – it is a war that never ends. If this is the reality of our souls and a truth that we cannot deny, then the real question remains; why are we at times living in a far distant reality, with fairy lights in a world of bliss?
When I think of the spiritual battles in my life, I am always reminded of a specific, in-depth conversation with my brother about two years ago. He told me how everyone in this world has this inner craving to ‘find’ themself in this world, a place to fit in, to feel accepted, to belong somewhere – and there is nothing wrong with that, we are created for such things. However, instead of defining our identity according to God’s Word that tells us where we truly belong, we spend our entire lives creating our own identity according to the standards of our culture and society… Being conformed to this world – serving man rather than God.
The world feeds into our flesh like nothing else – it is extremely addictive. Sin soon becomes sweet when living in the world. A sugar rush above the bread of life. And a lifestyle of a constant sugar rush will make you slowly drift away from the One who gives you everlasting peace and joy.
We have all been there before – a place where the war constantly turns inside of us, where there is no rest for the heart or the flesh. Where does this craving towards the flesh come from? The apostle Paul gives us a glimpse in Romans 7:14 “… I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”
This inexplicable craving comes not from our new man in Christ, but from the flesh, the old man, sold as a slave to sin. “Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” – Rom 7:20
The important thing to notice here is that the apostle knew that he was sinning – “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24).
Don’t we see? Our biggest enemy wants to conform us to this world by keeping our minds occupied to the flesh; the things of this world (Rom 12:2). -To distract us from God is his primary purpose; sin is merely the result.
We have to understand that there is nothing in this world (secular society) that comes from God. The apostle John puts it this way:
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
We fight not against flesh and blood
Over time I have learnt that the enemy is trying to steal mainly three things in my life: My mind, my words and my time. He will try absolutely anything to distract me from spending time with God. As I became aware of this, I am much more diligent in my walk, my thoughts and my words. Taking every thought captive to Christ is how we wage war in the mind.
We actively isolate and identify our thoughts so that we can take them hostage. I am continually learning how to stay sober-minded and active in my daily walk, instead of idling through a passive spiritual life. I have to be ready for battle at any moment, and I know that the very instant I open my eyes in the morning, it starts; the good fight of faith.
We are but sojourners here; just passing through this world to a life infinitely greater
God tells you in His Word that when you are born of Him, you will be different from the world – not only by the things that you say, but in all your conduct. As Christians we are separated from the world by salvation through Christ and we ought to live differently than the world by having different desires and affections.
Although you may know many professing Christians, we have to remember that when you say you are in Christ, the proclamation should not only be displayed by your words, but through every area your life. The people who will fall away in the end are maybe acknowledging Christ, but they are not doers of the Word (John 8:31). Jesus also says: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Instead of being doers of God’s will, they amounted to “workers of lawlessness” (Matt 7:21-23).
In order to be separated from the world, God, in His perfect holiness, shapes us in conformity to Christ. I have experienced God’s holiness so richly in my life; how He continuously cuts away more of me, the self, removing all my worldliness that so often still appears in my flesh.
Paul Washer describes holiness in this way: “Holiness is to be separated from the things that displease God in order to be separated unto the person of God; to esteem God above ALL else, infinitely above the value of all other things and to live in accordance with that estimation.”
Thus, holiness is not so much what you are doing, but rather what you are being – it involves your entire being, mind, actions, desires – everything. The world looks at the outward appearance you portray to the world, regardless the purity or sincerity thereof, and then judge the seemingly ‘good person’ according to that. God, however, looks at the purity of heart; your intentions and desires to please Him.
When God saves You, He gives you a new heart, which will not only purify your thoughts and your words, but all of your being. It is not about what you do in this world in order to meet up with the legalistic lifestyle like the Pharisees, but it’s about who you are. Do you have the fruits of the Spirit in you? Do you have constant proof of God’s work and discipline in your life?
See, the world says: ‘Do more’, but Christ says, ‘Follow me and be more’.
We are called to live according to God’s will
The Bible teaches us that the people of this world (the unbelievers) cannot obey His law – they cannot please Him in any way (Rom 8:7-8). But to the believer God says in the new covenant: ‘If I SAVE you, I’m going to write my law on your heart. So in your heart there will be the desires for what’s pleasing to Me, and what’s pleasing to Me, is My will and My laws.’
God wants us to be faithful in following Him. In 2 Chronicles God says that His eyes are moving to and fro the earth to find a faithful person.
Are we obeying God’s commandments in the midst of a fallen and deceitful world we live in, regardless the cost?
Substitute evil practice with virtue
It’s not just the cutting off, but it’s the putting on. When I abandon worldly pleasures and entertainment, I must find something to replace those habits with. I can cut worldly practices out of my life, but if I just spend my time spiritually passive, I would not grow much, would I?
So, I have to examine myself: Does my daily schedule consider the things of God? Do I wrestle in the night watch? Do I fight in secret prayer? Am I disciplined with the time I spend in the Word? Are my habits merely worldly customs that go with the flow? Or is the whole of my day planned out for God?
God calls us to humbly surrender our lives to him daily and so we also must be willing to change, to be moulded by God. We should acknowledge that we are influenced by lies in all aspects of or lives, and so we should have an eager spirit to be led by Him and to be conformed towards His Truth. He will guide and move our hearts so easily to match with His desires and to turn our dreams towards His will. Of course He can influence our desires, but we have to surrender first.
Satisfied in Christ alone
Until sin is bitter, Christ cannot be sweet.
We as a people find ourselves so many worldly idols to satisfy us and we are usually so blind in our sin that we don’t see it. An idol is always something that competes for God’s love in your life. And when God allows trials to pull out the idols from our lives, it hurts. It is always painful. Sometimes He will even make you pull an idol out by the root yourself, by having it making you so miserable that you finally do it. Either way, God’s discipline will always be good – in order to prune and purify us for His kingdom.
We must give up all in the world in order to follow Jesus and we all know that it does not come natural for man to surrender. God teaches us humility in order to obey his words. What is humility? It is not coming to the Lord with your own agenda, already figured everything out and having a set plan according to your will. Humility, as Pastor Tim Conway states, is being submissive; “Lord, if You show me what you want me to do, I am going to do it. Even if it may not be the place I find the most comfortable, I’ll do it”.
God will teach us how to do His will! We don’t always need others’ opinions. Are you perhaps just looking for counsel so someone can help convince you to not do what you already know you should not do? 1 John 2:27 – ‘But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you.’
In Psalm 25 David assures us that if you are humble and you fear God, God will reveal His will to you. If you are a Christian, you already know how to please God (He has written His law in your heart). It is important to regularly dwell on how much God hates all sin. Every one of us has a responsibility to lead a life of continual repentance and greater faith. That means that you ought to be living a life the way you believe GOD would have you do it. Thus believing that the path you are taking is the one that are most pleasing to Him. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. – Romans 14: 23
We are being sanctified by hardships
I believe that the best way you can grow, is to grow in obedience to God. The greater my suffering got, the more I learned to obey in the fire. Some days are harder than others as I cannot find my rest in anything of this world. Nothing in this world ultimately satisfies me but God.
Be willing to fight the spiritual battle of faith. As a follower after Christ, know that when you take up your cross and ask God to discipline you, He will. And it will not be easy; it may urge you to stay on your knees in hunger for the Lord, but ultimately it will produce eternal fruit.
Can we obey God in our own strength? Absolutely not. We are totally and completely unable to obey God’s law without the power of the Holy Spirit in us. We have no wisdom or understanding of our own.
We may often wonder how God in his providence will send trials our way, difficulties, things we cannot overcome, obstacles that we ourselves cannot endure.
All these strong winds are designed to convince you and me that we simply can NOT.
The greatest growth in your life does not come with the sun shining, while the skies are blue and the birds are singing. It’s when it’s hard, when you are suffering, when the trials are upon you, when the fire is hot – that is when you grow in faith. When God takes away, it is so that we might cling more tightly to what he has already given us, Himself.
Ps. 119: 71 – It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.
God will always use your seasons of hardship to get you to draw closer to Him. Maybe many years of your life have been eaten up by the locust of idleness, the worm of worldliness, the worm of frivolous amusement. And that may be your own fault, being blind in your sin.
But like Charles Spurgeon said: “Know that the Lord can bring so much good out of the evil, so much light out of the darkness, so much joy out of the sorrow that you shall one day say, ‘I thank God that I was shut up in Doubting Castle. I thank God I did sink in the deep mire where there was no standing for He has restored to me the years that the locust has eaten.’”
What then is the first step of knowing the will of God? Jesus said: “Follow Me”.
I should always desire to take the path that is going to bring me into a greater knowledge of God, a greater intimacy with God.
What is eternal life according to John? To know God. The more I know of God, the more I will make decisions in my life according to His perfect will for me. When I have to make a decision in my life, I have to ask myself what way will most glorify Christ, honor Christ and exonerate Christ. What will bring me closest to God?
Is it going to help me run the Christian race?
Or is it going to enslave me? Hebrews 12 commands us to lay aside every weight and sin which is not God’s will, which draws us down and causes us to go slower in our Christian race.
If you are a man or woman of God, you have to own it. Do what you were called to do. Be valiant and strong! And know that it is going to cost you – but that is what the war is all about.
That is what we were made for – to set aside our little, worldly, temporal causes and to give ourselves to this one, great battle.
Follow hard after Christ and run the Christian race by setting your mind on the things above to help you grow in your love for Christ.
God is my only hope
Know that your only hope is in God.
Your hope every day is that He has called you. Your hope is that He has determined what you should do and who you should be. He has given you all the gifts and strength and ALL you have to do, is to get up in the morning, meet with Him, the Lord your God, in prayer and seek to carry out the tasks that are laid before you for today.
Chosen before time. Called with effect.
Adopted and forgiven. Justified. Sanctified. Glorified. And satisfied forever.
This is grace gone wonderfully wild.
This is the flood of God’s favor in which we discover the power and practice of the means of grace.
Let us fight the good fight of faith!
Everything in this world is passing away – I am pressing on until I see Your face…
LORD OF ALL BEING,
There is one thing that deserves my greatest care,
that calls forth my ardent desires,
That is, that I may answer the great end for which
I am made —
to glorify thee who hast given me being,
and to do all the good I can for my fellow men;
Verily, life is not worth having
if it be not improved for this noble purpose.
Yet, Lord, how little is this the thought of mankind!
Most men seem to live for themselves
without much or any regard for thy glory,
or for the good of others;
They earnestly desire and eagerly pursue
the riches, honours, pleasures of this life,
as if they supposed that wealth, greatness,
could make their immortal souls happy;
But, alas, what false delusive dreams are these!
And how miserable ere long will those be that
sleep in them,
for all our happiness consists in loving thee,
and being holy as thou art holy.
O may I never fall into the tempers and vanities,
the sensuality and folly of the present world!
It is a place of inexpressible sorrow, a vast empty
Time is a moment, a vapour,
and all its enjoyments are empty bubbles,
fleeting blasts of wind,
from which nothing satisfactory can be derived;
Give me grace always to keep in covenant with thee,
and to reject as delusion a great name here
together with all sinful pleasures or profits.
Help me to know continually
that there can be no true happiness,
no fulfilling of thy purpose for me,
apart from a life lived in and for
the Son of thy love.
– Desiring God
Watch this amazing video below on running the Christian race.