He said, “Follow Me.”
He didn’t say, “Like Me,” “Hear Me,” or even, “Have good intentions toward Me.”
He wants me to follow Him.
“Take up your cross and follow Me.”
I’ve been a Christian for long enough to know when I’ve screwed up. The Holy Spirit convicts me right away. The problem is, my stupid flesh does it anyway. My sinful nature is constantly warring with my spirit, and it’s really irritating. I want an off day, once in a while. I’m not going to get one.
I fail in my walk constantly. I pray, ask forgiveness of those I’ve heard, and I read the Word to encourage myself to remember the seriousness of His commands.
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, rivalries, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger,dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
Hits ya right in the gut, doesn’t it? At least, it does for me. I find myself doing these things way more than I’d like to. In fact, last week, I did them a lot to the people I care about the most (I’m talking fits of rage, jealousy, strife, and divisions).
It turns out we’re not the only ones who’ve ever struggled with this. (…You have, right? It’s not just me?)
In Romans 7, Paul, too, has a grievance against his own nature, starting in verse 15 and ending in verse 24:
For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
To clarify, Paul isn’t making excuses for his sin. Sin is something that we all, through the help of the Holy Spirit and Christ in us, can overcome. Otherwise, it makes no sense that he have written, just a chapter earlier:
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? (Romans 6:1-2)
He IS saying, however, that it’s a struggle that must be fought – flesh vs. spirit.
There are many variations of an illustration about the interaction between a grandfather and his grandson. The grandfather is trying to pass a bit of wisdom to his grandson, so he tells him, “Son, in every person, there is a black dog. This dog symbolizes the evil inside him, but there is also a white dog in every person. This symbolizes the good. They are constantly fighting each other.”
Wide-eyed, the boy asked, “But Poppa, who wins?”
Winking at his grandson, the grandfather replied knowingly, “The one you feed the most.”
What are we feeding? Are we feeding our flesh, or the Spirit that lives in us?
The one we feed the most is the one that wins.