No matter how weary I become, how empty the tank, the dichotomy between the flesh and the spirit is apparent.
None more so than during an extended, mandated lockdown.
Citizen Sean has a tank where freedom, rights and civic duties slosh around, and at the moment is in danger of bottoming out.
Physical Sean has a tank for fitness levels and general effervescence and that level is trending in the wrong direction.
Sean’s brain has endured an intellectual devolution, snacking on mind junk-food and being exposed to propaganda and copious amounts of fear-mongering from the mainstream media.
Levels are low across the board. But not my flesh, the sinful nature that snipes from a place of spite and rebellion. Nope, levels are still high there. Memes and mockery are swirling in a creative storm.
No matter how weary I become, I notice that my flesh (sinful nature) is self-fueling and in inexhaustible supply.
I’m still in Romans chapter 8: Paul has explained how we’re no longer living the old way of flesh and condemnation, but in the Spirit.
There is a dichotomy between the flesh and the Spirit and my mind is where the tension is resolved. Paul uses the previous chapter of Romans to paint a picture of the tension.
This Sunday just past was Pentecost. It’s not merely a stop on the calendar between Easter and Christmas. Without the Holy Spirit falling on the disciples in the upper room, would there be a church? Not one full of power. How would any of us be able to spread the gospel without the Holy Spirit?
This is central to what Paul is saying in this part of Romans. We cannot live the Christian life in the flesh, which is to say in our natural abilities. The Holy Spirit is central to the Christian life. Without living in the Spirit, we’d be no better than self-righteous and sin-destined Pharisees.
Sounds simple. So, how exactly do you tell the flesh where to get off? The flesh is sneakier than a criminal springing a surprise attack with a knife fight in a dark alley. Paul writes: “by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body…” (8:13, NIV)
The Holy Spirit doesn’t get into knife fights. The commentary I consulted seems to be dove-tail with my experience that He works by consistent, daily subtle influence in our lives.
Living in the Spirit requires us making time and space for the Holy Spirit to work in us…
- Coming back to the foot of the cross
- Confessing our sins
- Engaging in prayer
- Renewing our mind
- Seeking to be filled with the Spirit…
In a later verse Paul reminds us that those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God (8:14, NIV).
As children, we are filled with the Holy Spirit, and he leads us. The Holy Spirit doesn’t manipulate, or coerce, or push, He leads. Since we are connected so fundamentally to God by His Spirit, and are made aware by the Spirit that we are His children, it is natural (or should I say supernatural) for Him to lead us.
I can’t conceive of a time when He is not leading us.
My experience is that when the flesh (sinful nature) knifes me in the back, my inner ear starts resonating with what He is saying, reminding me of my sonship, calling me back.
I can’t do it. I really can’t.
But He can.