One of my favorite books of the Bible is Ephesians. I am currently studying it again on my own, and I am teaching through it on my podcast. It is just a relevant, hope-filled, encouraging book of which I can never get enough. One of my favorite passages is at the end. Paul has written about our position in Christ and how that is played out in everyday life; then he ends with a section that teaches us that being in Christ and living in light of that position ultimately leads to war.
Here is what he says:
” 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.”
We are in the midst of a war, constantly finding ourselves in the midst of battles against the enemy. It is in the midst of the battles that we must stand strong, realizing that our strength is in the Lord, as verse ten says. In order to stand strong, we must make sure we are battle-ready by wearing the proper pieces of armor, all of which should be bathed in prayer.
If you’re like me, one of the hardest spiritual battles takes place within you: your lingering sinful flesh and your new spiritual mind. Perhaps your mind went to Romans 7, which is exactly where I’m going. Listen to how Paul talks in this passage:
“15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”
I don’t know about you, but I don’t find a lot of hope in most of that passage. Paul seems to be defeated. He’s saved and he desires to do what’s right. Sound familiar? I don’t think that there is any Christian who would say that they do not desire to live for Christ. However, like Paul, we often find ourselves doing the things we do not want to do. Still sound familiar? I face this battle all the time! The Holy Spirit is inside me telling me what’s right/what I need to do and what’s wrong/what I don’t need to do; but my flesh is telling a different story, and sometimes it’s influence is stronger than I would like. It’s a vicious cycle and a never ending battle! (So much for the Christian life being easy, right?)
But there is hope in the midst of this battle! Read again what Paul says in verses twenty-four and twenty-five:
“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
How can we make it through this constant battling between the Spirit that is within us and the lingering sinful flesh? It is through Jesus Christ our Lord! But wait, for the person who is in Christ, there’s more good news! Not only are we able to make it through these battles, but according to the next verse in Romans:
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
When I go through these battles and lose, which is more often than I’d like to admit, I beat myself up pretty good. Can you relate to that? I say things like, “If I’m really in Christ, then why am I still struggling like this.” Like Paul, even though we are Christians, what we want to do we don’t do and what we don’t want to do we do. But in those instances, we are not condemned. It’s not because of anything we’ve done; it’s because of what Christ has done.
So take hope in the battles you face every day, knowing that in Jesus you can make it through and in him you are not condemned.