The Enemy Within, and the Victory From Above
A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart. (Luke 6:45)
But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.
Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.
The above Bible verses exemplify a profound truth about both the nature of man, and the nature of sin, for they reveal the fact that our words and actions are but an extension of what already exists inside us; our words and deeds are no more than a manifestation in the physical realm, of what actually originated within our spiritual being. In other words, the very moment we think to do or say something, as far as God is concerned, it's done, and we are guilty of a sin even before we commit the physical act.
That's why, to God, thinking about committing adultery is the same as committing adultery, why coveting is stealing, and why hating someone is murder. To natural, human reason of course, such a perspective seems illogical and even ludicrous. But that's because the way God He thinks, is beyond the scope of the natural unregenerate human mind as the Scriptures indeed declare:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts
than your thoughts. (Isa 55:8-9)
The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
(1 Cor 2:14)
The bottom line is, sin is just not something we do. It is a part of our inner being that is born in us because of the fallen nature we inherited from Adam. That's why we are said to have been "born in sin." The sad truth is, we are born with a death sentence upon us; and but for the grace of God, that sentence would be carried out, instead of being pardoned, and covered over by the blood of Jesus.
Man is a spirit being, yet he is robed in flesh--which is all that binds us to the realm of matter, time, and space--as long as the flesh is alive. Because we are flesh, and because we inherited a fallen nature from Adam, we are primarily "flesh-conscious," rather than "Spirit-conscious,"and naturally see things from that fleshly, carnal perspective. That spiritual, inner voice we call the conscience--the vestiges of the Creator that remain even within an unregenerate person--will often gently convict us of our wrongdoing--whether one chooses to ignore it or not.
Even after our soul is born again spiritually through regeneration, we continue to be aware of that carnal nature with us, and often find ourselves in the middle of a struggle between it and our new spiritual nature imparted by the indwelling of God's Spirit. This ongoing internal battle between good and evil is essentially both a symptom of, and microcosm of the warfare waging unseen all around us in the Spiritual realm, which the Apostle Paul alludes to in his letter to the Ephesian saints:
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
Indeed, Paul himself, though a man of tremendous character, virtue and spiritual maturity, spoke about his own ongoing struggle between his two conflicting natures:
18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. 21 So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rom 7:18-25 NIV)
So then, even as Spirit-filled Christians, we must continue to battle the old flesh nature within us--until our human nature is fully transformed at the Lord's return. Whether we are resurrected among the righteous dead in Christ at His coming, or are instantly "changed" along with the other saints still alive upon the earth at that moment, we will all be made spiritually complete in Jesus at the redemption of our bodies:
And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.
(Rom 8:23 NLT)
Only because God so loved us, did He inaugurate His grand plan of redemption after the rebellion and fall of man in the garden of Eden--to save us from eternal damnation by sacrificing His Son Jesus Christ. Our God is a God of justice, and the sin debt had to be paid. But He is also a God of love and mercy. He very literally robed Himself in humanity so that humanity could be robed in His sinless nature, and so dwell with Him in eternity. As Paul put it:
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor 5:21 ESV)
Though Jesus inherited His Father's sinless, divine nature, He also inherited His mother's human nature, along with all its weaknesses and frailties. As a human, Jesus fully endured every temptation, every pain, and every distress that anyone can ever possibly experience. He overcame all these things--and the worst that Satan could throw at Him--and arose triumphantly from Sheol, bringing with Him the full authority over both death and hell. His righteousness is our righteousness, and even though our battle is not yet over, His victory assures our victory. We cannot lose if we operate in the power of His might, and are led continually by His Spirit.
We need to remind ourselves of that assurance whenever we are feeling defeated or discouraged--and yes, when we feel the shame of having allowed sin to get the upper hand in a moment of weakness. We must never allow a sense of unworthiness to keep us from seeking forgiveness. We were unworthy when He called us, and we will remain unworthy throughout eternity. That undeserved favor is, after all, what grace is all about--and why our God and His faithful Christ are so worthy to be praised!
As John tells us in 1 John 1:21: as believers, we are exhorted to practice godliness as a lifestyle. Yet, if we do occasionally stumble and fall, Jesus is our advocate with the Father, who will intercede for us as the One Who took our punishment. Remember...we may have to continue to fight, and may even lose an occasional battle. But we have the empowering assurance that the war itself was won for us 2000 years ago, on a hill called Calvary.