Being a Christian does not exempt us from having to fight daily with the problem of sin in our lives. We know that being saved does not mean we are perfect. We know that we all have personal deficits that we must persistently work toward controlling; temper, impatience, unkind thoughts, self centeredness, and a host of other possibilities. We know that we all have some skeletons and they do not always stay hidden in the closet.
Sometimes it seems as though we have a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality and like Paul, we find ourselves fighting the war within. The characteristic of our human experience is the tension set up within a nature divided against itself. We belong to a physical world, yet we also believe ourselves to be citizens of a heavenly city. But our carnal impulses are all too often at variance with our spiritual longings. We all experience the frustration of knowing what is right, but failing to do it. Our knowledge of right is invariably greater than our power to always perform it. We know what is right and we really want to act accordingly, but with monotonous regularity, we fail.
The inescapable fact of the matter is that by ourselves, we cannot do what is right. We just do not make the grade. Knowing the rules whether they are golden or silver, do not make us able to obey them. We keep on falling into a trap called sin. You see, there's an inner struggle going on-a war within between contending forces, the spirit and the self-and on our own, we lack sufficient power to overcome.
Think of the times in your life when the day started off bright and you were feeling really good. You rejoiced in the spirit and felt like going on for the Lord; felt like holding up the blood stained banner, felt like your mind was made up and you were on your way up and then, all of a sudden, all hell broke loose.
Unexpectedly, a situation evolves that we cannot handle; hell hounds get on our trail, death comes knocking at our door, stumbling blocks get in our way. We know we should not allow these things to get to us, but seemingly no matter how hard we try, no matter which way we turn, no matter what strategy we use, we wind up defeated; twisted in knots, a slave to sin. And if your experiences have been anything like mine, you will agree that sometimes it seem as though the more we squirm to get out of the mess, the deeper we sink in. The new life in Christ in not an easy life by any stretch of the imagination for we are still sinners even after we believe.
The battle within resembles in nature that between Jacob and Esau in Rebecca's wound; between the Canaanites and Israelites in the land of promise, between the house of Saul and the house of David. It's a difficult war, because Satan's army is always after us; they stay on our heels.
Well, the question is, how do we win this war? We fight this war by walking in the spirit. We do not have to be controlled by our lower nature because we have the Holy Spirit. Paul said, "The power of the life giving Spirit has freed me from the vicious circle of sin and death."
We need the power of the life-giving Spirit. The only way to triumph over evil is to walk in the Spirit of God. Walking in the spirit means living life to please God rather than to please yourself or others. It means obedience to God rather than obeying your own needs and desires, or the needs and desires of others. We start out each day with a definite decision that by faith, I will walk in the Spirit of my God.
Rev. Saundra L. Washington, D.D., is an ordained clergywoman, social worker, and Founder of AMEN Ministries. http://www.clergyservices4u.org. She is also the author of two coffee table books: Room Beneath the Snow: Poems that Preach and Negative Disturbances: Homilies that Teach. Her new book, Out of Deep Waters: My Grief Management Workbook, will be available soon.