Friday, January 18, 2013

The War Within

The War Within


“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13

I grew up singing an old gospel hymn in church called “Farther Along”.  It begins with the lyrics, “Tempted and tried, we’re oft made to wonder, why it should be thus all the day long;
While there are others living about us, never molested, though in the wrong.”
The writer of the hymn, W.B. Stevens, questions why temptations and trials come to God’s people, which complicate life.  He also questions why the unbelievers seem to have easier lives.  Temptations and trials can be hard to understand unless you understand the war within.
There is a war of wills in which God pursues to win in the heart of the believer.  Our bodies are born with our spirit, which is a sinful nature.  At the time of salvation, God gives us His Holy Spirit, which is a Divine Nature (2 Peter 1:4).  Sin and holiness residing within the same soul are in conflict.  The two war against each other for dominion over your actions and emotions. 

The sinful nature, our spirit, is often called the “old man” having been with us before we were a “new creation” in Christ.  We can influence our spirit, and bring it into subjection.  But the Divine Nature is God’s Spirit, and we cannot change or affect it.  It is perfect, and remains perfect.  Acts 17:29 says we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. If we could change the Divine Nature, we would surely leave it corrupted!
The war is one in which we have to fight against our own desires and lusts to conquer the “old man” within.  This is living in the Spirit, following the will of the Holy Spirit.  Paul called it crucifying daily the flesh, which enables us to be led by the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:24-25).  He said that he personally had to “discipline my body and bring it into subjection” (1 Corinthians 9:27). This is how the battle is fought.

The victory of the war is the gain of sanctification, holiness.  While salvation gives us righteousness, being justified to God through the sacrifice of Jesus, sanctification purifies us to become holy, like Him.  This is the command of Christ, who said “Be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15-16).  It is completely possible for a righteous man to become holy if the old man can be conquered, through the work of the Holy Spirit within.  1 Corinthians 10:13 says that “but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able”, and always gives us a way to escape the temptation.  This is His work, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).  But without the Holy Spirit living within him, without the righteousness of salvation, it is completely impossible.  Holiness is Divine Nature, not sinful nature.  You cannot create it of your own resources. 
Trials and temptations must come to those that are believers.  This is the sanctification process, the battles that we must face that give us an opportunity to crucify the flesh, to overcome sin through the Holy Spirit.  Were our lives all a bed of roses, there would be no battles, and without battles there can be no victory.
Sometimes it does seem that unbelievers do have it easier in this world, but this should not be a mystery.  They have no war within.  While they have it easy here on this earth, which is temporary, we are given Heaven eternally.  James 1:12 says “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”  The crown of life is our victory.  God loved us and sent Jesus even while we were in sin.  But He loves us too much to leave us as we are without giving us the means and opportunities to change.

“Faithful till death,” saith our loving Master;
Short is our time to labor and wait;
Then will our toiling seem to be nothing,
When we shall pass the heavenly gate.

Soon we will see our dear, loving Savior,
Hear the last trumpet sound through the sky;
Then we will meet those gone on before us,
Then we shall know and understand why.

Farther along we’ll know more about it,
Farther along we’ll understand why;
Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine,
We’ll understand it all by and by.”
Live in the son-shine. It will be worth it in the end.

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