The first days following a person becoming a true Christian are often exciting and exhilarating. When a person is genuinely and truly reborn spiritually and has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as his/her Savior, there are a number of dramatic changes that occur.
If you ask this new believer to describe what is happening in his life, he might begin by telling you of his new affection for Jesus Christ. 1 John 4:19 puts it this way, “We love Him, because He first loved us.” Our gratitude shows itself in a new love for the Lord.
Later this affection will deepen, for to know Christ better is to love Him more, but even in the first few days after a true spiritual conversion, there will inevitably be a new affection for the Lord Jesus.
Then this new Christian will probably describe his new attitude toward other believers. 1 John 3:14 says, “We know that we have passed out of (spiritual) death into (spiritual) life, because we love the brethren.” This new feeling of affection and kinship may not yet have reached the depths or dimensions that maturing will bring, but right away there will be some amount of new affection for other Christians.
Thirdly, as a result of this new experience in Christ there will be a new taste for the things of God. This new believer will tell you of a new desire for prayer and for worshipping with other Christians, a fresh appetite for God’s Word, and going to biblically accurate Bible studies.
Then your newly saved friend will go on to tell you at great length of a whole new purpose and meaning to his life. He might describe how he can see “the big picture,” or as we might say, “living with eternity’s values in view.”
This new Christian might also want to tell you of a new sensitivity to sin and other new aspects of his life. Truly a great many changes have been made.
What is the cause of all these new desires and appetites? Why should this be? Because the new birth involves a new presence in our lives – a Person (i.e., God’s Holy Spirit)!
A genuine Christian experience involves God sending His Holy Spirit into our lives and into our bodies as His temple. Christians are indwelt people. There is no such thing as a genuine Christian who is not indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God. We read in Romans 8:9, “But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” The Holy Spirit Himself bears witness with our human spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ… (Rom. 8:15-17).
When that wonderful Person comes to abide within us, He does not come alone. He brings to our hearts these affections (i.e., spiritual desires). The Holy Spirit pulls us toward God, toward Jesus, toward prayer, toward the Scriptures, toward the fellowship of believers, toward evangelism (i.e., sharing your faith with non-believers), and toward going to a biblically accurate Bible study group. There’s a pull and a tug toward the things of God.
This new pull toward the things of God is what the new Christian we talked of was experiencing. The Holy Spirit had already begun to instill these new desires. But what this new believer might not yet realize is that on the day he accepted Christ and God’s Holy Spirit came to live within him, a battle cry was sounded and the conflict was begun (i.e., a spiritual and mental battle).
A true Christian has a new sense of conflict in his life that he never had before, because he has two natures. First, he has that old sinful nature with which he was born. It will drag its feet every step of the way from earth to glory to prevent us from being God’s man or God’s woman. And then we also have a new nature, given to us by God at the point of the new birth when the Holy Spirit comes to live within us.
God’s Spirit is a living Person, and He pulls us in the direction toward God and toward all that is righteous and good and proper and right, and toward all that will bring joy and peace and a satisfying life.
While this new nature pulls us toward God, Satan tries to deceive us with his lie. He says, “That’s not the way of joy. Just do what comes naturally! That’s the way to really live!” When we believe this lie, we forget what Paul wrote to Timothy when he said, “She that lives in pleasure is (spiritually) dead while she (physically) lives” – 1 Tim. 5:6. What a statement! And it’s true!
Christians have two natures, and those two natures are engaged in mortal combat. Galatians 5:16 says, “Walk (i.e., live/obey) by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh (i.e., sin nature).” Then verse 17 goes on to explain what’s happening inside of us: “For the flesh (i.e., sin nature) sets its desire against the (Holy) Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another; so that you may not do the things that you please.” You can’t do the things that you want to – and that provides the conflict.
In Romans 7:15 Paul brings out the same thing when he says, “for I (i.e., my new nature) am not practicing what I would like to do, but I (i.e., my sin nature) am doing the very thing I (i.e., my new nature) hate.” In effect, he’s saying, “What I (i.e., my new nature acquired at conversion) want to do, I (i.e., my sin nature) don’t do. But what I (i.e., my new nature) hate, that I (i.e., my sin nature) do.” He says it a different way in Rom. 7:19: “For the good that I (i.e., my new nature) wish, I (i.e., my sin nature) do not do, but I (i.e., my sin nature) practice the very evil that I (i.e., my new nature) do not wish.”
Paul was very much aware of this new conflict he didn’t have before – that tugs and pulls in two directions at the same time. And young Christians, you would do well to beware of this. I’ve talked to many Christians who are discouraged and depressed because they don’t understand what’s going on. They sense a fight going on in their mind and in their conscience, and they don’t understand it. Make note of this, Christian, it is a healthy sign when this battle and this conflict occurs. It means that you are truly God’s property/child.
To be aware of a new sense of conflict is a healthy indication that we are the Lord’s and that the flesh (i.e., sin nature) and the Holy Spirit are in a tug-of-war with each other, one dragging its feet as the other One seeks to lead us on in holiness and toward a life that is pleasing to God.
At the end of Romans 13:14, we find the tactics for winning this conflict with Satan and our old nature. It says, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ (i.e., make Christ the Master/Ruler of your life), and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” The word “provisions” used to be an old English term that meant groceries. We’d say, “Did you get your provisions in for the week?” And in this verse Paul says, “Don’t buy any groceries for your flesh (i.e., sin nature) to fulfill its lusts. Don’t feed it.” The lusts and the desires will still be there. The wrong drives will still be there to drive you down the road of self-will (i.e., self-centeredness), and to pull you toward that which gratifies your flesh. But victory is possible if we “weaken” our old sin nature by “starvation.” What part of you are you going to feed – your flesh (i.e., sin nature) or your new nature?
If you neglect reading your Bible and praying because you’re so busy, then you’re starving your new nature. On the other hand, if you pick up filthy books and look at rotten magazines, if you go to filthy movies and indulge in questionable pleasures, then you are feeding your flesh – your sin nature. Some of the materials and entertainment in our modern age arouse human passions and appetites so they encourage/entice you to sin and wreck your harmony with God. These Christians didn’t want to be that way and would not be that way, but they fed their flesh to the point that, like a tiger, it turned on them and drew blood and wrecked their lives. Don’t buy any groceries for your flesh/sin nature.
I’m sorry to say this is a real problem these days. You can’t watch many programs, or even commercials, on television today that don’t cater to human passions and sinful appetites. You can hardly look around anywhere because there is so much to gratify your flesh. You have to offset that by feeding your spiritual life and by putting your flesh/sin nature on a low-calorie or preferably a no-calorie diet. Make your sin nature so weak that you can kick it around. Allow the Holy Spirit to reign/rule you. Self must be overcome so the indwelling Christ can have His say in your life day by day.
I sometimes feel we give people a wrong impression of what the Christian life is all about. I’m here to tell you that the Christian life in this world is a spiritual battle from the beginning to the end! It is a war! And you’d better make up your mind now that you are enlisting in a conflict that will never end until you see Jesus Christ. We’d better get that fact across to people.
The Christian life is not a bowl of cherries. We’re in a spiritual warfare – “We wrestle not against flesh and blood (i.e., humans), but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this world (i.e., demon spirits)” – Eph. 6:12. And Paul wrote in verse 11: “Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” He said, “Get ready for the fight, and watch for the flaming missiles of the evil one (i.e., Satan)” – Eph. 6:16.
Back in ancient wars, they used to light torches and send them by an arrow to set on fire the flammable material behind the fortress walls. This gives us a good picture of how Satan sends his darts at Christians. There’s so much flammable material in our bodies and in our minds and emotions that sometimes Satan says, “If I can just set those passions on fire, I’ll have them!” Remember Paul’s words in Ephesians 6:16 where he tells us to take up “the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one.”
A new sense of conflict is a part of the new life in Christ and the decision must be made: Who are you going to feed? This is so crucial and so important. It’s a tragedy that many fail at this point, and this is why some Christians act like anything but Christians. We have to be so careful about our judgments. Someone who doesn’t appear to act like a Christian may be a believer who has been feeding their old sin nature so much that it has overcome their new life in Christ. At that moment the marks on them are anything but the marks of a believer. We must ask, “Who have they been feeding?”
The Holy Spirit who lives in us is the same Spirit who is the Author of the written Scriptures, and the Holy Spirit’s method of teaching us and rebuking us and reproving us is through the Word.
The Bible tells us that the Word – the Bible – is the “sword of the Spirit,” and if you read the porno magazines and all the junk in this world, or even if you just read some of the better magazines and never touch this Book, you take away the Spirit’s sword. If you never open the Bible, you’re not giving God a chance to work in your life. You’re not handing the Holy Spirit a sword and saying, “Teach me, I want to grow. Correct me.” He can’t do that without the Word. We must be in God’s Word, and heed what it says.
As we get to know the Word more and more, we’re going to grow and the old nature will have less and less of a hold on us. This is God’s tool for us to grow.
The battle pits the flesh/sin nature against the Holy Spirit. That’s the war we’re engaged in. But this new sense of conflict is valuable because it humbles us as we learn more about our own hearts. This conflict can be a humbling learning experience. It will tend to increase our watchfulness, if we understand it. It will endear Christ to us more. And it will keep alive our hope and taste for heaven, and we’ll say, “Oh, it’ll be great to get to heaven when this is all over with.”
When the conflict comes, keep in mind that it is a healthy sign that you are truly God’s child. Second, always concentrate on feeding your new nature with the things of God, and starving your old nature. And finally, remember that you can best arm yourself for battle by reading, studying, and living the Word of God.
And sometimes when we are overcome by self-will and our flesh, how wonderful to know that there is forgiveness with God. As we read in His Word, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9).
In this light, the battle between our two natures has already been won, if we will only accept the victory Christ offers.
Dr. Bruce Dunn
Recommended Topics for you:
- “Tactics Against Temptation”
- “Who Needs A Quiet Time? You Do!”
- “Quiet Time Experiment”
- “My Daily Prayer (example)”