Chapter 9: A Man and Spiritual Warfare
Today we continue with the series of excerpts from my new book, A Man’s Guide to the Spiritual Disciplines. Visit our web location for numerous additional audio, video, and print resources on the Spiritual Disciplines.
Living Out a Commitment to Spiritual Warfare
Paul told first-century Christians they were “called to be free.” But he warned, “Do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature” (Galatians 5:13). Through Christ, we gain access to the armor and the weaponry that will free us from bondage to temptation and sin. But usually that freedom doesn’t come automatically. It requires our participation.
It’s easy to know if we are winning or losing the war. “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious,” Paul explained, listing “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies and the like” (Galatians 5:19–21). People who live like that apart from trust in Christ are losing the battle.
On the other hand, people who are winning exhibit the “fruit of the Spirit,” which Paul describes as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” People who demonstrate these qualities are “in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22–25). They are winning the spiritual battle, and they enjoy the favor and peace of our great God.
Throughout this passage, Paul challenges us to cooperate with God in this process. Most of us realize our participation is required, but in our efforts to achieve superiority over ourselves, we face two potential errors. If we accept either of these lies, we will miss the joy and freedom of long-term obedience to God.
- We publicly pretend we have conquered the flesh. No one can win this war in his own strength. We win only through the Holy Spirit. Don’t ever pretend that you aren’t a sinful man. It is very dangerous to pretend that you have conquered that which you have not. Even if you are victorious most of the time, you face a new struggle with every new situation and every new decision. You win each battle only by God’s supernatural power to free you from your limitations.
- We privately deny the possibility of conquering the flesh. We all face a temptation to look at Scripture with disbelieving eyes. We see our unique experiences as somehow different from those recorded in our Bibles. We think, “I like what it says here, but it must be describing something others can overcome by the Spirit, not me.” That response denies scriptural truth. Our text says if you “live by the Spirit, you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Galatians 5:16). No exceptions are noted.
If you don’t pull weeds on a regular basis, you will soon have nothing but weeds. So practice the discipline of spiritual warfare on a regular basis.
For the glory of Christ and no other reason,
Pat Morley, Ph.D.
P.S. You can order this book through our bookstore by clicking here.