The Spiritual Disciplines (Pastor Joey Rountree)
Every believer is called to finish well; to win the race. The believer’s desire is to be “more like Jesus.” But, as we are all aware, we never seem to get beyond this struggle with the flesh. How can the Christian persevere? In this marathon (not sprint) race, how can I press on toward that high calling, when the temptations of the world are ever tugging at my will?
The predicament all believers are faced with is, after the new birth, the body of flesh remains. The desires of the flesh, the allurement of the world, and the devil are all seeking attention.
Often, believers feel alone in this struggle. We look around the church and think everyone has it together but me. Here is biblical truth: “All Christians struggle.” We are all messed up and no level of proficiency in the disciplines can stop the struggle.
Consider Paul’s words to the Church at Galatia, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do (5:17). The new creation will constantly struggle against the flesh and nothing can permanently free us from that struggle while still in this body. Another truth: The flesh never gets better; it will always gravitate toward sin.
Here then is the mark of a believer – “I want to obey. My every desire from within is to obey. I want to live for Him” But the war goes on, and sometimes I will yield to the flesh.
There is no greater example to prove this than the life of the apostle, Paul. Romans chapter seven ensures me that I will never achieve perfection in this life. If Paul, this great man of God, could fail in the struggle…
1 Corinthians 10:13 ~ all temptation is common; maybe unique circumstances, or environments.
We ask the question, “why am I still struggling with this same sin?” The answer is because the temptation will not go away. We pray harder, we read the Bible more, but the temptation remains.
Here is Paul’s answer, “For to this end, we toil and strive…” (1 Timothy 4:10a)
We could interpret this to mean Paul is working to exhaustion. [personal note of honesty: I’m sure I cannot describe my effort so far as “working to exhaustion to win the struggle”] Paul here is laboring, striving to be all that God wants him to be (like Jesus).
Point: “When I perceive the sin, the struggle should drive me to the disciplines.
Scripture References: Co 1:29; Ph 3:13,14; 1 Co 9:24; 9:27
The Enemies ~
1. The World: this is not people, but a system or order. Ro 12:2; Ja 4:4. Consider the frog in boiling water. If you throw him into boiling water, he will jump out. If you throw him into cold water, then boil it, he will remain and die. This is how the world sinks its claws into the believer’s life. Gradual and steady. The answer: Faith overcomes the world (Turn your eyes upon Jesus…)
2. The Flesh: We lust, become lazy, get angry, etc., etc., etc. Consider the things that are given by God, and yet our flesh draws into sin. (sex – sexual immorality; eating – gluttony; etc.) The flesh always seeks to satisfy physical hunger. The answer: Flee! (consider Joseph as he fled from Potiphar’s house) We have to trust that if we flee, sooner or later, the flesh caves in.
3. The Devil: His desire – cut us off from God, steal our security. In the garden, he asked Eve, “Did God really say?” By bringing doubt about God and His goodness, the Devil interrupts our joy and our peace. The answer: Resist the devil and he will flee from you. James 4:7
We must cling to the words, “…greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world…” (1 John 4:4).
We can live victoriously. It is not that we can’t; we don’t. We much to often yield to the flesh. Instead, let us realize we are grace enabled! We need the disciplines.