The differences among Christians are innumerable. The Church is made up of all types of people with all kinds of personalities, wirings, giftings, strengths, and weaknesses. However, we all, without exception, have two things in common: 1) we long to know Jesus more deeply, and 2) we oh-so-easily drift away from him.
Though the Spirit has produced rivers of living water in our hearts (John 7:38), a fleshly current still rushes within us, always threatening to sweep us away from the One we love. The purest part of our being, which has been made alive with Christ, longs to enjoy and glorify God in heartfelt worship. But we still carry around in our partially-redeemed-being a part of ourselves that has been corrupted by sin (what the Bible calls “the flesh”), and it is this part of us that never ceases to entice us away from Jesus. Our flesh wages constant battle with our spiritual nature, attempting to deceive us into believing the comforts and thrills of the world are superior experiences to the pleasure of fellowship with God. There are no breaks in this battle. It is constant. It is enduring. It is relentless.
But, you guys, we are not powerless victims caught helplessly between the conflicting forces within us. I think that’s sometimes how we Christians view our experience. We envision the Spirit and the flesh going at it while we spectate from the sidelines. We cheer on the Spirit from a distance. We hope he will get the win and squash our foe, that pesky flesh. But at the end of the day, that’s all we do . . . hope. Don’t get me wrong; hope, defined rightly, is a good thing and a foundational aspect of the Christian life. The Bible is filled with hope-language. But 1) Gospel hope is not like gambling. It’s not wishing with great uncertainty for a good outcome. Gospel hope is longing for the outcome that you are certain will come. And 2) Resisting our propensity to drift away from a worshipful love of Jesus isn’t a hope-thing. It isn’t passive; we can’t just “wait on God” to stop our drifting. It is an active work we must do, by the power of the Spirit that God has given us. Our hands are not tied. We are not helpless. We are empowered by the very Spirit of God to resist the rushing current of our flesh and to cling tightly to the Rock of Ages.
Every day, you and I face the temptation to drift. We’re tempted to indulge the flesh, keep our Bibles shut, work ourselves into an anxious frenzy, neglect prayer, chase after power, position, and praise. In a million and one ways, our flesh is always attempting to lure us into situations that strain our fellowship with God. And it often succeeds, doesn’t it? Be honest. How frequently do you find yourself raising your white flag at the first hint of fleshly resistance? I do more frequently than I’m courageous enough to admit. So quickly I find myself loosening my grip on Jesus as I feel the current of carnal desires starting to yank me adrift. “What use is it? It doesn’t look like the Spirit’s gonna be swooping in to save me. It’s too hard to keep holding on. I can’t do it. I can’t resist.”
So stupid—so, so stupid! As a new creation in Jesus who is indwelled and empowered by the Holy Spirit, I can resist! You can, too! We can, when we’re tempted to drift, turn our face to Christ and our back to the world. We can! We don’t have to sit helplessly and wait on the Spirit to swoop in and save us—the Spirit is already with us, inside of us, and his power is at our disposal. Do you really think the writers of the New Testament would repeatedly command Spirit-filled believers to resist Satan, the world, and the flesh if we weren’t able to do so? Do you really think they would, over and over again, command us to walk by the Spirit, abide in Christ, and pursue righteousness if we weren’t able to do so? No, they wouldn’t! The biblical writers knew they were writing to men and women who had been infused with the presence of God himself and were enabled, by his power, to fight the tendency to drift away from a heartfelt worship of Jesus.
We aren’t spectators in the battle between the Spirit and the flesh; we are the ones who must wield the power of the Spirit and crush the flesh! Every day when we feel that current starting to sweep our feet out from under us, we must dig our heels into the power of the Spirit and fix our eyes in the direction of Jesus! We must open our Bibles and prayerfully set our minds on the spiritually energizing truths of the gospel. “We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” – Hebrews 2:1.
Brother or sister, don’t let yourself drift. Strive with all your Spirit-might to abide in Christ (John 15:4). If the Spirit is in you, you can resist the pull of the flesh and you can pursue Jesus. You can fight. So fight!