The sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. (Galatians 5:17)
To be sure, we are delivered from the dominion and reign of sin in our lives when we are untied to Christ by grace through faith. But sin remains in us all, and we all experience the tension Paul described to the Galatian Christians.
In his book, The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, George Smeaton described it this way.
There is an internal conflict between flesh and spirit—between an old and new nature. And the strange thing is, that in this conflict the power and faculties of the Christian seem to be occupied at one time by the one, and at another time by the other. The same intellect, will, and affections come under different influences, like two conflicting armies occupying the ground, and in turn driven from the field.
A tug-of-war seems to be the best way to describe the battle within for every child of God born of grace. How often we feel like there are two opposing teams inside of us, pulling in opposite directions on the same rope! Sometimes the good team wins and sometimes the bad team wins. But in the end, we know that our victory has been assured, and the good nature will prevail—not because there is anything special about you or me, but because of the cross-work of Christ.
If we refuse to acknowledge the truth that we are in a daily, ongoing struggle against sin, we will not make any progress against it. It is only by affirming the truth that there is such a battle that we are set free to take sword to our enemies. As we look to Jesus as the One who is fighting on our behalf, we rest in the truth that “Sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14). We are not to be mastered by sin, because sin is not our master. Jesus is our Master . . . but sin will seek to entangle us along the way to heaven.
Enabled by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, we tug on our side of the rope and never stop pulling in the right direction until we pull that old sinful nature into the mud pit. We must remember that willpower will not win the battle for us; we must always acknowledge and depend upon the power that God has given to us in Christ to fight the good fight of faith, knowing that ultimate victory has been assured.
These words from Peter should be a constant reminder of the tug-of-war we are called to each day we are on this side of the grave:
Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. (1 Peter 2:11)
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!