Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Fierce Battle

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify 
the desires of the sinful nature.” Galatians 5:16 NIV1984

I've been talking in recent posts about our on going work with the homeless in downtown Spokane. Yesterday we got a call from KREM 2 a local station about coming to do an interview. Here's that story.                         

The question of how we live between the point we receive salvation and the final end of our days is not a new question. The Galatians started out their journey with the Holy Spirit but quickly found them selves in the strangle hold of legalism. They were trying so hard to be good and devoted followers yet they were fighting each other.  Which reminds me of yesterdays verse about loving God, who we can't see when we can't love people that we can see.  

Sometimes we find our best efforts to fix things becomes an even bigger mess. We try so hard to live right and we come up short..  We initially realize that the salvation we have experienced and received is worked by something outside of ourselves. God does what we could not do for ourselves. 
Then we start into the discipleship journey. We want to be approved workmen who rightly divide the word. We want to walk by faith and not by sight. We want to be good Christians. We want to treat others with kindness and mercy.... well until they are driving us nuts. 

We have to decide each day how we are going to live. Are we going to be led by the Holy Spirit or are we going to fall back into the trap of working to be accepted or good enough. The whole "good enough" battle is one I personally know very well. It is also a good personal illustration of the war that goes on between the old sinful nature and life by the Spirit. There are days that I can feel terribly defeated because I get tired of going around and around the same old mountain. The thing is that while I am intensely aware of the battle in my head, I am choosing to believe that grace, walking by faith and life in the Spirit to be the better way.  Some days I do better than others. I have to remind myself that God is not waiting to accept me because the scales of justice have tipped in my favor. I have to trust that the Holy Spirit will inspire me and move me through out my day.
When I see those feelings of "not enough" creeping back into how I live and do things. I have to stop and remind myself that the Lord loves me just as much on days that I am busy as he does on days when I'm tired and just sitting on my couch.  

I read the following in the IVP Commentary accompanying this verse. "Each day the Christian who chooses to walk by the Spirit is engaged in a fierce battle between the Spirit and the sinful nature. It is important to stress this point, because many Christians feel ashamed to admit that they are experiencing such a conflict. They feel that mature Christians should somehow be above this kind of struggle. They imagine that the great saints were surely too spiritual to feel the desires of the flesh. But Paul flatly contradicts such images of super spirituality."

I guess what I want to convey today is that you may be experiencing that inner battle even while you are daily living by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is easy to feel frustrated as you look at other believers living victoriously. People don't talk much about that inner battle because we often attach a sort of shame to it. We think that we will eventually be healed and strong enough to no longer feel the battle. We look forward to talking about our struggles when they are in the past. We struggle daily and we have to decide if we will take the path of trying to arrive at "good enough" or if we will live by grace and faith in the Holy Spirit. 

Prayer: Lord help us to choose to walk in the Spirit though this day. Help us to accept that we are not good enough but that you are. Help us to realize that when we are weak you are strong. That we are accepted and loved by you even when we feel we are struggling and falling terribly short of your best. Help us to yield and to be led and to not demand our own way like stubborn mules. 

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