(Another lengthy one. Thanks for your patience. Also, we're continuing to have trouble with our bulks mailing lists. I'm tweaking them again, and hopefully this will make it to some of you who have not been receiving the messages lately.)
The presence of conflicting desires in the thoughts, emotions and physical sensations of born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ presents us with the necessity of building an altar of faith in our hearts.
"I delight in the law of God after the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members... So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh, the law of sin" (Romans 7:22-23; 25).
The Apostle Paul writes that he "sees" the law of sin in his members, that is, the inclination of our flesh toward unbelief and disobedience presents itself as conscious and obvious to us. Note, however, that Paul does not affirm this obvious awareness of "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus," that is, the Christ-wrought delight and desire to serve the law of God that dwelled in his spirit. Believing in the latter requires the determination of faith whereby we affirm the yearning for righteousness which characterizes who we most deeply are in Christ. Again, we must build an altar within whereby we accept the Bible's teaching that God faithfully fulfills His promise to "work in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).
Do we believe this as an established reckoning of faith, doctrine and principle? And then do we seek to go forth from this altar of the heart, making choices of faith whereby we affirm with Paul, "I delight in the law of God after the inward man," and "with the mind, I myself serve the law of God?" It is vital that we do so. Indeed, it is often much easier to acknowledge the lusts of the flesh because they present themselves more obviously. We very consciously feel them, think them, and sense them. However, if we fail to also believe the Bible's teaching regarding our spiritual delight and desire for righteousness, we condemn ourselves to an inconsistent experience of overcoming temptation. We will simply walk out our choice to see only the lusts of the flesh rather than affirming the truth of Christ's overcoming presence and working in us both to will and to do of God's pleasure.
For example, suppose someone sins against us. The Bible's teaching plainly calls us to " Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" (Matthew 5:44). Our thoughts, emotions and physical sensations, however, will likely not initially flow in such a direction of grace and mercy. We will rather feel strong inclination toward anger, bitterness and even revenge. These fleshly realities notwithstanding, Scripture calls us to believe and affirm our deeper desire (and "delight") for obedience to God's command that we love, bless and pray for our offender. "I delight in the law of God after the inward man."
We may not feel such inclination, and our thoughts may not seem to naturally flow with the current of the love of Christ. "The flesh lusteth against the spirit" (Galatians 5:17). Nevertheless, the dynamic presence of the Holy Spirit works in us to motivate and enable obedience to God and love for our enemies. This we must believe despite the fact that we cannot see or feel. "We walk by faith, not by sight" (II Corinthians 5:7). We choose to affirm our spiritual inclination to love, bless and pray. Thereby we will find in growing consistency the Christ-originated and empowered ability to walk in accordance with His character and nature, and with the delight and service to God which characterizes our innermost spiritual being.
This perspective provides not a mere method or mechanism whereby we do the will of God. It simply offers Truth, truth to be known, believed, and affirmed in both doctrine and practice. More literally, it offers opportunity to relate to God by believing His Word in a particularly elemental and personal way. Indeed, the Gospel of the Lord Jesus provides to believing hearts not only forgiveness and eternal life, but also a "new man, created in righteousness and true holiness" (Ephesians 4:24). We are not who we used to be in the depths of our being and personhood, and to the degree we affirm the Bible's teaching of desire and delight for obedience to God in our "inward man," we will find ourselves walking far more accordingly.
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new."
(II Corinthians 5:17)
"Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord."