(A bit longer than usual, but I'm taking liberties since this is sent out on Saturday, and because it addresses, in my opinion, so important an issue regarding the Christian life. Thanks, Glen.)
I recently affirmed and encouraged a good friend about his faithful fulfillment of some very difficult responsibilities at this time in his life. He responded, "But Glen, I don't feel like I want to do them at all!"
My friend has excellent company in the honest acknowledgment of conflicting sensibilities existing in his thoughts and emotions, while nevertheless doing the will of God.
"When I would do good, evil is present with me" (Romans 7:21).
No less than the Apostle Paul confessed that good and evil concurrently resided within him. "I delight in the law of God after the inward man, but I see another law, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members" (Romans 7:22-23). In the perfection of our Heavenly Father's wisdom and way in His trusting children, the "law of sin" is presently allowed to remain in our earthly faculties and members inherited from Adam. Thus, if in this lifetime we are awaiting an experience of good without the presence of contrary sensibilities, we will wait a very long time.
To illustrate, when we determine to trust God, we should expect thoughts and feelings of uncertainty, fear and unbelief to challenge our faith. "The flesh lusteth against the spirit" (Galatians 5:17). When we choose to love and bless others, notions of bitterness may nevertheless be present. The path of humility will be accompanied by detours within that tempt us to the pride of self affirmation and self sufficiency. The sincere desire to obey our Lord will exist concurrently with temptations to disobey. Again, as Paul declared, "When I would do good, evil is present with me."
During our earthly lives, the Christian life involves not the elimination of evil in us, but rather the overcoming of it. This we do by the faith which first acknowledges and affirms the good in us, the "good" being the Spirit of Christ who inhabits our innermost spiritual being - "he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit" (I Corinthians 6:17). "I delight in the law of God after the inward man" exulted Paul, a delight formed in Him by the joy of Christ's love for obedience to His Father - "I do always those things that please Him" (John 8:29). Upon this basis, we arise to confront the enemy within, as it were, a foe identified by the Apostle as "the law of sin which is in my members" (Romans 7:22). This influence and inclination, inherited from Adam, will always lead us to distrust and disobey God if it controls us. Indeed, it is a "law." Our calling, therefore, involves the awareness of inevitable conflict literally fought within, and waged as "the good fight of faith" (I Timothy 6:12).
Note Paul's contention that it is a "good fight." God Himself chose not to perfect and glorify us when we believed in the Lord Jesus, leaving us on a battlefield closer to us than our next breath. "The war within" is how I once heard it described, and every honest believer will acknowledge, "Oh yes, it is a war!" Most importantly, however, it is a war from victory rather than for it. A careful reading of Paul's teaching in Romans indicates that born again believers are already changed in the innermost core of our spiritual selfhood, where we are united to the Spirit of Christ. "I delight in the law of God after the inward man... so then with the mind, I myself serve the law of God" (Romans 7:22; 25). We must accordingly believe the will of God to be the delight of our innermost being, while acknowledging the contrary inclinations of our earthly faculties and members.
It is not a fair fight, as it were, in which we are engaged. We are far more equipped and enabled to trust and obey than we are prone to disbelieve and disobey. "Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world" (I John 4:4). The law of sin remains in our members and faculties, no doubt. But in that holy place of who we most deeply are, the Holy Spirit lives and "worketh in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). Thus, while acknowledging the law of sin and its evil in our flesh, we must believe that a far greater law exists in our spirits, "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:2). Trust and obedience to God is therefore the norm for born again believers, rather than the exception. Let me repeat that: trust and obedience to God is the norm for born again believers, rather than the exception.
At this point in the consideration, we may respond, "Now wait a minute! This may be good philosophy, but it doesn't match with my experience!" Certainly this is the case for all of us at times, and every Christian can point to many times when evil is both present and actual in us. We still sin, and nothing in the New Testament indicates that the potential and actuality of disobedience to God will be eradicated in our present lifetime (I John 1:8). Nevertheless, we never have to sin, and in those times when it does happen, we can be sure that a primary cause is that we are either ignorant or disbelieving of the triumphant truths proclaimed by Paul and other New Testament writers. We fight from victory, the victory of the empty tomb, the occupied throne in Heaven, and the occupied holy place in our spirits where the risen Christ lives. The more we understand and affirm such glorious truth, the more we will walk accordingly, and the more experience will confirm and reflect philosophy. Or as Paul commanded...
"If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit."
"The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death."
"For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."
(I John 5:3-4)