We do not have to train children to do the wrong thing. It comes natural to all born of Adam’s fallen race. We do have to train them to do the right thing in order to overcome innate tendencies to think, act, and relate in ways that lead to destruction.
“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15).
In similar manner, born again believers do not naturally walk in faith and obedience. We must be supernaturally motivated, led and enabled to live for the glory and will of God. In His wisdom, our Heavenly Father allows the flesh inherited from Adam to remain with us after we believe. Inhabited by a “law of sin,” this aspect of our being struggles against the Holy Spirit’s presence and working in us (Romans 7:25; Galatians 5:17). Left to itself, the flesh will control us despite God’s working on our behalf. We will think, speak, act and relate as if we are the same person we were before we believed. “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” (Romans 7:23).
God gives us an active role in overcoming this law of sin. “If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Romans 8:13). Note that both the Holy Spirit and the believer have responsibility for putting to death “the deeds of the body.” We do the mortifying, but we do it “through the Spirit.” That is, we decisively engage our thought and volitional faculties, but we do so in the faith that acknowledges our Lord’s working in us “both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). We choose to believe that this dynamic action of the Divine bestows both willing and doing in us, regardless of how we may feel, or whether contrary thoughts are present in our brains.
Just as foolishness is bound in the heart of children, so is it bound in the depths of our flesh. Our Heavenly Father privileges us to join Him in the overcoming of our natural tendencies toward wrong. He leads and enables us accordingly, and through the Spirit we trust in the supernatural tendencies of our Christ-inhabited spirits united to Him wherein we “delight in the law of God after the inward man” (Romans 7:22).
“I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”
(I Corinthians 9:26-27)