Guys, being a Christian is hard.
I mean, maybe that’s just me. But I don’t think so. I think we’re all on the same page here.
It is hard to consistently do the right thing. It is hard to consistently keep ourselves away from the wrong things.
I was born in the Church. Maybe you were, too. Maybe not. Some of us came into the Church later in life. Some of us were born into the Church, left it, and came back. Some of us have only a few years of experience living this way of life. Some of us have a couple dozen. Some of us have half a century or more under our belts.
I don’t get the impression that any of us would say it stops being hard.
I want to talk about why that is—and why it won’t be true forever.
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If you’re baptized—if you’ve made the life-changing commitment to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ—something happened to you the day you went under the water and had hands laid on you:
When God placed His Spirit in you, it didn’t get compartmentalized; it’s not just sitting neatly and quietly in its own little box until you take it out to use it. Paul says “the Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16) and that “he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him” (1 Corinthians 6:17).
That Spirit is in you. It’s part of you. Entwined within you.
But it’s not like you stopped being a flesh-and-blood human being, either. If a hospital had run a battery of tests on you the day before you were baptized and the day after you were baptized, what would they have found different?
Not a thing.
The Holy Spirit doesn’t show up in bloodwork or on an x-ray or an MRI. And from a physical standpoint, the only thing baptism accomplishes is that you come out of it wetter than you were going into it.
But please understand: even though it doesn’t show up on your medical records, having the Holy Spirit is not normal. It is not normal for human beings to be carrying around within them a fragment of the power of the God who created and rules the universe. That is not the normal human condition.
Which means… well, it means you’re not normal.
You are not a normal human being.
If anything, you’re a hybrid now—you’re this blend of carnal, physical human nature, and the flawless, spiritual character of God.
And that’s where things get hard.
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.
So you’ve got these two components—human nature and the Spirit of God. And they don’t play well together. Worst of all, when our carnal human nature is calling the shots, we can’t please God. We can’t even really understand God. And the solution Paul gives us is, “don’t live according to the flesh; live according the Spirit.”
But that’s not as easy as it sounds. You know that. I know that. Paul knew that. Just turn back one chapter and you’ll see him sharing his own struggles. In verse 14 of chapter 7, Paul writes:
We know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to 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. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
I wish, I wish I could have called this blog “3 Easy Ways to Beat Your Human Nature for Good,” but I don’t have those answers. Paul didn’t have those answers. PAUL. The apostle Paul, through whom God accomplished more in 30 years than most of us in this room will accomplish in our collective lifetimes.
That Paul is the one saying, “I don’t know how to kick this to the curb. There is an evil in me and it’s a fight I don’t always win.”
How many times have we turned to those words, brethren, how many times have we looked at Paul baring his soul and crying out, “O wretched man that I am!” and thought, “Yeah, I know exactly what you mean, Paul”? And not just us, but think about the almost 2,000 years since Paul wrote those words. How many of our fellow Christians throughout history have read and connected with those words since Paul wrote them?
Let’s not sugarcoat it.
This is a battle.
This is a hard battle.
This is a daily battle.
This is, more often than not, an exhausting battle.
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In many of his writings, Paul talks about the old man and the new man—who we were before we dedicated ourselves to God and who we became after. He talks about putting off the old man. Crucifying him. Burying him. The old man pictures who we are when our carnal nature is calling the shots, and he has to go.
One of the more painful lessons I’ve learned since baptism is how determined the old man is to hang around. He doesn’t stay buried. If you let him, he will get right back in that driver’s seat, and it takes a monumental effort to get him back out again.
To bury him again.
And Satan, our enemy, the adversary of God’s people, is eager to go after our weaknesses. He will hit them as hard and as often as God allows him to do it. Add those attacks to our daily struggle against our own human nature, and it can all get absolutely overwhelming.
I don’t know where you are in your fight. I don’t know what you’re wrestling with or what your old man even looks like, but I do know this—if you’re like anyone else who has ever been part of God’s Church, then you have days—weeks—months—maybe even years—when you are tired. When you are exhausted. When you start to lose hope, when you feel beaten down and powerless, when you become convinced that you are a failure who cannot win this fight.
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But you are not a failure.
Last Passover, you ate the bread; you drank the wine—the body that was broken and the blood that was spilled so that each of us can find not just forgiveness but the strength to get back up and keep fighting, even when it seems impossible.
And then during the Days of Unleavened Bread, you were focused on putting sin out and taking in righteousness—putting off the old man; putting on the new. On Pentecost, you were reminded of the Holy Spirit God has placed in you; of the life-changing power
that comes with that Spirit.
And the Feast of Trumpets? What was that day about?
It’s about the return of Jesus Christ. It’s about the seventh trumpet blast as our older Brother assumes rulership over the entire earth and saves this world from itself.
But the Feast of Trumpets is also about what happens to you. This internal battle we have between the flesh and the Spirit, the sins and flaws we find ourselves wrestling with over and over again—the seventh trumpet is the moment that battle ends.
If we stay faithful to God—if we make it our focus to “live according to the Spirit,” even though sometimes the flesh drags us down—then something incredible is going to happen when that final trumpet rings out.
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?”
The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
(1 Corinthians 15:50-58)
Imagine not having to wrestle anymore between what you know you should do and what every fiber of your humanity wants to do. Imagine waking up one morning and never feeling the tug of your carnal nature ever again, because it’s gone and you don’t think like that anymore, you don’t act like that anymore.
Imagine never being tempted to sin ever again because you can see sin clearly as the ugly, painful, self-destructive thing that it is. Imagine not having to push away thoughts that aren’t true, noble, just, and pure, because those are the only subjects you think about anymore.
Imagine being like God.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
Shall be. Not now. But one day. Yes, being a Christian is hard—but the seventh trumpet is a promise that our labor is not in vain.
Until next time,