Ever since the Fall of man (Genesis 3), the perfect order and peace that once existed became shattered and disrupted leading to a broken world full of evil, diseases, pain, and suffering. Sadly, we live in a world that is still reaping the effects of that Fall.
Part of the greatest effects of the Fall is the woundedness of our souls that was brought about by the entry of sin into the world and since then the heart of man has been inclined to evil and thus the need for a Savior who is the Lord Jesus Christ.
In light of that, the Fall has some implications both for the non-believer and the believer. For the non-believer, there is need to be born again and for the believer, there is a battle to fight.
By becoming a believer, one enters the kingdom of God and this means walking as a child of the light and shunning evil (1 John 1:5-7). This also means that the believer has adversaries whom he (or she) must be aware of in order to be effective in battle.
With this in mind, every believer has to constantly deal with many trials and temptations and the life of a Christian can be likened to a battlefield with the enemies being: the devil, the world and the flesh (1 John 2:15-17).
Amongst the three enemies, there is one that is very close to the believer- the flesh. This enemy is also sometimes referred to as the old self, the old man or the sinful nature. Today’s blogpost serves to enlighten us about this enemy who is very close to us- in fact, he is the traitor within.
THE TRAITOR WITHIN
As believers, we must acknowledge and come to terms with the fact that there is a war within us and that it is a civil war. There is a traitor within, who is ready to betray us at every opportunity.
In his book, ‘Sin and Temptation’, John Owen has adequately described this situation:
“However strong a castle may be, if a treacherous party resides inside (ready to betray at the first opportunity possible), the castle cannot be kept safe from the enemy. Traitors occupy our own hearts, ready to side with every temptation and to surrender to them all. (John Owen, Sin and Temptation)”
We can also see a similar situation in the famous passage in the book of Romans whereby Paul talks about his struggle with sin:
I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins me in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
(Romans 7:19-23, The message)
In the scripture passage above, Paul confesses the struggle he has with the remnants of the sinful nature within him. This is not something that is far-fetched but something we can all relate to; at least I do.
This is something that has happened to most if not all of us. We can attest to being there many times. Therefore, we see that the old self is a traitor that exists within us- ready to betray us every time we face a temptation and have to choose between what we know is right from what is wrong.
In the above passage, it is clear that Paul struggled with sin and this is also the case with those who have been born again. However, Paul concludes by saying that though he struggles with sin, he knows that he is not under the power of sin since he is born again and the Spirit of God dwells in him.
At this point, it is important to note that the one who has come into union with Christ by being born again, ceases to be under the power of sin for God creates in him a new heart that delights in doing good and obeying His commandments and puts in him or her a new spirit.
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and to keep my laws.”
(Ezekiel 36:26, NIV)
Therefore, we can see that though we are born again, there are times we will struggle with sin but that is not who we truly are, for God has already created in us a clean heart that desires to do what is right. This therefore leaves us with the question, what are we to do about the remnants of the sinful nature in us?
Having established that a Christian’s life is a battlefield that involves constant battles in form of struggles and temptations, it is necessary to look at how we can overcome the traitor within us; that is the sinful nature.
In order to overcome the traitor within us, we must take the radical step to declare war and crucify him every time he rears his ugly head up. This is the only way by which we can conquer this traitor within us.
However, I would like to make it clear that this is made possible by God’s grace lest we think that we can rely on our strength and effort. We need to be very careful and be on guard against the danger of becoming self-righteous.
The moment we think we can fight and overcome sin on our own we become guilty of self-righteousness and this is a grievous sin in God’s eyes. When we look at Scripture, there are several key passages that can help us to overcome the sinful nature and we are going to have a look at a few of them:
- Make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its sinful desires (Romans 13:14). The battle against the flesh can be won in its early stages by ensuring we do not give the flesh any opportunity. A practical application to this is avoiding anything that you know could lead you to sin.
- Putting to death everything that belongs to the earthly nature (Colossians 3:5). In order to overcome the sinful nature, we must stop indulging the sinful nature by not doing things that are gratify the sinful nature. Some that are mentioned include: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed.
- Putting on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its creator (Colossians 3:10). After putting to death everything that belongs to the earthly nature, we have to put on the new self. It is important to note that we are not just to put off the old self and stop there, but to put on the new self by replacing carnal things with spiritual things that are pleasing to God (Ephesians 4:22-24).
- Watch and pray that you may not fall into temptation (Matthew 26:41). Every Christian should be aware that their life is a battlefield and therefore the need to be watchful and alert and most importantly to pray that they may not fall into temptation.
- Let the word of God dwell richly in you (Colossians 3:16). We must never forget the centrality and the importance of God’s word in our lives. Therefore, we must endeavor to constantly feed our souls on God’s word and not just reading but studying and meditating on it (Joshua 1:8).
The scripture passages above are just some of the key passages that can help us overcome the sinful nature. It will be easier to do this if we do not initially give the flesh any opportunity as Romans 13:14 says: “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.”
When it’s all said and done, let us not forget that in this battle we are not alone and the most exciting news is that God is on our side and He has overcome the world (John 16:33). He is there to help us overcome the struggles and temptations we face; we are not alone.
Also, let us also not forget that we cannot do this without the help of the Holy Spirit who is in us (for those who believe), and who helps us to do what is right (John 14:26). However, we must be attentive and listen to Him and be ready to obey and be led by Him.
As we continue in this journey, let us not lose hope even when the struggle becomes intense and let us encourage one another and build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
In summary, let us remember that our battle is not against the people around us but against our sinful nature. The more we are able to overcome the sinful nature the more we are growing unto godliness, for the two cannot co-exist; it’s either one or the other.
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”
Galatians 5:16-18, ESV