One of my favorite lines from J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings occurs during the scene in Moria when Gandalf is talking to Frodo. Frodo wishes that none of the terrible events that led up to that point had ever happened and Gandalf replies, “So do all who see such times but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” Decisions. Choices. Everything depends on them.
I was thinking about this verse in Galations 5: “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.” This is one of those simple truths that, if you think about it long enough, either makes a lot of sense or is really confusing. One thing that makes sense to me is not doing the things I want to do.
If both desires are opposed to each other, the phrase “to keep you from doing the things you want to do” can be applied in both directions. My fleshly desires are opposed to my spiritual desires. They (try to) keep me from accomplishing my spiritual goals and growing. My flesh wants to be selfish and lazy, only thinking of me and sitting around. The flesh wants all the reward without any of the work. So in this sense the spirit keeps fleshy me from doing what I want.
The same is true of the spirit. I want to grow to be more like Christ, I want to do the right thing, challenge myself and discipline myself. The flesh doesn’t like any of this. Any time I make the wrong choice or miss an opportunity to grow, it’s most likely the flesh keeping spiritual me from doing what I want to do.
Understanding this separation is important. There is a war going on inside of us and not every desire that we feel is good (and not every desire is bad). You have two opposing forces within you fighting to the death. So which one are you favoring?
Rewind a verse in Galations and you’ll find this admonition: “Walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” So we have a choice, which set of desires will we listen to, obey, and “walk by”? Ask God for His help to make the right choices. Change happens one choice at a time.
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