The Tension Between Flesh and Spirit

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (Romans 7:24-8:2 ESV)

There is a constant tension between the Spirit and our flesh. Paul mentioned that he knew what he ought to do according to God, but his flesh continued to sin, which is why he called himself a “wretched man.” He reminds is that we will continue to struggle with sin, even after accepting Jesus, because our flesh clings to the law of sin and death.

The good news is that the gospel embeds in our minds a new knowledge of the Spirit by whom we can live through. God knows that our bodies are under the curse of the law. And so he decided to work on us from the inside out by capturing our minds and then our hearts. This is consistent with what the Lord revealed to Ezekiel when he said: “I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 11:19-20).

Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit to be our Counselor and help us be mindful of God’s statutes. It is impossible to remember all his laws AND live by them in perfection. That is why Christ first gives us complete forgiveness which frees us from the law of sin. We are bound for heaven no matter how bad we mess things up. With that freedom, we are empowered and encouraged to follow the Holy Spirit because he helps us differentiate between sin and God’s desires.

So when we sin, we must remember that it has already been forgiven. Jesus instructs us to confess and repent, and to keep repeating those steps until we get it right. It is a struggle and downright frustrating, but always remember that his love is unconditional and he will continue to spur us to keep trying. The fact that we get frustrated is a sign that the Spirit is living in us because he is the One that convicts all believers by saying, “Don’t do that.” All we have to do is say “okay” and follow him towards the better alternative.

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