The war upon sin is an ugly one. If we are Christians, we are engaged as warriors in this battle to some extent or another, whether we realize it or not–for the mortification of sin is actually a sign of spiritual life.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” ~II Corinthians 10:3-5
“So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” ~Romans 8:12-14
“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'” ~I Peter 1:13-16
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places…Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth…and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit…” ~Ephesians 6:12, 14, 17, 18
From this small selection of relevant passages, one can see a couple of the prominent threads that the apostles incorporated when speaking of the believer’s life and warfare: the Spirit of God dwelling in us and the transformation of our minds to think the thoughts of God after him.
Though we, as Christians, are not of this world because we have been born again by the Holy Spirit, we certainly must live in it. We are now God’s people. Therefore, we must live in obedience to him. This does not just mean going to church and not committing fornication–it means that the inmost responses of our hearts and minds must be retrained according to God’s word.
If we are believers, we have become warriors who must die to self to live to Christ. At least, that is how our spiritual enemies view us.
Our enemies are not only are the invisible spiritual powers of darkness and those people who espouse their lies, but also our own yet sinful human natures. We have been redeemed, bought, renewed, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and given the hope of glory, but we still find an enemy living within us. This is very personal enemy inhabits each one of us–our remaining delight in sin against God.
This is what must die if we are to live–our own pleasure in sin must die–our own dependence on ourselves instead of on God and his Word and Spirit must die–our own rejection of our Savior in favor of our own desires must die. For yes, even if we are true believers and filled with many graces, we still must war with our own sinfulness. Even the great apostle Paul was yet engaged in this struggle while he walked upon this earth: “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” ~I Corinthians 9: 27
Our other spiritual enemies employ our own selves in their subversive strategies against the saints of God. We have become their enemies because we have become God’s. Alone, we are worth little to nothing to them–only because of the name of Christ that we bear have we become their enemies. Because God has promised to defend and save all his own, by striking against us, they strike against God–and they find this easier to do when they take our own living sins into account.
It is wise for us to realize these things, for we can, oddly enough, become prideful in the fact that we are disciplining ourselves and bringing our bodies under subjection and mortifying sin. We can become prideful because we see certain victories over great and powerful enemies–including our own habitual sins and lusts. Whenever we cease continuing in thanksgiving to our God for all that he has done in us (not for what we have done for him), we tend to fall into this trap–and our enemies rejoice!
Let us then give our enemies no room to rejoice by slacking off in this personal war of mortification. Let us then die to self in order that we might live to God, be filled with the Spirit, and walk with a renewed mind and heart, informed and taught by the Scriptures. Thus we may honor and glorify our God and Father.