No question. We are at war. A spiritual war. It’s Jesus against Satan. We’re in the middle. Satan tries to confuse us. Let’s try to get it straight.
“Be Patient with Me…”
Ever hear, “Please be patient with me; God isn’t finished with me yet”? Is this a proper response to my sin? Let’s say I lied to you. Sure, it would be nice if you were patient. Sure, God has promised to keep working. But what about me – now?
When I lie to you, that is not the proper time for me to preach to you about patience. Nor is it time to defend myself, claiming what God may do with me in the future. No! Rather, it is time to confess my sin to God and to you. “If we confess our sins, he [God] is faithful and righteous to forgive us the sins… confess your offenses to one another” (1 John 1:9; James 5:16). Satan already won one battle over me. My next move in this spiritual war is to repent and confess my sin. It is time to ask you (not tell you) to forgive me.
“The Flesh is Weak”
Yes, it is. Jesus said so. But let’s look at the context. Jesus tells Peter that he is going to deny Him. Peter claims he will never deny Jesus. Shortly afterward, Jesus is praying in agony while the disciples are sleeping. Jesus wakes Peter and says, “Watch and pray, that you don’t enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41). Look at it. Jesus did not say “the flesh is weak” as an excuse. Rather, he said it as a heads-up – a reason to begin spiritual battle.
“Watch and pray.” Watch! No, we can’t stay awake 24/7. Watch spiritually. Be spiritually alert. Be aware of lurking dangers – not just to your body (germs, accidents, etc.), but to your soul (trials, temptations). Be alert and pray constantly. Your flesh is weak. My flesh is weak. That is reality. Jesus said so. Reality – not as an excuse. A reality that calls for spiritual warfare.
“I’m Like Paul…”
“… Sure, I would like to do better, but I have this spiritual battle, just like Paul said he had: ‘The good which I desire, I don’t do; but the evil which I don’t desire, that I practice’ (Rom. 7:19).” Wait a minute. Context. Romans 7 and 8 must be studied together:
A key word in chapter 7 is “law” – 23 times.
A key word in chapter 8 is “Spirit” (usually capitalized) – 21 times.
Chapter 7 is about Paul under the Mosaic Law.
Chapter 8 is about those of us in Christ and under the Spirit.
Notice the important transition at the end of chapter 7: “What a wretched man I am! Who will deliver me out of the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ, our Lord!” (7:24-25).
Chapter 7 is about the wretched Jew with the Law.
Chapter 8 is about the blessed Christian with the Spirit.
Don’t use chapter 7 as an excuse.
Rather, use chapter 8 as an encouragement and a challenge.
We Are at War
Yes, we need to grow. Yes, we need the help of the indwelling Spirit. Yes, we will sometimes lose a battle. But let’s not use the Sword of the Spirit (much less human catchy sayings) to find excuses. Rather, let us feast on the Spirit’s Word to learn the best ways to overcome. “Put on the whole armor of God” and “fight the good fight” (Eph. 6:11; 1 Tim. 6:12).