Do you find at times that it feels like you are at war with yourself?  What causes this feeling?  Why is it that you feel like you are at war with yourself?

In a recent sermon – Go to God – I briefly touched on a subject that greatly affects all believers and the actions that we will take in life.  There are two contrary natures inside of all believers and the actions that we take will be guided by one of these natures.  The two natures that are present within us are a nature of worldliness and a nature of spirituality.

James spoke about this war when he asked the question:  “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members (Jas. 4:1)?”  Pay close attention to James saying, ‘in your members’ within that statement.  So, James was specifically talking about a war that happens on the inside, in our heart – our mind and soul. 

You will find that I focus on both worldliness and spirituality quite often because most of the time many of us go without ever thinking about these two natures.  As believers, we need to be more aware of these two present natures because they are both trying to lead us.  The question we have to answer is this:  where will these natures lead you?  This is of the utmost importance for us to answer.

Nature of Worldliness

“The world” is spoken quite a bit in the bible, especially in the New Testament.  To those who are new to going through scripture, the way that the world is spoken of can actually be quite confusing.  So, I feel I must first explain what being “of the world” actually means.  When we can understand what being of the world actually means, we can understand the idea of worldliness.

Of the world

In our most recent Sunday School, Jesus specifically spoke to what it meant to be of the world.  In His prayer for the disciples, Jesus stated, “They (the disciples) are not of the world, just as I am not of the world (John 17:16).”  Now, this won’t seem like much to those who do not understand what this means.  However, earlier in His prayer, you will see that Jesus stated about the disciples, “I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me (John 17:8).”

The disciples had received the words that were given to Jesus by the Father (Jesus was praying to His Father – our Father).  To ‘receive the word’ means that one has accepted the word in their hearts.  The word that Jesus brought forth was a word that was not of the world because God is not of the world.  The word of the Father is a different logic by which Jesus encouraged those that are of the world to live by.

So, with this in mind, we can understand what it means to be of the world.  The world, in scripture (especially the New Testament) often has nothing to do with the sky, the ocean, or the continents.  ‘The world’, in essence, is a logic that is separate from God’s logic and it opposes His logic.  Because it opposes God’s logic, then worldly logic is sinful.  So, with that in mind, to be of the world means that one is living by the logic of the world and is, therefore, a sinner as well.

Now, something that I want to point out is that all genuine believers were once of the world (Eph. 2:1; 5:8l).  You see, everybody is born in the world having no faith.  As I described in my last study, there are three levels of faith and everybody starts out at the level of having no faith; nobody is born having a great amount of faith because faith is something that we learn to have over time.  Because we are all born into a world of sin, we by default, have a nature that is of the world – a nature of sin.

Now, Jesus was given to the world to give everyone an opportunity to leave worldliness behind.  Unfortunately, while some will take the opportunity to leave the world behind, others will reject the opportunity to leave the world behind.  The reason being because they have totally accepted the logic of the world in their hearts and have rejected the word (logic) of God.  So to reference my most recent study again, they are fully convicted in their worldliness and are living by it.

End destination of worldliness

Now that we know what it means to be of the world, we have to take a look at where worldliness will lead those that are led by the world.

Those that have totally accepted worldliness in their hearts will follow worldly values without hesitation.  To be clear, those that accept worldliness in their hearts will be led by the world.  When I think of worldliness and teach or preach about it, I often reference what Paul wrote in Galatians 5:16-21 because it speaks to the values of worldliness.

Paul states, “ I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh (Gal 5:16).”  He is encouraging believers to walk in the Spirit, or be led by the Spirit.  One that is led by the Spirit will not fulfill the lust of flesh; the flesh desires and is driven by its desire for the things of the world.  

If you continue in that passage of scripture, you will see that Paul even mentions the contrary natures that dwell inside of believers.  He stated, “ For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish (Gal. 5:17).”  Something I want to state is that those who are not of the Spirit but are of the world don’t have a war going on inside of them to do what is right in God’s eyes.  Again, they are simply driven to live out their desires of the world.

As we continue in this passage of scripture from Galatians, you will see Paul lay out for us the works of worldliness.  Paul wrote, “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:19-21).”

If the believer lives by the way (logic) of God, then we could say that this is the way (logic) of those that live by worldliness.  Now, if you pay close attention to what Paul said there at the end, he tells us the end destination for those that live by worldliness.  Paul said that those who practice (or live by) such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (heaven).  Now, this was not something that Paul was making up, as Jesus had said this very same thing when He was speaking to Nicodemus.

In John’s gospel, we will see that Jesus stated, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.  But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God (John 3:18-21).”

The fact that sinners – those who totally reject the Lord – will not inherit the kingdom of God.  Even in the Old Testament days, the end destination was well known for those that did wicked.  In Proverbs, we will see that Solomon said, “The way of the Lord is strength for the upright, But destruction will come to the workers of iniquity (Prov. 10:29).”  Solomon also talked about “a way” that seems right to man, but how that way leads to death (Prov. 14:12; 16:25).  The way that Solomon spoke of was the way of worldliness.

Nature of the Spirit

Now, as I mentioned earlier, and as we have seen, we don’t have to dwell with a heart of worldliness.  God gave the world His only begotten Son (John 3:16) who offers a way out of living according to the world.  When Jesus was physically in the world, He showed us the way of the Spirit and set the example by which we as His followers ought to live by.

Again, looking back at Paul’s letter to the Galatians, we will see that Paul touched on the way of God.  Paul said, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law (Gal. 5:22-23).”  Again, these are the same qualities that Jesus taught and not something that Paul was making up.  Jesus taught us to love the Lord (Matt. 22:37-38), to love our neighbors (Matt. 22:39), and to even love those that are our enemies (Matt. 5:44).

Now, if you pay close attention to what Paul wrote to the Galatians when comparing the nature of worldliness to the nature of the Spirit, you will notice that both ways are totally contrary to the other.  When we look at the way of worldliness, we see a way that is essentially selfish – living for one’s self.  Whereas, the way of the Spirit is unselfish and focuses on having unconditional love for others.

The old man

As I have stated previously, there are two natures that are present in the ones that have genuinely accepted Christ in their hearts compared to those that are of the world.  Those who are of the world only live with a mindset that is of the world.  Whereas, the genuine believer lives with a mindset of the Spirit and the spirit of worldliness still present within them.

You see, compared to those that remain of the world, the believer receives their new nature through the faith in Christ.  Because we have believed in Christ, we have received the Holy Spirit.  To confirm this for you, we will see Jesus tell the disciples, “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you (John 14:15-17).”

So, just to reiterate to you what Jesus stated that those who keep His way – the way of God (the Spirit) – the Helper (the Holy Spirit) would abide with them forever.  So, through the dwelling of the Holy Spirit a new nature has been growing inside of the hearts of all believers.  Jesus tells us that the role of the Holy Spirit is to guide us and to continue to teach us in truth (John 16:13).  Those of absolutely no faith do not receive the Holy Spirit; only those that genuinely believe in Christ receive the Spirit and have this new nature of the Spirit.

Yes, as genuine believers we are a new creature, but, we must come to understand that our old nature is still present within us.  A lot of believers seem to forget that their old nature, or old man as often referenced, is still dwelling in them.  So, inside of us is left this old nature trying to push back against a new and growing nature that is taking place within us.

This war that taking place inside of you is one that is spoken of in scripture quite a bit.  Since we have been focusing on Paul’s writing, we will continue to do so.  To the Romans, you will see that Paul encouraged them as new creatures not to conform and go back to being obedient to their old nature that was of the world (Rom. 12:2).

Being at war with yourself

You may have heard some talk about how they are battling their “inner demons” before.  A lot of times it seems that people are saying this without truly understanding what they are talking about but this battle is very real for believers.  You have probably seen this battle depicted on TV with a TV character having an angel sitting on one shoulder while a devil is sitting on the other shoulder.  

In his letter to the Romans, Paul explains this inner battle really well by talking about what went on inside of him.  Let’s now take a look at what Paul wrote in Romans 7:14-25.

Paul, as a genuine follower of the way of Christ, stated, “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin (Rom. 7:14).”  To be carnal means to be worldly.  Paul was speaking to the same honest truth that we must come to admit – we are all born of this world and have that worldly nature in us, even though we know of the Spirit and are of the Spirit.

Now, Paul goes on to say, “For what I am doing, I do not understand.  For what I will (want) to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do (Rom. 7:15).”  So, here is Paul, a genuine follower of Christ, stating that he desires to do what he knows is the good and right thing to do.  Yet, because that old worldly nature still resides in him, it is difficult for him to do the good he wishes to do.  

What he hates to do are the things that are of worldliness, yet it is in his nature for him to do things that are of the world.  I would even suggest that it is far easier for us to act out of worldliness than for us to act out of the Spirit solely because worldliness is the nature we are born with.  It takes time and growth (faith) for us to act out of the Spirit.

This is the same constant battle that every believer lives with on a daily basis:  doing what we know to be right and good according to the Lord versus doing what we believe makes us feel good.  Paul would state, “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find (Rom. 7:18).”  Many of us know what is the right and good thing to do according to the Lord, and even will to do it, but we give in and choose to do otherwise.

Now, Paul was a man that was very strong in the faith so you should certainly understand that this battle takes place inside of all believers, regardless of their level of faith.  What I point out is that I believe it is much easier for those of little faith to give in to their worldly lusts than it is for those who are stronger in their faith.  

With that said, those who are weak in the faith should continue to persevere and strive to grow and increase in their faith.  Those that are strong in the faith ought to do the same in continuing to grow and increase their faith.  Paul also encouraged those that are strong in the faith to help with the failings and infirmities of those that are weak in the faith (Rom. 15:1).

Winning This War on the Inside

Now, the goal for the believer is to not be led by worldliness.  We do not want to be led by worldliness because we know that worldliness leads to death and destruction – this is spiritual death and destruction.  We desire to be led by the Spirit because we have seen that one who is led by the Spirit will be led to the kingdom of God.  So, how does someone overcome this war that is taking place on the inside so that they can be led by the Spirit?

I believe the first place to begin is to first acknowledge when our thoughts are of the world and not of the Spirit.  You see, if we can recognize when our thoughts and our actions are of worldliness, then we can recognize right away when we are acting outside of our faith in the Lord.  It is when we are oblivious to our old nature that we can stray from the Spirit in our thoughts and in our actions.  The one who is oblivious to their thoughts and actions is one who does not care about their thoughts and actions.

So, again, we must recognize that our old nature is still very present within us.  Going back to Paul’s writings to the Romans, we will see that Paul’s first step to doing what was right and good in God’s eyes was his humble acknowledgement of this ongoing war inside of him.  Paul stated, “For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.  But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members (Rom. 7:22-23).”

The forgiveness of when we error

When we are able to acknowledge what is going on, it becomes much easier for us to then turn to our faith in the Lord to help deliver us from bad thoughts and actions.  Our acknowledgment of this ongoing war is also an admission of guilt.  Paul, you will see, called himself a “wretched man” because he realized that he’s a sinner.  The major difference between Paul and the one who is an absolute sinner is that Paul knew he was in need of God’s help.

The truth of the matter is that even though we have made our profession of faith known to the Lord, there will never be a day where you will not need the Lord.  We are not perfect, yet, and we are fully capable of sinning.  So, we are going to have moments in time where our old nature will win out and we will give in and both think and do things that are not going to please the Lord.  

Paul asked the question:  “Who will deliver me from this body of death (Rom. 7:24)?”  As we see Paul give thanks to the Lord, we can see that he knew that God was his help for this inner war.  So, in this inner war, let us remember what Solomon said about how we should lean on the Lord and not our own understanding (Prov. 3:5).

We have to move ‘self’ out of the way and not give in to our old and foolish ways.  Leaning and trusting in God’s guidance to overcome our old nature is the step we ought to take to defeat our old nature.  In those moments where we give in to our old nature, do not worry because in acknowledgment of our wickedness, the Lord will forgive us.  Now, this does not mean that we should continue to give in over and over again to our old nature.

No, we must genuinely seek to grow in the way of Christ.  The stronger and stronger we become in living in the way of Christ, the better we will get in defeating our old nature and keeping it in check.  In this faith we will be led by the Spirit and we will draw ever closer to the Lord.  In the end, let us remember that the Spirit is going to lead those that follow to the gates of God’s heavenly kingdom if we remain obedient to His guidance.

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