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Winning The Battle Inside Me

MESSAGE TRANSCRIPTION: 

You know, last year, President Biden did something that he said that he was going to do from the very beginning, if he was elected, is that he was going to end in the war, the longest running war that America has ever participated in, the war in Afghanistan, when he brought the troops home, and he did that and ended that. And it was chaotic. And I just want to remind you this morning that you and I, are in a war that has been going on much longer than that. Right. And this war that I’m talking about is the spiritual war, the spiritual battle, the invisible war, the unseen war if you will, the spiritual warfare that we’re involved in. And this is the reason why we’re spending seven weeks on this sermon series called Winning the War in Your Mind. Because here’s the thing. The Devil, Satan, wants to take you and me out, and he wants to destroy you. He wants to destroy your soul, and he will do it in anyway that he can. And if we don’t understand the tactics of Satan, then we can never win the battle.

And Scripture says that there are three warring enemies that we have that wage war against our soul, against our family, against us. And it is the world. It’s the culture around us. It is the flesh or the old man or the carnal nature, as Paul calls it in the New Testament. And then there is the war against the Devil, and then it’s demons and all of that spiritual warfare. And we’re going to look at all of these in the days to come. But what we’re going to do today, we’re going to look at the battle inside of us, the battle that’s going inside of me, the battle that’s going on inside of you. Now, it’s amazing that we’re talking about spiritual warfare. And they put the room dark. I don’t know, just observation. But anyway, this could be a dark moment, because what I’m going to talk about today is not the most pleasant thing. I want you to understand that there’s a battle that is going on inside of us. And you know what is that we are our worst enemies is that I’m my own worst enemy. And you know what? I don’t need Satan to tempt me, Drew, because I’m pretty good at doing all known temptations.

Now, here’s the thing. I hear people all the time. They’ll say things like this. They go, you know what, Pastor? I just need a vacation for my spouse. I need a vacation for my kids. I need a vacation from my work because my boss and my spouse, and my children they’re also demanding, and they want this and they want that. I just need a two week vacation to Tahiti. And if I get a two week vacation, then everything will be great. There’s a problem with that, Drew. And what is the problem is that guess who goes with you when you go to Tahiti? You do, and you are oftentimes the problem. For example, there are some people who do not mention any names, but there are people who’ve had one bad relationship after a bad relationship, after a bad relationship, after a bad relationship, they’ve all have ended in disaster, and they go, Pastor, why can’t I get a good relationship? And I just want to say to them, honey, what is the common denominator in all of these relationships? And I just want to say it’s you, and you’re the problem. You’ve got to fix yourself because say this with me.

I am my biggest problem. Yeah, I am my biggest problem here. Say it with me out loud. I am my biggest problem. And that is so true is that sometimes we forget that we are the problem. We want to blame everyone else. And I like this letter that I read on the Internet that this lady has written to a pastor, and he had posted it on the Internet with her permission, and she says, this, Pastor, I need you to explain something to me and some of you. This is where you’re at today. When I first came to Christ, everything seemed to change for the better. Immediately I felt joy for being forgiven. For all my shame, I felt peace knowing that God loved me. I felt hope because I learned that he had a purpose for my life. It was all a great relief. But after a season, my joy seemed to shrink. Following Christ became a struggle. Old habits reared up their heads again, and I felt the tug of old ways coming back. This really frustrated me because I thought I was through with all of that. I want to do the right thing, but I like the ability to do it.

I can’t seem to fulfill all my good intentions. I know what is right, and I know what is wrong, and I really don’t want to do wrong anymore. I know that God doesn’t want me to do wrong. So why do I still make bad choices? Have you ever asked yourself that question? I have many times. What’s wrong with me? I’ve asked myself that question many times. I am so frustrated. I sometimes wonder if maybe I’m not really a Christian. If you have felt any of these struggles, if you’ve ever asked yourself these questions, you have come to Church on the perfect weekend because you’re not the only one. I have experienced these frustrations. I have asked these questions. I have questioned myself, not only me, but every other Christian in the room today, and not only every other Christian, but Paul, the greatest Christian, in my humble opinion, outside of Jesus Christ to whoever lived. He had the same doubts. He had the same questions. He had the same frustrations. And what we’re going to do this weekend in the service, we’re going to look at the emotional cost of living this life of struggle because it is a struggle.

Being a Christian is a struggle, and it’s frustrating, and it can be defeated, and it can cause despair and discouragement and frustration and all of these things. And what we’re going to look at, we’re going to look at the emotional cost of this life of living it for Jesus Christ. Now, again, this is not a super easy topic. It’s a very difficult topic, but it’s a topic that you have to understand in order to win the spiritual battle to understand what’s going on. And the Apostle Paul addresses this issue of the emotional costs of the Christian life in Romans chapter seven. And the thing that I love about this chapter is Paul is real. Paul just kind of pulls the curtains back, and he’s honest about his frustrations, he’s transparent about his feelings, and he just kind of lets it all hang out. Now, look with me, if you will, at Romans chapter seven. We’re going to begin in verse 15, and I’m reading from the New Living Bible, but you may have some other translation. But again, Paul doesn’t mince any words. Notice what he says. I don’t understand myself at all. We could stop out there and have an invitation, correct we all don’t have a proper understanding of ourselves.

He says, for I really want to do what is right, but I can’t. I do what I don’t want to, what I hate. I know perfectly well that what I’m doing is wrong. And my bad conscience proves I agree with these laws I’m breaking, but I can’t help myself because I’m no longer doing it. It is a sin inside me that is stronger than I am that makes me do these evil things. In other words, I don’t want to gossip, but I keep on gossiping. I don’t want to have a bad mouth, but I keep on having a bad mouth. I don’t want to talk mean to my children, but I keep talking mean to my children. Paul says there’s something at work inside of me that I don’t want to do these things, but I keep on doing them. He says in verse 18, I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old simple nature is concerned, no matter which way I turn, I cannot make myself do right I want to, but I can’t again. We could just stop, have a test, have an offer call, and we could sing that song of invitation, and we all could confess to the things that Paul is saying here. He says, When I want to do good, I don’t. And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway. Now, if I’m doing what I don’t want to, it’s plain where the trouble is. Sin still has me in his evil grasp. Now you can almost feel that discouragement and frustration are building in Paul’s life. Here he says it seems to be a fact of life, and it is a fact of life that there’s this tension between doing good and not doing evil that continues to go on. There seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love to do God’s will so far as my new nature is concerned. But there’s something else deep within me in my lower nature that is at war with my mind and wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. In my mind, I want to be God’s willing servant, but instead, I find myself enslaved to sin. I’m still enslaved to my old ways. So you see how it is my new life that tells me to do right.

But the old nature that is still inside me loves to sin. Oh, what a terrible predicament I’m in. Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly lower nature? Thank God it has been done by Jesus Christ, our Lord, who has set us free. Now here’s what I want to do today. I want to explain to you what Paul is saying here. Paul is saying that when you and I seek to live the Christian life in our own strength, in our own willpower, in our humanity, in the flesh, we will become frustrated, is that we will become defeated, we will be exhausted, is that we will have all kinds of emotional issues that we will have to address. Now, here’s the thing that you have to understand. When Paul wrote these words, Drew Paul wasn’t an immature Christian. Paul was a mature Christian. He was a missionary to the entire Roman Empire. He had at this time written over half of the New Testament. He was not an immature Christian. He was a mature Christian. And Paul is writing down for you and me his thoughts, his struggles. And  so I don’t know about you, but that’s encouraging to me if the greatest Christian who’s ever lived outside of Jesus Christ is the Apostle Paul, and these are the thoughts and the concerns and the frustrations and the tension that the Apostle Paul was dealing with. Doesn’t that make you feel a little bit better this morning? At least? It does me to know that I’m just not psychotic, and I’m the only one who has these crazy thoughts. I mean, it’s great. It’s assuring. And even though it’s not a good feel message, it’s a message that we have to understand. So what happens? How do you know the indicators that you’re living your life in the flesh rather than the spirit? And there are probably many ways, but in this passage, Paul tells us there are five things that are indicators that you’re living the life in the flesh rather than in the spirit. Number one, there is confusion. There is confusion about the Christian life. 

There’s the confusion that you have this internal spiritual battle that’s going on inside of you. And when you’re living that battle, fighting that battle in your own willpower, in your own flesh, there is confusion. Notice what Paul says here. Paul says in verse 15, I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I can’t. I do what I don’t want to what I hate. Now, notice that in that one verse, if you could circle all the eyes, if this was on your outline, you would circle all the eyes that pronoun six times you go through the next twelve verses. He uses a personal pro. Now 46 different times and twelve verses, what is he trying to say to us? Is that you have an eye problem. I have an eye problem. We have an eye problem. And the problem is that when I seek to live the Christian life in my own power, then there are problems, there are issues that’s going on. And I don’t understand myself. I become perplexed, and I become confused. And here’s the thing, my friends, is that many of us, we would have to confess that there’s been confusion about the Christian life. And so we don’t want to blame her. So what do we end up doing? We end up blaming other people. We end up blaming the circumstances. And so the first thing, the first indicator that you are living the life in your human power, your human strength is number one, there’s confusion. But number two, there is guilt and shame. Now, friends, we’ve talked about this. God does not want you to walk around with guilt and shame in your heart, in your mind, and your soul. But one of the sure signs that you are walking in the flesh, that you’re walking in your own power, is that you’re dealing with shame and guilt.

Now look with me at verse 16, if you will. And I love this verse. It says, Paul says, I know perfectly well that what I’m doing is wrong. I mean, you don’t have to convict people over their sin because why? We know when we’ve messed up. We know when we dropped the ball, we know when we’ve made a mistake. And my bad conscience proves that I agree with these laws that I’m breaking. Now, Paul says, you know what I know that I’m doing wrong? You know why I know that I’m doing wrong? It is because then my conscience is convicted. Now, I’m no English major little longer Latin major. But I did some research this past week, and the word conscience is a Latin word. It comes from two Latin words. Con means within Latin, and science means knowledge. You put those two words together, and conscious means that you do something with knowledge. You do it not in ignorance. You don’t do it because you don’t know what you’re doing. You didn’t do it because you didn’t think it was a sin. You did it with full conscience. You knew exactly what you were doing, and you made the decision. And what happens is that we commit sin, and we embrace the flesh with a full knowledge that we’re embracing the flesh. And so what does Paul say? Paul says when you’re living the life in the flesh, there’s some things that’s going to be true of you. Number one, there’s going to be confusion about your walk with the spirit. Number two, there’s going to be guilt and shame. But number three, there’s going to be self-condemnation is that you’re going to condemn yourself. Now, folks, some of you, you are a pro at condemning yourself. You’re a pro at judging yourself. I mean, you are absolutely wonderful at this. And here’s the reason why self condemnation is so high on your radar is because you keep making the same mistakes over and over and over and over. And it’s not like ten different mistakes, but you’re making two or three of the same mistakes over and over and over, and you can never get a victory. And they keep on coming back. No matter how hard you try not to do it, it keeps coming back. And you come to the conclusion that God doesn’t love you, that you’re worthless, that God you’re not good enough for God, that you’re junk, that God doesn’t love you, and blah, blah, blah, and blah, blah, blah.

And you’re convinced that God is against you. And the reason why you’re convinced that God is against you is because you keep making the same mistake over and over and over. And those same mistakes that you keep making over and over and over are a sign that you’re seeking to live the life in the flesh rather than the spirit. Notice what Paul says in verse 18. Now he says, I know I’m rotten. Let me ask you a question. Who told Paul that he was rotten? Was it God? No. Was it the Devil? The Devil probably planted some seeds. Paul kept on making the same mistakes, and he began to have self condemnation. He began to blame himself, and nobody else had to tell him that it’s Satan. He didn’t blame Satan. He was blaming himself. And that’s the way Satan works, Satan will plant seeds of doubt in your heart, and then you will do the work for Satan and friends. You just have to stop that. Paul is telling himself over and over and over that I’m rotten through and through. Folks, if you belong to God, you’re not rotten. You are fearfully and wonderfully made and created in his image.

You’re not junk. God does not make junk. And those are all the things that Satan does to try to get you to live the life in the flesh rather than the spirit. But notice what else takes place. Number four, there’s frustration. And in my mind, in my heart, this is the number one sign that you are living the life in the flesh rather than the spirit is. You are frustrated in your faith, and you’re frustrated with your walk. And let me just kind of give you an illustration. Look with me first, in verse 18, 19, and 20, Paul says, no matter which way I turn, I cannot make myself do right. I want to, but I can’t, but I want to do good. I don’t. And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway if I’m doing what I don’t want to. It is plain where the trouble is. Sin still has me in its evil grass. Drew, there’s this thing that is called the law of sin. The spiritual counterpart of sin is the law of gravity. There’s the law of sin, the law of gravity. And what is the law of sin?

The law of gravity have in common? They both pull us down, right? Gravity keeps us planted. Gravity keeps us from kind of flying off. Gravity wires us out. Gravity keeps us on the ground. Now, here’s the thing. Sin. There’s the law of sin. And the law of sin keeps us defeated. Now, here’s what happens. I’m going to become the first human being who’s going to ever fly. Okay? I’m going to prove to you I’m going to be the first human being. And I’m going to start flapping my wings, and I’m going to flap them hard, and I’m going to flap them faster, and I’m just going to do it in my own power. Now, let me ask you a question. Am I ever going to be able to fly as a human being no matter how long I flap these arms, no matter how hard I try? Am I ever going to fly as a human being? No. Because why? The law of gravity is going to keep me from doing that. And here’s the thing, my friends. Here’s what some of you are doing in the spiritual walk. Here’s what you’re doing in the spiritual world.

You know what? I’m going to win victory over the devil. I’m going to flap my wings. I’m going to become spiritually empowered. I’m going to overcome the addiction. I’m going to overcome the bad relationship. I’m going to overcome the potty mouth. I’m going to overcome whatever it is that you’re fighting. And what happens is you overcome it for a day, you overcome it for a week, and then all of a sudden, what happens after a week or two of flapping your wings as hard as you can to overcome sin? What happens? You get tired, and you give up. And what do you do? You revert back exactly to where you were before, and you just repeat this cycle. And the reason why you repeat the cycle is because you’re trying to win victory in your own power, in your own willpower, rather than trusting in the power of the spirit. Does any of this make sense? Does any of this make sense? Does anybody else ever struggle like this? Who’s struggling? I mean, folks, this is real. This is where the battle. This is what happens on the battleground. As I was doing some research for this, I came across a series of books called Frog and Toad Together. It’s a children’s series. Has anybody else ever come across these books? One of the famous stories is about cookies. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it, but I’m just going to read it for you. It has everything to do with willpower. So Toad made some cookies. These cookies smell absolutely delicious, said Toad. I ate one, and they taste even better, he said. So Toad ran over to Frog’s house. Frog, Frog cried, Toad, taste these cookies I’ve made. Frog ate one of the cookies. These are the best cookies I’ve ever eaten, said Frog. So Frog and Toad, they ate many, many cookies, one after another, you know. Toad, said Frog with his mouth full, I think we should stop eating. We will soon be sick. You’re right, said Toad. Let’s eat one last cookie, and then we’ll stop. So Frog and Toad, they ate one last cookie, but there were very many cookies still left in the bowl. Frog, said Toad. Let’s eat one very last cookie, and then we’ll stop eating cookies. Frog and Toad ate one very last cookie. We must stop eating, cried Toad as he ate another. Yes, said Frog, reaching for a cookie.

We need willpower. What is Willpower? Asked Toad. Frog said, Well, Willpower is trying harder not to do something that you really want to do. Do you mean like not trying to eat all these cookies? Said Toad. Right, said Frog. So Frog put the cookies in a box there, said Frog. Now we will not eat any more cookies, but we can open the box, said Toad. This is true. So Frog tied some string around the box there, he said. Now we will not eat any more cookies, Toad said. But we can cut the string and open the box. That is true, said Frog. So Frog got out of the ladder and put the box high up on a shelf there, said Frog. Now we’ll eat no more cookies. But Toad said, we can climb up on the ladder. We can get the box off the shelf, cut the string and open the box. That is true, said Frog. So Frog actually climbed the ladder. He took the box down, and from the shelf, he cut the string. He opened the box, and Frog took the box outside, and he threw all the cookies out, and he shouted in a loud voice, hey, birds, here are free cookies. Birds came from everywhere. They picked up all the cookies in their beaks, and they flew away. Now we have no more cookies, said Frog. But we have lots and lots of willpower, and you may keep it all. Frog, said Toad. I’m going home now to bake a cake. How many times have you played Frog and Toad? How many times have you thought, I’m not going to do that anymore. I’m not going to do that anymore. I’m not going to do that anymore. I’m not going to do that anymore. I’m not going to do that anymore. And then you actually do it. 

We’ve all done it. And so Paul says, when you there are clear indicators that determine if you’re living the life in the flesh or in the spirit. No one is confused. Number two, it is guilt and shame. Number three is self-condemnation. Number four, it is frustration. And number five is discouragement. And despair is Paul gets so discouraged by this war that’s going on inside of him. And the reality is that there are people here today, there are people watching online, and you are experiencing the same discouragement. You’re full of despair. You couldn’t make heads or tails of what’s going on. You just thought that the Christian life was to be one of victory and one of one spiritual moment after another spiritual moment. And you wouldn’t anticipate all of this discouragement and despair. You weren’t anticipating this battle. But notice Paul’s discouragement in verses 21 and 24. I want you to look at it. Paul feels like giving up. He says, I’m in a battle. I’m full of hopelessness. Notice what Paul says. This is the missionary to the Roman Empire. This is the guy who wrote half of the New Testament.

This is him feeling hopeless. Notice what he says. It seems to be a matter of fact. It’s a fact of life. This is just the way the cards are. He’s saying that when I want to do what is right and evidently do what is wrong, he says, in my mind, notice where the battle takes place. It’s in your mind. I want to be God’s willing servant, but instead, I find myself still enslaved to sin. Paul is full of discouragement full of despair. He’s full of self-condemnation. He’s full of frustration, shame and guilt, and confusion. And what’s the cause of all of this? And the cause is very simple, my friends, is that there are two natures that live inside of you. There’s two natures that live inside of me. And see, we can’t ever forget this. Many of you have never been taught this. And this is the reason why we’re doing the sermon series is that there is the old nature that is in you, and that old nature has been with you since the moment that you were born. And let me just give you a piece of encouraging news. The old nature will be with you until you take your last breath. The old nature is going nowhere. The old nature is a part of our DNA. But when we became a Christian, when we invited Jesus Christ into our lives, and we asked him to forgive us of our sins and to write our names in the Book of Heaven, he gave us a new nature. And that new nature and that old nature are constantly in conflict with one another. Look with me in verses 22 and 23. Here’s how Paul says it. I love to do God’s will so far as my new nature is concerned. But there’s something else deep within me. It’s my lower nature, it’s my flesh, it’s the carnal, it’s the old nature. The old man is at war with my mind and wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. See, folks, sometimes it’s almost like if there’s two of me, there’s two of me inside of me. And there’s an old wise Indian chief who was a Christian. He was trying to explain to his son this battle that takes place between the old nature and the new nature. And he said, Son, it’s like this. There’s a good dog and there’s a bad dog inside of your heart, inside of your mind that is fighting a battle. And the son said, Father, which dog wins the battle? And the wise older Indian chief said, Son, the one that you feed is the one that will win, and willpower is not enough to defeat your own nature. And that is the reason why we come to verse 24. Paul says, So you see how it is my new life, the spirit of God that’s living in me tells me to do right. But the old nature, the old sinful nature. 

Look, what it says is that the old nature that’s still inside of me loves to sin. And Paul says, what a terrible predicament I’m in. Let me just ask you to bow your head and close your eyes just for a second. This phrase terrible predicament, means exhaustion due to hard work. It means being worn out after an intense battle. It means that you’re out of energy, that you’re wiped out, that you have fatigue, and frustration. You feel like a failure. And this is what Paul is saying. Paul says, this is his rally cry. This is him saying, God, I am exhausted from this battle. I’m exhausted between trying to live out the commands in the direction of the spirit. And I’m worn out because the old man, the old nature, is continuing to call me to sin. And can we just be honest today that there are many of us in this room, many of us who are watching online that you could identify with the Apostle Paul this morning, that you’re weary, that you’re exhausted, that you’re worn out because of the intense battle. Here’s the thing, my friend, is that this is going to continue all the days of your life. It’s going to continue until you take your last breath. And maybe you’re here this morning, and maybe you’re just tired. Maybe you’ve been confused, maybe you’ve been condemning yourself. Maybe you’re so full of shame and guilt, you’re ready to throw in the towel on the Christian life. Say to you, if that is you, that God knew exactly what you needed and brought you here this morning, and let me just ask you, I’m just curious how many of you would just be honest no one’s looking around, no one is moving.

How many of you just be honest and say, pastor you’re right, I’m exhausted, I’m tired. The battle is real. How many of you just lift your hand if that’s your yeah hands all over the room? Exactly just like the first service hands all over the room. People are tired, people are weary, and it’s why because we’re in a spiritual battle, and this is the reason why that we got to pray and ask God to give us faith for God to work in our hearts, in our lives, to have the faith, to trust in the spirit rather than to trust in ourselves and so I just want to pray right now that God would just give us the faith, give us the faith, give us the confidence to trust in him and him alone.