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hope for churches in stress


As followers of Jesus, we must not be surprised by inner conflict. Nor should we be distressed. The contention between ingrained tendencies and emerging traits is inevitable—and, in fact, necessary and good.

The apostle Paul explains helpfully in Galatians 5. When we trust Jesus Christ as Savior, the Holy Spirit enters our lives. In effect, the Spirit secures a beachhead in enemy territory and claims the whole person for King Jesus.

But “desires of the flesh” are entrenched in the rough terrain of our minds, hidden in the dense thickets of our emotions, and established at all levels in our wills. The Holy Spirit, determined to drive every vestige of sinfulness from these strongholds, initiates a relentless offensive (verse 16).

Sinful desires do not relinquish their hold easily, and a struggle ensues. We experience this clash as internal conflict between “the desires of the flesh” and the “desires of the Spirit (verse 17).

Deep-seated desires pull us toward “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these (verses 19-21). New desires, stirred by the Holy Spirit, spur us toward “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (verses 22-23).

Caught in the crossfire, we are in conflict with ourselves.

Be encouraged! This conflict is evidence that the Holy Spirit is “crucifying” sinful “passions and desires” (verse 24) and that the “fruit of the Spirit” is starting to bloom, grow, and ripen in our lives.

Our part in this transformation is to “walk by the Spirit” (verse 16). At the direction of the Holy Spirit (verses 18, 24), we take steps toward good traits and behavior. Like a child learning to walk, our initial steps may be wobbly; but with each renewed effort, we gain balance and strength. One step at a time, the Holy Spirit is destroying the enemy’s strongholds in our life.

This post continues a series, "Sketches of the Spirit." To advance to the next post, click on the title, "A Life to Share." To go to the beginning of the series, click on "Wind."

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