“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” —James 4:1
The problem with the world does not begin with failed politics or flawed philosophies, but it begins within ourselves. Both Paul and James have a lot to say about this. James says the desires battling within us are what cause the battles between us. We can extend this to local governments, countries and authorities all over the globe.
Yet, the biggest battle we all face is not out there somewhere, but within ourselves, because the flesh is in constant conflict with the Spirit. Paul writes, “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:18-19). When Christ comes to live within us, His Spirit makes us more acutely aware of what is good, right and holy, and so we become more intensely engaged in this internal struggle. We desire what the Spirit desires, but again and again, we give in to the flesh, because there is a civil war taking place within every Christian.
We cannot evangelize the old nature or live the Christian life by the old nature, so what is the corrective? James says, “You do not have because you do not ask God” (James 4:2). Very simply, we do not have, because we do not bring God into our situations. We are still trying to handle it on our own and we cannot, which is why Paul says, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (Romans 7:24).
The corrective is not simply to ask God, but to ask Him with right motives. James says, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3). The will of God must always take precedence over our own will. We need to ask, “What is it that enables my life to become a fulfillment of God’s purposes? What brings Him glory, and lives on the basis of His resources?” Paul tells us, “...through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). The indwelling life of Jesus Christ is our enabling to fulfill God’s purposes and the antidote to what the flesh desires. The Christian life is not about reforming our old nature, but about replacing it with the nature of Jesus Christ, who alone counteracts our corrupt nature, sets us free from the law of sin and death, and is our empowering for the battle within between our flesh against the Spirit.
Dear Lord, the battle within between my flesh and the Spirit is strong, but I know You are stronger. By Your empowerment, I know I can find victory over my flesh. Thank You, Lord.