Part 1: The Battle
A goal for every believer is to be conformed into the image of Jesus, the Christ. “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29).
Jesus no longer has a physical body as He did before His death, burial, and resurrection. He now has a glorified body and sits at the right hand of the Father. “Who [Jesus] being the brightness of his [God’s] glory, and the express image of his [God’s] person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3; see also Hebrews 8:1, 12:2; Romans 8:34, Colossians 3:1; I Peter 3:22). While we still live in a fleshly body, if we are born of the Holy Spirit (John 3:5), the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead now lives in us (Romans 8:11).
While the goal of being conformed to the image of Christ will not be fully realized until we are with Him after our physical death, the Holy Spirit works daily in our lives to conform us to His image, if we are “led by the Spirit.” “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Romans 8:13-14). After death, the flesh will no longer separate us from the complete spiritual reality of being one with Christ. The Apostle Paul put it this way, “For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (I Corinthians 13:12).
We know that “God is Spirit” (John 4:24) and the Apostle Paul tells us that the Spirit wars against the flesh and the flesh against the Spirit. “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:17). How then can we have our mind renewed in the midst of this battle between the Holy Spirit dwelling in us as a “born again” believer and the fleshly nature that we still have as long as we are alive?
The key to answering this question is knowing that our soul (mind, will, and emotions) follows and is conformed to the input it receives. Remember “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he …” (Proverbs 23:7), and “Keep (guard) thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). In other words, the soul, our heart attitudes, thoughts, and emotions, “follow the leader.” The critical question is, “Who or what is doing the leading at any given time?” Is it the flesh, or the Spirit? These are only two choices. Either we are walking, thinking, acting, speaking, and communicating according to the flesh or the Spirit. “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).
While all “born again” believers have the power to overcome the flesh, the battle is still there. The result of every skirmish between the flesh and the Spirit depends on which one you choose to entertain, support, or feed. Paul tells us clearly that we have the power to overcome every temptation. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able: but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (I Corinthians 10:13). Because of the promise of His faithfulness and the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, we are told to “walk in the Spirit.” We are exhorted not to “grieve” (Ephesians 4:30) the Holy Spirit by acting contrary to the Spirit, and not to “quench” (I Thessalonians 5:19) the Holy Spirit by refusing to listen to the Spirit’s promptings.
The authority and power to choose is God’s gift to us. It confirms that we are created in His image. He did not make us as robots, programmed to act only in a certain way. He created us with a free will to choose or not to choose to love Him. God is love (I John 4:8) and love, by definition, must be freely given and freely received. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him [receives the love gift] should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Each of us must choose whether to receive and accept that love. Have you chosen to receive His love and accept the gift of eternal salvation that begins when you admit your sinfulness and personally receive His grace and truth? Only then will you have the Holy Spirit dwelling within you and have the power to choose against the works of the flesh and begin “the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).