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Pointers along the way #137

The real me
- Jacob Ninan

The godly apostle Paul had a struggle to understand what was happening to him, when he found himself doing the things he really didn't want to do (Ro.7:15). All of us who are sincerely trying to live God-pleasing lives can easily identify with him. But we must remember that Paul was one of the first people in the age of grace to grapple with this issue and he had no one to help him out. Now we have the advantage of learning from Paul and others who have gone ahead of us and who have understood many things from God. Even though we cannot avoid the struggle altogether, we are now in a position to understand ourselves better.

What happens when we are born again? We are born of the Word and the Spirit of God (Jn.3:5;1Pe.1:23). God's nature comes into our spirit like a seed and begins to grow, as we feed it through the Word of God (1Pe.2:2). This new life that has come into us is called the 'new self' which is being renewed for us to become more and more like God in our nature (Col.3:10). In contrast, the 'old self' that we used to have before we came to Christ has been crucified with Christ so that we should no longer be slaves to sin (Ro.6:6).

But this is not the whole story. We find in practice that even though we really have a new self, we are still being tempted to sin, and we are overcome now and then. The reason is that we still have, even after being born again, an element which the Bible calls 'the flesh' (Greek 'sarx') which some Bible versions wrongly translate as the body (Greek 'soma'). This flesh is something that is at war inside us, against the Holy Spirit who is also in us (Ga.5:17). We can say that the flesh is the seat of all our desires (Ga.5:24ff), because of which we are tempted (Jas.1:14).

We know that to be tempted is not the same as sinning. When a sinful desire rises up from our flesh, whether it is provoked by our own thoughts, the world around us or by Satan, we have the power to choose what to do. We can yield, and sin, or resist, and overcome. Earler, our old self was on the side of the flesh and we used to sin without restraint. But now our advantage is that the new self in us which is from God is on the side of the Spirit in the fight against the flesh.

Now when we are tempted from the flesh we must remember that that is not the real us. Our real identity now is our new self. We can rejoice because in our heart we are one with the Spirit, fighting against the flesh. We can disassociate ourselves from the flesh, and we don't have to feel guilty and condemned or doubt ourselves just because we are tempted. Our issue is ony whether we yield to the flesh or resist it by the power of the Holy Spirit (Ro.8:13).