The Struggle
Sermon Summary
This message speaks of the struggle between the Spirit and the flesh which all Christians face! There is a constant battle in which Satan attempts to get us to make poor decisions using our old nature, while The Holy Spirit of God attempts to get us to make good decisions based on the wisdom of God’s Word. Pros and cons are discussed and then four critical choices are examined which make the difference between winning and losing the struggle between the Spirit and the flesh. The conclusion is that while we all struggle, we have been given the power to win the struggle and live lives that will glorify God!

Small Group Discussion Guide

1. Can you think of an example of the struggle and tug of war Christians face between the Spirit and the Flesh?

2. We must stop allowing our minds to be controlled by the sinful nature and let our minds come under the control of the Holy Spirit. The only way for this to happen is when we submit to the Lordship of Christ. How often does a Christian need to ask Jesus to be Lord? Explain your answer.
Eph 5:8  For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light
Eph 5:9  (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)
Eph 5:10  and find out what pleases the Lord.

For Questions 3&4 -Once we make the decision to accept Jesus as our Savior, it’s a done deal. He promises to never leave us or forsake us. We are saved by grace and we stay saved by grace. We don’t get saved by grace and then have to work to keep it. However, if we want to win the daily struggle between the Spirit and the flesh, there are several choices we must make daily. The next two questions deal with these daily choices.

3. We must choose between continued infancy or maturity in the Lord. What are some things we can do to grow in the Lord?
Eph 4:11  It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,
Eph 4:12  to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up
Eph 4:13  until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Eph 4:14  Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.
Eph 4:15  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.

4. Another choice we are faced with is whether we will follow our worldly tendency to sin, or allow the Holy Spirit to guide us to make decisions that lead to righteousness. One choice bears negative consequences, while the other bears the fruit of The Spirit. It would seem to be a no-brainer, but we still struggle. Why do you think this is the case?
Gal 5:16  So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
Gal 5:17  For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.
Gal 5:18  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
Gal 5:19  The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;
Gal 5:20  idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions
Gal 5:21  and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Gal 5:22  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
Gal 5:23  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Gal 5:24  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.
Gal 5:25  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.


The Struggle - Full Sermon Notes


I took that picture at a large church in Texas when we were at a conference there. There was a huge open area for people to fellowship and just hang out. These great big cables were anchored to the floor and went up to the ceiling in opposing directions.
I can't even imagine the pressure each of these cables were under. But that bracket in the middle! Can you imagine how strong that piece of metal must be? How important is the foundation of that anchor piece? It reminds me of an old hymn that says...

In times like these, you need a Savior
In times like these, you need an anchor
Be very sure, be very sure
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock

This Rock is Jesus, Yes, He's the one
This Rock is Jesus, The only One
Be very sure, be very sure
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock.

But make no mistake about it. The pressure from the world will always be there pulling at you! How do we deal with this pressure and the struggle it produces? Let's Pray and then we'll talk shop!

So many times, the temptation for many people when they come to Christ is to take advantage of the benefits He has to offer, like forgiveness, eternal life, peace of mind, God's blessings, fellowship with other believers and so on, yet continue to live in the flesh. This is where the struggle comes in.
Living by the world's standards and morals brings such tragedy in this life. Even if you're forgiven and have the promise of heaven, if you continue in the ways of the world, there will always be a struggle. Why? Because the Holy Spirit is going to constantly tug at your heart and mind to get you to leave the things that destroy!

The Holy Spirit will convict you of wrong because wrong is wrong and right is right! Don't confuse the Holy Spirit's conviction with Satan's condemnation. When a person accepts Christ as their Savior, their condemnation has been taken by Jesus Christ! There's a difference between conviction and condemnation.
The Holy Spirit will convict your heart when you're doing something wrong because He cares about you and wants to pull you to safety! Satan, on the other hand, condemns by telling you you're no good, God doesn't love you, you'll never amount to anything, you're a loser, and the list goes on and on.

Satan's goal is to destroy you! The Spirit's goal is not only your eternal salvation, but the salvation of your life here on this earth. Why? Because it matters. What you do and the way you live matters. Let me remind you I'm not talking about working your way to heaven. You can't do that. I'm not talking about doing things so you can be saved.

I'm talking about doing things because you have been saved. Because you've been redeemed from an empty way of life and have been given real purpose! Never forget, if you get saved by grace, you stay saved by grace! You don't get saved by grace and then have to work to stay saved.
However, when a person accepts God's salvation for their soul, it should cause that person to have such gratitude they desire to live a life of gratitude! I know it's not always easy. We just heard Paul talk about the struggle he had.
The battle with the old man, the old ways, the old self, is a battle we must all fight, but it is a battle we can win! How do I know this? First of all, God's Word tells us we can win and secondly, I'm not perfect, but I've experienced some of those victories in my life!!
After Paul talked about his struggle and that Jesus was the only one who could save him, he explained why Jesus was the Savior and how Jesus helps us win the battles! Take your Bibles and read with me Romans 8:1-6...

1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,

The obvious question here is why? We're all done wrong, every human being! Why is it that followers of Christ are not to be condemned for their sins? Next verse gives the answer...

2because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

This leads to another question. What is the law of the Spirit of life? How does it differ from the law of sin and death?
For this we go to an amazing explanation from Paul in his second letter to the Church at Corinth...2 Corinthians 2:3-9

3You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
4Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God.
5Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.
6He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant —not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
7Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was,
8will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?

9If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness!

But, you might say, does this mean there was something wrong with the Ten Commandments? Is the law a bad thing?
No. Paul said he knew the law was a good thing, but listen to the first part of our next verse in Romans 8:3...

3For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature...  

It's not that the law is bad. It is good. We shouldn't covet, we shouldn't commit adultery, we shouldn't steal, or kill. We should love the Lord with all our hearts and honor our parents...
But we are weak in our flesh, and in our fallen nature. So the law showcases our issues, our problems, our sin, our fallen nature.
Here's the way Paul put it a few verses earlier...Romans 7:7-11

7What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet.”
8But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead.
9Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.
10I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.
11For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death.

Back in 1950, Rev. J. Barmby, Vicar of Pittington, England put it this way...

"Law, then, in making sin known to to man, subjects him to its guilt, and consequently to its condemnation. But this is all it does; it is all that, in itself, it can do. It can remove neither the guilt nor the dominion of sin. Its principle is simply to exact entire obedience to its requirements; and there it leaves the sinner.”

It would seem we are left in a terrible predicament, and we are, but let's return to our text and see if we can find any hope for our struggle...Romans 8:1-6

3For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man,
4in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

5Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.
6The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace;

There it is in black and white. The answer to our struggle. We must stop allowing our minds to be controlled by the sinful nature and let our minds come under the control of the Holy Spirit. Some might be inclined to say they don't want to be controlled by anyone or anything.

Here's the problem with that reasoning. If you have not allowed the Holy Spirit of God to set you free from the powerful hold of the flesh, you are a slave to it!!
Those who allow the Holy Spirit to guide their lives are free to choose, it's just they can't imagine why they would want to choose the old ways! The ways of hopelessness and death. Those who live by the Spirit, are no longer under condemnation from the law!

The Vicar of Pittington, England followed his statement concerning the inability of the law to set us free, with this statement concerning grace...

"Grace, on the other hand, under which we pass in rising again with Christ, does both the things which law cannot do: it both cancels the guilt of sin (repentance and faith presumed), and also imparts power to overcome it."

Christians aren't perfect, but we are forgiven and we do have the power available, through the Spirit of God, to live a life that wins the struggle, more than it loses the struggle. However, in order for this power to be applied to our daily lives we must daily make the decision to let Christ be our Lord! You ask Jesus to be your Savior once, but you should ask Jesus to be your Lord every single day you live!!
We all struggle! Some more than others, but the answer truly is found in allowing Jesus to be Lord by letting His Holy Spirit direct your hearts, minds, and lives every day! Are you living according to the Spirit or the World. In the few moments we have left in our service today I want to give you four...choices which are vital when it come to the struggle we all face.

Choice #1
Infancy or Maturity

Babys are cute, but a 15 year old who acts like a baby is not so cute. And a 50 year old who acts like a baby is just downright ugly. There's nothing wrong with being a spiritual infant if you've recently started your walk with Christ, but your goal should be to grow! Paul spoke candidly on this subject in his letter to the church in Corinth...1 Corinthians 3:1-3

1Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly —mere infants in Christ.
2I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.

3You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?

The struggle is amplified in the spiritually immature, therefore, each of us should have a goal and desire to grow in Christ! Nothing will help you in the spiritual tug-a-war more than growing in Christ under the leadership of The Holy Spirit!!

Choice #2
The Spirit or the Flesh!

Some have given up the struggle. It's just too hard and they've decided it's not worth the fight. Besides, some would say, "I'm under grace so it doesn't matter."
God's Word says differently in Romans 6:12-18

12Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.
13Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.
14For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.
15What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!
16Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey —whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?
17But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted.
18You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

Let me just say this…While we are born with a tendency to sin, we are not born with evil habits. They are acquired, but we have the power to be set free from sin and to become slaves to righteousness. The choice is ours through the Spirit of Almighty God.
Eph 3:16ff

16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,
18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,
19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,
21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Choice #3
Bear the Consequnces of Sin or the Fruit of The Spirit!

We are known by the fruit we bear. People can even be active in church but not active in bearing the fruit of The Spirit. What is the fruit of the Spirit? Galatians 5:22-25 says...

22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.
25Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Why would we not rather bear the fruit of The Holy Spirit? The consequences of sin are the alternative. You may be a Christian and forgiven, but sin still has consequences in this life. Never forget that!

Choice #4
Spiritual Life or
Spiritual Death!

Romans 8:12-16
12Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it.
13For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live,
14because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
15For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
16The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

Folks, it's a struggle, but it's a struggle we can win! The choice is ours to make. Every time you face a temptation, you have to decide whether to listen to the old selfish nature or The Holy Spirit of God. If you choose the old selfish nature, there will be consequences.

One of the consequences will be the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Why? Because He wants you to turn from the evil that is harming you and others and to follow God's best for you! Another consequence of listening to the old nature, is Satan will throw condemnation at you.

He wants you to be discouraged and to give up the fight. He wants to destroy you with destructive choices. On the other hand, if you begin choosing to listen to the guidance of The Holy Spirit, you will begin winning the battle one struggle at a time. You will get stronger day by day!

Your life will begin bringing glory to God and will take on a new sense of purpose and meaning! Let's pray!