[The following are excerpts from a Spiritual Life paper.]
After discussing at length the topics of sin, the law, and freedom from both in Romans 6 and 7, the apostle Paul finally mentions the Holy Spirit’s role in Romans 8. This delay in mentioning such a critical part of the Trinity and such an integral part of the Christian’s life is initially perplexing. However, it should be noted that it was the role of the Son of God to save the Christian from sin and law, who having now been freed from such burdens yet still hopeless on his own to battle his “fleshly” desires, finds help after Jesus’ departure from this earth because it initiates the beginning of the Holy Spirit’s integral work in his Christian life.
The flesh desires selfish things – it desires to be first, above God’s leading. Logically, this then requires that the flesh be in complete opposition to the Holy Spirit because God is holy and cannot let another take His place as foremost. Thus, slightly similar to how many may look to the Middle East as an endless state of warfare, us Christians are in an age-old battle whereby the Holy Spirit, which is so jealous within us (James 4:5), battles our flesh and its constant rebellious desires against God’s will.
Every battle is played out on a battlefield. Spiritually, the battleground is our body, our hearts and our minds.
Every battle is played out on a battlefield. Spiritually, the battleground is our body, our hearts and our minds. Just as the U.S. Eastern seaboard is littered with marked evidences of past battles, our own bodies, hearts and minds carry similar marks. For instance, my nearly-successful efforts to quit piano lessons when I was 10 years old caused God to strike me with a major bout of Jr. rheumatoid arthritis in order to force me to continue in my piano, and my puffy knuckles to this day still serve as visual reminders of that battle. The goal is to yield to the Holy Spirit’s prompting before such long-lasting measures are taken!
Thus, we take an active part in this battle between our flesh and the indwelling Holy Spirit. A common term used for such acts of responsibility are spiritual disciplines, which includes activities such as prayer, fasting, Bible studies, service, and worship. However, upon initiation of any set of these disciplines, we may quickly (or immediately) find ourselves in the same position as the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, who greatly upset Him by their legalistic rules.
Although I certainly want to grow in Christ, I will always be tempted to take the road of least resistance, which invariably will be legalism since it doesn’t require a change of heart, but only an outward appearance of change.
Legalism never involves a heart in-line with God. It seeks to put on a façade that would make it look like I’m improving in an issue, when in reality I’m not. Although I certainly want to grow in Christ, I will always be tempted to take the road of least resistance, which invariably will be legalism since it doesn’t require a change of heart, but only an outward appearance of change. Prevention of legalism can only be accomplished by remaining in personal communication and relationship with God.