We blame anyone or anything else when something goes wrong. When your car breaks down, you blame the manufacturer or the mechanic who last worked on it. When you cook a meal that tastes bad, you blame the recipe and delete it from your Pinboard. When you struggle to lose weight, you blame your metabolism or genetic makeup. When you fail a test, you blame the teacher for not adequately preparing you.
Similarly, we blame anyone or anything else when we fail to grow in our relationship with God. We go through times when we sin regularly or are spiritually stagnant. When that happens, we blame Satan and the world. After all, Satan “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8), doesn’t he? And being religious means “to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (Jas. 1:27), doesn’t it?
Although we’d like to blame Satan and the world, the New Testament is clear that as believers our most common struggle is against ourselves. Each person is born with an innate and automatic desire to sin that resides in our bodies. This propensity toward sin is called the “flesh” (NIV “sinful nature”) and is the reason why the world is so sinful (2 Pet. 1:4).
Even after we are saved, this craving for sin lingers in our bodies and competes with the Holy Spirit. It produces a constant battle in the life of every Christian because “the sinful nature desires what it contrary to the Spirit…they are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want” (Gal. 5:17). As the Holy Spirit makes us like Jesus, our flesh still entices us to sinful thoughts, words, motives, and actions (Jas. 1:14).
Your flesh is the greatest obstacle in your relationship with God. Your body wants to sin, and when you give it what it wants, you create a barrier between yourself and God. Many Christians blame Satan and the world for the distance between them and God. But when it comes to your relationship with God, you are your own worst enemy.
In order to overcome this obstacle, you must learn how to tell your body “no.” You must control it and not let it control you. You must also learn how to tell the Holy Spirit “yes.” You must draw upon His strength to obey His commands. You can develop both of these skills if you practice three habits:
- Memorize Scripture. Memorize verses that strengthen you to resist the sins your body craves. Review them often so you can quote them when you are tempted.
- Confess your sins. Build a close friendship with another Christian whom you trust. Tell them about the sins you struggle with and admit when you sin.
- Be held accountable. Allow a Christian friend to hold you responsible for not sinning anymore. Give them the right to ask hard questions and speak the truth no matter what.
As you practice these habits you will become increasingly able to tell your body “no” and the Holy Spirit “yes.” Only then will you overcome the greatest obstacle in your relationship with God.
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