Whether you realize it or not, your life is controlled by one of two things: Your sinful nature, or the Holy Spirit. And in the case of the Holy Spirit, He is not a “thing,” but a Person.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit if the Spirit of God lives in you” (Romans 8:8-9).
Man’s default position is to be controlled by his sinful nature. It prevents him from having faith in Christ, which in turn prevents him from pleasing God. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6).
And while unbelief is the greatest sin, there are of course many other wicked traits of the sinful nature.
“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like” (Galatians 5:19-21).
Paul then added: “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21).
That is to say, those who pursue wickedness are enslaved to sin and will not go to Heaven, unless of course they “repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15). Once a person repents and is “justified through faith,” (Romans 5:1) he “has been set free from sin and has become a slave to righteousness” (Romans 6:18).
And while the miracle of conversion does not prevent you from continuing to be tempted, it does set you free so that you can now say “no” to the sin and temptations which once held you captive.
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ’no’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2:11-12).
Think of your sinful nature as the basement room of your soul. Your life with Christ takes place in the living room on the main level. You only spend time in the basement when you choose to give into unwholesome thoughts, unloving speech, or sinful behavior.
Whenever temptation occurs, you must decide what to do. Stay in the living room with Jesus and ask the Lord for strength to resist it, or walk downstairs and give into temptation?
Believers in Christ experience no peace in the basement. Everything we do downstairs grieves the Holy Spirit. Meanwhile, Jesus eagerly awaits our return to the living room where our fellowship with Him will once again be joyful and refreshing.
Are you holding a grudge? Perhaps you are embracing jealousy, sexual lust, or a judgmental spirit. These are just a few of the ways people violate God’s perfect standard. And sin greatly disrupts a believer’s fellowship with the Lord.
Does your sinful nature still control you, or are you controlled by the Holy Spirit?
Paul wrote, “Those 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” (Romans 8:5).
Is your mind set on sin, or your Savior? Those who belong to Christ want to keep their mind on him. Scripture instructs believers to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Who controls your thoughts? You, or your sinful nature? The real you is who you want to be. So, do you want to be controlled by sin, or controlled by God?
If the Holy Spirit is living within you, then you want to be controlled by God. Likewise, if you don’t want to be controlled by God, then the Holy Spirit is not living within you. In that case, you love sin far more than you care about the Savior of the world.
In fact, it is impossible to love Jesus without first having faith in the Messiah. After trusting Christ as your Savior, you then begin to love him. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15).
When a person is converted, he or she begins to “walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16). Prior to conversion, it is impossible to walk by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit must first come to live within you, which takes place when you trust Jesus to forgive your sins. Faith in Christ sets you on the path of discipleship, and this path leads to Paradise.
You are granted forgiveness and salvation on the front end of your relationship with God, and the rest of your life is spent seeking to please the Lord who saved you by His grace. You are free to love the One who paid the price for your sins on the cross. And you begin to love others too like never before. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
Are you controlled by the Holy Spirit today? The third Person of the Trinity is the only true God, along with the Father and the Son. Three Persons in One God.
Are you who you want to be? Is your life consistent with your profession of faith? If you have gotten off track, you can confess your sins to Jesus and get back to enjoying the relationship you began when you received Christ as your Savior. There is no joy or peace for a believer when sin is being entertained.
If you find yourself in the basement today, call upon Jesus. Be real with God, and you will be amazed at the Lord’s unconditional love, goodness and grace. God will gladly deliver you from double-mindedness.
Satan is a master at tempting Christians to compromise. The devil knows that if he can get us to compromise in just one area, it will disrupt our prayer life, our joy, and our close fellowship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
If you remain unconverted, it will be necessary to stop committing the sin of unbelief. As Jesus told Thomas: “Stop doubting and believe” (John 20:27). And once you are saved, you are called to say “no” to sin on a daily basis. When you fall short of the mark, the Lord will nevertheless remain committed to you because you are his child today, tomorrow and forever.
Avoid the basement at all costs as you abide in the living room of your soul, where you and Jesus enjoy sweet fellowship with one another.
Nothing this world has to offer can begin to touch the joy you experience when you surrender yourself to the control of the Holy Spirit, and when you enjoy a close friendship with Jesus, the Savior of your soul.
Dan Delzell is the pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska.
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