Lately, I've been sucked into the habit of after-lunch chocolate. It's been a long-lasting battle for me, with plenty of successes and failures over the years, but when you just ate some garlicky left-over spaghetti for lunch, chocolate seems to be the perfect thing to cleanse that palette.
But too much of this and those cheeks start to chub, so I often vow to stop heading for the M&M's and/or cookies after lunch. Day 1 might be a victory, but by Day 2 the walk by my neighboring cubicle and its renowned candy stash is too hard to pass up. By Day 2.5 I've caved and feel like a failure, citing the old palette cleanse as a viable excuse.
But tomorrow is a new day! So after a morning pep talk, the battle begins again...okay, maybe that's a bit dramatic, but we've all been there to some degree. And so I think this is a good illustration for the fight of our lives, described by Paul in Romans:
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
I know the candy and cookies are bad for me, but I can't help myself -- my taste buds want satisfaction! It's the same with our spiritual-lives: it seems we are constantly at war with the desires of our flesh...wanting one thing but knowing there is a better way out there.
But why not just cave into the desires of the flesh? Well, if you really look at it, following the flesh is at its root selfishness, while a life lived by the Spirit is one of love:
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
What does this look like? A friend sent me a great sermon that describes the importance of the Holy Spirit in our lives/ ministry, and provides a illustration of what that looks like:
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
According to Bill Johnson, Jesus is essentially saying that the most important aspect to ministry is the Holy Spirit, since He says He is sending them out (for ministry), and then the very next thing He does is breathe the Holy Spirit on them (equipping them for ministry). Bill then asks what it would look like to carry the Holy Spirit. Throughout scripture the Spirit is pictured as a dove, and so he asks, if a dove landed on you, how would you walk?
Doves are tentative creatures, and will fly off easily. It's a good illustration for the responsibility and care we should take in allowing the Holy Spirit to reside with us as we go about our days. It's all about listening to the Spirit and allowing the Spirit to guide you. Some practical ways we can do that, as pointed out by Scott Nassau in one of his sermons:
Through the Bible
Through Spiritual Intuition
You can tell when someone walks in the room and has the Holy Spirit with them -- you can feel it. We need to be those people in order to battle the flesh and carry about powerful and effective lives of ministry.
I recommend listening to those two sermons if you have the time, by the way.