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Feeding Your Spirit

One of my teachers taught me a tale of two dogs. They were alike in every way. They asked who would win in a fight. I thought that if they were alike in every way, it would end in a tie. They told me I was correct. Then they said, “Let’s take those same two dogs and only feed one of them. If they were to fight, who would win?” Again, I thought it was pretty easy and told them the one that was fed would win. After agreeing with my assessment, they explained that there is always a fight going on inside each one of us between our flesh and our spirit. No matter how much I wanted one of them to win, it would always be the one I fed the most.

I love that the Bible didn’t cover up things or just show us the best version of people’s lives. It told us how Abraham lied about his wife being his sister. It kept the part where Moses murdered an Egyptian. It didn’t try to cover up David’s adultery like he did. It included Jesus rebuking Peter. Every one of these people are heroes in the faith to us, but they were just as human as you and I are. They wanted to serve God as much as you, and they failed Him as much as we do. What made them stand out was that they repented and learned to feed their spirit more. They knew that they needed to change who they fed when they messed up, and they did it.

In Psalms 86:11, David prayed, “Teach me, Lord, what you want me to do, and I will obey you faithfully; teach me to serve you with complete devotion” (GNT). David, like all these other heroes of faith, always went back to God to teach him in those moments of failure or need. He wanted to serve God with complete devotion. In order for us to do that, we must be willing to be taught how by God and we must feed our spirit the Word of God. We must spend time in prayer and obedience. We have to spend less time feeding our flesh, and to not dismiss the tension of the fight between the two inside of us. If you find yourself failing more times than not, take a look at how you spend your time. What are you spending your time doing? Which side is that feeding? You can always change who your feeding to change results. Ask God to teach you what He wants you to do and how He wants you to feed your spirit. He will show you.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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Competing Voices

Several years ago I was an Uber driver. I would always start off near my home, but before long, I would end up in places I had never been. I would have to pay close attention to the map. There were times when a rider would be in the car giving me conflicting information with the map. That was always worrisome to me. Do I follow what the rider is telling me or choose to disregard their advice and go where the map is leading me? The map sees ahead and has information we don’t have, but the rider seems to know the area and gives me the tip. Every time that happened, I either had to tell them, “Thanks, but I need to follow the map,” or hear, “Rerouting” over and over in my ear until I would just turn down the volume. Each time it happened, I had to deal with whichever consequence.

Being a Christian is very similar I’ve found. There are two voices in my head constantly trying to give me directions on how to live, where to go and what to do. They’re in conflict with each other quite often. The Holy Spirit is much like the GPS. He knows the way better than anyone, He sees things that are ahead and is constantly trying to reroute me when I make a wrong turn. My flesh is the other voice telling me, “Turn here.” My heart tells me to follow my God given guide, but there always a strong pull to listen to the other voice. Each time I choose which voice to listen to, there’s a consequence. I give up something that my flesh would really enjoy and please God or do something that’s not right and feel shame. It’s a constant struggle for all of us as Christians.

Paul put it plainly in Galatians 5:16-17. He said, “Let me emphasize this: As you yield to the dynamic life and power of the Holy Spirit, you will abandon the cravings of your self-life. When your self-life craves the things that offend the Holy Spirit you hinder him from living free within you!” (TPT) That’s the choice we have to constantly make. Who’s voice are you going to listen to? They’re at odds with one another, and we’re stuck in the middle. Each voice produces very different fruit in our lives as Paul goes on to describe in this chapter. The good news is that it’s easier to follow the voice of the Holy Spirit if we will decide ahead any situation that we will choose His voice. The more we make that choice, the more we be empowered to live the way God wants us to. The voice we listen to the most grows the loudest within us, so choose now which voice you’ll listen to today.

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Fighting The Flesh

In the mid 1990’s, DC Talk had a song called “What if I Stumble”. At the beginning, they read a quote from Brennan Manning’s “Ragamuffin Gospel” that said, “The greatest single cause for atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” That quote has always spoken to me and has challenged me.

When we get close to Easter, the story of Peter denying Jesus three times usually gets brought up at some point. We give him a hard time because he denied Jesus with his lips, but we often don’t think twice about things we do that deny Jesus with our life. One of my favorite quotes has been, “Preach at all times, and use words when necessary.” It’s a challenge for me to try to live a life that points others to Jesus. The problem is that in our flesh, it’s impossible. There is a constant struggle in each one of us between our flesh and God’s spirit living in us.

Paul perfectly described our feelings in this struggle in Romans 7:24 when he said, “Oh what a miserable person I am!” (GNT) He went on about the struggle, and how to win it, in Romans 8. Verse 12 says, “Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do.” To win the battle more times than not, we have to learn to repeatedly tell our flesh a resounding, “No!” We are not obligated, as Paul said, to obey the flesh.

If you struggle telling your flesh, “No,” you’re not alone. It’s something we all struggle with. We can get better at it by learning to deny our flesh through fasting and prayer. We can do it by reading God’s Word instead of something else. If we want our lifestyle to match the words that come out of our mouth, it begins by listening to God’s Spirit within us and being led by Him. Jesus forgave and used Peter despite his vocal denial. God can forgive and use us too. Winning this battle within us and living a lifestyle that preaches God’s Word starts with one “No” to the flesh. Thanks to God who gives us that power by living in us.

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

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