Pastor Terry Goerz
High Prairie Redeemer Lutheran Church
Most Christians are familiar with the hymn “Onward Christians Soldiers”. We are marching as to war. The vision in most minds is of Christians in some far off foreign land waring against Satan by evangelizing the unsaved in non-Christian lands. But that is not at all the war all Christians are engaged in. That war is an internal war, a war for control of our minds.
Remember that we are spiritual beings. Our thinking processes are not solely a function of our physical brain. The spirit within us influences and guides our thinking. Prior to becoming Christians Satan had control of our spirit that guides us.
Ephesians 2: 1 – 3 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts.
Notice in this text that there are three enemies we all war against, “the ways of this world, the ruler of the kingdom of the air (Satan) and our sinful nature”. Our sinful nature is what we inherit from the sin of Adam and Eve. We are born with this sinful nature, this natural inclination to sin. When we are baptized the Holy Spirit enters us and we are born again. We are described as a new creation.
2 Corinthians 5: 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
So having the Holy Spirit in us makes us something different, a new creation. Our body does not change, but as spiritual beings we are recreated by the addition of the Holy Spirit to our being. Also in baptism our sinful nature was crucified or circumcised (cut off) so that we should no longer be slaves to sin.
Colossians 2: 9 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature,
This crucifixion or circumcision of our sinful nature does not destroy it or make it so it does not influence our thinking. It makes it so we are no longer slaves to it. We have in us both the Spirit of God and our sinful nature who are trying to influence our thinking at the same time. You could say Christians have a dual personality or we are saints and sinners at the same time.
Galatians 5: 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.
This war for the control of our minds occurs whether we decide to participate or not. Once we become Christians we become enemies of Satan and he will do all he can to shipwreck our faith or make us ineffective or unproductive as Christians.
If you are not actively participating in this war you have already lost the battle. There is no neutral corner, no chance of peaceful coexistence with our sinful nature. This is why the writers of the bible spent so much time teaching about this battle and urging Christians to engage fully in it. The following text is just one of a great many.
Ephesians 4: 22 & 23 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
In cartoons we often see a character in a dilemma about some decision concerning right or wrong. On one shoulder is a little devil urging the character to follow his advice to take the wrong course of action, and a little angel is on the other shoulder reminding the character what is the right course of action. This cartoon depiction is quite accurate of the Christian life. There is a struggle within us for control of our mind.
This life long struggle that all Christians participate in that allows them to follow the direction of the Holy Spirit and not the sinful nature is called sanctification. Sanctification means to make holy; to set apart as sacred or to purify from sin.
It is a life long journey by which we become more and more Christ like. In future articles I will describe just how Christians engage in this battle, or participate with God in their sanctification.