Galatians 5:16 tells us that if we are led by the Spirit, we will not gratify the cravings of our sinful nature. But today, I woke up again—as I did yesterday and will do tomorrow—choosing to gratify my sinful nature. Why do I continue to do this?
Have you ever wondered why the Holy Spirit allows us to choose sin? Or why the God of the universe, who now lives “in” us, allows us to complain so much?
After all, if the Holy Spirit lives in us, then shouldn’t He cause us to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit and show Christ-exalting displays of love more readily than the deeds that arise out of our sinful nature? Why do I feel like the sinful nature has way more control than it ought?
When the Holy Spirit entered my life, I thought being a Christian would be easier. Yet, I still struggle daily. Every morning after I submit to the Holy Spirit, I expect Him to take over and dominate my life for the rest of the day. I expect Him to make me selfless. I expect Him to cause me to love others more than I love myself.
Paul wrote, “I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (Romans 7:18).
But why can’t I carry it out? And the Apostle John wrote in 1 John 1:8: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Oh, there is little doubt that I still sin, but why does it seem to govern my life?
Do you experience this? I guess I want to know that I’m not alone in this. While I know the truth that Christians have victory over their sinful natures—because God has destroyed sin and death once and for all—experientially, I feel like the Holy Spirit has not taken full control over my sinful nature. When I ask the Holy Spirit to come into my heart, I want to know that all my choices are directed by Him. But only moments later, I am acting irrationally and angrily toward a person or circumstance.
So, what is the answer? Love! Not more love from us, but more love to us. Let me explain.
In the Garden of Eden, God allowed Adam and Eve a choice, even though He knew what that choice would be. It seems strange that God’s plan B was God’s plan A all along. But plan B was crucial. Here is why: free will.
This is so important to understand. While Jesus’ greatest act of love was dying on the cross, the Holy Spirit’s greatest act of love was, and is, restraint. And He does this daily, thousands of times, over and over again. The Bible calls the Holy Spirit our Advocate, Helper, Guide, Counselor and even our Friend. And like a Good Counselor, the Holy Spirit will prompt, persuade and pursue, but He will never force or coerce.
Like a child who receives too much assistance from a parent, which blocks a greater purpose later, so the Holy Spirit knows a greater purpose is thwarted if He forces His will upon us.
God could easily overpower us and activate His plan through us. But He loves us too much to do that. He simply wants us to respond and choose Him, not out of compulsion, but out of love for Him.
This is not meant to be a theological treatise on predestination. Rather, it is solely my opinion based on practical, experiential Christian living. I boast not in my duties as a Christian to acquiesce to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Rather, I boast only in the cross (Galatians 6:14) and in the work of the Holy Spirit.
If we accomplish anything spiritually good, it is completely the work of the Holy Spirit. And for that, He deserves all the credit and all the glory.
So, when I speak life into a cashier or share the Gospel or study Scripture or pray or help someone along the roadside or make a wise decision and choose God’s will, I want to know that I simply said “yes” to His leading.
And may I boast only in His power to work in, and through, this earthly tent. Otherwise, my boasting is in vain. To the Holy Spirit be all the glory.
Eric Veal has been a member of Southeast Christian Church for 30 years.