There is a tree in our backyard that refused to shed all of its leaves last fall. I watched expectantly as the winds of winter blew through the tree, expecting the final leaves to fall, but about one third continued to cling tenaciously to the limbs. As spring approached the sap in the tree began to rise and new growth began to appear on the limbs. The new growth gradually forced the last leaves to fall to the ground. For months the leaves had withstood the forces from without that were trying to dislodge them, but they were no match for the force of the sap and the new growth it created from within. This beautiful picture of nature serves as a great example of the struggle that goes on within the lives of Christians.
When someone becomes a Christian, the scripture teaches they become a new creature:
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold new things have come” (II Corinthians 5:17 NASB).
This raises the question, what new things come? I believe the change involves our very core. At our core, there must be a desire to follow our Lord. I guess you could say our “want to” changes.
That said, we all find ourselves in the struggle Paul faced when he wrote,
“For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15 NASB).
While Paul’s core had changed creating the desire to obey, his flesh had not been eradicated.
We can all identify with Paul’s struggle. Each one of us has our own battle with the flesh within us. Like the leaves on our tree that refused to give up all its leaves, we have certain things that continue to hold onto us, robbing us of our joy. Paul found the secret to winning the victory over the flesh. He wrote, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16 NASB).
I believe Paul recognized that all the good intentions in the world could not deliver us from the temptations of the flesh. While we might escape from many of them, we all have our own weaknesses. As we die to self daily and learn to walk under the guidance of the Spirit, these things will begin to have less and less sway in our lives. Like the sap, which produced new growth, forced the last leaves from our tree, the Spirit will force those tenacious sins of the flesh from our lives and will replace them with the beautiful fruit of the Spirit. Paul describes the fruit of the spirit this way:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is not law” (Gal. 5:22, 23 NASB)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me this day to die to self and to walk in the Spirit. Create in me a bountiful supply of the beautiful fruit the Spirit produces in the life of one who walks in Him. Drive out every remnant of the flesh that keeps me from being the man you want me to be. In Jesus Holy Name I pray. Amen.