Wave the White Flag: Winning by Losing

Whether we want to admit it or not, most of us are at war with God. Intuitively we know this but consciously, we want to convince ourselves that we’ve always been on the good side–God’s side. After all, we love his music (when we are not listening and dancing to something else), we praise him at church (just before we throw shade at the member who didn’t call us by our title: Grand Imperial Poobah ELDER), and we preach powerful sermons about him that make people stream to the altar in tears then we hurry home and cheat on our taxes, overeat, or watch pornography. Even if we don’t do these things, lying of any kind; ungratefulness; proud, haughty attitudes and behavior; unkindness and fearfulness are listed in scripture as lake-of-fire offenses to God. Hence, according to Paul in Romans 8: 6, 7, we are at war:

“For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” 

Here Paul uses the word enmity. To get a sense of the word’s meaning, look at the synonyms for enmity: hostility, animosity, antagonism, friction, antipathy, animus, acrimony, bitterness, rancor, resentment, aversion, ill feeling, bad feeling, ill will, bad blood, hatred, hate, loathing, odium; malice, spite, spitefulness, venom, malevolence. These synonyms make it clear that our carnal or natural mind (that is not transformed by God) hates Him and is in mortal conflict with him. As I wrote in another post, “. . . our struggle against sin is rarely a struggle against sin; it’s usually a struggle against God! If you’re honest, the agony is in knowing that something we want so much is wrong. We identify with it–we can taste it, feel it, we’re stimulated to the breaking point by it and God is saying no. At that very moment, our minds and bodies are screaming yes! Ask yourself the question: At that moment, are you frustrated with sin or with God? In the middle of a porn movie, do you want to talk to your pastor about ministry? Do you want to read Counsels on Diet & Food as you are eating your cheesecake?” 

This is the shape of the war between man and God. Our love for the pleasures of sin, our enslavement to habits, our fear that we cannot go a minute without succumbing to the temptations that prey on us, lead us to wage war to maintain our status quo of “normal”. Sin may be our captor, but we know him well and have grown comfortable with him as our dance partner. God? We don’t trust him. He’s trying to take away the joys of normal life. He wants to strip us bare and humble us (read humiliate us). His joy is not funny, sexy, spicy or fattening! God’s way, in our minds, is abnormal, bland, lifeless, tasteless, straight-laced and, worst of all, unsustainable. It’s the sure road to pain and defeat; why bother to start since we’ll be back at the doughnut pile in no time! In our sin-twisted thinking, we believe that God hates what we love and hates fun! He wants us to be out of style and out of touch–not cool. So we have to duck him, discredit him, obliterate him from our minds so that we can be normal, acceptable and comfortable in this world. In our minds, He stands only for what we can’t do. This is why Paul says the carnal or fleshly mind is enmity against God.

Natures and Browser Tabs
BUT, there is also this crazy dynamic that Paul tried to explain in Romans 7 that presents the complexity of the war between man and God and why the white flag must come into play. Listen to Paul’s description of our internal battle in Romans 7: “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”

Did you catch it? We have two warring natures living inside of us. There is a spiritual nature that yearns after God and his way and hates the sin and enslavement that comes with it. Then there is that ugly sinful nature that rages against God and anything like Him. Think about it, at any given time we want to both win the war against sin and win the war against God. One way to look at this is to compare it to what happens when we have two browser tabs running videos at the same time. We’re watching one tab, but the audio from the other is playing loudly and the mixture of the two is confusing. This is why many of us feel that we have always been on the good side–we have. It’s just that the bad side has been running in the other tab with the volume up. One browser, two tabs; one life, two competing natures. But that nature running in the bad tab is sucking the life out of the good tab. It’s putting you in a position that has you loathing the good tab but feeling compelled to keep it open because it’s where you belong even if your soul is wishing the bad tab was acceptable. The duplicity and mental conflict are exhausting. Sooner or later you’re going to hit the X on one of the tabs. It will most likely be the good tab. Your addiction to the bad tab will eventually cause you to feel that you are a hypocrite and there is no use pretending you’re a Christian anymore: Close the good tab; it’s not real! Continue reading