We all have a dark side. It's the result of sin entering our world through Adam's & Eve's disobedience, compounded by generations of the sin nature working within us. The classic depiction of the war that goes on inside each of us is the cartoon of a person tempted with an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other.
The Apostle Paul shares vulnerably about this inner war in Romans 7: "For 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. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing." (Romans 7:18-19 NIV) Sound familiar?
In Galatians 5, Paul tells us more about this inner war. He contrasts the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. The dark side of us - our fallen sin nature - desires the works of the flesh: "The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like." (Galatians 5:19-21 NIV) Sort of sounds like the evening news, doesn't it?
But God has not left us chained to the works of the flesh without hope of transformation! He has given us the Holy Spirit to dwell in our lives and to change our sin nature into the very nature of His Son. When we walk by the power and direction of the Holy Spirit, we are changed! He grows His fruit in our lives.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV) Paul goes on to say, "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." (Galatians 5:24-25 NIV)
This is the key to winning the inner war. The strategy is not to try harder to be good. The strategy is to put to death the sin nature itself - the flesh - and live by the Spirit. God will win this battle inside us if we keep in step with the Holy Spirit He has gifted us. How do we live by the Spirit, keeping in step with Him?
Billy Graham tells this story in his book, The Holy Spirit: Activating God's Power in Your Life:
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
Strengthen the work of the Holy Spirit in your life by following Him rather than ignoring Him. Allow Him to speak to you through the Word of God by reading the Bible regularly. Hear His direction and act on it by becoming more and more a person of prayer. Put to death by starvation the works of the flesh, and allow the Holy Spirit to grow the Fruit of the Spirit in your soul. And battle by battle, the war will be won. God will do the transforming, and your life will come to reflect the character of Jesus.
Which wolf are you feeding?