I wonder how many of us struggle in our lives with conflict - the conflict between that part of us that wants to lay down our lives wholeheartedly for the Lord and be completely sold out for Him, and the part of us (our carnal nature) which is clamouring for self-gratification, comfort and an easy life. Paul obviously struggled in the same way (which is quite encouraging for us!). He says in Romans 7:15: ‘I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do’. And again in verse 19: ‘For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing’. Does anyone identify with this? I certainly do!
Many years ago, in my early days as a committed Christian, I remember hearing a talk on just this subject. The speaker was giving a strategy for dealing with the carnal nature. He likened it to owning two dogs, a white one and a black one. He said that if we wanted the white one to grow and flourish, we should feed and nourish it, and if we wanted the black one to die we should starve it. It is a simple picture, but one that has stayed with me for nearly fifty years!
The problem is that many of us do feed our carnal nature instead of starving it to death. The more we feed it, the more demanding it will become. We can gratify our flesh in many different ways – for instance through over-indulgence in food and drink, the desire for a comfortable or extravagant lifestyle, engaging in endless futile activities, or through more overtly sinful behaviour such as sexual sin or entertaining resentment and bitterness towards others. The more we give in to our selfish desires, behaviour and attitudes, the stronger our flesh life will grow and the weaker our walk with the Lord will become.
The start of a new year is a good time to take stock. Perhaps we could ask ourselves: Am I making it a priority to nurture my spirit, and to feed that part of me, so I will follow Jesus Christ wholeheartedly, or am I allowing my carnal nature to be gratified, so I become divided in my loyalties and purpose? In today’s verse David prays that God would give him an undivided heart, so that he may fear His Name. Let’s pray that for ourselves as we begin another year.
Prayer: Lord, please forgive me for the ways in which I’ve been feeding my carnal nature more than my spirit (be specific). Help me in this new year to turn my back on these habits and attitudes, to die to self and to nurture my new life in You. Please give me an undivided heart. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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