Life is full of choices.
We all think about them on a daily basis. Paper or plastic? Soup or salad? Braves or Yankees? Spirit or flesh? Okay, so maybe the last one isn't one we think about normally, but it should be.
If we have been saved by grace, we should be living in the spirit. Conversely, if we are not a Christian, there is no reason to attempt living in the spirit.
But, what about those people who are Christians and yet still live in the flesh? They are struggling with the age-old question Hamlet put before us, "To be, or not to be?"
As Christians, we must remind ourselves that we no longer live for ourselves. We might be in the world, but we should not be of it. To live in the spirit is one thing; to live in the flesh is another. The two cannot intertwine. Once they do, a battle occurs. This battle is a little (or rather big) thing called dualism.
Dualism is exactly what it sounds like-trying to please, or do two things at once. In the case of being a Christian, it would mean trying to live as a Christ follower while still living in sin. Not the "Oops, I slipped up and told a lie"-type sinning, but the deep-rooted "I'm going to continue living this lifestyle"-type sin.
Glen Schultz describes dualism in his book, "Kingdom Education," as "an effort to divide life into different parts and operate each part from a different world view perspective." We try to make part of ourselves God-centered and the other part man-centered. Schultz goes on to say that we cannot continue to put our lives into separate compartments. Those compartments will continually wage war against each other to control us.
It says in Matthew 6:24, "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other." So what about that statement is so hard to follow? First, we don't want to give anything up. When we become a Christian, there is always that small part of us that may want to hold on to our former self. But the thing is, God has made it possible for us to move beyond the former.
II Corinthians 5:17 tells us that He made us a new creation. We are made new, and our desires are different. Or, they should be. We need to remember that while God does not expect us to never sin again, He does expect us to put away past sin, repent, and try to live anew. We can't keep falling back into that trap, that familiar cycle of sin.
Another possible reason we cannot seem to stop serving two masters is the belief that we're getting "the best of both worlds." It's the idea that we can be Christians and go to heaven when we die, but while we're on earth, we're going to live it up. That's the problem with dualism-it creates a world of confusion. People don't know what's right and wrong anymore, because we have erased the lines. Paul writes in Romans 12:2 that we must be "transformed by the renewing of your mind." God gives us the choice to be transformed. We must make it. We must consciously choose to live in the spirit.
So, how do we choose to live in the spirit? We must continually remember that our thoughts and ways are not the same as God's are. It is stated in Isaiah 55:9 that the Lord tells us "so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."
We are not on the same level as God. He knows that we never will be, yet He loves us the same. We're sinners; we're unclean; we're still loved by God.
When we don't live the way we should, we're hurting ourselves and our relationship with God. As Christians, we are in a love relationship with Christ. As Schultz says in his book, "Since this love relationship is the most important part of God's plan for the advancement of His kingdom, then it must control all aspects of life." If we allow a big thing like dualism to wedge its way in between our relationship with God, then we allow the lines between godliness and worldliness to be a little more blurred in our lives, our community, and,consequently, our world.
The Rev. Chris Reynolds is pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church and Christian Academy in Jonesboro.