“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love” (Galatians 5:13).

Martin Luther was realistic when he urged us not to be surprised at the conflict between the Holy Spirit and our sinful nature. He said we should take courage and be comforted at Paul’s words in Galatians 5:17: “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.” What’s encouraging about that? We’re not free to do the good things we want to? How does that give us comfort and courage? Luther’s point is: knowing what’s going on and where our help lies keeps us from being bewildered and weaponless. When we find ourselves fighting the same old battles and—much to our chagrin—giving in, we know we are in a continuing conflict. When we are knocked down by sin, we can keep getting up off the floor and call on the Spirit, Who comforts and equips us. “If you are aware of this battle with the sinful nature,” Luther writes, “don’t lose heart, but resist in the Spirit and say, ‘I am a sinner and feel sinful because I am still in this body. As long as I live sin will cling to this body. I will obey the Spirit, not the sinful nature. I will grasp Christ by faith, hope in Him, and find comfort in His Word.’”

Adapted from “The One Year Book of Encouragement”