For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other…
I. EVERY MAN HAS TWO SELVES - A HIGHER SELF AND A LOWER SELF.
1. A bad man has his better self. When temptation is away, in calm thoughtful moments, or when he is stricken by mortal illness or bowed with a great sorrow, or perhaps when the beauty of a sunset or the strains of sweet music call up memories of childhood, the true self will rise in the heart of a wicked man with pain and unutterable regrets.
2. A good man has his lower self. The human saint is far removed from the heavenly angel. The body and its appetites are with him; the soul has its meaner powers, its earthly passions, its self-regarding interests. There are times when the spiritual life is dull and feeble; then some sudden temptation, or even without that the depressing atmosphere of the world, will reveal to a man his worse side.
II. THE TWO SELVES ARE IN CONFLICT. They are not content to lie at peace each in its own domain. Both are ambitious to rule the whole man. While the flesh brooks any restraint, the Spirit strives to bring the body into subjection. Thus it comes to pass that life is a warfare and the Christian a soldier. The battle of life is not mainly a fighting against adverse circumstances and external concrete evils of the world. "A man's foes are they of his own household," nay, of his own heart. The great conflict is internal. It is civil war - rebellion and the effort to quell it; of all wars the most fierce.
III. THE CONFLICT BETWEEN THE TWO SELVES IS SUCH THAT EACH IS HELD IN CHECK BY THE OTHER. "Ye cannot do the things that ye would." There is a dead-lock. Each army holds itself safe in its own entrenchments. Neither can turn the enemy's position. Not that there is perfect balance of power. In most of us one or other force gives a temporary advantage. In many the lower self has the upper hand; in many, let us thank God, the better self maintains the supremacy. But neither has the victory that will enable it to drive the other off the field. Bad men, now and again, see yawning before them deep, black pits of wickedness, from the brink of which they start back in horror, arrested by the invisible hand of conscience. No man is wholly bad, or he would cease to be a man - he would be a devil. On the other hand, it is clear to all of us that no good man is wholly good.
IV. IN THE STRENGTH OF THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST THE BETTER SELF OF THE CHRISTIAN WILL ULTIMATELY OBTAIN COMPLETE VICTORY. The stress and strain of the war is but for a time. In the end all enemies shall be subdued. Meanwhile the secret of success is with those who "walk by the Spirit." So great a hope should lighten "the burden of the mystery."
"The heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world." Now life is broken, confused, inconsistent, discordant. But this is but the time of passing conflict. With victory there will come true harmony of being and growth to the full stature of the soul. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.