Life as a parent is not easy. Things become especially difficult when raising teenagers. I have come to realize just how great and strong my parents were raising me. I remember the thoughts and emotions that I had toward them. I was a little rebellious outwardly but a whole lot rebellious inwardly. I am ashamed at the thoughts that I had then concerning my parents. They didn't deserve what I put them through even if they didn't know what I was thinking.
God is a humorous God. He has to be. He allows us to have kids and the we get to experience all and probably more than our parents faced. I say this only for the parents who really care about what happens to their children. Not every parent cares as they should and this saddens me. (Although I must admit there have been times when I have envied those parents who could care less.)
But I do care! I want the best for my children. I want them to love Jesus and serve him as he leads them to. I want them to be happy. I want them to succeed in life. I want them to have fun along the way. I am not here to rain on their parade or dampen all the fun. I really want them to have a life. But as the Lord brought to my mind a few months ago, I am here not to make them happy; I am here to make them right.
Saying that doesn't mean that I am to control every move or thought but that I am to guide them in the right path. I am to show them how to live a life under the authority of Christ. I am to love them, correct them and discipline them when needed. Why? Because they don't know how to live life for anyone else other than themselves. They are born in rebellion. Life is all about their needs. They need to see the right way.
God has given me, as a parent, that awesome task. I am only able to do it by his power and might. I must remember my walk with the Lord and make sure that I am submitting to his sovereign authority. I must be controlled by someone other than myself.
Paul writes to the Galatian church about living not under the law. They had been set free from that through Christ. He warns them, however, not to use that freedom for their own sinful flesh. They needed to live in Christ and walk in and by his Holy Spirit.
Listen to Paul's words from Galatians 5:13-25:
"For you were called to be free, brothers and sisters; only don't use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement: Love you neighbor as yourself. But if you bite and devour one another, watch out, or you will be consumed by one another.
I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don't do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I am warning you about these things -- as I warned you before-- that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires."
Living in the flesh is living in rebellion toward God. When people are breaking the law or being disobedient to authority, they are actually rebelling against God. We fight not against the rules but against the Ruler.
As a child, I remember hating rules. I thought they were stupid. They were made by people who just wanted me to do what they wanted me to do. I did not see their value nor understand the lessons that I needed to learn. But laws are needed. They protect and direct us. They inform us on how to live productive lives. Ultimately they show us who we are in regards to God. Paul's says that the "knowledge of sin comes through the law" (Romans 3:20). The law was not to make us righteous but to make us aware of our sin. Listen to Romans 8:1-8:
"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. What the law could not do since it was weakened by the flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh as a sin offering, in order that the law's requirement would be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on the things of the Spirit. Now the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set of the Spirit is life and peace. The mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit to God's law. Indeed, it is unable to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God."
The law was weak and what it could not do God did in Christ. He came to change our sinful nature and to give us his. He did not come to change our behavior but our hearts. The heart is the throne upon which only one can sit. From the throne pours forth the decrees that take action. The one who sit upon the throne rules. When flesh rules there is death. When the Lord is seated upon the throne there is life and joy.
I watched my middle daughter have a "flesh" moment this morning. She was told to do something and she didn't agree. She began to be argumentative with her mother and then with me. It was a simple request from her mother, but it quickly turned into something quite different. For a moment a coup was happening within her mind. She wanted to overthrow the leader and make herself supreme ruler.
I laughed at first. But then I began to see that this rebellion was growing in intensity and could become something uncontrollable if allowed to continue. I am glad to report that we are still in leadership at home and lived through it for another day.
How my daughter reacted and how I acted as a teen illustrates the war between the flesh and the Spirit. The heart of the issue is not the acts or the thoughts, but the one who is having control. Are we in step with the Spirit? Have we crucified the flesh with its passions and desires? When those desires come back up and we seek to satisfy them, are we resistant to them and submissive to Christ?