The delusion of our ability to control sinful desires is powerful when we're caught up in it. For the persistent belief that some imagined godly principle, pattern, or law can get us out of our messes is the very thing that keeps us bound.
When I was in Bible College, I bought into the whole delusion of viewing myself as a split personality. Of course, presenting it in this way might cause some to misperceive what I'm referring to, but this is exactly how I learned to view myself when I accepted the premise that I had 2 natures: an old nature and a new nature. Now don't pass this off as some strange new doctrine concocted by my teachers, for I had already come to see myself struggling in a similar way to the cartoons I use to watch where both a devil version and an angel version of myself hovered around each ear vying for my attention in hopes of winning me over.
You see, I had no problem with the basic reality that I was stubborn and rebellious at heart, for I was taught it from very early on in my life by those who raised me and/or instructed me. This perception did not have to be forced upon me, rather I accepted it because it made sense. I not only recognized my rebellious nature, but I also believed I was a good child, for I had been often praised by my parents and teachers as being a "good boy." It felt good to be considered so.
My Christianized instructions were built upon that same imagination. I had it hammered into me that if I heeded the voice of the devil (that is, my old nature), I would continue to grow weaker in my walk with God, and this would cause those bad decisions to come easier and easier, while at the same time it would drown out the godly decisions. On the other hand, if I were to listen to my new nature — which was consistently presented to me as going to church, reading my Bible, going to Bible studies, hanging with the "right" people, etc — then I (that is, my new nature) would grow stronger and would overpower my old nature. Simply stated, my new nature always told me to do good, while my old nature always told me to do bad ... which meant that the one I listened to would win out.
Here's the thing, though. The whole setup is a delusion of the fleshly mind! And this is what kept me locked into a desperate struggle, for it convinced me that somewhere within this convoluted and contradictory version of the person I imagined myself to be that I actually had the ability to control my sinful desires. This imagined version of myself is the very thing that Paul referred to as the flesh. For despite the wide array of variables found within every society (past or present), this is the perception of the world regarding itself. This is the mind of the flesh that every human has struggled with from the very beginning. I'm telling you that it makes no difference how we might justify our Christian versions with Bible verses and doctrines — we cannot work within the framework of the fleshly mind in order to produce something that glorifies the one who brought us freedom from the imaginations of that mind.
Why else do we suppose that the message of Jesus Christ presents everything according to the new creation, that is, according the unity found in the resurrected life of Christ? Don't get thrown off by the propaganda of the religious mind that has incorporated the death, burial, and resurrection into overall framework of Christianity, for the gospel message does not merely play the part of initiating us into the kingdom, rather it defines everything regarding our reality as the new creation in Christ. The delusion known as the flesh has no bearing upon us in Christ ... for it is gone. And yet we are continually called upon by the religious mind to give it a place, that is, to make sure we reestablish it back into our perceptions, our way of living. The religious mind will simply not let it go — for it cannot — because the religious mind lives within the deception.
Let me connect this back to what I previously said about viewing myself as a split personality because this is where so much of our confusion has come from. I accepted modified versions of this miraculous reality of new life and freedom in Jesus Christ because it demanded that everything in the world around me was caught up in the delusion, and it was all just too big to comprehend. Even though because of my evangelical beliefs I was at odds with most of the world around me, I at least shared a sense of living on common ground. I had chosen wisely — or so I believed — and therefore appealed to the unbelievers in the world around me to listen to the voice of reason (mine) and make the right decision. To those who already believed, I made my appeals on the same basis, which was that they pay attention to their new nature and not their old nature. I gave them what I thought was the appropriate wisdom directly from the Bible for them to heed. I believed it would make them stronger in the Lord. Being stronger, they would be able to resist sin on a more consistent basis. Theoretically, that is. I didn't understand why it didn't seem to work in most cases.
I didn't realize that I was telling them to view themselves according to a reasoning that forced a split-personality viewpoint. Since that time, I have heard some so-called grace preachers actually teach this very thing. One "pastor" I knew termed our identity as that of a "sinner-saint". No wonder we are at odds with ourselves, for how could we not be while holding to a self-defeating lie as the basis for a life in Christ? I mean, it would be totally absurd to stand upon having a life that is even now hidden in God? Perhaps we are afraid that we might be denounced as claiming that which only belongs to God himself. Perhaps the religious mind has intimidated us with a few specially-selected Bible verses into thinking that we are making ourselves equal with God. Too many believers have compromised through fear of what some religious leader might think of them.
We don't want to rock the boat too much. We don't want to be considered extreme in that direction. We'd rather jump on some Christian, morality bandwagon or argue a controversial doctrinal position ... because it makes some kind of sense. It provides some sense of grounding to that which we have learned in this world. The determination to see all things according to Christ, and him only, leaves us resting in a place that makes no sense to everything the world holds dear. And that includes the religious mind of the Christian system, as well. It's overwhelming to even consider how absurd the true gospel of Christ makes us appear to this world, isn't it? No wonder those who believe in Christ (as opposed to religious Christianity) are often referred to as strangers and aliens.
The lie will do everything it can to keep itself alive, but thanks be to our living God who shakes our world to make us see that which is unshakeable! It's in the midst of that shaking that you will discover an unshakeable reality within you that continues to desire God ... and this abiding reality is that which will confirm to you that essence of your true life: Christ.