Each of us is engaged in the battle of our lifetime. Our natural impulses pull at us. Our higher nature, the spiritual one, informs us of better choices. Those two are in perpetual conflict (Galatians 5:16-25), and the outcome of that fight affects everything. There is a long string of evidences that reveal which one has the upper hand, and they are signs of the ultimate destination that awaits our souls.
It is a simple understanding of the exclusionary nature of each. We live according to one or the other at every step. We cannot walk by both any more than we can simultaneously go north and south. Fleshly steps are much easier to take. Do whatever feels best, offers the fewest challenges and has the heaviest traffic. We simply go with the flow.
The higher road is governed by different principles. The spiritual route is rarely the easiest. It challenges us to overcome our feelings and emotions. There is little congestion along the way. There is no traffic backup on the entry ramp. It is tight and narrow. Excess baggage has to be left behind. Bitterness, anger and revenge must be removed. Sin is no longer a viable option.
Role models are rare. As much as leaders are needed, they are few and far between. That is why we search the pages of the gospels to find the footprints of Jesus. The Son of God showed us the way. We will never measure up, but we have high aspirations. He experienced perpetual interruptions and took unexpected turns. He butted heads with His religious contemporaries and embraced the untouchables. He leads. We follow. It is a remarkable journey for those who dare.
It all begins with a decision, “If anyone wishes to come after me… (Luke 9:23).” The choice is ours. He will not force anyone, but He does lay down the conditions that are necessary if we decide to come after Him. We are easily distracted. That old serpent still dangles forbidden fruit before us. It looks tasty and promises much but yields a harvest of life-damaging consequences. It ultimately closes the door to paradise for those who are deceived into taking a bite.
The first hurdle to be cleared for those who want to follow the Lord is self, “…he must deny himself…” We all have our fleshly wants and wishes that we want to indulge. Pleasure lures us into immorality or pain pushes us into violence. Forgiveness feels impossible when we have been terribly wronged. We are battered and bruised. Hopes die. Dreams are crushed. Careers fail. We are angry and want to take our hurt out on someone. Self-denial is tough business. No to self. No to the flesh. It is a nonnegotiable. To follow Jesus and walk by the Spirit we must. The decision is which road we will take. That affects everything and takes us to an eternal destination.