By: Bob Smithouser
A number of years ago I satisfied an unfulfilled childhood urge by adopting a pair of baby iguanas. Liberty and Justice were about the same age and size when they arrived at their new home and, like any good father of two, I did my best to treat them equally. They scampered around the same 55-gallon aquarium. They drank from the same water dish. They soaked in warmth from the same hot rock and heat lamp. A Vita-Lite® lamp shone on both. In short, my leathery pals shared an identical environment. There was just one noticeable difference in their lifestyles: diet.
While Liberty consumed fruit, vegetables and various forms of protein, Justice was a very picky eater with a meager appetite. Consequently, Liberty grew bigger and stronger—a richly colored, muscular animal. But lacking proper nutrition, Justice became more lethargic. She got thinner and assumed a paler shade of green. He matured. She wilted like a flower deprived of sunlight. From that point on, if Liberty wanted to bask on the hot rock, he commandeered it. If he chose to drink, Justice had to get out of his way. It was only a matter of time before Justice’s poor diet (aggravated by Liberty’s bullying) led to her death, leaving one healthy iguana to rule the aquarium.
This tale of two lizards serves as an illustration of the inner conflict facing Christians. Within each of us dwells two natures: the flesh and the spirit (Ephesians 2:1-3, Galatians 5:16-17, John 3:6). They share the same environment. Same body. Identical eyes, ears and other senses.
And like reptilian roommates, these two human natures, by definition, become territorial. Even adversarial. Each wants to rule the “aquarium” of our hearts and minds. The one that eats best will be the one that thrives. But keep in mind that the dietary preferences of the spirit and flesh are quite different from one another.
The spirit is nourished by Bible study, prayer, Christian fellowship and serving others. According to Galatians 5:22-23, this holy regimen results in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. It is to that end that God calls His children to engage in Spirit-led (Spirit-fed) living (Romans 13:14, John 6:63, Ephesians 4:22-24, Hebrews 5:14).
However, the flesh has an appetite for junk food: movie scenes of a sexual nature, violent video games, television programs filled with profanity, perversity and graphic violence; songs celebrating rebellion, drug use, casual sex or skewed theology. Christians have both natures at war within them, fighting for control. As one prospers and grows to dominance, the other nature, deprived of the food that fuels its development, withers.
The apostle Paul knew this internal struggle well (Romans 7:14-25), yet many teens don’t understand its impact on daily decision-making and overall spiritual health. Of those who do, a large percentage is tempted to compromise, confident that they’re strong enough to resist the Enemy’s snares.
Think about this scenario: Two teen guys. Same age. Similar home and school environments. One avoids all entertainment of a sexually perverse nature. The other dabbles in internet porn. Which young man is more likely to see his spiritual nature grow strong? How about the young people in yourlife? Which nature will dominate the “aquarium” of their hearts and minds? In the daily battle between flesh and spirit, it’s winner take all.