The 'Inner Zombie' of the Christian Life

You have probably noticed the fascination with zombies in American culture today. While zombies are only make-believe, they provide a powerful illustration for the Christian life.

Some people have an "inner zombie," and some people don't. And this might really blow your mind, but the people with the "inner zombie" are the Christians. The people without the "inner zombie" are the unbelievers. Let me explain.

The Bible tells us we are all born with a "sinful nature." It is rooted deep within our soul, and it contains plenty of sinful desires. That is, desires which run contrary to the will of God.

The sinful nature is alive and well within a human being up until a certain point. When a person is converted spiritually through faith in Christ, the sinful nature is "crucified" and it dies. Well, at least for the most part. You see, that nature has a way of always trying to rise back up within the believer. Hence, the "zombie" imagery.

If you are a Christian, you have an inner zombie. It is your sinful nature. It died, but somewhere along the way your inner zombie didn't get the memo. It continues to fight for life within you, kind of like a fictitious zombie might do. Even the apostle Paul had an inner zombie. He wrote, "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature." (Romans 7:18)

What about the sinful nature of an unbeliever? Well, it has not yet been crucified. It is still in control. It is still the dominant feature of the unbeliever's soul and life. A Christian, on the other hand, is now under the control of the Holy Spirit. The Bible makes that clear. "You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you." (Romans 8:9)

If the Spirit of God lives in you, then you are a believer. You are a Christian. You are born again. And you now delight in doing God's will, at least in your inner being. Your inner zombie, on the other hand, will never want to do God's will. That guy will never get any better. But that is no longer "the real you." That is your old nature. The real you is who you want to be in Christ.

Do you realize that as a believer, you don't have to give in anymore to your sinful nature? You don't have to be pushed around by your inner zombie. "We know that our old self was crucified with Him (Christ) so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin." (Romans 6:6) If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, here is some amazing news: "You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness." (Romans 6:18)

So what's your inner zombie been up to lately? What desires from your old way of living are fighting for life in your current state of affairs? What temptations are the toughest for you to resist? Be assured of this my friend. That is coming from your inner zombie. That guy died, but he is a fighter. He is persistent. And he seems to grow in strength whenever you or I say "yes" to his whining and prodding. Whenever we give into him, we always end up regretting it. He attempts to get us to do the "zombie walk" rather than sticking to our "walk with Christ."

What is a Christian to do with this guy who is always lurking in the shadows, just waiting for an opportunity to rise up within us? Here is a good approach. Just tell him "no." It's easier said than done, but by God's grace it works. "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say 'no' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age." (Titus 2:11,12)

The challenge for the believer is to fill our minds and our lives with things that are pure and holy and righteous. Otherwise, we end up giving into the desires of the sinful nature. That never satisfies us now that we are born again, and it never pleases the Lord. Before we were saved, we found some satisfaction doing those things, but not anymore. The new life in Christ is on a completely different trajectory. It doesn't find pleasure in sin. Instead, it finds pleasure in doing God's will. Only your inner zombie enjoys sinning. But remember, that is not the real you anymore. And that is why we have no peace in our heart as Christians whenever we give into our inner zombie.

It's almost like he takes over our body and mind in those moments when we allow him to get a footing once again. St. Paul understood this dynamic in a profound way. "For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it." (Romans 7:19,20)

Did you catch that? Paul didn't say, "The devil made me do it." Instead he basically said, "My inner zombie did it." Paul was not casting aside his responsibility for his own behavior. He was merely recognizing the source of those desires and the thing that prompted him to fall short of perfection in his Christian life. Paul recognized the struggle which all Christians have because he experienced it in his own life after his conversion. Prior to his conversion, his sinful nature was in control. After Paul was saved, the inner conflict began between the Holy Spirit in him and his inner zombie.

You know what this means don't you? It means that every single Christian, without exception, is "conflicted." That reality simply goes with the territory.

In fact, Paul wrote these words about this battle which every Christian experiences: "Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law." (Galatians 5:16-18)

Paul then went on to list some things that come from the sinful nature. "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." (Galatians 5:19-21)

In other words, those who continually throw themselves headfirst into sin are not saved. They are not spiritually reborn. They don't know Christ. Another way of saying it is that those who don't have an inner zombie will not go to heaven unless they repent and turn to Christ in faith. They remain under the control of their sinful nature. It is not a zombie. It is alive in them and it controls their decisions and behavior.

If you are a believer, you don't need to feel overwhelmed by the thought of your inner zombie. There is One far greater who also lives inside you. Paul stated it this way: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20) Always remember Christian that Jesus dwells within you and He will never leave you or forsake you. Your inner zombie is tenacious, but he is no match for Christ.

The bottom line for the believer is that while we need to be aware of our inner zombie, there is no good reason to spend much time thinking about him or his desires. "Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature." (Romans 13:14) The Christian life today is the same as it has been for the past 2000 years. Thinking the right thoughts continues to be a large part of discipleship.

Paul got it. He knew that his inner zombie had no control over him. And he wrote these words of encouragement to believers: "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things." (Philippians 4:8) The Holy Spirit helps us to think excellent thoughts as Christians. There is eternal victory for believers at the cross. There is eternal victory through Christ's blood for every Christian. And you, my friend, can experience daily victories over your inner zombie if you are a child of God.

The New Testament is filled with references to our inner zombie, as well as our new life in Christ. "You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." (Ephesians 4:22-24)

If you are not sure whether or not you have an inner zombie, ask yourself if the real you enjoys sinning against God. If you do, then you do not have an inner zombie. That guy is not dead in you, but alive and well. He is in control. The only way this will change is for him to be crucified. And the only way for that to happen is for you to repent of your sin and believe in the One who was crucified on a cross for your salvation. Christ rose from the dead, and the new life in Christ can rise in your soul as well.

It's true that accepting Jesus will "bring out the inner zombie in you," but it's far better than the alternative. At least then that guy has been crucified with Christ. That death takes place at the moment of spiritual conversion. Without conversion, the old nature simply remains large and in charge. He must die in us so that Christ may live in us.

Only God can turn a person into a "new creation" through faith in Christ. (2 Cor. 5:17) Then and only then will we be able to say with the apostle Paul, "For in my inner being I delight in God's law." (Romans 7:22) That is, I love to please the Lord now that my sins are forgiven and my sinful nature has been crucified. It is this desire to live for Jesus which only comes after the miracle of the new birth.

So are you born again, or is your life still under the control of your sinful nature?

Dan Delzell is the pastor of Wellspring Lutheran Church in Papillion, Neb. He is a regular contributor to The Christian Post.

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