I have previously been taught that the struggle against our flesh was something like having a white dog (God's spirit) and a black dog (our flesh) both living in the same kennel (ourselves). They are mortal enemies and are fighting all the time, but only the one that you feed will win. So, although you have these two fighting, it is your decision who wins. At first this sounds very reasonable, but as I tried to just feed the white dog by doing what was right, my black dog overpowered the white dog and effectively stole its food.
In more spiritual terms: no matter how hard I tried to do what was right according to the new spirit God had given me, my flesh still won at least ninety percent of the time. Even a non-Christian can do what is right ten percent of the time. How then, was my belief in Jesus helping me or making me any different than the rest of the world? The only difference that I could see was that I knew what was right so I had more guilt when I failed. I had no peace and no joy, and when I was really honest with myself, I wasn't sure if I loved God like I professed.
I obviously had some skewed ideas of God. First, I used to believe that God loved me unconditionally but He also wanted me to know that I was just a worm in the dirt and I had better be grateful that He took notice of me. I now believe that this mindset was a tactic of Satan's, ninety percent of the truth and ten percent deadly lie. Have I done anything to deserve God's love? No. But neither has a new born baby done anything to deserve its parent's love. God really does love me unconditionally as parents love their children. There is nothing that I can do that will change His abundant love for me in any way.
Second, I thought that God expected me to live up to the law. I understood that I was not under all the rituals and sacrifices of the Mosaic law. But there is a law in the New Testament. Jesus says things like, "You have heard . . . 'You shall not commit murder.' . . . "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty . . . whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. (Matthew 5:21-22) and other verses such as "But as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy . . . " (1 Peter 1:15)
Needless to say I failed again and again. Satan used John 14:15 "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." to accuse me that I did not love God because I failed. He also used a skewed version of Philippians 4:13, something like, "I can do all things." to remind me that God said I could do it, but that I just wasn't trying hard enough. I always felt guilty, and yet I came to a place where I knew I could try no harder. I was defeated.
I now believe that although God wants His law obeyed, He is well aware that I am incapable. In fact, that is why He created the law, to drive me to total dependence on Him. I now read Philippians 4:13 something like this, "Without Christ I can do nothing, not even tie my own shoes, but if I trust that Christ is living in me then my body is consequently capable of doing everything that Christ is capable of doing." It is no longer a matter of obedience for me, Christ in me is the one who will handle the obedience, for me it is a matter of belief. It is not just a belief in God, which is something demons have as well, "You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder." (James 2:19) I believe God. I believe everything that He tells me. Demons do not share this belief, they believe God is a liar.
"What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be!" (Romans 6:1-2) Let's imagine for a minute that your dad is perfect, he has always loved you perfectly and you have never had even the slightest reason to distrust him. You have such a good relationship with him that even when he tells you things that you don't understand you believe him explicitly. You are young enough that you do not understand fire but you have figured out how to strike a match. So you strike a match and are fascinatedly watching it burn towards your fingers. You are inexperienced and have not figured out that it is heading towards you fingers, nor are you aware that it will hurt when it gets there. It is just a pretty, harmless toy to you, no different in your mind than many others that your father has given you.
Your father walks into the room, quickly takes in the situation and your inexperience, and tells you to drop the match. First, you are so excited that he is in the room that the match is no longer interesting. Second, you love to have an opportunity to obey him. Now, are you going to fight with him about why you should drop the match? Is it going to be a big internal struggle for you to obey? I don't think so. Does he mean for you to do exactly what he said? Of course. Are you still perfectly free to disobey him? Yes.
Jesus living in me and acting through me has not abolished temptation in my life. Neither has He made it impossible for me to sin, nor made me into a person with no weakness. But, as I learn to trust Him, and relax in the knowledge of His goodness, sin has lost its desirability to me. Guilt, when I fail in the moment to act according to what He tells me, is no longer an issue either. I believe that His blood has covered all my sin, past present and future. He does not sanction or gloss over any of my sin, but it does not come between us. He has already forgiven and atoned for all of it.
When He reveals sin, that I had not recognized before, I confess it, agreeing with Him that this action was indeed sin against Him. Then I drop it, and tell Him, reminding myself at the same time, that my fighting cannot conquer this sin, and I will be a slave to it unless He keeps me.
This does not nullify Romans 8:13. "For if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live." (Romans 8:13) We must have total reliance on God in us. The Spirit does not help us to put off the deeds of the body, that implies that it is a team effort - that the Spirit, as part of the team, needs our help, as the other part of the team. The Spirit does it for us, because we are totally helpless.
Galatians 5:16, is not nullified either. "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." It does not say fight against the lust of the flesh, or fight to walk in the Spirit, nor is there any mention of prolonged struggle. It says, walk in the Spirit. If Jesus abides in you, then I'm not sure how you could walk in anything but the Spirit.
This is an imperfect description of something I imperfectly understand. But, mine and Gracie's point is that our struggling to Do Hard Things, our struggling against our flesh, will never accomplish the righteousness of God. If it could, then there was no need for Jesus to die.
I am going to include some of the people that Gracie and I have heard this teaching from. These people have been studying and living what they teach a lot longer than I have, however, I do not necessarily agree with everything they might say.
Paul Anderson-Walsh at http://www.thegraceproject.com/grace_audio_messages.html I particularly recommend The Pathway-an introduction into Freedom in Christ series.
Bill Gillham, particularly his book: Lifetime Guarantee