A Native American Elder once described his own inner struggles in this manner:
“Inside of me, there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time.” When asked which dog wins, he reflected for a moment and replied,
“The one I feed the most.”
This is a simple illustration yet astounding, how much truth is contained in this story. Everyone is born with the moral struggle of conscience. Right and wrong constantly opposing each other; an inside struggle both battling for supremacy and rule. Jesus spoke of the “evil dog” being fed first on the inside and its outward manifestations in Mark 7:20-23. “And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.”
One can be a good moral person and feed the “good dog” with charity, kindness, good works, community service, humanitarian efforts and even church attendance but the “bad dog” still wins! Listen to this… “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven… Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:21-23). God labels ALL their perceived good deeds as “iniquity.” You must first be born again (reborn unto spiritual things) – made alive and indwelt by the Holy Spirit to produce good works that are recognized by God! This quickening produces repentance toward God from sin and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ; it is essentially agreeing with God as the forever Holy and Righteous One. It is acknowledging that God would be justified in sending all men to an eternity in Hell for the actions of the “evil dog”. Jesus, by His virgin birth and sinless life, shed His innocent blood that you might have the opportunity to cry out to God for forgiveness. Jesus spoke these words of Himself in John 14:6 that He is the [only] way, the [only] truth, and the [only] life and no one has the ability to reach God but through me. Jesus came into this world from heaven to save His people from their sins! He said “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous [those that think they have done a good job feeding the good dog on their own], but sinners [those that recognize they choose to feed the evil dog] to repentance” (Mark 2:7).
Even after salvation and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, there is still a spiritual battle between the flesh and the Spirit; the “evil dog” and the “good dog” now controlled by a new Master (the Holy Ghost). Just because we are a new creation in Christ does not mean the “evil dog” (referred to in the Bible as “the old man” or “the flesh”) has been eliminated. “The heart is deceitful above ALL things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). As long as we are in this world the struggle to feed the “evil dog” is ongoing. However, in the “new man” the “good dog” has supernatural strength (assisted by the power of the Holy Spirit). The more we feed the “good dog” the diet God’s Word requires, we can overcome the “evil dog” and his master – the wicked one!
In Ephesians 4:22-32, Paul tell us to “put off” (stop feeding) concerning the former conversation (previous conduct of) the old man (the evil dog – which is a destroyer by concealing or misrepresenting the truth through our fleshly desires)… And look at the list we as Christians are to “put off” (25-31)! Lying, anger (which can give a stronghold to Satan, the master of the mean dog), theft, evil speech, rage, holding grudges, loud verbal disrespect, hatred to injure. All these things grieve the Holy Spirit now residing inside of us. Then Paul tells us to “put on” (feed the good dog) righteousness and holiness by renewing the thought processes (vs. 23-24). This starts by simply being kind one to another, having a tender heart toward fellow believers and most importantly forgiving one another (which Paul reminds us of how much we have been forgiven by God through the work of His son).