But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
When I was a kid we had a big, untrained dog named Bear. This Australian Shepherd mix was aptly named (in my eyes anyway). I was only an eight year old boy at the time and Bear was much bigger and stronger than me, so my feelings toward him were a mixture of love and fear. Any time I tried to take him for a walk Bear would see something worth chasing and tear off after it. It was all I could do to hold onto his chain and get drug behind him. I simply wasn't big enough to stop him. The truth is I never walked Bear. Bear walked me.
Sadly, this is exactly how a lot of people live their lives. Only it’s not a big, untrained dog that drags them around... it’s their flesh. When our fallen, sinful nature gets a craving it simply takes off after the thing it desires. Sex, money, success, proving you were right and winning the argument. Whatever it is that the flesh wants in that moment it runs after. The problem is that all of us are like that eight year old version of me. We are being drug around like rag dolls behind our cravings. None of us are strong enough to fight the lusts of the flesh alone. We need a stronger power to pull against the flesh. A power that will ultimately overpower the flesh and put it down like the rabid dog that it is. Only then can we be truly free.
Galatians 5 tells us that this is exactly what happens in Christ. Verse 24 says, "Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." When a person declares Jesus as Lord of their life, they die to sin and they are raised up to live a new life for Christ. In this sense they participate in Jesus' death and resurrection spiritually. But how is this possible?
It happens by the supernatural work of God's Spirit who indwells believers at salvation. Once the flesh has been dealt with, the Spirit begins leading us in the way that we should go. Prompting, convicting, and directing us. Unfortunately, though the final death blow has already been landed, Christians are not completely free of their sin nature until heaven. So there is a constant tug of war going in a believer's life.
For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. (Galatians 5:17)
Thankfully, Scripture tells us what we can do to gain the victory here and now. "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16). When Christians aren’t living by the Spirit daily, when they return to their old ways of living, then they strengthen their fleshly desires. They actually join in with their flesh and fight against the Spirit of God in their hearts. But Paul shows us a better way. WALK BY THE SPIRIT! If the believer chooses to listen to the Spirit's whispered promptings day by day, if he chooses to turn his ear to God's voice, and if he sets his heart to obey the Spirit's tugs, then the great promise of verse 16 awaits him. He will no longer carry out the desires of the flesh. You don't have to taste defeat at the hands of that addiction or bad habit any more. You can finally be free of the sin that has entangled you for so long and kept you from becoming the person God is calling you to be.
So what does it mean to walk by the Spirit? It involves drawing nearer to God through things like:
- Scripture Reading- Remember that it was the Spirit who inspired the writing of the Bible and He plays a special role in illuminating it to our understanding. This is God's primary way of revealing Himself to us. Don't take it for granted. You must make time to be with the Lord, if you are to walk with Him daily.
- Prayer- And I don't mean just a one-sided conversation where you download your wish list. God placed His Spirit in believers for a reason. We have to stop and listen some. We have to tune our hearts to be sensitive to the Spirit's promptings.
- Be sensitive to God’s voice- According to John 3:4-8 & 6:44, every believer feels the tug of the Spirit when we get saved. Since we are all called to salvation, we have all felt Him move in our hearts before. It is that burning conviction in your heart and in your gut. Oftentimes you just know what it is that God is telling you to do. At other times God speaks to us through our circumstances, through opportunities that come our way or through the wise counsel of Christian friends. Of course we must always make sure to check our understanding of these leadings against Scripture. Only Scripture is inerrant.
- Be Eager to Obey what you know- We need a prepared readiness to eagerly obey whatever God leads us to do. Whether he reveals it to us through Scripture, prayer or some other means, be careful not to quench, grieve, or resist the Spirit. Step out on faith and see what God does.
Consider Paul's admonition in verse 25 as a challenge for the fast approaching new year. "If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit."