16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.
These are what I consider my favorite verses in Scripture. I even submitted them as my “life verses” as a part of our graduation information for Bible School. Honestly, until you fully grasp these verses I don’t think you’ll be able to truly understand and experience the Christian life.
The first promise here is that if you are walking by the Spirit you will not be gratifying yourself in sin. Paul says the reason this happens is because the Spirit naturally wants what is contrary to the flesh. So is Paul telling the truth here? Well, technically. The Spirit (who is God) will always direct you to follow what is in Scripture. So if you are walking by the Spirit, and actually obeying Him, then you’re going to be doing the right things and avoiding sin. Paul says it outright: the Spirit desires what is contrary to the flesh. So technically if you are obedient to the Spirit then you will enjoy a life that isn’t characterized by habitual sin. Isn’t that awesome!??!?
This seems fine and dandy, I mean Paul just told you how to never sin! However, upon further examination we can see that though it IS a route to not sinning… it is coupled with a warning. There is a war waging daily, moment by moment within us. YEAH the Spirit will desire to NOT walk in the way our flesh does however our flesh has a pretty heavy priority when it comes to preference. We all want to pretend we have our flesh completely in control but if that were so then we could just choose to walk by the Spirit and it would all be perfect! However, that isn’t the case. Isn’t that the whole reason we are struggling with sin in the first place? So Paul is essentially saying “Hey if you want to stop wanting sin then simply choose to stop choosing sin.” What?!?
Well yeah, we said it a few days ago and now we are seeing the verses that are building this foundational belief: the only power sin has on you is that of habit. Our first truth we can get from these verses (yeah we are going to be here a few days) is:
1)Sin is a choice, kinda. There is a choice here, it just isn’t when you think it is. Paul has stated that we are to walk by the Spirit (indicating a choice) and we will not sin. Notice Paul doesn’t say thought “choose not to gratify the flesh and you will be walking with the Spirit.” NO! Instead he says that by choosing to walk by the Spirit, choosing to be obedient to God will LEAD to not sinning. The result of ‘lack of sin’ is not produced by us gritting our teeth and fixing our habits of yielding to the flesh. Instead, a ‘lack of sin’ is produced when we habitually make a decision to be in step with the Spirit. The choice to not sin IS within our realm of decision but the issue is that we think the choice happens when the temptation comes. However, reality is that we cannot hope to train for this war by waiting until receiving fire and hoping we will function under stress. Instead, we are called to walk by the Spirit; this means we are to be daily making choices. Our choice isn’t to NOT sin, it’s to LISTEN to the Spirit. Our choice is made long before the option to sin enters. The choice happens in training, inn the day to day moments (commonplace).
Walking by the Spirit means communicating with Him constantly, asking for guidance, direction, revelation about our circumstances. We must CHOOSE to be walking intimately with the Spirit long before temptation so that we can not only train ourselves to hear Him speak but also to train ourselves to be obedient. Walking by the Spirit, listening to Him on a moment by moment basis is the cornerstone to being able to hear Him during crisis and TRUSTING HIM instead of our flesh. This is hard at first because we’ve been training ourselves to be “self controlled” our entire lives. We have been training to hear our flesh speak and listen (usually about good things like eating etc.). So we have to rebuild this habit. We have to retrain our will to hear Him speak and know that He is telling the Truth and that our flesh is lying…
You are building some sort of habit, whether it be listening to the Spirit or listening to your flesh. One (walking with the Spirit) is a choice which can be practiced in the commonplace (normal day to day activities) the other happens on the battle field (in the middle of temptation). However, if you make the wrong decisions in the commonplace by ignoring the Spirit and keeping Him uninvolved you will undoubtedly make the wrong decisions on the battle field. We must practice our choice not to sin by choosing righteousness long before we are tempted.
We will continue this tomorrow 🙂
Oh Lord, the war is raging. The war is raging within me and I know that I am powerless in my own strength to win. I know that You have already defeated sin. You have gained victory over all of this. Help me to trust You now! When my flesh is gaining victory over my mind, help me to hear You speaking Truth. When sin looks appealing and all that is naturally within me desires to be drawn to it, break my focus with Your voice. Tune my heart to Your Word. Amen.
There’s a lot of practical lessons here that can be shared easily. The simple fact is this: you are building habits one way or another. Either you are building a habit of yielding to the flesh (sin) or to the Spirit. You can be teaching this to kids, adults, dogs, anything that will listen! Begin showing people how we are creatures of habit and how that can be used to orient us towards righteousness or wickedness.