I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.
Paul tells us in Galatians 5, to walk by the Spirit. He is instructing us how it is that we are to conduct our lives, and the simple solution, as a Christian, is to walk by the Spirit.
He then contrasts that with those who walk by the flesh. He gives a list of all manner of sin that these people engage in when they walk by the flesh (see below). In other words, Paul shows us what to do by showing us what not to do. We are not to live by the flesh and its evil desires.
But here is a danger that many miss in his instructions: many believe that when walking by the Spirit, we are walking by our emotions, our inclinations, or the gentle desires of our hearts. That is not walking by the Spirit. That is what people do who walk by the flesh. To walk by the Spirit means to die to the flesh and its desires, and live according to the word of God.
As anyone who has walked by the Spirit can attest, following the word of God doesn’t always feel good. It means we have to take stands against sin that are uncomfortable. Dying to sin is never easy, nor comfortable. But that is how the Spirit would lead us if we are walking with Him.
Fortunately for us, Paul gives a clear indication of what it means to satisfy the desires of the flesh. He writes: Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
I think it’s important that Paul gives us a warning in the midst of that description of debauchery. Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. He is not saying that they might be excluded. He is saying that they will be excluded. Those who practice such evil deeds are excluded because they are not born again from above. This denial of the kingdom of heaven is very similar of what Jesus said to Nicodemus: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
The implication is that the Spirit must move in us to regenerate us and make us a new creation before we can even entertain the idea of walking with the Spirit. But as new creations, we are to be different. We are to live in light of who we really are. That doesn’t mean that we enter into a sinless life. But sin no longer rules us. And the sins listed by Paul, we want nothing to do with, even the thought of such sins. The beauty of Paul’s letter is that he gives us an alternative way to walk, or conduct our lives. As we read these words below, we can see the seems simple on the surface, but is impossible to master any of them apart from the Spirit’s power and work in our lives. Yes, he commands us to walk in the Spirit. As Christians, we have no alternative. But trying to muster up any level of effort in our flesh is counter productive in the goal. We must look to Christ, His word, and His Spirit to work in us to bring about this simplicity. That takes time and sanctification. As you read the words below, ask yourself and then ask the LORD, how are you doing?
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.