Walking by the Spirit
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” – Galatians 5:16
This past Sunday was Pentecost Sunday when we celebrate God sending His Spirit to dwell among us and in us. It is the Holy Spirit who opens our hearts and minds to hear and understand God’s Word. It is the Holy Spirit who works in the hearts of people to create faith. And it is the Holy Spirit who then lives in us as redeemed followers of Jesus Christ. As such, we are no longer slaves to our sinful flesh, rather we are alive in the Spirit.
In Galatians 5 the Scriptures warn us against the works of the flesh and tells us about the fruit of the Spirit. When we think about the sinful desires of our sinful flesh and how God warns us not to indulge in them, it can quickly turn our lives into a massive, unending effort to avoid those sins and produce the fruit of the Spirit. It creates a tiring life that often leads to despair as we continue to give in to our sinful desires.
However, it’s telling that the sinful desires are called “works” and the good things of the Spirit are called “fruit”. We don’t produce the fruit, the Spirit does. This changes how we understand these passages from Galatians. No longer are they about our efforts, but rather, the work of God.
Martin Luther wrote about this:
“When someone becomes aware of this battle of the flesh, he should not lose heart on this account; but by the Spirit he should fight back and say: ‘I am a sinner, and I am aware of my sin; for I have not yet put off my flesh, to which sin will cling as long as it lives. But I will obey the Spirit rather than the flesh. That is, by faith and hope I will take hold of Christ. I will fortify myself with His Word, and thus fortified I will refuse to gratify the desires of the flesh.”
In verse 16 the Scriptures put it this way, “walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” It is not by our efforts to avoid sin that we won’t gratify the desires of the flesh, it by turning to God by the power of the Holy Spirit and clinging to the wonderful promise we have in Jesus. Instead of a life of unending effort and despair, this is a life of peace and rest and hope.