“16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.”
“18 But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses. 19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these.”
“Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” Now we’re dealing with the very essence of sanctification, the very heart of Christian living. And our responsibility is summed up in verse 16, “let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.” There are foundational reasons why this is critical.
We face a great challenge, because even though we have been justified, and even though we have been regenerated, and even though we’re a new creation and we have a new life and new affections and new longings and new desires, the flesh is still there. We haven’t yet reached our glorification; not until then will we be free from the sinful impulses that remain in our fallen humanity.
So as believers in Jesus Christ, we need to clearly understand the dynamics of what’s going on in our lives. And what we learned is that there is a standard that has been set for us by God as to how we are to live as believers. And at the same time, we fight against our remaining flesh to try to come close to that standard. In Matthew 5 our Lord says, “Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
God will always affirm the absolute holy standard as His only acceptable standard. That is why we have to receive full righteousness from Jesus’ righteousness. And even in our sanctification, living our Christian lives, that standard doesn’t drop. Now that you’re a Christian, God is still making commands. But there is grace for us, there is mercy for us. We go to the throne of that grace in time of need.
Beginning in 1 Peter 1:13, God gives us a call for holy living, “So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world.” Live according to divine priorities, and look for the day when we leave this world and enter into the presence of Christ. Verse 14, “So you must live as God’s obedient children.”
“Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. 15 But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. 16 For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” And that is taken from the book of Leviticus. God cannot set a standard lower than His own standard of holiness.
Verse 17 says, “And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time here as “temporary residents.” We are to live in the fear of God. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. We are to pursue holiness at the divine level.
And in verse 22 we read, “You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart.” Now these two things sum up the command for the Christian: perfect love and perfect holiness. We are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.
On our own, we cannot attain that standard. We know that, because in our flesh we are weak and have only disobedience and death. And yet this standard is established as the standard by which we are to live. And our only hope for coming anywhere near that standard is to walk by the Spirit, and that’s what we learn in Galatians 5. The law offers no help. The law does not empower anyone, it is weak.
Romans 8:3-4, “So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. 4 He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.”
Receiving the Holy Spirit occurs at salvation. 1 Corinthians 12 talks about the fact that when you are saved, Christ takes you by the power of the Holy Spirit, places you into the body, and then places the Holy Spirit in you to live in you. As we learned in Galatians, if the Holy Spirit is in you, then the Father is in you, and the Son is in you also, because God is one and indivisible.
The mystery of the Trinity is that God Himself in His fullness dwells in every believer. This is the only way we can live the Christian life. Galatians 5:16, “Let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.” The only way that you overcome your fleshly desires is by walking in the power of the Spirit. Live one step at a time following the path the Spirit lays out.
What we’re seeing in the ministry of the Holy Spirit is this: you walk in the Spirit when you go the path that the Spirit is moving in. And the path that the Spirit is moving in is the path of divine revelation, it’s the will of God. So that’s why we read in Ephesians 5:18, “Be filled with the Spirit,” And the parallel passage, Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.”
So as the Word pours into your life and begins to control your behavior, under the power of the Word and by the power of the Holy Spirit, you walk in the way of the Holy Spirit. It isn’t something you feel. I have never felt God’s presence. But what I know is that the Spirit dwells in me because I love the Lord. I love the Father, I love the Son and I love Holy Spirit, and that is foreign to my fallen flesh.
Not only that, I desire to worship God, to please God, to honor God and to serve God. I love the gospel, I desire to proclaim the gospel. I desire to see people saved by the gospel. I have the longing to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love others as I love myself. Those are the impulses that indicate the Spirit of God dwells in me. And that is the essence of the Christian life.
If you don’t know what the Word of God teaches, you’re very limited, because you don’t know the path that the Spirit has laid out. That is why Jesus said, “You’re sanctified by the truth; and Your Word is truth.” As you know the Word, as the Word dominates your life, then the Spirit of God prompts you to move in the direction of what Scripture says. So reading and contemplating the Word is a necessity.
And if you do this for a long time, your involuntary reactions become biblical. You’re dominated by the Word of God to the point you think biblically, which means you have the mind of Christ; and the Spirit of God leads you down the path of obedience to Him. Your mind is influenced by those portions of Scripture that speak to you. So this is what it means to walk by the Spirit.
So, here’s the problem. God’s standard is high, and we are still fleshly. We have not yet received the redemption of the body, we still have our fallen flesh. So the challenge then is, “How do we live an overcoming life? How do we live a triumphant life? How do we live a joy-filled life? How do we get out of the deeds of the flesh, in verse 19 to 21, into the fruit of the Spirit?”
Verses 17 and 18 say, “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 18 But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the Law of Moses.”
When God unleashes His judgment on a culture or on a society, one of the first things you will see is a sexual revolution. God turns them over to the lusts of their hearts, to impurity to dishonor their bodies. Wherever you see a culture with a sexual revolution Romans 1:25 was followed, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the things God created rather than the Creator himself.”
Verse 26-27, “That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. 27 And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.”
What is the contrast between the deeds of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit? Verses 19-21, “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these.” This is just a representative list.
Now Paul divides the sins into four categories. First category is sin that defiles the individual, sexual sin. And he begins with immorality, impurity, and sensuality. These are characteristic of every human being’s evil desire. And when a society allows them to run amuck and rejects God, they are multiplied exponentially. God’s judgment is to pull back divine restraint and let the society become what it wants.
The first word is “immorality,” or ‘porneia’ from which the word “pornography” comes. This word means any illicit sexual behavior. It would be inclusive of adultery, premarital sexual activity, homosexuality, bestiality, incest, prostitution and pedophilia. Any and all sexually deviant behaviors are encompassed in this word “immorality.” This is a work of the flesh, not a work of the Spirit.
The second word is “impurity,” or “uncleanness.” This defines immorality by another word but the meaning is the same. Then then word “sensuality.” It means without restraint, without limits. This is what the flesh produces. It will defile the individual from the inside, and particularly do so in a sexual way. There are more words here that have more to do with ignoring God and focusing on self.
So in verse 20, “idolatry.” The flesh will develop other gods. The flesh will make you worship something, someone, some event, some act, some experience, some hobby, some form of entertainment, more than you worship God. The greatest immoral act is to reject the true God. This encompasses any kind of false religion or any other idol that you might invent in your life.
Now there is another word “sorcery.” Drugs were associated with ancient religions. There were all kinds of shaman and witches that were always dispensing potions of one kind or another. The flesh will chase you down the path of occult false religion; where fallen angels can make you think that you’ve connected at a transcendent level, and start to worshipping demons.
The flesh will not only corrupt your own life, it corrupts all other human relations. Example: Hostility and quarreling. So what is natural to the flesh is for you to hate by nature. It’s the opposite of love; and this word has the idea of hostility. It’s a kind of hate that is hostile. And it’s a plural use of the word, we are marked by all kinds of hatreds. There are hatreds at every level for almost every occasion.
We are also marked by “jealousy,” this is actually anger. This is anger produced by hate, anger exacerbated by fighting and quarreling. And, finally, “outbursts of anger.” All four of those have to do with anger. And the outbursts of anger just means exploding anger. Selfish ambition is also part of our flesh. And what happens is life is characterized by dissention and by divisions. That’s what flesh produces.
And the flesh will also defile relations to alcohol. Verse 21, “drunkenness.” This is connected to public orgies, like those at the Temple of Bacchus. You know, humanity is depraved. And without the gospel and without the power of the Holy Spirit, this is where people live. No wonder they hate the Bible. Fights, anger, hatred and jealousy are now common in our culture.
Verse 21 ends with, “Anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” It is not what you profess, it is how you behave. That’s why the Bible says men are going to be judged on their works, because their works are the evidence of their nature, if that’s what you do. Notice the end of verse 21, “those who live that sort of life,” which means an unbroken pattern. People who behave continually like that are doomed.
If you were left to your own flesh, you couldn’t please God, even if He gave you the law. A person who is completely under the control of the flesh does not have the power to keep any of them, because the flesh is weak, and the law gives no power at all. On the other hand, the Spirit restrains that flesh so that we want to do the will of God. And we’ll look at the fruit of the Spirit next Sunday. Let us pray.