The Battle between Flesh and the Spirit

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would. But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law. – Galatians 5:16-18

Last Saturday Night, I had the chance to attend CCF-Alabang Singles Connect’s PUSH (Pray Until Something Happens). But before I made the decision to attend the service, there were a lot of inner battles between my mind and heart. First, I only had 500php left in my wallet and I still had one week before payday. If I was going to attend, it was going to cost me a lot in transportation (Biñan to Alabang and vice versa). Second, I was afraid that other people were going to judge me since I haven’t been attending the Church’s services for quite some time.

As I assessed myself based on these concerns, I realized that I was deciding and acting in line with my emotions and the wants of my flesh versus the Spirit. There are a lot of instances I have failed with my commitments, not because I meant to do it, but because at the moment when I declared my “YES”, my spirit was on a high, and my heart was set on doing it. Even when everything seems to be in order, there’s no assurance that I’ll end up doing it when my emotions strikes. Sometimes, I end up doing it out of pride, since I don’t want anyone to judge me as a man who’s not true to his commitments. Even then, I end up doing it unwillingly. Not keeping true to my commitments, money struggles, and judgment from others are just some of the examples of my inner battles between flesh and spirit. Our life is a constant battle and we really need to be led by the Spirit and not just by our own strength.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. – Ephesians 6:12

Here are the two simple truths that God revealed to me during my personal devotion on Galatians 5:16-18

A. Walk by the Spirit

Actually, “walk by the Spirit” would be a more literal translation of Paul’s command in verse 16. The command to walk in a certain way speaks of choosing a way of life or we might say a “lifestyle,” as long as we realize that what Paul has in mind is more than a matter of outward style. His command speaks of a way of living in which all aspects of life are directed and transformed by the Spirit. So, what does it really mean to “walk by the Spirit?”

There are two other meaning in the context which shed light in the meaning of “walk by the spirit”.

First: vs. 18 “But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law”

In the context, Paul used the passive voice (if you are led), he didn’t said that “if you follow the spirit”. Paul emphasizes the Spirit’s work, not ours. Spirit is not like a lane in the highway that you need to stay only on your lane to keep you safe, but the spirit is like a locomotive train that it will direct you wherever you will go. We do not follow in our strength. We are led by his power. So “walk by the Spirit” means stay hooked up to the divine source of power and go wherever he leads.

Second: vs. 22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,”

The second image of our walk in the Spirit is in verse 22: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, etc.” If our Christian walk is to be a walk of love and joy and peace, then “walk by the Spirit” must mean “bear the fruit of the Spirit.” But again, the Spirit’s work is emphasized, not ours. He bears the fruit. Perhaps Paul got this image from Jesus. John 15:4-5 says “Abide in me, and I in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit.” So “walk by the Spirit” means “abide in the vine.” Keep yourself securely united to the living Christ. Don’t cut yourself off from the flow of the Spirit.

B. Confidence in the Spirit

In verse 17 Paul explains the basis of his confidence in the Spirit. He describes the war between the flesh and the Spirit and the result of that war. The Spirit and the sinful nature are two hostile forces opposed to each other: the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other. So walking by the Spirit means fighting in a war between the Spirit and the sinful nature. The connection between verse 16 and verse 17 indicates that those who live by the Spirit are not neutral in this war. They are committed to fight on the side of the Spirit against the desires of the sinful nature.

This inner spiritual warfare is the nature of the Christian life; it is the experience of all those who live by the Spirit. The conflict Paul is describing here is not the moral conflict that everyone feels at some time, nor the conflict of a wayward Christian who is no longer committed to Christ. This is the conflict of a thoroughly committed Christian who is choosing each day to “walk by the Spirit.” Each day the Christian who chooses to walk by the Spirit is engaged in a fierce battle between the Spirit and the sinful nature. It is important to stress this point, because many Christians feel ashamed to admit that they are experiencing such a conflict. They feel that mature Christians should somehow be above this kind of struggle. They imagine that the great saints were surely too spiritual to feel the desires of the flesh. When everything just seems crumbling down, products like can be availed.

In conclusion, if today, the Spirit is leading you to forgive your sister or brother who hurt you instead of being resentful towards him/her, you are under the control of the Spirit.

Christian life is not easy, it is impossible. It sounds trite but it’s true. You have to deny yourself over and over again and obey God even if it hurts. And in the end, the joy that it brought to you out of obeying God was priceless. Life by the Spirit involves active obedience to the direction of the Spirit, constant warfare against the desires of the sinful nature by the power of the Spirit and complete submission to the control of the Spirit. Such a life will be an experience of freedom from the control of the sinful nature and the control of the law.

Author: Vinz

Vinz is a part-time travel blogger, part-time digital marketing specialist, and full-time dreamer. He loves the photographic medium for expressing what he loves about life. He always finds himself lost during travel. But he loves unfamiliar territories and finding his way around. Aside from his taste for adventure, he loves two things while traveling - meeting new friends and food.

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