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Flesh vs spirit | Johnny Mairs

Paul writes in Galatians 5:13-14: You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge in the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.

And a verse later he writes:

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 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. (Galatians 5:16-17).

Firstly the flesh…

The modern world tells us to create our own beliefs, live how we want to live, create and follow our own rules. “Just do it” or “you do you” or “follow your heart” - these imply you can live how you want to live and do whatever you want. The sinful desires of the heart, for example being judgemental to friends, drinking too much, putting God in the “backseat”; not reading our Bibles and watching Netflix instead or forgetting devotions because we were busy watching football on TV. These are short term attempts to satisfy our desires. But ultimately these desires will not satisfy our souls. John Mark Comer in his book Live No Lies (highly recommended!) states that our strongest desires are not always our deepest desires. Instead what does Galatians say? We were called to be free and live by the Spirit!

The word “flesh” in Greek is “sarx” which refers to the sinful state of human beings- our primal instincts for self-gratification, our need for pleasure in general, our need for domination and control. These needs are the opposite of love which requires to give rather than to take, and we are told to serve one another humbly in love which often at times can be difficult. Later on Paul describes the flesh as “sinful passions or corrupt desires”. The Bible lists several acts of the flesh such as: sexual immorality, impurity, idolatry, jealously and drunkeness. People who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. However, wait for the good news.

Moving onto the Spirit…

Every time we meet with the Holy Spirit, every time we invest ourselves in God, we become more like Christ. This should be our desire, our goal. When facing our desires we can ask the question: “Will this desire enable me to become more like Christ?”

If you have given your life to Jesus Christ God now lives within you by His Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-25 says:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against things there are no such law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passion and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

These fruits are available. God wants to give us them.

How to start living by the Spirit:

  1. Crucifiy our flesh - this is how we fight our flesh. When we sow to the flesh, in other words give into our desires, it robs us of our freedom. Therefore: do not give into the desires of the flesh, control them and put them to death. Example: If you know that scrolling through Instagram will increase lust, DELETE IT- not just “I’ll unfollow this model and that will do’.

  2. Keep in step with the spirit - walk, live and be led by the Spirit, through it’s Power. How? Turn to Jesus. Spend time in His word and in prayer. Take practical steps to reduce temptations in your life.

This begs the question how should we deal with temptation?

  1. Recognise temptation and label sin for sin

  2. Flee from temptation-God gives us a way out of temptation

  3. Learn from it- recognise what your weaknesses are and invite God for His power to overcome them

  4. When we fail, ask for God’s forgiveness and restoration

Billy Graham says that we must take particular caution when confusing our own desires with the Holy Spirit’s prompting. To grow we still need to pray, study God’s Word, consider our circumstances, and have other godly men/women close by- something which has helped me greatly.

The good news is that God sent Jesus Christ to defeat sin, to overcome it. We are no longer slaves to sin! Not only did He come to forgive us, He came to free us from sin’s power and transform us by His Spirit.

When preparing this blog I was reminded of the song Battle Belongs by Phil Wickham, with some of the Lyrics:

So when I fight, I’ll fight on my knees

With my hands lifted high

Oh God, the battle belongs to You

And every fear I lay at Your feet

I’ll sing through the night

Oh God, the battle belongs to You

Almighty fortress,You go before us

Nothing can stand against the power of our God

You shine in the shadow, You win every battle

Nothing can stand against the power of our God

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