Walk By The Spirit
And You Will Not Gratify The Desires Of The Sinful Nature
Key verse 5:16
“So I say, live [walk] by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”
In Galatians 5:13 Paul tells us “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” We have been given freedom— set free— in Christ by what Christ has done for us through his death and resurrection. But this freedom that we have been given is not so that we might indulge the “flesh” or the sinful nature. Rather Paul tells us how Christians ought to use their freedom. Actually, we are commanded on how to use the freedom that we received through Christ. He tells us: “serve one another in love.” He also defines the magnitude of this love in verse 14, and radicalizes it by saying “Love … as you love yourself.” That is what we ought to do with the freedom we have been given. Loving the other with the same love we have for ourselves. Having as much concern for the wellbeing and happiness and blessing of others as I would have for myself. Serving others from the moment I wake up in the morning till the time I go to sleep with the same passion and zeal that I have in serving myself. This is radical indeed. And not an option either. It is not a command that I can take or leave. But to love you like this is absolutely beyond my ability and power. Yet this is the Christian life I am called to live. So the question is how can I do it when I know that within me I have no power to do it?
So Paul does not leave us in the dark. Look at verse 16. A better translation to this verse is like this: “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature,” “Walk by the Spirit” is the answer to the question of “How can I love and serve as God would have me love and serve others when I am helpless to do it on my own.” This becomes the light that shines on the Christian’s heart— the secret— of following the command to love others. Of course, we love and serve because this is what we have been called to do. When Christ set us free— it was a freedom to love as God would have us love. It was a freedom to go ahead and to live out the purpose of our lives, especially in loving others— so that— we might fulfill our purpose in bearing the good fruit that God wants us to bear in our lives.
And if this kind of Christian life seems too hard, I should remember that I am not called to live it by myself. I must live it by the Spirit of God. What God wants you to do, to love and serve others, to live in the Christian way of life he wants you to live, is no longer a burden that you must carry in your life as you would other burdens. Suddenly verse 16 which tells you “Walk by the Spirit” also liberates you from this burden all together, and assures you that living the Christian life as God would have you live it will happen by itself, when you “walk by the Spirit.” When people try to live the Christian life or try to love without relying on the Spirit of God, they find that its like lifting a big weight on their shoulder. And when loving is a burden it is no longer a fruit that draws either them or others to Christ. Rather that kind of love is empty and unfruitful. You know as I do that to love is not easy at all for us. But there is good news that it is not our work to do but God himself. So the important thing to learn here is to learn to walk by the Spirit. We must walk by the Spirit.
What exactly does it mean “Walk by the Spirit” and why must I walk by the Spirit, and how do I walk by the Spirit, are things we should look at carefully as we study this passage.
What then is “walking by the Spirit”? To better understand this, we can look at verse 18, which says: “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.” Here he says: “If you are led by the Spirit” He does not say “If you follow the Spirit”, but rather, “If you are led by the Spirit” meaning that we do not follow the Spirit but we are led by the Spirit. He is the leader in our lives, But he is not the kind of leader you are able to follow and if you do not you will miss the way. he is the kind of leader who carries you along in his own power. When a Christian is freed in Christ, the Spirit himself sweeps him up and leads him along.
There is another verse we can look at to understand what it is to “Walk by the Spirit”. Verse 22 tells us: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.” If our Christian walk is to be a walk of love and joy and peace, then “walk in the Spirit” means to “bear the fruit of the Spirit”. Here again we can see that the bearing of the fruit is not our own work but the work of the Spirit himself. The Spirit himself bears the fruit in the life of a Christian. Just as the Lord Jesus told us in John 15:4,5: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Therefore, walking by the Spirit means to remain in the Vine Jesus. To keep yourself securely bonded and united in and with the Lord Jesus. In other words, don’t cut yourself for the flow of the Spirit.
What then is walking in the Spirit? We can say that it is “being led by the Spirit” as well as “bearing the fruit of the Spirit”. We must know how important it is to know that while it is the work of the Spirit himself, it is also a willingness on our part to be absolutely attached to the Spirit, to the vine from which flows life and power and fruit and all that the Good Lord would have us reflect as we are united with him. And we will talk about how to remain rooted and attached in that Vine, as we walk in the Spirit. But before we do that, we need to consider why it is crucial for us to walk in the Spirit, as Paul tells us that we should.
There are good reasons why it is crucial for me to walk in the Spirit. One answer is in verse 16, and the other is in verse 18. Paul tells us that the incentive to walk in the Spirit is that you will not end up gratifying the desires of the flesh or the sinful nature of yours. Read verse 16. “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” It is important for us to see here that “not gratifying the desires of the sinful nature” is not a command but a promise. “You will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature”. (In this case the ESV translation is wrong)
when the Bible talks about the sinful nature, it is referring not only to your body, but your ego, yourself, the inner part of you which lusts after the things of this world— that wants to fill its emptiness and its insatiable wants and desires with anything but with the mercy and goodness of God. So the flesh or the sinful nature is that part of us which we talked about many times in these messages that wants to be at the center of all things, that part that considers itself supreme and wants to be honored and glorified, rather than surrendering the glory and the honor all to God. It is that part of us that does not want to surrender to Christ and to what he has done for us, and be put away completely because it is corrupt and unworthy of God and of heaven. It rejects faith because faith tells it that it must humble itself and give way to the Christ who will do everything to rescue it from itself. People are so proud when it comes to the flesh, to the self, the I, the me, that does not want to honor God.
The flesh is always wanting to do things that agree with its nature, to satisfy what that nature wants. And how does it feel about God and all that God represents? We have talked about this as well, but it is worth mentioning again. Romans 8:7 says: “The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” The mark of the flesh or the sinful nature is that it will not submit to God, it is hostile to him. And even if it wanted to, it cannot. This is the sinful nature we inherited from our parents who inherited it form theirs all the way back to Adam. It is the nature that thinks: “I’ll do it myself. I don’t need you” even to God.
And that does not surprise us a bit. that is exactly what Paul tells us in verse 17. “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 what ever you want.” There is a war between our flesh (the sinful nature) and God’s Spirit. At first when we think about this, we think that there is a huge problem here and that there are so many chances that the war would be lost somehow, that in this war that is going on inside me between my nature and the Spirit who lives in me, the flesh would win out and the Spirit will lose. But look at how ridiculous that sounds. Can the Spirit lose out?
“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 what ever you want.” The clear thing we can learn from this is that Christian experience a struggle within. If you think to yourself that you have a lot of the flesh or sinful desires still left in you, you are right to think that. And that does not mean that you are not a Christian if you are struggling inside with the sinful nature appearing to be powerful and still kicking. A Christian is a man or woman at war with these desires by the power of the Spirit. Not by your own power, or by the goodness that is in you, you are fighting your sinful nature. It is by the power of the Spirit that there is a war inside you going on. Conflict in my soul in your soul isn’t such a bad thing at all. Of course, we long for the day when this conflict is over, when The Spirit’s desires will rule our hearts forever and declare the final victory over the sinful nature. But until then, there is a conflict within. If there is no conflict within you, then you may not be a Christian at all. You may be dead. But if there is a conflict within you, a war a struggle, then the Spirit has set up camp and has gone to war with your sinful nature. The sign that the Spirit is in you is not that you have no bad desires, but that you are at war with them. But in reality when we think about verse 16 and 17 together, the point is not the war, but the victory of the Spirit.
Verse 16 tells us that when I walk by the Spirit, I will not let those bad desires mature and bear fruit. When I walk by the Spirit the flesh is at bay fighting for itself to remain alive. New God centered desires crowd out the old man’s desires. verse 16 promises victory over the desires of the flesh— not that there will be no war but that the victor of that war will be the Spirit. Amen. Verse 24 says: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” what this is telling us is that the battle has been fought and won by the Spirit. This brings us to our earlier question: Why is it crucial that I walk by the spirit? So that when I do walk by the spirit, the sinful nature— the flesh— is conquered.
The other reason it is crucial for me to walk by the spirit is in verse 18. “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” We’ve talked about his. This does not mean that you don’t have to fulfill God’s law. Actually I do, and you do! If we remember what we looked at last week in verses 13 and 14— that we ought to serve one another in love… for the whole law is fulfilled in one word: :love your neighbor as yourself.” (Romans 8:3-4) So, not being under the law does not mean we do not have to fulfill the law. It means that when we are led by the Spirit, we fulfill all that God intended for us to fulfill in the first place— to do what God would have us do, in love in service to God and to each other, in love for each other, not as a burden but willingly carried along by the power of the Spirit who lives in us. Paul says, If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Its true, we are no longer under the punishment or the oppression of the law which condemns us when we cannot fulfill the law. Rather now as we walk in the spirit, the spirit fulfills in us all that the law requires.
Notice in verse 22 that the first of all the precious fruits of the spirit is love, which verse 14 tells us that it fulfill the whole law. And to emphasize this, Paul says in verse 23, that “against such things there is no law.” What he is saying is that you cannot be under the demands and judgment of the law when the Spirit of God in you is producing the very things that the law requires that you produce. They are coming out of you, the love, the joy the peace, the fruits of the Spirit are abundant in those who walk by the Spirit and are producing all that the fruit of a Spirit filled life. What we are saying here is that another reason it is crucial for us to walk by the Spirit is pretty much the same as the first— in other words, walk by the Spirit because walking by the Spirit produces all the fruits that fulfill the law. Walking by the Spirit drives out all the elements in your life that hinder the Christian from fulfilling the purpose of his or her life, to love and to bring about the fruits of the Spirit in their lives.
Now we need to think about the third question we should be asking. To some it may be the most important of questions. How do I walk by the Spirit. I know that I should walk by the spirit and that its what God would have me do. But how do I do that? There may be many answers to this question. Do this or do that. You should do this or you should do that. But that is not the answer to this question. Actually the only worthy answer to the question of how, is simple enough for us Christians to understand.
Read Galatians 5:6: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” What he is telling us here is that genuine faith always produces love, because faith, when you exercise it, when you have faith and put all your faith in Christ Jesus, that expels everything that contaminates your heart and prevents you from loving others as you should. Those who fear and are loaded down in guilt and those who are always greedy for more and more, these are the ones who are not exercising their faith in Christ. And they naturally then cannot produce love because they have no faith, because if they had faith, then faith expels the fears and guilts and greeds from their hearts and gives room for love to grow and to spread. So if love is what faith produces and love is a fruit of the Spirit (22), then the way to walk by the Spirit is to have faith— to rest in the promises of God— and let the Spirit of God lead you.
Look at verse 5:5. “For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope.” When you are keep your heart sure and secure in God resting on his promises, you are actually waiting for these promises through the Spirit of God, and are walking by the Spirit.
Read 3:5. “So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?” This is very clear to us now as to how to walk in the Spirit. The Spirit does his mighty work in us and through us— how? By believing what we hear. In other words by faith in the word of God that we hear. We trust and believe the word of God by faith. We are sanctified, we are cleansed and purified by the Spirit of God through faith alone. The way to walk by the Spirit and not to fulfill the sinful desires of the flesh or the sinful nature is to hear the word of God, his promises, and to take them to heart, to believe them, to have faith that God’s word is true and absolute over and above everything we might be feeling or thinking. that the word of God is trustworthy so when we hear it we trust it we believe it, we hold on to it, we cherish it. It is the word of God and the faith in it, that the Spirit sanctifies us by faith and works in us his sanctification. We walk by the Spirit when we hold to the promises of God by faith.
Look at 2:20. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Who is the Christ who lives in me? He is the Spirit. Paul has told us in 4:6 that the Spirit of God’s Son has been sent into our hearts. And how does the life of the Son produce itself in us? How do I walk by the Spirit of God’s Son, such that the Christ lives in me? The life I live I live by faith in the Son of God. All the apostles trusted the Son of God, the Christ, the Spirit of Christ who lives in them and leads them in the life they should live. Day by day they cast their burdens their cares on him, daily driving the fear and guilt or the greed from their hearts, by faith, as they were carried by the Spirit to live the way God would have them live, in love and peace and joy, producing the fruits of the Spirit,. it was the Spirit in them who produced the fruit, when they lived by faith in God’s promises, when they held on to the word of God.
How then do I walk by the Spirit? It’s simple as was said. I stop trying to fill my heart and life with all the junk things of this world, the bits and pieces of this world that can never ever satisfy my inner hunger, and simply come to God and find rest in him, lie beside him in full trust, put my faith in him, and trust his promises— his living and active words— fully washing my heart from within. When you are troubled, the first thing you do is to look to the word of God, and find comfort in it, take root in it, let it sink in and bring you peace of God. All day long the word of God comes to your mind in all and every situation. In your struggle, the world has no peace to give you. Some people when they have a problem or are troubled and anxious, they go to some worldly friend to ask their advice and seek their comfort. if they hear something they like to hear they take comfort, if they hear something they do not like to hear they take offense. They get angry, critical, vicious and unfaithful. Their hearts have no rest because they are rooted in the world, and the world fills their hearts with its own junk which accumulates until there is nothing within them but chaos within and confusion. Even if they say they are Christians, the evidence of their lives tells otherwise, because Spirit fruit is missing from their lives.
But the Christian who walks by the Spirit, when he is troubled, when he is struggling, when temptation assails his or her soul to make him bitter or jealous or envious, he relies on the Spirit and welcomes the word of God into his heart. He meditates on it, he holds it dear to his heart. He then believes it with all his heart even if it does not cater to his emotions or thoughts, yet he believes it, and trusts it and then walks in its light. That is “walking by the spirit”. Walking by the Spirit is for me to find the promise of God in every and any situation, and take rest in it, by faith, as the Spirit guides and leads me, so that what comes out of me is always the fruit of the Spirit, always joy, always peace, always gentleness always kindness, always faithfulness, and always— always— love because the Spirit of love is living in me leading me to fulfill the purpose for which God called me. There is surely victory for us over the sinful nature as we walk by the Spirit, resting in the promises of God by faith.