So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For 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 that you do not do what you want.
When I read verse 16 in the original language, it’s very powerful. Paul says that if you walk in the spirit, you will not bring to completion the things that the flesh is passionate about.
It doesn’t matter how much will-power you have or how many good intentions. I’m writing this in September – how have your New Year’s resolutions turned out? The only thing that can change the destination of our life is a walk in the spirit.
Verse 17 explains why this is true. Your flesh is passionate against what your spirit wants. Your spirit also has different goals than your flesh. The two of them are battling for control of your mind.
But it’s the last sentence that gives us the understanding. Because of their conflict, you cannot determine the things you do. That’s the literal meaning of that verse.
You may not want to hear it, but your mind has very little to do in determining the path your life takes. It usually bends either to the will of your spirit or your flesh. Whichever has the stronger voice, determines what your mind will decide.
The teaching that “whatever you put your mind to you can accomplish” is a lie. The illusion is strengthened by the fact that your mind can change course over the short term. Like the first month of the gym membership that you knew would change your life.
The only time it appears to work is when your flesh and your mind are passionate about the same things. If your flesh wants to be rich, or to own a large company, or to have great political power; that’s when it seems like your mind’s in control.
Other times, your flesh my use self-control as a means to an end. That’s why many people who look like successes on the outside, turn out to be alcohol, drug, or sex addicts. Then we’re shocked when their life ends in a tragic overdose or a suicide.
That’s why it’s so important that a Christian doesn’t fall victim to this false teaching. You can’t bring about God’s plan for your life by disciplining your mind. It has to be done in the spirit.
Paul brings this out in the next verse.
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
Being led by the spirit is not about controlling yourself. The only way to walk in God’s plan for you is to strengthen your spirit. Then, your spirit will take over in plotting the course for your life.
But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
Spend time praying in the spirit. Activate your spiritual walk. Only then will you see the change in your lifestyle. You’ll be glad that you did.
Question: How has your life changed since you started praying in the spirit?
© Nick Zaccardi 2017