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Spirit vs. Flesh

In my last post, I started talking about Paul’s teaching on the Spirit-led life.  He tells us that we must cultivate our spiritual life if we want to overcome the flesh.

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.
Galatians 5:16-17

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.
Galatians 5:18

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.
Romans 7:6

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

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Spirit Overcomes Flesh

FlyingIn my last post we saw how the spiritual walk, specifically prayer in the spirit, will bring change from the inside out. This truth is also brought out in other parts of the Scripture.

No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.
Romans 2:29

This is another piece of that same puzzle. Our outside will never change unless we have a change of heart. The problem is that our heart itself is very deceptive. We can’t always trust what we’re feeling.

That’s why true change can never be imposed upon it from the outside, by the written code. It must come from the inside, by the power of the spirit. Isn’t it great to know that your spirit can change your heart?

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
Galatians 5:16

Our new knowledge of the power of prayer in the spirit should give us a whole new insight into what this verse is actually saying. Many times, when people quote this verse, they’re using it as a weapon.

I’ve heard people say things like, “Look at how that person lives, and they call themselves a Christian. They’re walking in their flesh so they must not have the Holy Spirit in them. They can’t really be saved.”

This isn’t a verse that Paul gave us to test whether a person is saved or not. This is a passage of Scripture to tell us how to receive the power we need to walk in victory over the flesh. The only way you’ll have the power you need to not gratify the flesh, is to live your life in the spirit.

You cannot do it by exercising the will power of your soul, or even disciplining your body. This means that you spend time praying in the spirit, communing with God in the realm of the spirit. That’s where we access the power to overcome the desires of the flesh.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23

This is one of the most popular passages with many Christians. Unfortunately many believers have no clue what this section is actually saying.

What is fruit? Fruit are those yummy balls of sweet goodness that hang from various kinds of trees. How do they get there? Does the tree have to sweat and fret and work hard to push them out? Does a tree try and fail and get frustrated and try again to do better?

Of course not! Fruit are a natural result of being an apple tree. They are produced simply because the tree is healthy, and has access to everything it needs (air, minerals, water, and sunshine).

This is something that most Christians miss. They think that producing the fruit of the spirit only comes by hard work and a lot of will-power. That’s not what God intended. The fruit mentioned here will not be produced by reading the Bible or going to church.

They will not even come by will power or guilt. These things are the fruit of the SPIRIT. Why would we then think they would be the product of our works, will power, or trial and error?

The fruit of the spirit are the natural product of a life lived in the realm of the spirit. As our spiritual relationship with the Lord grows, then so will the fruit. They will not be from our strength.

In my next post, I’ll give some examples of how this works.

Question: Why is it impossible for our flesh to discipline itself?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
 

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