Walk In The Spirit

When I was in college, on the first day of every class we did something boring. The teacher passed out this piece of paper called the syllabus and then read and explained it to us. Every single class started this way. Sometimes it was really, really boring.

But it was also super important. That syllabus was the “how to” manual for the class. It laid out how you could get an A and what the teacher expected from you. It told you all of your assignments and tasks and when the big tests were going to be. It might have been boring, but we still paid attention, because it was vital information.

What I’m going to talk about this morning might seem a little bit boring. But it is absolutely one of the most important lessons you could ever learn as a Christian and it will help you every day. It is the big “how to” lesson of the Christian life. It is the syllabus for Christian living.

We are just going to look at three short verses this morning in Galatians 5, but they teach us the central guiding principle of how to live as a Christian. I’m going to read Galatians 5:16-18 and pray and then I’m going to give you three points this morning:

  • The concept
  • The conflict
  • The course of action

Let’s look at those verses:

”16 [This] I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.”

Let’s pray.

1. The concept

If I were to summarize the entire book of Galatians up to this point it would be with this sentence: You are not saved by the law, but by grace.

Over and over again I’ve been hammering this through this book. We aren’t saved because of our righteousness, but because of Christ’s righteousness. It’s not because of what we have done, but because of what He has done.

I was talking to my stepdad yesterday and he was telling me that he got a unique opportunity. He’s not a preacher, but he was asked to officiate his uncle’s funeral this last week. Now, that area has almost no evangelical churches - he was preaching to a bunch of lost people. So he wanted to be very clear in how he presented the gospel and the way he did it was genius. He talked about the thief on the cross.

Have you ever thought about this? The thief on the cross wasn’t their like Jesus - as an innocent. The thief deserved to be on that cross. He was getting his just desserts. He had no good works he could rest on - if he did - he wouldn’t have been on the cross. He had no opportunity to be baptized or catechized or christened.

Yet what did Jesus say to the thief on the cross? He said “This day you shall be with me in paradise.” The thief on the cross got saved, he went to heaven that day. Not because of his works - he didn’t have any - but because of Christ’s work on his behalf.

Listen - that is how salvation works. It’s by grace. It’s not your Sunday school attendance record or your moral checklist that is going to get you into heaven - it’s Jesus work on the cross.

So you are not saved by the law, but by grace. That’s the major theme of Galatians. But in chapter 5 Paul introduces another concept - the concept of liberty. Paul says that we are free from the law in our Christian life.

Now - a lot of people are willing to say “I believe we are saved by grace - but then we have to live by the law. If we don’t live by the law, if we don’t give people this checklist and these rules, then they are just going to live fleshly lives.”

And that is what this passage is teaching us. It is making a second major point. Remember the first major point is “You aren’t saved by the law, but by grace.” The second major point is…

You aren’t sanctified by the law, but by the Spirit.”

In other words, you don’t live your Christian life and become more like Christ by the law - you do that by the Spirit.

Let me read you an absolutely brilliant paragraph I picked up this week studying

”Just as Jesus Christ is the primary Person behind justification, the Holy Spirit is the primary person behind sanctification. A believer can no more sanctify himself than he could have saved himself in the first place. He cannot live the Christian life by his own resources any more than he could have saved himself by his own resources.”

That’s it.

Justification - that’s how we are saved. Sanctification is another big word for how we live the Christian life and become more Christlike and defeat sin.

It’s not like Jesus says “I took care of the salvation part - now you are on your own.” No! He gives us the Holy Spirit to help us with Sanctification.

Now, I’m not even to the big concept yet. Ok. So these jews would say “You can’t have liberty, you can’t be free from the law, or people will just do whatever they want and live in their flesh.”

And Paul says “No. Walk in the Spirit. And you won’t live in the flesh.”

So here is the point - if you are walking in the Spirit then you will have victory over the flesh and you won’t live a flesh directed life. You won’t live a life of sin. You won’t need the law and the rulebooks because they are external motivation and you will have internal motivation to live for God.

Let me ask you something - how many of you have a “Do not litter” sign posted in your back yard?

Anybody? Well how do you ever keep your back yard clean? How do you keep the trash out of your back yard?

You don’t need the “do not litter” sign because it’s your yard right? And you want to keep it clean. That internal motivation is 1,000,000 more powerful than a sign somewhere that says “thou shalt not.”

Listen, the law and legalism, at it’s best it’s a “no littering” sign. It’s external motivation. It can’t do much. But if it’s in your heart, then you are going to do the right thing and not sin anyways.

So that is the concept - the real way to live the Christian life is by living in the Spirit and when you do that, you’ll defeat the flesh.

So that brings me to the second point this morning…

2. The conflict

Look at verse 17:

”For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”

Let’s break this down a little bit and talk about this.

The first thing you have to know is that each of us have inside of us a carnal, sinful nature and have carnal, sinful desires (the lusts of the flesh).

When it talks about “The flesh” here, it’s not talking about our bodies. It’s not talking about our skin and muscles. It’s talking about the desires that all of us have to sin.

Everyone of us struggles with the flesh - with the desire to sin. Every one os us. Every one of us has times where we would rather sleep in than go to church. Every one of us struggles with anger, fear, lust, bitterness, resentment, laziness. All of us have that in us.

Lost or saved. You have a flesh.

When we trust Christ as our savior, we are born again and we get new part inside of us, the Spirit.

  • Jesus said in John 3 ”that which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
  • Ephesians 2:1 says ”And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;”.
  • Romans 8:9 says ”But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”

When you trust Christ, God does a work in you and the Holy Spirit moves in. You become spiritually alive. And now it’s not just the flesh anymore. The flesh has a roommate - the Holy Spirit.

And the point of verse 17 is…

The Spirit and the Flesh are constantly battling with each other inside of us to see who will win..

There is a struggle going on inside me right now. There is a struggle going on inside you. It’s a battle. It’s a wrestling match. It never ends until we get to heaven.

We have this flesh - this part of us that desires to do sinful stuff and now we have the Spirit that wants to lead us to do right and they are fighting out a turf war in our hearts all the time. It’s a struggle.

Turn with me real quick to Romans 7. Romans 7 verse 18. This is Paul talking about this struggle in his own life. Look at it…

”For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.”

Now skip down to verse 22:

”For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

That’s a struggle. Listen - if the apostle Paul had this struggle - you are going to have it too. It’s part of being a human being.

It’s almost a little bit like being married. You know, when you are a Batchelor, you can leave your shoes and your clothes wherever you want and nobody cares. You can drink from the milk carton. Leave the toilet seat up. No one is going to fuss at you. But then you get married and now their is a struggle.

Maybe that’s a bad illustration. But the point is that before you got saved, you probably could live in the flesh and it not bother you. Your sin didn’t trouble you that much. But when the Holy Spirit moves in all of a sudden their is this struggle and you feel miserable when you sin.

Because the spirit and the flesh are polar opposites. They never are going in the same direction. They are always fighting against each other.

So the concept - we are to live in the spirit, the conflict - we have these two warring factions in our heart. Let me quickly give you a third point…

3. The course of action

How do we “walk in the spirit”? Next week we are going to look at the works of the flesh and the fruit of the spirit and get into this more, but I want to leave you with two really simple truths for how to walk in the Spirit and have the Spirit win this conflict in your life.

The first one is this:

A. Feed the spirit, starve the flesh.

There is an old story about an Indian man that got saved and came up to the preacher several weeks later and said “Preacher, I’m doing terrible. Now that I’m saved, it’s like there are two dogs inside of me - the old dog and the new dog - and they are just a fighting.”

And the preacher asked the Indian “Well, which dog is winning?” And the Indian said “The dog I feed the most.”

If you want to walk in the Spirit, you have to feed the spirit and starve the flesh.

Remember, the flesh isn’t referring to our skin and bones here but our sinful nature. I’m not saying you should starve yourself and not eat here.

But there are things that appeal to our spirit and there are things that appeal to our sinful nature.

Listen, some music is going to feed your spirit and some music is going to feed your flesh. If you live on a constant diet of music that feeds your flesh - you flesh is going to be strong and winning the battle in your life.

There are friends who feed your spirit and friends who feed your flesh. There are books that feed your spirit and books that feed your flesh. There are entertainment choices that feed your flesh. I could go on and on.

But being in church and worshipping - that feeds your spirit. Studying your Bible - that feeds your spirit. Singing and listening to Christ-honoring music that feeds your spirit.

So feed the Spirit and starve the flesh.

Listen, let me get right down to it. Some of you are never going to have spiritual victory until you get rid of some of your carnal movies or carnal music or carnal books.

  • Devotions and Metallica don’t go together. (Or Eminem or
  • Church and pornography don’t go together.
  • Living for Jesus and 50 Shades of Grey don’t go together.
  • Having a Christian family and feeding your mind with Family Guy don’t go together.

You’ve got to feed one and starve the other.

So feed the spirit, starve the flesh. One more thing you have to do is…

B. Heed the spirit, ignore the flesh.

Both the Spirit and the flesh are giving you directions. You have to listen to one or the other.

Ever been driving with the GPS on and someone giving you conflicting directions at the same time. You have to listen to one and ignore the other.

The Spirit will speak to you through prayer, through reading the Bible, through going to church, through regular impulses and through your conscience. You have to listen to the spirit and obey it.

Your flesh is going to be speaking to you too. You have to learn to ignore it.