Galatians 5:16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
How totally out of touch with modern society! How unrealistic! Though they might not say it out loud, that is exactly how a lot of people respond to this idea. The NIV translators tried to soften it by saying “sinful nature” instead of “flesh,” but this still flies in the face of the hedonism of our time. The thing is, though, large sections of Greek/Roman culture were just as hedonistic, if not even more so, though that might seem hard to imagine. The “gay pride” parades of today are relatively tame compared with some of the public displays of Paul’s day. Paul had a very incisive question for those who had come out of such a lifestyle: “What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!” (Romans 6:21) We are taught indulgence, and the results are fatal. The remedy is twofold. First, there is commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord, which of course involves repentance. Then, there is the daily choice to walk in the Holy Spirit, which is what this verse is talking about. Sadly, even many people who make the first choice fail to make the second, and they make a mess of their lives. We may say we love Jesus, but if we mean it, we will seek to walk in fellowship with His Spirit. It’s not at all that we aren’t to take good care of our bodies, because we are. Paul is not teaching self-mutilation! It is that we are to give the Holy Spirit full authority in our lives, to enable us to walk in the holiness that God desires. (1 Peter 1:15-16)
This, of course, applies to me as much as it does to anyone. I am as fond of quoting the fruit of the spirit, listed in verses 22-23, as any preacher, but I’ve got to walk in the Spirit myself or those won’t be manifested in my life. I’ve got to communicate the truth of this passage to the believers. That isn’t easy, but it’s no harder than it was for Paul, so I am not to be discouraged. An important factor in that is remembering grace. If I am judgmental and condemning, then I put myself in as bad a position, or worse, than the person I am looking down on. Just ahead of this verse, Paul reminds us that all the commandments can be summed up in “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (verse 14) What complicates it even further is the fact that I am to be gracious toward those who are being judgmental! I can’t do that in my strength, so I’ve got to walk in step with the Holy Spirit moment by moment, giving Him control over my emotions as well as my actions.
Father, thank You for this encouraging, comforting Word. You know better than I do what happened yesterday, because You know all the thoughts and feelings behind each word that was said. I don’t have wisdom in myself to counter this strategy of the enemy, so I ask You to pour into me everything I need. May I speak Your truth in Your love to everyone, not being a tale bearer but letting Your love cover over the sins on all sides, for the sake of the Body of Christ and for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!