But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. Galatians 5:16-17 (NASB)
I am constantly intrigued by our Godly design. We are truly fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalms 134:19). We are created in God’s image, i.e. we are first of all designed as a spirit. We were designed to function primarily in the spirit realm.
When God initially created us, we were in full relationship with Him. Spirit to spirit communication and flow was as natural and life-sustaining as breathing air. But then the biggest tragedy that ever happened entered this world! SIN. Spiritual death became a reality and we got separated from God in this intimate relationship.
Jesus thankfully came to restore this tragedy. He destroyed sin on the cross and gave us a newborn spirit through His resurrection. Voila - redemption and restoration! Good news right! It’s called the Gospel.
Now, this is supposed to be the solution to all the problems in the world, yet we still see so much evil around. Why is that?
This verse above explains the reality of the life of so many bus-driver who are born again and call Jesus Lord. Unfortunate they have to admit that Jesus is not really Lord of their lives. Their flesh is lord. According to this verse abovethere is a constant struggle between the “desire” of your flesh and the desire of your spirit. They are in constant “opposition to one another”.
The result of living from the flesh is, “you may not do the things that you please”. Your spirit has a desire to commune with God and your flesh has a desire to sleep and watch tv. It is important that we understand how to discern whether we’re living in the spirit or in the flesh. Any person who is serious about their own spiritual growth and journey, will regularly take time to assess their own spiritual health.
I once heard a preacher say that whenever he goes two weeks without crying before God about something, he knows his heart is becoming hard and he needs to spend more time with the Holy Spirit to soften himself up.
Do you have a checkpoint like this to warn you when you are stepping into the flesh and out of the spirit? Is the little red light on your dashboard flashing? Do you even know where the little light is?
This portion of scripture in Galatians gives us a checklist of attributes that you can see whether your character is being influenced by the Spirit of God in your new-born spirit, or whether you are being led by your flesh.
If you are serious about living a life that reflects God and grows in Him continually, this might be a good exercise for you to do.
Rate yourself from 0-10 on each of the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Take love as example, the first on the list. If you would be honest with yourself, how much do you act in love on a daily basis? Are you easily irritated and upset by small things or do you have the ability to love unconditionally and forgive instantly? Even the bus-driver in London traffic?
Or maybe the last on the list; self-control. How good are you to say “no” to your fleshly desires and follow your spiritual disciplines?
Many think these are characteristics of successful people who are born with great personalities and naturally good habits. The truth is, these are supernatural virtues that can be obtained by exercising your spiritual muscle. These fruit are not aspects of your soul but of your spirit. This means it cannot be obtained by thinking differently, but by spending time with the One who fills you with these abilities.
This is why they are so opposite from the desires of the flesh. How many would not rather want to say something nasty to the driver that cuts you off in traffic than bless him with God’s love? If your flesh is still running your life, then it’s time that you take some time out and refresh your spirit.
Be honest with yourself. Are you living from your spirit or living from your flesh? I am not asking if you are a christian. I am asking whether your life is ruled and directed by God’s Grace and power, or whether you are submitting to your fleshly desires.
Just remember, if you think you can’t be deceived you already are deceived. So don’t dismiss this too quickly. Do the exercise honestly and rate yourself objectively. Do you need to soften your heart in God’s presence? Do it today!
Over the next few weeks, I’ll focus on the characteristics of the fruit of the spirit. Join me on this growth journey.