October 29, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Galatians 5)

Submitted by Daemin K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Galatians 5:16-18 (ESV)

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 

  • What do these verses teach me about the nature of Christian life?

These verses remind me that Christian life on earth is a constant struggle between the Spirit and the flesh.  We live in a broken world that’s been corrupted by sin.  And while on earth, I am not free of my old, sinful nature.  That means the Spirit and the sinful nature are both in me.  The two are in constant opposition, and my life is a battle between the Spirit and flesh.  As a Christian, I know what I ought to do, as the Scriptures and the Spirit teach me the truth, and how to live as a child of God.  But the sinful nature in me causes me to struggle to obey and live out the truth.  Christian life is this ongoing struggle.  For non-Christians, there isn’t a struggle between the Spirit and flesh, and life would be one of following the desires of the flesh.  For Christians, we know that the life lived according to desires of our sinful nature is not how God wants us to live, but we aren’t completely free from feeling the tug of desires of sinful nature, and hence there is struggle in us.  This is so true in my life: I strive to obey the Spirit, to work on my character, to be humble and servant-like, but the sinful nature constantly tugs at me to give in to the desires of sinful nature and seek out comfort, to hold back, to be selfish with time and resources, and to give my pride free reign so that I’m not humble, and I’m plagued with insecurity.  In my life I see the desire to be thankful for everything opposed by desire to feel sense of entitlement.  I see the desire to be humble and to be God-centered opposed by desire for recognition and self-centeredness.  Christian life is a spiritual battle.  I know and believe and God has already won the victory over sin and death, and through Christ I have that victory as well, but while I’m living on earth my life as a Christian is going to be an ongoing battle.

What these verses also teach me is that Christian life is to be lived out deliberately.  Unless I’m obeying God and walking by the Spirit, I will end up gratifying the desires of my flesh.  The sinful nature is the default state of man in this world.  Unless one actively seeks to live following the desires of the Spirit, one defaults to obeying the sinful nature.  There is no neutral state where one is following neither the Spirit nor the sinful nature.  What this means for me is that there is no such thing as passive Christian life.  If I am passive, then I am fulfilling the desires of flesh.  I must be intentional about seeking and following the Spirit’s desires.  I need to understand that the desires of the flesh WILL get in the way of my doing what I want to do.  Not only does my sinful nature cause me to seek comfort and praise and such, it works to opposing my efforts to be more servant-like and generous and humble.  The struggle between the Spirit and the flesh means that Christian life is about choosing only that there is no neutral ground.  This means that I must be intentional and deliberate in choosing to walk by the Spirit.  When it comes to taking in the Word of God with an open heart, and to praying earnestly with all my heart, and to serving others, and giving generously, and seeking to be more Christ-like in any way, I am to intentionally choose to do so.  I can’t wait until I feel like doing these things, because my flesh desires that I won’t want to.  Until we get to heaven and are freed from this spiritual battle in us, we must live our Christian life in active obedience to the desires of the Spirit.

Submitted by Angela C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Galatians 5:16-18

  • What do these verses teach me about the nature of Christian life?

What these verses teach me about the nature of Christian life is that there are two opposing forces at work in my life–the Spirit of God versus my own fleshly desires. “The flesh” is described as our fallen humanity that stands against God. It is our fundamental desire to live our lives apart from God and according to what we want, what we think might be best of ourselves. I am more prone to listen, obey, and to carry out my fleshly desires because I’ve lived the majority of my life making my own decisions and giving into the things that my flesh desired. But God provides me with His Spirit, and in order to keep in step with the Spirit, I need to be conscious of what Apostle Paul says in verse 17 that the flesh and the Spirit are opposed to each other and that there is a clear battle going on. What is the role of the Spirit? Apostle Paul says that it keeps me from doing the things that I want to do. Romans 7: 16-18 describes my condition perfectly:

Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.

So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.

For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to

carry it out.

In order to walk by the Spirit, I need to remind myself again and again that there really isn’t anything good in me apart from Christ.

With this awareness, I need make that choice to walk by the Spirit. This means that with each decision I make or with each struggle I go through, I need to recognize that I am either going in the direction of the Spirit or in the exact opposite way that leads to destruction. It doesn’t feel that way most of the time. I don’t think of following my fleshly desires as leading to destruction because it’s so natural to me. But that is the end result, and I need to be constantly reminded of that reality. And God is not asking me to use my own will power or resources to fight against my sins and fleshly desires, but has given me a higher power–His very own Spirit that I can walk by and follow.

  • How have I experienced “walk[ing] by the Spirit” keeping me from “not gratify[ing] the desires of the flesh”?

I’m definitely thankful that I’ve been part of our church for the past thirteen years, which has been instrumental in helping me walk by the Spirit. Our emphasis on God’s word, our many resources like DT sharing, DT review, prayer meetings where we can pray for concerns outside of ourselves, sharing and prayer times with our Life Group members, discipleship courses, retreats, and more to help provide us with a foundation for thinking Biblically and rationally about how we ought to live and the kind of disciples that God is calling us to be.  There have also been many times where I’ve needed the guidance and encouragement of my leaders and friends to keep me on track. Their stories and sharing of how they choose to walk by the Spirit really inspires me and allows me to walk by the Spirit. Also, there have been times where I’ve needed to hear their words of truth plainly spoken to me.

More recently, I’ve been sick, but I’ve experienced walking by the Spirit with the help of God’s Spirit personally strengthening me and also with the help of other sisters. Some sisters, for example, purchased the C.S. Lewis audio books that I can listen to, Ray Vanderlaan videos, prayed for me during visits, etc. And as for myself, even though it’s easy to give into my fleshly nature when I’m not feeling well and therefore, just want to shut down my mind, there have actually been a lot of prayer requests that I have been receiving and since I have the time to pray, I get to pray for people on a regularly basis and still strive to think about people that I’ve been reaching out to and using this time to pray and keep up with my daily devotions and with the things that are happening in my ministry group as well as with the church at large.

  • How is it true that if we are led by the Spirit, we are not under law? How does this frame my struggle against the flesh?  i.e., how does not being under law affect how I struggle against the flesh?

Romans 8:14 says, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” Meaning that if we are sons and daughters of God, then we are no longer in bondage to please God through works. Earlier verses in Romans 8 also help to explain that the law of the Spirit sets us free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. This helps me to frame my struggle against the flesh in that I know that each time I try, but fail, I am not condemned again and again, but that there is hope in that I am not trying by my own effort towards sanctification, but that God has provided me with His Spirit to lead me every step of the way, and that through Christ Jesus’ death and resurrection, He has already conquered sin and death and has achieved the ultimate victory.

Personal Prayer:

Dear God,

Thank you that you have given me your Spirit so that I may walk by your Spirit and not give into the desires of my flesh that ultimately wants to declare its own autonomy. Please help me to be clear during times of temptation and struggle that there is no middle ground and that going the way of the Spirit vs. gratifying my own sinful desires are in direct opposition of each other. Thank you that by the Spirit, I am not under the law or am bound by it in order to live a righteous life, but that through Christ, I have been set free from the condemnation of the law. Amen.

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