Extended reading: Galatians 5:16-25
Devotional: Verse 16
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”
In life, whenever we want to accomplish something, we have to first attempt whatever it is, and second, be diligent in our effort at it. Think of when you were a child, and you wanted to learn how to ride a bicycle. It didn’t just happen, did it? No, you had to get on it and learn how to balance yourself. Your mother and father helped you by holding onto the bicycle until you yelled, “ok, let me go.”
By not giving up and persevering through the many falls and the bruises that came with them, you eventually learned how to ride that bike! All analogies break down at some point, and this one is no exception.
In our text, Paul explains how our flesh (old man), and its desires, are set against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh. There is a war going on within us, and we often lose many of the battles because we do not grasp and exercise this great truth. It seems so simple, doesn’t it? Walk by the Spirit, and the flesh loses! We’re all in, right?
The problem is, though, just like learning to ride a bicycle, we need help. We can’t do it alone. Paul tells us to “walk by the Spirit,” or keep in step with, live by, or be occupied with the Spirit. In other words, the ONLY way to defeat the flesh and its wicked desires are by being so preoccupied with the Holy Spirit that there is no time for us to give sway to those temptations that want only to destroy us.
For us to “walk in the Spirit,” we have to first be “led” by the Spirit (Romans 8:13-14). This means that we are sensitive to His will for us and are actively cooperating with Him to fulfill it in our lives. It means that we are “putting to death,” or adamantly fighting against anything in our hearts that is at odds with the Spirit’s will for us.
The difference between the two, walking in the flesh, or walking in the Spirit, is as different as night and day. If we walk in the Spirit, we are led by Him, walking in obedience to Him, encouraged and strengthened by Him, and will enjoy unimaginable blessings. And, WE WILL NOT carry out those things that bring us guilt and shame before Him. Suppose we walk in the flesh, satisfying its evil desires. In that case, we grieve the Holy Spirit within us, are working against His good and perfect will for us, and have to face the guilt and consequences of yet another unnecessary defeat by our arch enemy.
Here is where my analogy breaks down. Once you learn how to ride your bicycle, you no longer need your mother and father to help you. You will go through life riding your bike without their help. It is quite the opposite, however, in the Christian walk of faith. WE ALWAYS need the help of the Holy Spirit. He is divine, and we are not. He sanctifies, empowers, and indwells each person He graciously saves! So, let us walk by the Spirit. It’s the only way to defeat our old nature.