There’s a treasure trove of Godly wisdom that Paul shares with the churches throughout the New Testament. He often expounds on the character of God, teaches us how to follow Jesus, and warns against potential pitfalls in our walk. He also encourages us with words that help us in our effort to live a Godly life in a fallen world. We need this kind of wisdom because whether we want to admit it or not, the flesh can be exceedingly weak. To battle the flesh, with it’s temptations and sinful desires, we should heed Paul’s words in Galatians chapter 5, verse 16, which says:
“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”
Notice that he didn’t say that we will not desire the sinful nature. He says that if we live by the Spirit, we will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature - or fall into sin. He goes on to remind us that the flesh and the Spirit are always in conflict. If so, how can we insure that the Spirit will always win out? Well, in verse 18, he encourages us to be led by the Spirit. What does it mean to live by the Spirit or to be led by the Spirit? I believe that it is a conscious effort on our part to follow his prompting, to focus our thoughts on heavenly things, and to remember that since we belong to Jesus, the Bible tells us that we have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. If we walk in step with the Spirit we are able to bare the fruit of the Spirit, which is: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. It is not by our willpower that we can accomplish this, but only if we are in step with the Spirit. And to be in step with the Spirit involves remaining close enough to him that we can feel, sense or hear his prompting - and when we do, to obey him.
Paul says that we need to “live by the Spirit, so that we will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” To overcome the flesh requires the aid of the Holy Spirit living inside of us. Our nature is to sin, and our willpower, or flesh, is weak. We will fail more often than we will succeed on our own. So we need to walk in step with the Spirit. We need to daily connect with our God, focus our thoughts on him, continually pray to him, and trust his leading. He can break strongholds, protect us from the evil one, and be our strength when we are weak. Walking in step with the Spirit is a daily challenge. But the life of a Christian is to take up our cross daily and follow Jesus. The good thing is that we don’t have to do it on our own. We have the Holy Spirit to help us.