If a person is truly in Christ, they have an automatic “new creation” desire to please Their Lord and Savior, by living His commands. This arises from the Holy Spirit residing with those who are born again. Having our sin account cleaned and our sin nature or “old man” crucified (Romans 6:6), we feel free to pursue the commands of God. This is done not for the sake of salvation, which is settled by faith unto repentance, but in order to draw nearer to the God we love and want to glorify. Essentially our new birth gives us the inward passion to love God with all our being, and the spiritual framework and provision to do just that.
In lieu of this biblical state of being, why does it seem that almost as soon as we commit or re-commit to living abandoned to Christ, we find consistent failure rather than success? Perhaps more than any other question this has taxed my emotions and intellect. The reason, I believe, is that I believe so strongly in what the word of God declares Jesus accomplished in His cross and resurrection: that we are literally “new creations”, His own special people partaking in His divine nature, those in whose heart’s the Spirit of Christ is to sit enthroned.
Knowing this only amplified our angst, as we understand that God is faithful to do all of that which He said, for His word is His bond. Therefore we must look straight in the mirror in the failures which stifle our desires. It is in these times of angst, we either make or break our practice of faith, to be as God intended in Christ, or a cut below what His cross and resurrection guaranteed.
In understanding this issue let us acknowledge there is a difference between a follower of Christ with the Holy Spirit as resident in them, and a follower of Christ who has been filled and is being filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). If this were not the case, then Jesus would never had commanded the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high (baptized in the Holy Spirit or the first filling), after they received the Holy Spirit, by Jesus breathing on them upon His first appearance to them, after His resurrection (John 20:19-23; Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4, 8; 2:1-4).
When a person has yet to be filled with the Holy Spirit, although saved by grace through faith, they can do nothing other than attempt to walk with Christ in their own strength. This is a reason for much failure. Yet it is also a reason for failure in those who have been filled with the Holy Spirit.
Consider Peter being rebuked by Paul in Galatians 2:11-13. How did such a powerful “Spirit-filled” leader sin so egregiously? Because the fullness of the Holy Spirit is not a past-tense act only (Spirit-filled is past tense), but a needed continuous present tense action, that we are to submit to daily, if not moment by moment. Therefore all the redeemed, those who still need to be filled for the first time, and those who have been filled, will encounter the same frustration; should their hearts desire be to walk with Jesus closely. Ah, but there is hope, my dear friends.
REFUSING TO BE A SLAVE TO THE GRIND
(Galatians 5:16-18) 16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
“Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh”
To “walk in the Spirit” truly is the desire we spoke about at the top of this article, because this is the way to please our Savior, bring glory to His name, and draw nearer to His magnificent presence. Not only is this our desire, but it is guaranteed to bring victory over the carnal habits of our crucified “old man”, for should we walk in the Spirit, we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. In this promise of God we understand that walking in the Spirit will not be easy for the Spirit and our flesh lusting (being at war) against one another. This seems to be easy to understand, but is where we begin to encounter trouble, not knowing the depth of the promise or the agitated and whiny nature of our perishing flesh.
In the first place we must understand that the guarantee of not fulfilling the lusts of the flesh, does not mean we will no longer sin at all. This ought to be easily understood, but we have a tremendously difficult time with this area.
Some will say, “Well Duh, I sin all the time”, but if they truly are sinning all the time, how are they even in Christ? Romans 6:11-14 declares we are not to yield to sin, but righteousness, and that sin will have no dominion over us. On the other hand, those who know followers can walk in righteousness will begin to feel condemnation should they be falling consistently to a lust of the flesh. They will do this even though they know “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”.
In either case we can become a slave to the grind of law based Christianity. The former example will settle for the deceptive limit “I am just a sinner saved by grace”, when the very nature of the comment denies what Christ finished work promises. in this their law is pretty easily hit, so long as they have said “The sinners prayer”. On the other hand, the latter falls into a frustrating practice of always seeking to ” get right with God”. Both positions have relative peace at times, but over all leaves them lacking.
Secondly we must understand that to “walk in the Spirit” does not mean we will not be tempted or have less powerful types or seasons of temptation. Concerning this let us consider that temptation is not sin, it is temptation. Jesus was tempted in every way we are, yet without falling into sin. In this, let us understand that walking in the Spirit will enable us to overcome temptation and not commit consistent sin. This we will find is how our Savior stayed perfectly pure, yet let us consider when His first temptation occurred.
Matthew and Luke’s Gospels clearly show us what preceded Jesus’ wilderness temptations: His being baptized in the Spirit of God (Matthew 3:21-22; Luke 3:21-22). Subsequently in both accounts Jesus is then led by the Spirit into the wilderness for the purpose of being tempted. In fact Luke’s account is more specific.
(Luke 4:1-2) 1 Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 being tempted for forty days by the devil.
From the above passage of scripture we can see the whole of the promises of “walk in the Spirit” in Jesus being filled with the Holy Spirit. In walking in the Spirit He did not fulfill the lusts of the flesh, yet Satan still came hard against Jesus, tempting Him to fulfill the lusts of the flesh. He overcame, we can as well, but if we don’t learn a few valuable lessons, we can become a slave to the grind of a law based Christianity that places us in a danger zone. In being a slave to the grind of legalism, it seems as if we will never be able please God and therefore feel as though we are trapped as slaves to failure.
LESSON #1 (Walking in the Spirit intensifies our battle against the flesh)
As we see with Jesus’ encounter above, being filled with the Spirit of God and subsequently walking in the Spirit, means trials and temptations are coming. Why is this the case? In the first place the fullness of the Holy Spirit makes a person instantly recognizable to the kingdom of darkness. Note that Jesus was anonymous to the world, except His mother, until His Baptism and being filled with the Holy Spirit. This is true of us as well.
The enemy’s kingdom has no reason to take notice of a Christian until that Christian is diminishing the darkness by the power of the Holy Spirit. When a person begins to walk in the Spirit, it means they are endeavoring to be led by the Spirit. It is at that time we find the Holy Spirit leads us into dark areas to shine Christ’s light. Therefore, walking in the Spirit almost always leads to intensified temptation and trial, as the flesh (by itself and amplified by enemy temptation) wars hard against the Spirit of God. Understanding this enables us to resound better to the battle against our flesh.
Secondly we understand that unlike Jesus, we have a history of fleshly patterns, which God desires to separate us from. Therefore as we walk in the Spirit, The Lord uses the battle against the flesh, attacks and temptations of the enemy, to reveal these patterns. This is where we often begin to struggle, because we think (wrongly) that Spirit-filled people ought not fall repeatedly to temptation, yet the walk in the Spirit almost guarantees this, at least for a while.
LESSON #2 (Losing a battle does not mean defeat)
“16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”
Where it says “so that you do not do the things you wish” we must understand that it is in the context of a drawn out battle, where it appears no side seems to be winning. On one hand, it seems that the Spirit of God gains the upper hand only to lose it. On the other hand it seems the flesh is diminishing in influence, only to be frustrated with its apparent resurgence. For at times it appears that we have a spiritually split personality, like Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It seems as though we are in a tug of war, that has only the gaining and loosing of ground in endless struggle. In spite of what the world, your flesh and the devil want us to believe, losing a battle (even more than a few times) does not mean defeat, if we get up in faith and continue walking in the Spirit.
In the first place we understand that trials, whether difficult circumstances or temptations designed by Satan to cause us to fall, are used by God to make us more like Jesus.
(1 Peter 1:6-7) 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,
Therefore, we chose faith knowing that should we never, never , never give up trusting God’s promises in Christ, we will overcome and before long see the Spirit ruling instead of falling to the flesh. Sadly, many in unbelief, after many hopes dashed and failures, give up on believing they can do anything other than fall to sin. They then live in condemnation and guilt, thinking something is wrong with their faith.
May it never be so for us. Let us remember that our falls aren’t to be indictments against our being children of God, in fact they ought to be reminders of His grace and forgiveness. This is not to say we ought to fall into sin (God Forbid), but to remind ourselves that the battle against the flesh informs us we warring in the Spirit, against the flesh. Therefore as we fail and the flesh prevails, we get back up in faith and follow God’s prescription.
Remind Yourself of who you are and Who keeps you who you are
(1 John 1:7) 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
Apply the Prescription
(1 John 1:9-10) 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
Herein we see the power of having a deep knowledge of God’s grace through the on-going nature of forgiveness. So long as we are in Christ, walking in the light and in fellowship with others who are walking in the light, we believe the blood not only has cleaned the account, but will also cleanse the fleshly pattern in us, by the Holy Spirit. It is truly in the struggle, where our faith in His guarantee of new life and grace when we fail, is the pathway to freedom and holiness.
So walk in the Spirit! Recognize the fight the flesh is going to give the Holy Spirit within you! Expect the fight to grow hotter the closer you get to Jesus! Should the battle drag on, don’t lose hope for victory! Refuse to be a slave to the grind of legalism! When a fall comes refuse to give into condemnation, but believe the word of God and follow its prescription! Never give up! And finally believe you’re a child of God with all the power and provision Jesus was given! Walk in the Spirit and you will, eventually overcome!