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The Spirit Filled Life: Breaking Sin's Grip (Galatians 5:16-26)

Galatians 5:16–26 - 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 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. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another. 

 

What does today’s passage say?

In today’s passage, Paul urges believers to conduct their lives each moment through the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit (vv. 16-18). If we try relying on our own willpower, sinful passions overwhelm us. But walking in step with the Spirit enables us to display His goodness instead. Paul then warns against various fleshly attitudes and behaviors that dishonor God, cautioning us to reject mindsets the world promotes (vv. 19-21). Finally, he contrasts sin's fruitlessness with the Spirit’s fruit: Christlike love, joy, peace and other virtuous qualities nurtured in those who belong to Jesus (vv. 22-26). Our call is to renounce fleshly ways and embrace the Spirit’s work within.

 

How can I apply Galatians 5:16-26 to my life?

The Christian life is a battle of clashing kingdoms, and the battlefield runs straight through our being. Our sinful nature, influenced by dark spiritual forces, endlessly provokes us to indulge selfish desires that lead to conflict, pain and dysfunction. But the Holy Spirit works within us to shape our characters reflecting Jesus through qualities like love, peace, kindness and self-control that mend relationships and benefit everyone around us. So, what are we to do with this ongoing struggle between flesh and Spirit, sin and righteousness, vice and virtue that plays out in our attitudes, thoughts, words, and actions every moment of every day? Paul gives clear guidance. We must see the sinful passions, attitudes, and behaviors that stem from walking in the flesh for what they are - dangerous distortions of God’s loving purpose for humanity. Conversely, we must recognize and cultivate the fruit that stems from walking in the Spirit, embracing His work of nurturing Christlike virtue in us. Cooperating with rather than resisting the Spirit’s work makes all the difference. Here are some basic principles from this passage that we should apply to our lives:

1.    Walk by the Spirit to Overcome Sinful Desires (vv. 16-18): At first glance, Paul's directive to "walk by the Spirit" can seem nebulous. Live by faith? Rely on an invisible entity to somehow empower us past temptation? For many believers, wrestling with persistent sins and failing time and again to resist fiery darts of desire launches them into spirals of guilt and despair. We scratch our heads wondering why simply trusting in the Spirit’s leading hasn't magically lifted us above battles raging within. But Scripture offers two vital keys that transform vague concepts about walking by the Spirit into practical steps of victory. First - we must habitually, even ruthlessly, invite the Spirit to reveal any unconfessed sins concealing themselves in dark corners of our hearts. As Psalm 66:18 starkly warns, God does not listen to prayers muffled behind barriers of willful disobedience. But as we continually yield our inner lives to the Spirit’s light, confessing what He unveils, rivers of grace can flow unhindered. Second - we must daily, even moment by moment, make conscious decisions to relinquish control of our schedules, relationships, and pursuits into the Spirit’s hands. As Jesus modeled in anguished surrender at Gethsemane, victory over fleshly passions springs from chosen submission to the Father’s plan. When we make such willful sacrifices of personal ambition, the Spirit fills surrendered vessels with streams of supernatural self-control. Yes, walking by the Spirit requires much diligence. But we can rest in this promise - the One who raised Jesus from the dead by the Spirit’s power certainly desires us to thrive in Spirit-led victory. Our triumph begins and ends with surrender (1 Corinthians 10:13, Ephesians 5:18, 1 John 2:6).


Food for thought: When have you chosen comfort over confession? What might Spirit-led living look like in your next major decision?


2.    Recognize and Avoid the Deeds of the Flesh (vv. 19-21): In today’s passage, Paul contrasts walking in the flesh and walking in the Spirit. Here he gives us chilling descriptions of fleshly living - stern warnings against shrugging off activities that brazenly defy God’s commands. Clearly, Paul wants followers of Jesus to understand what it looks like when human nature dictates someone’s path rather than the Holy Spirit. It’s easy to speed read words like impurity, sensuality, sorcery and think “I don’t struggle with those more scandalous vices.” But Paul meant this list as a wake-up call for every believer - red flags pointing to attitudes alluring us from the Spirit’s presence. “Envy” for instance - who hasn’t secretly resented a friend’s success? And “selfish ambition” can hide in routine decisions like choosing Netflix over serving tired neighbors. Even “enmity” against bothersome people may feel justifiable at times.  But when the Spirit illuminates hidden thoughts in our minds not aligned with godliness, we must choose to reject enemy footholds rather than justify them. As we become sensitive to the Spirit’s checks in our conscience and character, saying no to deceitful deeds of the flesh become a natural reflex. Our triumph over temptation begins with recognizing its subtle influences - and submitting those to the Spirit.  As you reflect on this list of warnings today, what might the Spirit want to address in you? Are you willing to listen? The first step is facing the reality of sin’s deception. The next is confessing its presence. This clears the way for Him to equip us to live differently (Ephesians 5:3-7; Colossians 3:5-9; 1 Peter 2:11).


Food for Thought:  Which “deed of the flesh” do you dismiss too easily? What might it look like to let the Spirit confront that area more directly?


3.    Cultivate the Fruit of the Spirit in Your Life (vv. 22-23): In today's passage, Paul pivots to focus our attention on developing Christlike virtues that flow from the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience and more. Functioning as one composite photograph of Jesus, this fruit perfectly portrays the character of God. And while we can't manufacture divine attributes by sheer effort, Scripture gives us clear guidance on conditions in which the Spirit develops His fruit in us. First, we must stay connected to the Vine through Word-centered prayer, ensuring no barriers block His life-giving power. We must also prune through regular confession, permitting the Spirit to strip away old ways of relating that do not resemble Jesus. As we yield control of everything from plans to perceptions to the Lord, the Spirit shapes the clay of our hearts into vessels radiating godly qualities. What's intriguing is that displaying this supernatural fruit actually requires our cooperation. We partner with the Spirit by immersing our minds in scriptures that reveal Jesus’ nature. We take initiative in difficult relationships, asking the Spirit to love others through us. Each time we override natural impatience with Spirit-powered kindness, His character becomes our reflex. Every day we can consciously cultivate spiritual soil in which the Spirit grows His fruit in us (John 15:1-8; 2 Peter 1:5-8; Philippians 1:9-11).


Food for Thought: Which aspect of the Spirit’s fruit do you most want to cultivate? What's one practical way you can cooperate with Him in that area?


4.    Live and Walk by the Spirit, Not by Pride or Envy (vv. 24-26): Paul finishes by reminding us that walking in the Spirit has outward implications. As the Spirit prunes sins of the flesh within us, we should increasingly display His loving character to those around us rather than envying the lives or gifts of others. Our attitudes and actions should reflect His light and testify to freedom from sin that come with knowing Christ. For instance, when the Spirit confronts rude tones in conversations, we repent, asking Him to guard our mouths with bridles of self-control. When temptations to arrogance bubble to the surface, we choose instead to humbly lift others higher. Though acts of flesh like envy and strife linger in memories, we deny them power by turning our minds to praise. With each righteous choice to walk by His guidance, we defeat the flesh’s influence in our lives. So, keep in step with the Spirit today, pleading for heavenly power to override your own fleshly desires. As you do, those around you will surely the power of Christ, His generous hands, and His peaceful spirit magnified through your life. And they will know you walk with Jesus (Romans 6:4-11; Romans 12:3-5; Psalm 34:13).


Food for Thought: What tendencies toward envy, boasting, or provocation do you need the Spirit's help to overcome today? What is one good work He wants to show others through your life and lips?


The battle between flesh and Spirit produces casualties every day. Believers who justify pet sins, ignore the Spirit’s promptings, or rely on self-effort end up broken by failed relationships, addiction, anxiety, despair, and the like. But Paul makes it clear - we were not designed for defeat, but to walk in triumph as the Spirit bears His liberating fruit through us. This happens when we get our corrupted hearts in alignment with the Spirit through confession, surrender our need for control, and start viewing life’s obstacles as opportunities for His character to shine. Indeed, there are always more mindsets to shift and choices featuring Jesus’ nature versus our nature. But the Spirit wants to fill our earthly existence with streams of righteousness, joy, and hope that we could never manufacture alone. Our call is to surrender ourselves fully to Him, take His hand in dependent trust, and walk where He leads one step at a time. His peace awaits all who daily trade self-reliance for the provision of divine grace.

 

Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father,

I pray that You would reveal any areas of unconfessed sin in my life that hinders my relationship with You and my ability to walk in the Spirit. Give me courage to admit my faults so Your forgiveness can fully cleanse me. I also ask that You would make me sensitive to any fleshly attitudes and behaviors I tolerate so I can reject the enemy’s influences through the power of Your Spirit. Help me to stay connected to You through prayer and Bible study while also pruning aspects of my character not consistent with Jesus. I want to walk in step with Your Spirit during each interaction, decision and conversation so that Your goodness and love shine through me. Reveal any areas where I try to control my own life rather than relying on the Spirit’s guidance so that I learn to trust Your ability to direct my path.

I pray these things in the most precious name of Jesus, Amen.

 

Galatians 5:25 – “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”

 

 

With His Blessings,

Pastor Corby

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