The Battle With The Flesh
“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” —Galatians 5:16-17
Walking In The Spirit
According to the Apostle Paul, victory over the flesh is assured when one walks in the Spirit. As a believer, the ultimate goal is to rise above the temptations experienced. The question must then be asked, how does one walk in the Spirit?
To walk simply indicates the consistent manner in how we order our life. Paul’s emphasis is upon how we approach our relationship with God. Obviously, there must be a proper way to approach our relationship with God as well as an improper one. What is vital in this battle is that the believer qualify for the help of the Holy Spirit. There are some approaches to God that cut off the Holy Spirit’s benefit to the believer. Our key to victory is when we abide within the parameters in which the Holy Spirit works.
Imagine a four-walled room as being the sphere in which the Holy Spirit can strengthen the believer. No matter what the cost, the believer needs to locate that sphere and abide in it. The Holy Spirit only works within the parameters of the finished work of Christ. It is what Christ has done and our faith in that which places us within the required sphere. Then we can be assured of the assistance of the Holy Spirit. To win the battle over the flesh, the believer must discover and abide in the sphere in which the Spirit works. This is what it means to walk in the Spirit.
The Definition Of The Flesh
The term flesh is not a simple term. It is used to describe many things in the Bible. When Paul uses the term flesh, he primarily deals with that which pertains to the human being. Even though I am a believer, a new creation in Christ Jesus, I still live, dwell, and operate within a body of flesh. Therefore, I can be subject to the desires pertaining to the physical body. Also housed in flesh is the moral center of man. Herein exists the spirit, the soul, the conscience, and the mind. What we think, what we feel, and influences from the spirit world realm are all processed in this moral center.
This inner moral center needs to be renewed after we have come to a relationship with Christ because we have been trained previously by influences from the indwelling sin nature, the world, and spiritual powers of darkness. We have often acted out any ungodly desire that appealed to our senses. Flesh harbors the human nature and the sin nature. In addition, every believer has the Holy Spirit (the divine nature) living on the inside of him. All of this is existing within the confines of what Paul refers to as flesh. Before we can make heaven our final home, this flesh, which now exists in a state of corruption, will have to put on incorruption. The rapture of the church will bring this longed for change to all those who are in Christ. Rest assured that the benefits we have received presently are sufficient to provide us with victory over the sin and weight that does so easily beset us.
Again, the promise is, if we walk in the spirit then we will not carry out or act upon the inappropriate designs and desires that exist in our flesh. It is within the moral center of man that we decide as to what to believe and what is right. Believers often try to defeat sin through their flesh alone. That is, we depend upon who we are, what we know, or what we can do. This is a negative aspect of flesh, basically man minus God. If we rely solely upon ourselves, then we are not walking in the Spirit but walking in the strength of the flesh. Failure then becomes inevitable.
The Evidence Of Walking In The Spirit
When we approach our relationship with God in the wrong way, the evidence of our improper approach surfaces in our lives in the form of an action, an attitude, or a faulty belief system.
Paul lists seventeen separate attributes that stand as evidence (works of the flesh) that the Christian is not walking in the Spirit. It should be noted that these are designed as signs or signals to the Christian that his approach to the Lord is incorrect. The works of the flesh should diminish as one truly walks in the Spirit.
Paul also reveals a list (the fruit of the Spirit) which reveals that the Spirit is free to work in us. As the result of our faith in Christ crucified, the Spirit will produce fruit that is evidenced in a Godlike character and nature. These are signals that we are learning how to truly depend upon what God has supplied. When we take heed of the signals—good or bad—the believer can know whether he is fully submitting to God’s redemption plan. That plan is to maintain faith in Christ crucified.
Walking in the Spirit indicates that a believer is trusting in the finished work of Christ as the basis of relationship with God. It means that we are not counting on our own abilities to bring us victory. Paul declares that the flesh has already been defeated through our union with Christ on Calvary.
Do we keep the cross of Christ as the object of our faith? Does this lead us to a total dependence upon Jesus for victory over sin? If so, perhaps it could be said that we have learned how to walk in the Spirit with the result that we are not consistently yielding ourselves to the negative influences in our flesh.