Now we cannot ... discover our failure to keep God’s law except by trying our very hardest (and then failing). … All this trying leads up to the vital moment at which you turn to God and say, “You must do this. I can’t.” — C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Walking in the Spirit really is backwards… I mean, it’s a complete 180-degree shift from walking in the flesh. Moment by moment, the choice is ours. Walk in the flesh or walk in the Spirit? For those who have taken the fleshly route before, they know where independence from God leads:
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like… (Galatians 5:19-21a)
If we’re living life in the flesh, we can expect to experience:
- Sexual sin—sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery
- Addictions—idolatry and witchcraft (witchcraft comes from the word we now use for pharmaceuticals)
- Relational pain—hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy
- Reckless behavior—drunkenness, orgies, and the like…
Part of the Christian life is experiencing profound moral transformation through the indwelling Spirit of God. Still, for some of us it isn’t enough to know that God’s Spirit is available to work in us, because we are afraid of falling back into the acts of the flesh.
Perhaps you feel like there is something more you should do. If someone would give you a to-do list detailing how to live a good Christian life, you’d feel so much safer! The Galatian believers shared this desire. This is why they turned to the law, neglected grace, and tried to rid themselves of the acts of the flesh in their own strength. Sure, that seems like the natural thing to do, but it misses the point.
The law was a handy to—do list. Yet, instead of offering a legalistic to-do, what would Paul say to those of us desperate to know how to avoid acts of the flesh?
I believe Paul’s point to us is this:
- Renounce independence from God.
- Choose to live dependently upon the Spirit.
If you are tired today, discouraged and worn out in your battle against the flesh, consider these words of C. S. Lewis again:
“Now we cannot... discover our failure to keep God’s law except by trying our very hardest (and then failing)… All this trying leads up to the vital moment at which you turn to God and say, ‘You must do this. I can’t.’”
Author of Acceptance, Lord, I give up. I suffer from perfectionism. All I really wanted was to live this Christian life well. Now I see that even this desire—when lived out of legalism—is rooted in flesh. You must do this. I can’t. May Your Spirit usher me into abundant life. I quit trying and ask only that You would live through me moment by moment today, in a vibrant walk in Your Spirit. Amen.