“It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.
This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.” (Galatians 5:19-23 MSG)
I remember asking our children when they were little, “Why did you color on the couch – with lipstick?” Or, “Why did you eat the whole stick of butter?” Makes me laugh now, all those “why” questions that were answered with a feeble “I don’t know.” As an adult, I can still relate to their lack of understanding.
Paul shares that our actions are often dictated by something we do not fully comprehend. (Romans 7:15-18) Certainly, we could blame the world or the demonic, but most often it’s our old nature that pulls us toward expressing sin in the way we think and the choices we make. Our flesh turns on us and seeks to seize an opportunity to trip us up. Even in identifying with Christ’s death and resurrection we cannot in our own power resist our sinful desires. And it is impossible to move in two directions at once – pleasing our flesh and pleasing God. They are in direct opposition in character and tendency.
Our antidote to this bossy flesh is to be led by the locomotive power of the Holy Spirit – to walk by and live by the Spirit. (Galatians 5:16,25) It is His divine power that “has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” (2 Peter 1:3) With regard to other deceiving factors we are reminded that “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) We have been generously guaranteed the victory if we choose to follow Christ who “always leads us in triumphal procession.” (2 Corinthians 2:14) But don’t be confused. This is not the wave of a magic wand. The empowerment of the Holy Spirit or grace is not activated until we make the decision to follow His will.
I have this memory of closely following my dad on a hiking trail when I was a little girl. He would take what seemed like a giant stretch of a step, leaving a clear shoe imprint in the dirt. With eyes narrowly focused on that foot print, I would practically leap to land exactly where he left his mark. Following the Spirit is similar. Let Him leave His mark of truth. Only He can do that. Only you can let Him. And then follow His trail one step at a time.
So often the reason for our frustration and failure is our ridiculous attempt to please both our selfish desires and the Lord. The Spirit and our flesh will never be productive partners. Consider where you are experiencing defeat. Are you trying to please your desires or are you following the Lord in His ways?
How does God want you to respond to what you have read today?
Heavenly Father, thank You for allowing me the privilege of being Your child. I don’t to please my sinful nature; I want to please You. Father, mark my life with Your truth. I ask for Your empowerment as I choose to follow You in response to Your love. In the all-powerful name of Jesus Christ, I pray; amen.