Yesterday we said it is the Lord’s will for us to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us”, so that we can “run with endurance the race that is set before us” and no longer be slaves to sin. Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin’.” (John 8:34)
We then looked at a list of sins which can entangle us: “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal 5:19-21)
So how do we lay aside the sin which so easily ensnares us? “I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want.” (Gal 5:16-17)
Paul’s plea is for believers not to waste their freedom in Christ on serving their own flesh, and their own selfish desires. Instead, he has told those free in Christ to serve each other in love. He is describing a life of self-sacrifice lived out in response to God’s love for us. “For you were called to be free, brothers; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. For the entire law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Gal 5:13-14)
Paul describes how to live in this way. After all, this kind of love does not come naturally. Not only do we resist giving up our own way, we often simply do not know how to love. Without the rules of the law to guide our every decision, how will we use our freedom in Christ to love each other?
Paul points to the only source of power and wisdom beyond ourselves: the Holy Spirit of God. He revealed earlier in this letter that the Spirit comes to live in the hearts of every one of God’s sons and daughters (Gal 4:6). Now Paul tells us to use this freedom in Christ to access the power of God’s Spirit in our hearts in our everyday lives. He tells us, literally, to walk, and keep on walking, by the Spirit’s power and guidance. “I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” (Gal 5:16)
Paul tells us to set aside our own power and relying on God’s. In the same way we could not fulfill the law by our own effort, Paul tells us to quit trying to serve each other in love on our own. The Spirit of God that lives in us is available and willing to help; it’s how free people in Christ avoid giving in to the desires of our flesh. It’s how we overcome our strong appetites to do what feels good even if that thing is sinful. In the Spirit’s power, we can say no to ourselves. We need to understand His immeasurable power to guide us in all godliness.
“I pray that the perception of your mind may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His vast strength. He demonstrated this power in the Messiah by raising Him from the dead and seating Him at His right hand in the heavens—far above every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” (Eph 1:18-21)