Galatians 5:16–18 (NKJV)
16I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
As fallen human beings, our problem is twofold. Our first problem is that we have sinned against God and are guilty in His sight. We are, in Paul’s words, “under the law”, condemned by its precepts to God’s wrath and judgment. We need the forgiving grace of God. And the only way that God can extend that forgiving grace to us and remain just is if a substitute takes our place and bears the guilt of our sin, endures the just judgment that we deserve. Thanks be to God, Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. By trusting in Christ we can be forgiven of our sin and cleansed of our guilt and God Himself can remain just.
Our second problem as fallen human beings is that our longings and desires are twisted. The very reason that we have sinned against God is because we are sinners. We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners. Paul calls this sinful nature “the flesh.” The longing of the flesh is to dishonor the Living God, to question His law, to doubt His goodness, and to flout His justice.
Now, hear the good news, Christ not only died to forgive the guilt of our sin, He also rose from the dead in order that through the power of His resurrected life, we may walk in newness of life. Jesus has risen from the dead and, as the Risen Christ, God’s Anointed Ruler, He has poured out His Spirit upon His people so that we may walk in newness of life. To believe in Christ, therefore, is not only to be forgiven of sin but to be empowered for obedience.
What, then, is our calling? If you have believed in Christ, have sought out the forgiving grace of God in Christ, then your task is to walk by the Spirit. Notice Paul’s summons in our text today:
16I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.
The desires of the flesh and the desires of the Spirit are contrary to one another. While the flesh would dishonor God, the Spirit would honor Him; while the flesh would pursue unrighteousness, the Spirit would pursue righteousness. So walk by the Spirit – for it is those who walk by the Spirit who have truly experienced the forgiving grace of God in Christ, who are not “under the law” as a condemnatory voice.
So what of you? The psalmist prays, “Teach me Your way, O Yahweh; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.” (Ps 86:11). Is it your prayer to have a united heart? To have a heart that is not one moment going after the desires of the flesh and another after the desires of the Spirit? Then pray as the psalmist prays – that God of His grace and mercy would pour out an even greater measure of His Spirit upon you that you walk in the Spirit and so not fulfill the desires of the flesh.
Reminded that we need both the forgiving and transforming grace of God in our lives, and that this comes only through the death and resurrection of Jesus, let us confess our sin to the Lord and petition Him for grace and mercy through Christ. And, as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess. We will have a time of silent confession, followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.