We talked yesterday about staying out of the pig sty of sin that we were set free from. But once again, Paul reminds us that this is not a matter of keeping the law in our own strength.
Rather, he says,
So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. (16-17)
Notice he does not say, “Live by your own ability to keep the law and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” Rather, he says live by the Spirit. The picture here is of walking in the leading of and by the power of the Spirit each day.
In other words, we shouldn’t just be reading our Bible and praying in the morning, and then saying, “Okay, God. I’m outta here. See you later.” Rather, we should be saying, “Holy Spirit, walk with me today. Help me to hear your voice throughout the day. And help me to do the things you desire me to do.”
And Paul says that if we do this, there is no way we will fulfill the desires of our old rebellious heart. Why not? Because what our old rebellious heart desired is completely different from what the Spirit desires and vice-versa. All our old habits and attitudes are in constant war with with what the Spirit desires to do in our lives. That’s why we still struggle with sin even to this day. Paul talks about that struggle in Romans 7:14-25.
But if we learn to hear his voice moment to moment, day to day, and let him lead us, he’ll lead us in a direction totally opposite from where our old habits and attitudes would take us.
The thing to remember, though is life under the law is totally different from life under the Spirit. Paul makes this crystal clear, saying,
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. (18)
How are the two ways of life different? Life under the law is lived in our own strength. Life under the Spirit is lived in his strength. Life under the law leads to feelings of condemnation. Life under the Spirit causes us to cry out, “Abba, Father.”
Again, though, life under the Spirit is totally different from life under sin. Paul goes into this long list of what a life under sin looks like, and it’s pretty ugly (19-21). He then makes it crystal clear that no one who lives that way will enter the kingdom of heaven.
But after that, Paul shows us what a true Christian inhabited by the Spirit of God looks like. They are people filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (22-23).
Two things to note here. These fruit may not be fully mature in your life right now, but if you are a true Christian, they should be growing in your life. You should see a difference between what you were before and what you are now.
Second, notice that it doesn’t say, “The fruit of all your efforts to keep the law is love, joy, peace, etc.” Rather, it says the fruit of the Spirit is all these things. When you are plugged into Jesus who is the true vine, then these things will naturallly start to grow in your life (John 15). Apart from a relationship with Christ, you will find it impossible to bear all these fruit in your life.
So again, the focus in our lives shouldn’t be on trying to keep the law, but in walking in relationship with Christ and the Holy Spirit.
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. (24)
True Christians have crucified that old, rebellious, hardened heart toward God. They don’t indulge it. They may struggle with sin, but they won’t gladly embrace it in their lives.
So Paul concludes with this exhortation:
Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (25)
How about you? You have received eternal life from the Spirit God has given you. Are you now trying to live life in your own strength? Or are you walking each day, following after him, listening to his voice, and leaning on his strength to do what he says? How are you living your life?