Monday, May 14, 2007

Walk in the Spirit

But I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:16).
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (Col. 3:1-2).

I have spent the last few months walking through the book of Galatians with the church on Sunday nights. From it, the apostle Paul has taught us repeatedly that both justification and sanctification are ours through faith in Jesus Christ. Justification is immediate; sanctification is progressive as belief conquers unbelief.

Galatians 5:16 helps us to see the connection between walking in the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit, and conversly, it teaches us what the fleshly, sinful walk will yield. But what does it mean to "walk in the Spirit?" It sounds good, but what does it mean? How does simple faith in Jesus win the battle against adultery, fornication, lewdness, outbursts of anger, and etc.? If we cannot answer this question for the struggling Christian, of whom I am one, then Paul's admonition is useless.

One thing that we know that cannot mean is that willpower will overcome sin. Willpower cannot conquer sin; only faith can. For example, one might believe that the "cure" for the young man ensared by internet pornography is to simply quit looking at pornography. Certainly, he should quit immediately! But this is not the cure that Paul wants. Paul wants the seemingly impossible; he wants you and I to kill lust at its source. Oogling naked women on the internet is the fever; lust is the true sickness. If we wish to be free from evil, then we must kill it at its root.

Jerome, one of the early church fathers, had a serious issue with lust. He lived in Rome, a veritable cesspool of temptation. Jerome decided that if he were to flee to the desert, then he would find some relief. To his dismay, he found that even though he was famished from fasting and chilled by the cool desert nights, his heart was aflame with lust, and in his mind the chorus girls of Rome still danced. Leaving Rome profited him nothing.

Paul writes, "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Gal. 5:24). Great. How do you kill a desire or rid yourself of a passion? The computer I can turn off; my heart I am stuck with. What shall be my hammer and where will I turn for nails to kill the sin that lurks in my heart? This is a desperate question for me, for I wish to be rid of sin for good. I hope that you do as well.

I believe that the answer is found in Colossians 3:1-2. We must "set our minds" on heavenly things. By this, I believe that the Spirit would have us remember all the promises of God to us in Christ Jesus. The true enemy is unbelief, and the certain cure is the Word of God and all of the promises therein. Here's what it looks like for me.

Sometimes, even as I kneel to pray, the most ungodly thoughts will flit across the field of my mind. They are enticing, fleshly, appealing thoughts, sent out by the devil or my sinful heart. I don't know which and I don't care. At that moment when sin crouches to pounce, I take up the Word I have hidden in my heart, and I fight for faith. I remind myself that there is a King in Heaven who is coming to rule. I remind myself that one day, a King will sit on the throne in the New Jerusalem and He will judge in righteousness. I remind myself that He has eyes like fire and feet like bronze and a voice like the sound of rushing waters. I remind myself that this King loves me and lives for me and encourages me to seek Him and all the treasure of His kingdom. I remind myself that it is His delight to prepare a feast of righteousness for me in the presence of my enemies, and that they are helpless to hinder it.

So what does this have to do with killing lust? For one thing, I find that I cannot entertain thoughts about my glorious King and lust at the same time. I find that in the beauty of His grace, those fleeting pleasures of sin look utterly repulsive. Clinging to the promise of who He is and what He has done for me and what He has yet in store for me drives the darkness away like the noonday sun.

So take up the Word and treasure the promises of God. I believe that this is the bases for walking in the Spirit.

9 comments:

Garrett said...

Thank you so much for this post. I feel like the principles that you enunciate here are absolutely vital for helping believers to "fight the good fight of faith" when it comes to "putting to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit".

I've always been encouraged as well by the example of the temptation of Christ. What weapon did the Son of God Himself use in His battle with the tempter? "The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God"! Surely in Christ we see a master swordsman at work in giving us an example of how to defeat the temptations we encounter.

Thank you again for your thoughts here.

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Mason said...

Thanks. I really needed to hear these thoughts today.

Even So... said...

Excellent, and the writing style was impressive...

Ched said...

Willpower cannot conquer sin; only faith can.

Helpful words.

Lisa writes... said...

Well said, as always...

St.Lee said...

Let me be the 6th one to say Amen!

Sojourner said...

Thank you all for the encouragement!

Sista Cala said...

Temptation will come, but it is easily displaced when I begin to pray or sing praises to the Lord.

Anonymous said...

Even though its been 2.5 years since your published this post, it has answered a question that I struggle with daily. Your admission that evil thoughts enter your heart even during prayer hit home with me. I feel like a failed Christian many times, and don't believe at times that I should even be teaching a Sunday School class with the sinful thoughts that enter my mind. I have begun to try to read the Word whenever temptation looms. I pray that will help me too.