But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, you keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
— Galatians 5:16-18 ESV

Paul is telling us in this passage to walk by the Holy Spirit rather than walking by the desires of our flesh. If you go on and read the next five verses, he gets much more specific on what those two things mean. Living by the Spirit means living in freedom and abundance and not under the law. Living by the flesh means living controlled by things that aren’t from God – things like idolatry, jealously, and anger. He says that living by the Spirit and living by the flesh don’t go together. They are actually opposed to one another – meaning you can’t do both or just flip flop between how you’re feeling that specific day. 

The reason Paul refers to worldly, not-from-God things as “the flesh” is because that’s what our natural, human inclination will lead us toward. According to the world we live in, it’s normal and acceptable to live by the flesh. The goods new is, even though it’s difficult to tune out these desires and inclinations, it’s entirely possible because of the Holy Spirit. That’s one of the reasons why God even gave us the Holy Spirit – to empower us and help us to live in freedom and wholeness. Because of the Holy Spirit, we get to have hope in something much bigger than us and our world and actually live the life God has called us to. 

To live a life by the Spirit and not by the flesh, we have tune into the Holy Spirit. When our selfish desires or sinful nature start to take hold or overcome us, we can remember the fact that Jesus died so we wouldn’t have to live like that anymore. When we continually return to and be grateful for the truth that because of the cross we don’t have to live as slaves to our flesh, living by the Spirit makes perfect sense and becomes what we truly want and desire to do. So, next time you are really angry and frustrated or you are tempted by an old habit, remember that Jesus has more for you. He has freedom for you and you have access to that freedom right now! 

pray

God, thank you that even though I mess up and fall short, you still love me just the same. Thank you for giving me your Holy Spirit. Teach me to look quickly toward you in all circumstances – good or bad. Thank you that I don’t have to live as a slave to my flesh. Today, show me what it means to live a life empowered by the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

- Sarah T