Even though we are no longer “in the flesh,” we can still live according to the flesh. Every believer has a choice. They can walk according the flesh, and they can walk according to the Spirit. The apostle Paul wrote, “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, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Gal. 5:16-18).
Why is the flesh in opposition to the Spirit? The flesh is a learned independence. Before we came to Christ, we all learned to live independently of God. The Holy Spirit, like Jesus, is totally dependent upon the Father. Neither will do anything on their own initiative. Remember, all temptation is an attempt to get us to live independently of God. How then can we know whether we are living according to the flesh? “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Gal. 5:19-21).
How than can we know whether we are living according to the Spirit? “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal. 5:22,23). Notice that the deeds of flesh are devoid of spiritual life, whereas, the fruit of the Spirit signifies something living. In other words, dead deeds versus living character. Also notice, that the fruit of the Spirit is singular. It is love, Christ-likeness, which is manifested in the other eight traits. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13:35).
The choice of how we live is not dependent upon external circumstances, or the cooperation of other people. It is dependent upon what we think and choose to believe. “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit” (Rom. 8:5). The battle is for the mind, and we have the right and the responsibility to choose.
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