How would you describe the state of your relationships right now?
I’m thinking particularly of the many who have had more time than they ever planned on to be at home. Stuck. With the same people. Day after day….
I’m of course writing with a bit too much drama, but I have noticed that more time together can mean more fights breaking out, more hurt feelings, more complaining, silent treatments, or angry outbursts. And with seasonal allergies afflicting many, it’s hard to even get outside to get a reprieve!
Amidst these many relational challenges all of us face, even as we near the end of the stay-at-home directions, the Lord is at work. He wants us to understand why we have difficulties in our relationships, and He wants us to learn how to experience through living out the Fruit of the Spirit.
This week on Counsel for the Heart I want to look at Galatians 5:16-26 and share some counsel about how the Holy Spirit works to transform us in the everyday circumstances we are in and for the good of all He has placed in our lives.
Galatians 5:16–26 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.  Now the works 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. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (ESV)
Getting to the Heart
Let’s get the main idea from verses 16-17. Christian, you are in a war! “Yes!” you may answer, “You must have been in my home last night overhearing the conversation between me and my kids (or spouse or brother or sister)!” No, my friend, I wasn’t in your house. I take it on the authority of God’s Word in Galatians 5 that we are all in a war. It’s the war of the Spirit vs. the flesh.
Before a person gets saved, he or she was ruled completely by the flesh, that ruling force within that seeks out all things for the maximum pleasure and exaltation of self. After the Holy Spirit saves and redeems that person the true battle begins. Prior to salvation there was no fight! Whatever the flesh wanted, it got. It didn’t matter who was in the way or who got hurt. All that mattered was self.
After Jesus comes in, the flesh is crucified. That means the power of the flesh to rule you and produce all kinds of wicked works in and through you has gotten the death blow by Jesus on the cross. Something still remains of those evil desires within us, though. By God’s plan He will completely eradicate all those wicked desires in us, and He has given us His Holy Spirit right now to live within us to fight. It’s a battle of desires: the flesh desires (actually in the Greek language it over desires) the exaltation of self, and the Spirit within our renewed hearts desires the exaltation of Jesus Christ.
What can we learn from these two verses?
- If you are fighting wrong desires right now, as hard as that seems, it’s a blessing! Why? Because it reveals that God the Holy Spirit is at work in you. Non-Christians don’t experience the war within to love and honor Jesus vs loving and honoring self. Don’t give up!
- The battle is inside your heart, not with other people. This is crucial to remember when we are with those closest to us at home. Look at those believers with you (your spouse, kids, brothers and sisters, housemates) as your teammates, your Christian brothers and sisters who are also in the war with you. Help them and seek through prayer their good and spiritual progress. Look at non-believers with you as people made in God’s image that currently need prayer and encouragement to submit to Jesus. Be their encouragers and allow them to see the work of the Spirit in you.
- Ultimately, even though we are in this battle, the Spirit of God will win! At times when things may seem hopeless, or when the power of your crucified flesh seems stronger, please remember that Jesus has crucified the flesh of the believer, with its passions and desires (Gal. 5:24).
Let’s talk it over:
- Where are you experiencing the fight right now? Be encouraged as you share with others, knowing that every believer is in this fight right now.
- How have you seen the Holy Spirit help you in the fight against your remaining flesh and its desires? Remember, the Spirit longs for Jesus and His glory. How has the Spirit shown you the superiority of Jesus in the fight?
Lord the Holy Spirit, You have saved and redeemed us. Thank You for applying in our lives the finished work of Jesus our Lord so that we are no longer ruled by the flesh and its desires. Nevertheless we are still in the war, and we thank You that You are present in us, desiring the exaltation of Jesus Christ. He is the only worthy King and Ruler of our hearts. Please continue to war the flesh in us, and help us to grow this week by looking at Your work in us. In Jesus name, Amen.
Worship in Song:
Holy Spirit, living Breath of God,
Breathe new life into my willing soul.
Bring the presence of the risen Lord
To renew my heart and make me whole.
Galatians 5:22–24 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (ESV)