HOLY SPIRIT III
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. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law – Galatians 5:16-18.
HOW TO LIVE IN THE SPIRIT
One thing above all distinguishes me from a non-Christian or from myself before I became a Christian: the indwelling life of Christ the Holy Spirit brings to me.
This is not simply an idea. It is a reality. I can know that Christ is my Savior and have perfectly orthodox ideas about Him, but that is different from having His living presence within me. As a Christian I have two natures perfectly united within myself by the working of the Holy Spirit: my human and the living presence of Christ. To live in the Spirit means the living presence of Christ has the authority. To live in the flesh means I have taken over the rule, and Christ does not have freedom to operate in me.
How do I learn to live in the Spirit, to activate the presence of Christ within me? I must take two basic steps.
- First, I must say yes to the Spirit. I must recognize Him and ask for His help. The most natural way to do this is in daily prayer. It seems as if the Holy Spirit thrives on recognition. As I recognize His presence, He makes that presence effectual.
I need to recognize the Holy Spirit day by day, so that He is free to work in me. Then, as I go about the activities of my daily life, I just say, ‘Lord, I’m going through these outward acts, and I am trusting you to work out their eternal dimension. The results both in my inner life and in the lives of the people I touch are up to you.”
One way, then, to release the Spirit within me is simply to recognize Him. Another way, related to the first, is to deal decisively back in its own hands. I simply must not allow the flesh that chance. Paul said, “Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature” – Galatians 5:16.
Paul didn’t say, ‘Don’t have the desires of the flesh.” Everyone has those desires, and it would be hypocritical to deny it. We are still of the flesh, and there is nothing wrong with the flesh – so long as it is not in the driver’s seat. But we tell the flesh, “No, you cannot have the steering wheel.” Even though we have the desires of the flesh, we don’t have to act them out. And when we say no to the flesh, we free the Spirit to act.
Larry Christenson puts it this way:
I had a disagreement with my wife one morning while we were traveling together in Europe. I was really angry with her. I felt she had been completely off base. We were going to take a train ride, and I was thinking, “If we get a compartment all to ourselves, I am going to really straighten her out.”
As we were riding down the hotel elevator, reedy to check out, I sensed the Holy Spirit saying, “Don’t talk about it.” The massage was very clear. This irritated me, and I mentally started to argue. “No,” the Holy Spirit said, “don’t bother. It’s not worth the time.” I recognize the Holy Spirit speaking, and so I didn’t say any more.
The whole thing was resolved in a far different way from what I had expected. We got a compartment all to ourselves on the train. I said nothing to my wife about our disagreement. She had a real burden to pray about one of our children, and so we had a good prayer time together. When we walked off a couple of hours later, the little thing I had been concerned about had just vanished. It had no more importance at all.
The Spirit, you see, had really wanted us to intercede for our child. All I had to do to release the Spirit was to decline to gratify the desire of the flesh to set my wife straight. The rest just happened; the Spirit took over. But in order for the Spirit to take over, I had to be willing to say no to the Spirit. At the moment of saying no, we may not know precisely what the spirit wants to do. But we can be sure He will tell us later, once we have cleared the way for Him to act.
Most people today have an individualistic mentally. They may have social relationships, but they think of themselves primarily as solitary individuals. This should not be true of Christians. What makes the Christian life so exciting is that we have been removed from a life of solitariness into a life of being united with another. This union needs to be quickened day by day. Day by day we need to become more aware of the presence of Christ living within us. We can do this if every day we say no to the flesh and yes to the Spirit.
Paul says it beautifully in Galatians 5:16-26 – So I advice you to live according to your new life in the Holy Spirit. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The old sinful nature loves to do evil, which is just opposite from what the Holy Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are opposite from what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, and your choices are never free from this conflict. But when you are directed by the Holy Spirit, you are no longer subject to the law.
When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts. Eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outburst of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, He will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law.
Those who belong to Jesus Christ have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to His cross and crucified them there. If we are living now by the Holy Spirit, let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or irritate one another, or be jealous of one another.
EQUIPPED FOR BATTLE
Can the Holy Spirit fight our daily battles for us? There may be emergencies in which we see the Holy at work, and we realize that He has, in a sense, taken over when we are at the end of our resources. But the task of the Holy Spirit is to teach us, to convict us, and to give us a perspective that will make us more effective in fighting our daily battles. He equips us to fight, rather than taking over our battles for us.
Source: Inspired by writings of Larry Christenson.
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