“Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please” (Galatians 5:16-17 NASB).
Sometimes I feel like my mind has a back door, and my own flesh is standing there letting in all kinds of worldly and ungodly images and thoughts. At the same time, my mind tells me that as a believer, I would not consciously keep choosing that which produces sinful garbage in my thoughts and actions. Or would I?
Paul seemed to describe this same struggle when he wrote, “What I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15). Then he adds another angle to that thought in Galatians 5:17 when he writes, “The flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.”
This passage makes walking in the Spirit extremely important if we want to maintain a healthy love relationship with Jesus. If we want our communication with God to be fruitful, and if we want to experience the power of the Spirit in our lives and service to God, we must make finding victory over the flesh a priority.
So what are some things we can do to help us walk in the Spirit and find victory over the flesh on a more consistent basis?
1. We need to reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11). Jesus put this thought in the form of a very clear statement when He said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).
Through our ongoing union with Christ in His death and resurrection, we must remind ourselves daily that everything the flesh wants us to do is deserving of death. Therefore, we need to do some spiritual accounting and actually visualize putting the things we are ashamed of in the tomb with Jesus.
On the other hand, we also need to remember that we now have the freedom and resurrection power to know and do God’s will. We need to make the commitment to literally walk with Jesus each day.
2. We need to evaluate our daily actions and put plans in place to stop presenting the members of our bodies with opportunities to sin (Romans 6:12-13). If the flesh keeps pushing us to look at pornography, we need to decide right now not to go to the websites, movies, or magazine racks that place temptation in front of our eyes.
If drunkenness is a craving of our flesh, we must keep alcoholic beverages out of our houses and stop going to bars. If anger is an ongoing issue, we need to let God examine the “rights” we feel are being violated, and surrender to God every privilege we are claiming for ourselves. If we are finding it difficult to make time to be alone with God on a daily basis, we need to reprioritize and rearrange our schedules.
3. We need to intentionally submit to the Spirit on a daily basis, keeping the focal point of our thoughts off the things of this world and on the things related to Christ’s kingdom (Galatians 5:16; Colossians 3:1-2). Our flesh loves to entertain sinful thoughts and images that lead to the kind of sinful deeds that sent Jesus to the cross.
As soon as we realize our mind is going someplace it should not go, we must take our thoughts captive and turn our attention back to Jesus, asking Him what He would have us focus on at that moment (2 Corinthians 10:5). Spending time in God’s Word on a daily basis helps us with this process, because the Holy Spirit will use it as a filter so we can more easily discern whether our thoughts are from God or the flesh.
Some people are content letting garbage stack up around their houses. As Christians, we will never be pleasing to God if we keep sweeping our spiritual garbage under the rug.
If the back door of your mind is currently open, ask God to help you close it today. Repent, and let the cleansing power of Jesus’ blood rid your heart and mind of the garbage so enjoyed by the flesh.
May every thought and focus of our minds today be as a fragrant aroma before our Father!