Walking in the Spirit-Pt. 2
“Walking in the Spirit—Pt. II”
Series: Set Free To Be Free (Galatians)
Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD
Henderson’s First Baptist Church, Henderson
Today we are in the second part of a message entitled, “Walking in the Spirit.” This title is taken from the key verse that introduces this section of material, Galatians 5:16, an excellent memory verse: I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” It is an ironclad guarantee. The way we avoid sin and temptation is by walking in the Spirit. Walk in the Spirit and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
It’s helpful to talk about this in greater detail as review strengthens our understanding and our grasp of the truth. Before we study, let’s pray. Let me invite you to remain seated and we’ll pray.
“Dear God, help us understand Your Word today. This passage is powerful in helping us to walk in victory and freedom. So bless us with freedom in Christ. As we study Your Word, show us ourselves, show us our sin, and show us our Savior. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
Two weeks ago we introduced the topic of the Christian’s battle. We called it “the battle within.” That daily battle is summed up succinctly in Galatians 5:17, “For the flesh lusts agains the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”
Every day, and throughout the moments of each day, the Christian is in battle. It is the battle between what Paul calls the lusts or desires of the flesh and the desires of the Spirit. It’s a conflict within between the “old us” or the “old nature” and the “new us,” the “new nature.” I wrote down in my notes this week a couple phrases I thought might be helpful to us as we think about this battle and arm for it each day.
The “old nature” (flesh) is what we are born with
Every human being has this nature. He or she is born with it. This is our sin nature, the nature we inherited from our first parents Adam and Eve. The “old nature” (flesh) is what we are born with:
The “new nature” (Spirit) is what we are “born again” with
Every Christian also has this “new nature.” God gives us this new nature when we repent from our sin, making a decisive break with our sin and turning to Jesus, believing in Jesus Christ, receiving Him as Lord. We believe He lived for us, fulfilling the demands of the law, died for us, taking the punishment for our sin, and rose from the dead that we may have life. These truths are pictured in Christian baptism.
We believe this and God grants to us a new nature, birthed by the Holy Spirit who remains with us in our Christian lives. So the “old nature” (flesh) what we are born with and the “new nature” (Spirit) is what we are “born again” with.
That word “flesh” does not refer to skin in this context. It is not the outer covering of our bodies, but rather the “old us,” the “old nature,” who we are apart from Christ’s renewing work. We said the “flesh” is by nature very self-focused, self-oriented, self-concerned. Selfish. Unholy. So a helpful mnemonic device, a helpful way to remember what is the flesh, is by spelling it out:
Remove the ‘H’ (if we allow the ‘H’ to stand for holiness; remove the ‘H’) and read it backwards: S-E-L-F
That may be helpful when we read passages like these and we come to this word “flesh.” It is the sinful, self-dominated, self-obsessed, self-ruling “old nature,” what we are born with. Here’s a couple more phrases that may be helpful.
The old nature is ours by physical birth
The new nature is ours by spiritual birth
These phrases are given to help Christians get a handle on the struggle that occurs within them: “the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” We are each day fighting this battle within. We are dealing with this sin that remains within us.
When Jesus died for our sins, He took the punishment we deserved for our rebellion against God. While all of us die, only Jesus could die a death that atones for sin. He dies to take our punishment. He died for the penalty of sin. And when He died—and then rose from the dead—He robbed sin of its power. The power of sin is broken. So while sin remains, it no longer reigns as a dominating principle. This phrase again bears repeating and I encourage you to commit it to memory:
“Sin remains, but no longer reigns”
Jesus saves us from the penalty of sin and the power of sin. He fought the war over sin and won by dying and rising from the dead. But while the war has been won, there are still these ongoing skirmishes, battles, until the Christian goes home to be with Jesus. And in that final state, that final day when all the saints are gathered to be with Jesus in the glories of heaven, we enter into that eternal rest known as glorification—a state of perfection and a time when sin will be no more. Sin’s power then is completely defunct.
In the meantime our flesh, our “old us,” our “old nature” is gradually dying a slow death. We crucified our flesh, our old nature, when we repented from sin and believed Jesus. Verse 24: “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with tis passions and desires.” Crucifixion is a slow death So our old self, our old us, our old nature, is gradually dying out and losing its power while we walk in a new power, a new nature, walking in the Spirit. Walk in the Spirit and you shall not fulfill the desires of the flesh, the old you, the part of you that you nailed to a cross when you were saved. Leave your flesh there on the cross to die. Don’t toy with it and try to give it life. It is dying.
This is Paul’s point here. When you toy with the flesh and try to work it again, it’s like you are re-animating something that is dying out. And that’s what happens when Christians give-in to the “old nature” and allow themselves to work the “works of the flesh.” A number of “works of the flesh” or sins are represented in verses 19 through 21. The list is not exhaustive, but representative, representing frequent sins that plague Christians who do not walk in the Spirit. We won’t read through them all again. We addressed them last week, and you will recall from the outline that they may be categorized somewhat into four realms.
**Four Realms of Works of the Flesh:
I. The Realm of Sex (19)
II. The Realm of Spirituality (20)
III. The Realm of Society (20-21)
IV. The Realm of Substance Abuse (21)
So when we walk in the Spirit we do not fulfill the lust of the flesh. We don’t do the things listed in verses 19-21. They are things we do not do; the bad, the negative. But walking in the Spirit also has a positive corollary. There are good things we do, good things that naturally follow when we walk in the Spirit. And this is our concern this morning:
**Producing the Fruit of the Spirit (22-23)
Verse 22, “But,” and note the contrast here. But. That is, rather than giving-in to the old nature, the old flesh, walk in the Spirit. And when you walk in the Spirit, not only will you not do the things of verses 19-21, but you will do the things of verses 22 and 23:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
So before we talk any further here about the fruit of this new nature, the fruit of the Spirit, take a moment to recall that God is in you by way of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 6:19: “You are a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you.” This means that you are no longer who you once were. You are different now! You have been changed! There’s an old gospel song: “I’ve been changed, I’m newborn now, my life has been rearranged.” And it has! Actually more than our lives being rearranged, they have been remade! The Spirit is actually forming new desires within you.
Christians want to follow these new desires, desires largely bound up in Christ, bound up in Jesus. A love for Jesus and all the things that go with what it means to be in Christ.
So Christians must regularly say no to the wrong desires and say yes to the new desires. We say no to the flesh and say yes to the Spirit. We reject what we know is wrong and receive what we know is right. We turn our back on sin and turn our face to the Savior. And we must be equally diligent to do both. This is the only way we can bear fruit that lasts, by continuing to be with Jesus, seek Jesus, look to Jesus.
This is the metaphor again of the lifeline cast to us while we are sinking in the sea. The lifeline of the gospel must be grasped not just at the initial point of salvation when we become Christians, but the lifeline must be grasped regularly throughout each day of our Christian life. Saying “yes” to the Spirit is an ongoing looking to Christ and being with Christ, abiding in Christ, that leads to our bearing fruit. Apart from an intentional and ongoing focus upon Christ we’ll hear the commands of the Bible like the exhausted guy sinking in the water and someone yells to us, “swim harder” and we try to work harder at staying above water, but we don’t get anywhere.
We don’t just “work harder” at bearing fruit, hoping to “drum up” the ability to produce these character qualities without looking to Christ. We don’t just read that the fruit of the Spirit is “patience,” for example, and think: “Well, now I’ve just got to be more patient. I’m going to work harder at this tomorrow. I’m going to be better at being patient. I’m going to really work on this “peace” thing. I will try hard to be peaceful this week.”
The way to produce the fruit of the Spirit is not so much by focusing on the fruit as to focus on the root. Look to Christ!
Remember Jesus’ words to His disciples in John 15? Hear Jesus in John 15:4-5:
4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
The only way to bear fruit is by abiding in Christ. Walking in the Spirit is an intentional activity of looking to Christ and abiding in Christ. You cannot produce fruit of yourself. But if you walk in the Spirit, you will bear fruit. It is guaranteed.
So again: the way to produce the fruit of the Spirit is not so much by focusing on the fruit (trying harder to be more loving, trying harder to be more patient). This may be why Paul doesn’t use the same phrase as he did to describe the sins in verses 19-21; describing those sins as “works of the flesh.” We don’t read here of the “works of the Spirit.” The fruit of the Spirit are not “works.” He does not say “works of the Spirit.” He doesn’t call them that. He simply says, “fruit (singular) of the Spirit.” So we don’t focus so much on the fruit, as to focus on the root. Look to Christ! He’s your lifeline. Walk in the Spirit and you will bear fruit! All of it. All nine manifestations of it given in verses 22-23.
Incidentally, this is one reason I think the word “fruit” is singular in number. There’s a unity of the fruit. It’s not “fruits” of the Spirit, but “fruit” of the Spirit.
You can’t really have one virtue and not another when you walk in the Spirit. If you are walking by the Spirit, you will bear all the fruit. For example, Jesus said in 1 John 4:20, “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar…”
So we cannot really love one person and not another, or say we just love God and not love our brother or sister. There is a unity of the fruit. Our love is not fractioned. When we walk in the Spirit, our love is not splintered so that we love only some and not others. When we walk in the Spirit, we will love comprehensively and we will love consistently—and—in addition to our love, we will also be patient, joyful, kind and so on. Fruit. Singular. One fruit. Many characteristics.
Now, sometimes we may look like we’re living in the Spirit, when we’re not. Both Christians and non-Christians can act morally upright at times and when we are, we are merely acting in ways—broken ways—that benefit ourselves or benefit others, and may even make us feel good at times, but this is not the same thing as walking in the Spirit.
You know that fake fruit, plastic fruit, or ceramic fruit we sometimes see on centerpieces? Like a bowl with plastic fruit in it? When I was small, my mother had a big bowl of this plastic fruit on the kitchen table. My sister and I used to pull of the little rubbery plastic grapes of the fake grape vine and fill them with water and squeeze them and shoot streams of water at each other.
Of course, my mother didn’t display that plastic fruit on the table for us to play with. Rather, it was to dress up the place, making it look like there was fresh fruit there. It was a pleasant sight and it always looked pretty good—but it wasn’t real fruit.
In a similar way, we may act, at times, in ways that look like we’re walking in the Spirit when we aren’t. Each of us has natural characteristics or aspects of our personalities, for example, that make us look like or even feel like we are being fruitful. But don’t mistake the plastic fruit for the real thing.
For example, if you are a bit of an introvert, you may look like you are at peace simply because you don’t like being around people. That’s not the fruit of the Spirit. You may be a very relational person, happily hanging out with friends every day. That doesn’t necessarily mean you are bearing fruit of the Spirit. You may just be a sanguine type of person, usually cheerful or optimistic.
The fruit of the Spirit is not something generated by personality types or self-effort. Walking in the Spirit leads to fruit of the Spirit and fruit of the Spirit is not plastic, but real. Fruit of the Spirit is unlike the fallen reflections found in the plastic fruit.
You read here in verse 22 of characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit and you read these opening virtues of love, joy, and peace. This is real fruit, real love, real joy, and real peace.
Love occurs first in the list and probably because it is the greatest virtue (1 Corinthians 13:1-13).
Love also sums up the entire law in the Bible. Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-40: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
Paul has mentioned this himself just a few verses earlier. Galatians 5:13, “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh,, but through love serve one another.” Then, Galatians 5:14, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Then, joy. Jesus says in John 15:11, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” Joy is proportionate to our abiding in Christ and keeping His commandments.
Peace. Jesus said in John 14:27: Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
Romans 5:1, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have[a] peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,”
Philippians 4:7, refers to a “peace of God that surpasses all understanding” that guards our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness (meekness), self-control
Self-control is good here. This is the ability God gives Christians by way of His Holy Spirit, the ability to not fulfill the lust of the flesh. Self-control.
And Paul adds this phrase at the end of verse 23: “Against such there is no law.” Put another way, “When we are walking in the Spirit, just naturally bearing fruit, then we don’t need the many laws that spell out proper Christian behavior, because we just naturally keep them by bearing fruit.” If you are being loving, joyful, and peaceful, for example, you don’t need a law that says, “Do not murder.” You’re not going to murder. You are walking in the Spirit. Against such there is no law. The reminders of the law are helpful, however, because they remind us to examine ourselves and to see whether we are, in fact, walking in the Spirit.
But if we are walking in the Spirit, we just naturally bear fruit of the Spirit because God’s law is now written on our hearts in fulfillment of the promise of the new covenant. God says in Jeremiah 31:33, “…I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” And:
Ezekiel 36:26-27, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.
Remember: the key to bearing fruit of the Spirit is not so much to read these different virtues and say, “Okay, I’m going to work at that one and that one,” and so on. The key to bearing fruit of the Spirit is not to focus so much on the fruit, but the root. To look to Christ, to abide in Christ, to be with Christ, to meditate upon Jesus Christ.
When we think long and hard—meditate—upon the Lord, it changes us. My reflection upon God’s love for me, for example, motivates me to love others, and thus I am bearing fruit of the Spirit. God’s longsuffering towards me motivates me to be longsuffering to others. My joy is the natural byproduct of thinking about who God is and what He has done. Such thinking makes me joyful. It’s not what I can get out of the relationship, but who He is and what He has done for me. That makes me joyful.
This all comes by being with Jesus, abiding in Christ. Saying yes to the Spirit.
So we occupy ourselves with the things of the Spirit: regular meditation upon God’s Word. Public worship. Thinking about the words we sing and feeling their edifying truths. Fellowshipping with our brothers and sisters here and away from here during the week—talking with them about spiritual things, not so much about carnal things, worldly things; topics that concern only the lost, but topics that concern our walk with Christ, our growth in the Lord, and so on. Prayer with God. Talking to Him. Listening to music that builds us up. Evangelism, inviting others to faith in Christ, speaking for Jesus when we have opportunity. The way we spend our time, our money, our leisure—all of these are indicators of our walking in the Spirit.
And we walk in the Spirit namely by looking to Christ, being with Jesus, abiding in the Lord—a branch abiding in the vine, growing into a fruit-bearing tree.
Nearly every thing you can think of that happens to a fruit tree is true of the Christian’s life. Branches get their life from the life source, the root. Christians must be firmly rooted in Christ. It takes trees time to bear fruit, but it will come. Common apple trees, for example, take somewhere between 5-8 years before they begin bearing fruit. We start our Christian life we may be discouraged from time-to-time with the rate of growth—but we are growing! We will bear fruit! Storm damage may cause a tree to be less fruitful and blight hinders fruit production. And we may weather storms of difficulty and the blight of sin, but over time, making sure we are connected to the root—Jesus—we will bear fruit!
We will grow stronger. We will mature. And just like a small tree grows over time and even splits hardened stones in two, so we will grow as long as we abide in Christ, look to Christ—and, as a tree leaning towards the light, so will we lean towards the light of Jesus Christ! And in His presence, daily live.
We’re going to move into our time of response now. Every week we respond to God’s truth. God initiates and we respond. Respond through singing. I will also be up front here as we sing if you would like to come and ask questions about salvation, baptism, or joining the church. I invite you to come. Let’s pray:
“Lord, we thank you for your truth today. Thank you … we surrender to You Jesus. We yearn to be with you, look to you, abide in you, and in Your presence daily live. May we feel your Holy Spirit throughout the day as we walk in the Spirit. We ask this in Jesus’ name, amen.”
Now stand and respond through singing.
1 All to Jesus I surrender,
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.
I surrender all, I surrender all;
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.
2 All to Jesus I surrender,
Make my, Savior, wholly Thine;
Let me feel Thy Holy Spirit,
Truly know that Thou art mine.
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