Walking in the Spirit-Pt. 3
“Walking in the Spirit—Pt. 3”
Series: Set Free To Be Free (Galatians)
Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD
Henderson’s First Baptist Church, Henderson
Take your Bibles and join me in Galatians chapter 5 this morning.
We are in our last of three messages on what it means to walk in the Spirit. Since verse 16 of chapter 5 we have noted that this section of material is all about living according to the Holy Spirit within the Christian. Like a gate that opens up into a passage about life in the Spirit, Paul writes, verse 16, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”
The word “Spirit” occurs no fewer than seven times from verse 16 to the end of the chapter. Verse 16, “walk in the Spirit,” verse 17, “the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh…” Verse 18, “But if you are led by the Spirit,” Verse 22, “But the fruit of the Spirit,” verse 25, “if we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”
And in the original language of the New Testament, in the Greek manuscripts, the word “Spirit” is often presented first for emphasis, first in word order preceding the verb. So in verse 16, for example, where it says, “Walk in the Spirt,” the text literally reads: “In the Spirit walk,” verse 18, “But if in the Spirit you are led…” Sounds like Yoda from Star Wars, right?! And again in verse 25, “if we live in the Spirit,” then, “in the Spirit let us walk.”
In Greek one may do this for emphasis. If you wish to stress a particular word or action in a sentence, you just move that word up in line. It seems Paul wishes to emphasize the Holy Spirit, life in the Spirit, being led by the Spirit, keeping in step with the Spirit so he “fronts” the word that we might understand how important it is.
So today, is part three of walking in the Spirit—or, part three of “In the Spirit Walking!”
Please stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word.
24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Christianity is about believing in Christ and receiving Him as Lord. We repent from our sin, making a decisive break with sin and we turn to Jesus, believing He lived for us, fulfilling the demands of the law, He died for us, taking the punishment for our sin, and that He rose from the dead for us that we too may rise, having life. These truths are pictured in Christian baptism.
But while it is Christ who sets us free from sin. It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to walk in that freedom, to live out that freedom. Christ sets us free from sin, but the Spirit enables us to walk, to live, in that freedom.
Consequently, Christian victory, our sense of joy, our peace, our freedom, comes from a life of walking in the Spirit—and walking in the Spirit is largely that of living a life full of Jesus, being with Jesus, abiding in Jesus throughout every moment of every day. To walk in the Spirit is to live a life of love for Christ, a growing and ongoing love for Jesus.
We have noted in this passage a battle that every Christian faces every single day of the Christian life. And we have described this battle as “the battle within.”
**The battle within every Christian
Within every single Christian is an ongoing skirmish between two natures: the old and the new. The old nature (Paul calls in this passage “the flesh”) is the nature we are born with. In this context, “flesh” does not refer to human skin, but to human nature.
The “old nature” (flesh) is what we are born with
Every person on the face of the planet is born with this nature. It is a sin nature. It is the natural bent of our lives towards sin, rebelling against our Creator. We are born with this. We inherited it from Adam and Eve back in Genesis 3 when Adam sinned and brought sin into the world. That’s the old nature (flesh) that we are born with.
The Christian, however, also has another nature. This is the “new nature,” the nature given by way of the Holy Spirit who is within us, renewing us, actually producing new desires, better desires than the fallen, sinful desires of the old nature, or the flesh.
The “new nature” (Spirit) is what we are “born again” with
And these two natures strive against one another, battling within each and every Christian. As Paul writes in verse 17: “For the flesh lusts 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.”
So while the Christian genuinely wants to follow the Spirit, delighting in his or her new Savior, Jesus Christ—and while these new desires for Jesus are actually stronger than the old desires of the sinful flesh—the Christian often struggles with this old nature, this old sin, that remains within. Thought the Christian is forgiven of sin, that sin nature is still there and, when animated or activated, it results in sin.
Now, we have used this helpful memory phrase that while sin remains, it no longer reigns. It no longer reigns as a dominating principle in the Christian’s life.
Helpful memory phrase:
“Sin remains, but no longer reigns”
That old sin nature, the flesh, is dying. It is dying out and losing its power. In turning to Christ, Christians have repented from their sin and when they repented they have, in essence, “crucified the flesh.” This is verse 24, “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” That old flesh, that old nature is dying a slow, but sure death, a death like a crucifixion, slow but certain.
This is the battle within, the daily struggle. And Christians don’t like this struggle but let us remember that the only thing worse than engaging in this struggle, is to feel no struggle at all. Struggling with sin is one evidence of the Christian’s salvation—there is a growing hatred for sin and a growing love for Jesus Christ.
So we can speak of our being saved in three ways, in three tenses: past, present, and future. Salvation in Three Tenses:
Christians have been saved (Past)
Christians are being saved (Present)
Christians will be saved (Future)
We have been saved from sin’s penalty (Justification)
We are being saved from sin’s power (Sanctification)
And this is what Paul is talking about here in Galatians 5, sanctification, becoming more like Jesus by allowing our old flesh to die on the cross. We have crucified it. It is dying. It is losing power. To the degree with “Walk in the Spirit,” we are being saved from sin’s power, becoming more and more victorious over sin. Sanctification.
We will be saved from sin’s presence (Glorification)
And this is the future, final state, when that sin nature’s death is complete. One day the old flesh will be completely defunct of all it’s sinful power. One day the old nature will be entirely obliterated. That’s the glorious final heavenly state of glorification.
Until that time we “Walk in the Spirit” so that we “do not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” If we allow our sin nature to have it’s way, then the lust of the flesh will lead to various “works of the flesh.” Some of these works of the flesh are represented in verses 19-21.
Rather than allowing the old nature to have its way, we yield to our new nature, the nature created and renewed by the Holy Spirit. And when we allow this new nature to be in charge, we will not produce the “works of the flesh,” but we will produce the “fruit of the Spirit,” verses 22 and 23.
And we studied the fruit of the Spirit last time and observed that:
**The Key to Bearing Fruit:
The key to bearing the fruit of the Spirit is not so much by focusing on the fruit as to focus on the root.
To focus on the root is to focus on Jesus. Recall Jesus’ words to His disciples 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.”
We bear fruit by abiding in Christ. Walking in the Spirit is an intentional activity of looking to Christ and abiding in Him. You cannot produce fruit by your own strength or personal effort. You can produce something that kind of “looks” like fruit in a broken way. We explored this last time about artificial fruit or plastic fruit.
By our own strength or personality type we may produce a self-interested kind of fruit like kindness or happiness or friendliness, or even love. But these are not to be confused with the real thing, real fruit.
Walking in the Spirit produces a real fruit that is a unity. Remember that “fruit,” is singular. One fruit. One cluster, nine varieties growing from the cluster. If you are walking in the Spirit, you will bear the fruit of the Spirit, and you will produce all of it, all love (not just love of God without love for your brother) and you will also bear the other characteristics of joy, peace, and so on. If you walk in the Spirit, bearing fruit naturally follows.
So again: the way to produce the fruit of the Spirit is not so much by focusing on the fruit (trying to be more loving, trying harder to be more forgiving). These nine virtues in verses 22-23 are not “works” of the Spirit. We cannot really “work” to produce them the way the “works of the flesh” are produced.
In fact, unlike bearing fruit, the “works of the flesh” are, in fact, works! The point is you have to work at them in order to do them. This is so important because Christians often speak of battling a particular sin, a recurring sin of some kind, describing it as something that seems to overpower them. They say they are drawn away by it as though they had no control over it, but felt they had to give in to it.
But Christians actually have to work at sinning. You choose to give your head and heart to it, you work the works of the flesh. It is volitional, it is a matter of the will. You have control over it because the nature—remember—is dying, losing power, and your new nature is continually being renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit who is in you. You need only walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.
This is Paul’s larger point in this passage of Scripture! There is so much freedom here. Memorize verse 16: “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not (guarantee) fulfill the lust of the flesh.” The Holy Spirit helps us conquer the old nature by empowering us to “say no” to what is wrong, and to “say yes” to what is right.
By way of the Spirit, Christians actually have all the power they need to conquer sin. You have the ability Christian to say no to sin, and to say yes to Jesus—not just at the initial point of salvation, but throughout your Christian life and experience. The Holy Spirit is powerful!
Two observations from verses 24 to the end of the chapter. First, note:
I. The Christian’s Unchanging Identity [24a]
“And those who are Christ’s…”
If you are a Christian, never forget that you belong to Jesus Christ! It is in Christ where your identity is located. This is not what you do, but who you are. Someone asks, “Who are you?” How do you reply? Who are you—“I’m a pastor.” No, that’s what you do, who are you? “I’m a salesman.” No, that’s what you do, who are you? “I’m a middle-schooler.” No, that’s what you do—go to middle school—who are you? “I’m a husband, I’m a wife, a butcher, baker, a candlestick maker.” Who are you? You “are Christ’s!”
Don’t locate your identity, your sense of purpose, your meaning in your job, or in your school. Don’t even locate your sense of identity in your marriage. The most wonderful truth of the Christian experience is found there in the first few words of verse 24: “And those who are Christ’s…”
The approval we yearn for is found in Christ. The acceptance we seek is found in Christ. The welcome we want is found in Christ. All that is His belongs to us. Our security and identity is located not in our religious performance, or pitiful actions, but in Christ. As that great chorus goes: “Hallelujah! All I have is Christ. Hallelujah! Jesus is my life.”
Our sense of identity largely motivates the daily activity of our Christian life. This is the second observation. The Christian’s unchanging identity is the motivation for:
II. The Christian’s Ongoing Activity [24b-26]
Verses 24 and 25 indicate an ongoing activity saying “no” to the flesh and saying “yes” to the Spirit. Verse 24: “And those who are Christ’s…
“…have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (24b)
That’s saying “no” to the flesh. And then, verse 25:
“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (25-26)
That’s saying “yes” to the Spirit, following the Spirit’s leading and getting in line, or getting in step with the Holy Spirit who is leading us. A paraphrase of verse 25 would be something like, “Since we are those who live their lives by way of the Holy Spirit, then when the Spirit leads us, let’s be sure to follow, to get in step.”
And when we get in step with the Spirit we will bear the fruit of the Spirit and we will not do the things like verse 26, “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
Paul may have had specific persons in mind in writing verse 26. Perhaps there were some he knew about in the churches of Galatia who were given to pride, provocation, and envy. In any case, these things are “works of the flesh” not fruit of the Spirit.
So there is this ongoing activity of saying “no” and saying “yes.” We say “no” to the flesh, the “Old Self” that is dying and we say “yes” to the Spirit, the “New Self” that is delighting—delighting in Christ. These are two truths to recall every day.
**Two Truths to Recall Daily:
1) Your “Old Self” is Dying on the Cross
2) Your “New Self” is Delighting in Christ
Looking again at verse 24: “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
Crucifixion connotes a decisive, deliberate, putting to death. An execution. Here in verse 24, crucifixion is not something done to us, but something done by us. This crucifixion is not the same crucifixion Paul describes in chapter 2 where Paul describes the Christian’s justification, coming by way of union with Christ: Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…” That is something done to me by virtue of my union with Christ. I am passive. When I placed my faith in Christ, God imputed my sins to Christ and credited to me Christ’s righteousness. That is something done to me.
The crucifixion Paul describes here in verse 25 is something done by us: “Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” This is a different crucifixion. Here, I am not passive, but active. This describes my sanctification.
When I repented from my sin and turned to Christ, I actively crucified the flesh, the old nature. It is as though I nailed the old self to the cross. It is dying. And it is up to me to maintain the crucifixion. And I maintain the crucifixion by maintaining my repentance.
We must allow the old flesh to die. We must never revisit the scene of execution. We must stay away from it. If we revisit the scene, we are seeking to fulfill the lust of the flesh, flirting with that old sin nature. We are getting close to it. And the closer we get to it, the more likely we are to give-in to its pull—the way a piece of steel feels a greater pull the closer it is to the magnet. We must stay away!
Paul warns about giving the devil a foothold. In Ephesians 4:27, “Don’t give place to the devil,” don’t allow the devil to get a foot in your way so as to stumble. We give the devil a foothold by going back over to the cross where we crucified our sinful flesh; looking at things we shouldn’t, thinking in ways we shouldn’t, speaking in ways we shouldn’t. I read a statement this week: “A foothold can lead to a stronghold.”
We must stay away from the old self! It is an ongoing rejection of the old ways. It is, Romans 6:11, “to reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Consider yourself dead to that. Dead to sin. When tempted say aloud, “I’m dead to that! That’s the old me. I’m not going to visit the scene of execution. I’m not going to flirt with the old nature, trying to take it down from the cross. I’m going to leave it there. I’m dead to that!”
And the more we do this, the less power the old sin nature has. Remember: it is dying. It is losing influence and power. Let it die. Your old self is dying on the cross.
And your “new self” is delighting in Christ. When you were “born again,” God indwelled you with His Spirit and He is forming new desires within you, greater desires, purer desires, desires for more and more of Jesus.
Christians have the Spirit of God—which is the Spirit of Christ—living within us. So walking in the Spirit is largely a matter of delighting in Christ. Looking to Christ. Abiding in Christ.
I’m enjoying this little Puritan Paperback. These are great. We have some in our church library. This one is John Owen’s, Communion With God. Owen describes this ongoing Christian activity of looking to Christ not just at the Christian’s initial act of repentance and turning to Christ to receive Him as Savior, but throughout each and every day. Owen writes of the initial act of faith:
“This is the first act of union the soul makes with Christ. Following on this first act, there are renewed acts of receiving and embracing Christ all our days. It is in this latter sense that real communion with Christ lies (p.59).”
And again, receiving Christ “does not mean a once-for-all act of the will, but a continual receiving of Christ in abiding with Him and owning Him to be our Lord forever (59).”
Finally once more:
“Frequently think of Him by faith, comparing Him with other [loves], such as sin, (and) the world…then you will more and more prefer him above them all, and you will count them all as rubbish in comparison to him (60).”
I want to leave you this morning with that thought. Frequently think of Jesus by faith. Frequently, throughout the day. Frequently cultivate the capacities for pleasure in Jesus Christ. You were made to treasure Him more than you treasure anything else: sex, food, relationships, or stuff. Frequently think of Jesus and you will more and more prefer him above anything else.
And when that happens, you will be walking in victorious freedom, because “in the Spirit, you are walking!”
We move now 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.
“Lord Jesus Christ, we admit that we are weaker and more sinful than we ever before believed, but we know that through you, we are more loved and accepted than we ever dared hope. Thank you for paying our debt, bearing our punishment and offering forgiveness. We respond now to by repenting, by turning away from our sin and by turning afresh and anew to You. All we have is Christ; Jesus is our life. Amen.”
Now stand and respond through singing.
I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still
But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace
Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life
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