If you are a Christian and if you live in this world, I guarantee you will likely have a struggle with what the Bible refers to as "the desires of the flesh." The concept is explained in Galatians where Paul writes, "The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh" (Galatians 5:17) We typically think of "the desires of the flesh" in terms of sexual sin; Paul defines it as anything that is against the Spirit. In fact, Paul gives a list of examples:
Sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these" (Galatians 5:19-21).
Clearly, sexual immorality leads the list, but the rest are far broader. Thinks like "enmity" and "fits of anger" and "envy." Or, "everyday things." Things we all deal with. If you are a human being living in this world, you deal with these issues. If you are a Christian living in this world, you deal with these issues and are concerned about it. What's a believer to do?
Paul makes this straightforward, unambiguous statement:
"I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16).
Assuming that the Bible is "God-breathed", accurate, even authoritative, then we can assume that those who walk by the Spirit will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (They don't call me "Captain Obvious" for nothing.) Notice, however, the reverse conclusion. If we are gratifying the desires of the flesh -- if Christians are sinning -- what can we tell about our current mode of operation? If the statement is true, at that moment we can conclude that we are not walking by the Spirit.
Any genuine follower of Christ will be appalled at sin. Often we are appalled after the sin, but there is, built into every believer, the "seed of God" (1 John 3:9) and we may (will) sin, but we won't be happy about it. So we look for solutions. We read self-help books on how to be better and we seek biblical advice and we pray and we look for accountability partners and all sorts of nifty ideas. These aren't bad ideas, but the Bible suggests that there is an underlying issue and we need to address that underlying issue: we aren't walking by the Spirit. Because if we walk by the Spirit, we will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Perhaps, before we get to work on that long list of things to do to be better Christians, we should start there.
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