“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:18–21 ESV)
What does it mean to be led by the Spirit?
Walking in the Spirit is the only activity that we are responsible for. It falls upon us if we walk in the Spirit or not. But we do not walk alone! We have a wonderful councillor called the Holy Spirit who walks with us.
Sadly, the Galatians decided to exchange their companion, their walking partner. They began with Spirit and turned to the law, and they became stuck in a spiritual dynamic that is totally and ultimately toxic.
What do we need in order to walk in the Spirit?
We need a leader, and we need to follow a leader. That leader is the Holy Spirit. This is why Paul says Be led by the Spirit!
However, Paul is not using an imperative verb to urge us to be led by the Spirit, unlike his other imperatives, like “walk in the Spirit”. Instead, Paul uses the participle “If”. Thus, he says, “if the Spirit leads you”.
It is rather interesting and somehow surprising that Paul, who so desire the Galatians to return to the truth, is not that forcefully as we may expect him to be! But it is consistent with his teaching.
As I have already said, walking in the Spirit is the responsibility of every follower of Jesus, this is what we should do or asked to do. So, we do the walking, and we know that we don’t walk alone, but the Spirit is with us, only if we chose him to be!
There is a choice before us. It is like a crossroad; which direction are we going to turn to, are we going to the right or the left? If the Spirit leads us, we will live by the Spirit, but if we chose to live by the flesh, even though we have tested and experienced the new life in Christ, we would satisfy the desires of the flesh. If that happens, there is no spiritual growth.
It seems that just as we do walk in the Spirit, we are also responsible for choosing which direction we will go. If the Spirit leads us then, we allow Holy Spirit to come alongside us, he becomes our companion, and we will grow in every area of our lives.
Still, if we don’t, we will be under the heavyweight of the law, which will reveal and bring back all the things that we have been saved from, which are the acts of the flesh that the law cannot solve. Neither can liberate us because of the strong link between the law and the deeds of the flesh.
I want to make some observations before moving on and seeing what happens when we decide to be led by the Spirit.
- Choosing to be led by the Spirit is consistent with what Paul understands as free, freedom that Christ purchased. Thus, for He, Christ has set us free, as verse 1 reminds us.
- Paul also says, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love” (Galatians 5:13 NIV11-GKE). He talks about using the freedom that we have gained in Christ to bless one another in love, but he also says not to use this freedom to indulge the flesh. This, he will be developed in his letter to the Romans, especially chapters 5-8. What is clear is that if we are to be led by the Spirit, we need to choose the Holy Spirit to be our leader in growing into the likeness of His son Jesus.
- There is a strong rebuke and a sad state of affairs for those who have chosen this path. “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” (Hebrews 6:4–6 ESV). This is a deliberate act of apostasy.
We are one step away from choosing to satisfy the flesh. It only takes one decision. The road to the flesh can lead us to a place of negating our Faith. In so doing, the acts of the flesh are evident for all to see.
The work of the flesh.
“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19–21 NIV11-GKE)
These acts point to three critical areas of our lives.
• Sex: Sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality and orgies.
• Religion: idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage.
• Society: selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy drunkenness, orgies.
Each of the acts of the flesh that fall under:
Sex, Religion and Society and are counterparts and opposing how to walk and be led by the Spirit.
• They are opposed to the Holiness of God’s people.
• Worship of God’s people
• And how we live in our communities.
Purity in terms of being in opposition to the Biblical view of Sex taught in the Scriptures and marriage’s sanctity. To the true meaning of intimacy.
Worship, I hope you can see, the strong connection of intimacy with Worshipping the Living Lord. It is also pure; it is a holy ground where we find the Living Christ. There is only one God, who is three in one. The only One who deserves our devotion and adoration. When we do that, we become like him.
These flesh works are the opposite of living for God, bearing good fruit within our communities and loving one another.
So, how do we stop being influenced or deciding to turn to the works of the Flesh?
Paul gives us the answer in verse 24 “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:24 ESV)
This verse does not say that you must crucify the flesh, that you need to work hard at avoiding the flesh. The good news is that those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh!
- That is past tense.
- It is done. It is no longer us.
- It is not our new identity
This is grace, and this is a gift; it has been done for us in Christ. It is not in our new nature to satisfy the lust of the flesh unless you willingly want to do it!
I have seen too many Christians that saying:
- The devil made me do it.
- It is the Pastor’s fault.
- It is the Church the reason I do not come again. I lost faith in the Church. You have misplaced your Faith! It should have been placed on Christ.
- The reality is that to choose the flesh and not the Spirit is our responsibility. It is our decision! So, if we decide to be led by the Spirit, what do we need?
We need to be two things, and if we are faithful and obedient, then the Fruits of the Spirit will be evident. To be led by the Spirit is to be Gospel Centred and Christ Centred, which are my second and third points.
We need to be:
The Galatians moved away from the Gospel, and they believed another gospel which is not a gospel at all. Even Peter was caught up in the hypocrisy by doing the total opposite of the Gospel of grace as he sat down with the Judaisers, maintaining the separation between Gentiles and Jews and therefore keeping the food laws. He was not mixing with gentiles brothers and sisters.
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the Gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:6–9 ESV)
The Gospel is to be believed.
It is to be received.
It is the Good News of Salvation.
It is the life of Jesus, the sinless man who became sin so that you and I can be clean. His Gospel is powerful to change every heart.
Do you know the Gospel? Have you believed in your heart the Gospel?
We need to believe in the Gospel, and we need to place Christ at the very centre of our lives. It is the place where the Holy Spirit does his incredible work in us. In this place, where nothing else matters but him, is where we come to know ourselves and our Saviour.
It is the place of worship, but also it is where it is exposed to the world.
This is what Paul said and meant in Gal.2:20
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by Faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 ESV)
A life that has been crucified with Christ is a life that does not need to satisfy the desire of the flesh and live under the weight of the law.
Those who have true Faith in Christ should consider themselves united with him so that they relate to and identify with Jesus in his death and resurrection. In a sense, all Christians have been crucified with Christ on the cross. Their old sinful, rebellious way of life was put to death with Jesus as he took their sin on himself, and he paid its total penalty through his death.
If we use our freedom right, then I believe it is the will of the Holy Spirit that we bear much fruit. John 15 says: “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (John 15:4 NIV11-GKE), will be evident.
Let me ask you this:
How do you want people to remember you?
As a woman or man who lived by the Spirit?
Someone who kept in step with Spirit? Displaying the fruits of the Spirit?
Do you want people to remember you as a follower of Jesus who decided to follow the desires of the flesh?
What if today you decide to be led by the Spirit? He is our guide, teacher, counsellor, power source, and he lives in us. Let him live through you.
Dario is a husband, father, pastor and passionate pursuer of Jesus and His Kingdom. He is a Pastor, loyal friend, and walks the walk when it comes to being a carrier of God’s presence. He expects things to happen when he prays for people. He loves having fun and eating olives (preferably at the same time).