A Spiritual Battle



My church magazine article for May.

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So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. (Galatians 5:16-17 NIV)

This month we remember Pentecost. At Pentecost we mark the coming of the Holy Spirit to the church, which we read about it in Acts 2, where Jesus’ follower Peter points out that it was prophesied years before by the prophet Joel.

One of the surprising works of the Holy Spirit is to cause a battle - a spiritual battle. If we’re Christians, then this side of the new creation we have both our old sinful nature (or the flesh as Paul calls it in the verses above from Galatians) and the Holy Spirit living in us. The two do not co-exist peacefully!

On the one hand, our sinful nature craves sin (Paul gives a list in Galatians 5:19-21), on the other the Spirit craves a holy, godly life. The activities and attitudes that the Spirit craves are the well-known fruit of the Spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV)

How is this battle to be won? Paul spells out two aspects. First, the flesh is to be crucified, which John Stott describes as “Paul’s graphic description of repentance”:

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24 NIV)

Secondly, we are to actively follow the leading and directing of the Spirit. Paul writes we are to “walk by the Spirit”, be “led by the Spirit” and “keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16, 18, 25 NIV). In the context, this isn’t some unusual spiritual experience, but daily seeking to show the fruit of the Spirit and reject the sins of the flesh. We do this by the empowering of the Spirit as He leads us.

Why not spend some time thinking about these questions for a few minutes every day this month?
  1. What sins do I still crave? You could meditate on Galatians 5:19-21 to get you thinking. 
  2. Have I repented of them (crucified them!)? 
  3. How can I actively follow the Spirit? You could meditate on the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 to get you thinking.

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