The Flesh and the Spirit

Bible Book: Galatians  5 : 16-25
Subject: Holy Spirit; Life in the Spirit; Flesh, The; Victory in Life

As we approach Halloween, many young people and children think about candy - but, they also think about the eerie ideas of ghosts and goblins. There is a spirit world and the child of God is in a war on a cosmic scale. Simply look at Ephesians 6:10 ff. and you can see that fact illustrated by the Apostle Paul. If you want to know what one of the scariest things on earth, simply look at the "flesh" or evil nature within man. The shooting in Las Vegas a few weeks ago is just one example of what the fleshly nature of man can produce. There is, however, a wonderful, blessed, precious, and Holy Spirit. The believer has the Holy Spirit dwelling within him and through His presence we can have victory. So, let's look at the flesh versus the Holy Spirit in a brief message today.

There is an old story told about three young college students at Duke University. One of them was being initiated into a fraternity and the other two were to be sure he met the conditions to join. So, the two students dressed up freshman student in a blue devil outfit and drove him out into the country outside Durham, North Carolina. They put him out there at sunset and told him that he had to get back to the campus before dawn – and he had to do it on foot. The freshman started walking and realized he was truly lost out in woods. After walking around for two to three hours, he was becoming desperate. Then he heard music coming from a church and made his way toward it. He realized that it was some kind of revival meeting and decided to go inside and ask for directions. He walked in the front door and entered the sanctuary. The preacher saw him and yelled, “Oh no, it is the devil!” The members turned to see the student dressed in the blue devil’s outfit and they screamed and ran for the backdoor. One lady who was too slow to run, decided to jump out of a window but she got stuck half way in and half way out. The student in the blue devil outfit went around the building and saw her head sticking out the window. As he neared her, she blurted out, “Please, Mr. Devil, don’t hurt me. Honestly, even though I’m in church, I’ve been on your side all the time!”

Well, that never really happened, or least I hope it didn’t. Yet, there are some Christians who never learn how to walk in the Spirit and thus do give control in their lives to the flesh. Of course, all of us sin, but there is a difference in a Christian who stumbles into sin and one who leaps gladly into it.

So, let’s look at the issue of the flesh and the Spirit in the following way…

I. The War

We must face the fact that the Spirit and the flesh are at war and the Bible makes this very clear. The life we are living as believers is a not a picnic but is rather part of a cosmic struggle. We are not marching in parade but participating in a battle. Yes, Christ won the victory for us a Calvary and at the empty tomb, but the Christian is still here on this earth and to walk in the victory He offers, we must walk in the Spirit He provides!

Now think about two important facts about this battle we face as believers…

A. It is an Unseen Battle

The war between the Spirit and the flesh takes place in the heart, where it cannot be seen by the human eye. We can see the results of this battle in the daily lives we live, but the actual struggle that leads to the results is hidden from human view.

An unseen enemy is a very dangerous one. One thing we are facing today in a world filled with terrorism is the terror cell that lives in a community, ready to strike but unknown to neighbors and authorities. When an enemy is concealed, that enemy can be overlooked. The fact that the enemy is among us, and we are unaware of it, makes the potential for danger even worse. Because the enemy is unseen, he is often forgotten, until he attacks and then it is too late - unless we are always on guard against Him.

There is story of a young soldier on the battlefield many years ago. There was a lull in the fighting and the young soldier closed his eyes and fell asleep. Some minutes later, the weary soldier awoke and lay on the ground looking up at the sky. Just then a beautiful butterfly flew above him. He watched it for a moment, and then forgetting where he was, he sat and reached out his hand to catch the butterfly. A shot was fired by the enemy and struck the young soldier in the head. He was dead before he fell to the ground. His death occurred because he neglected an enemy that was intent on killing him.

Look at Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

Thus, our fight is not against flesh and blood but against the unseen enemies in heavenly places, or we might say the enemy in the atmosphere around us. Being unaware of this fact is dangerous and we have been forewarned of the jeopardy we are in if we close our eyes to this truth.

Not only is this war between the flesh and the Spirit unseen …

B. It Is Unending Battle

The spiritual war we face as Christ followers will not stop as long as we are on this earth. We note in 2 Timothy 4:7 that Paul wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” As Paul came to the end of his life, he noted that he had continued the fight to the very end. The battle lines are drawn and they will remain until we meet Jesus!

The Christian life is not meant for those who are looking for an easy road. When Jesus said, “Follow me,” He was on His way to a cross.

In Galatians 5:16 we read that we are to “walk” in the Spirit. The word “walk” in this context means to “live.” In other words, it is written in the present tense, which means that we are to ever be, always be and continually be, at all times, walking and living in the power and work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The battle is continuous and thus our walk and dependence upon the Spirit must be continuous.

There is another part of this life in the Spirit that we need to consider.

II. The Works

See verses 19-21

Paul wrote that the works or acts of the flesh, the sinful nature, are easy to see. Though we can’t see the fight that is going on in everyone heart, we can see the results of those battles. Thus, if people are carrying on their lives in the way described as the “sinful nature” we know that the works they perform are in the flesh. That is true of every one of us!

A. Corruptness of Flesh

Paul mentions the corrupt nature of the flesh and shares a catalog of sins emulating from flesh. Look at the categories of the sins Paul mentions:

1. Sexual Sins (4)

2. Spiritual Sins (2)

3. Social Sins (9)

4. Selfish Sins (2)

Paul writes in Romans 7:18a, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing…:” So, be assured that even the Christian can commit these sins. As long as we are in the flesh, we will have the propensity and temptation to carry out the sins of the flesh, even though they are deeply corrupt. In Romans 8:8 Paul penned, “So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Though we may commit these sins, we cannot possible please God and give in to the flesh. Our victory is found by living and walking in the Spirit.

B. Consequence of Flesh

The end result of a life in the flesh, without the Spirit, is judgment before God. In fact one cannot know Jesus as the Son of God without it being revealed to Him from above. In Matthew 16:17 Jesus told Peter that the Father in heaven had revealed to Him that He, Jesus, is the Son of God. The flesh is dead toward God, but when a person is saved, the Spirit of God comes to dwell in that individual. It can be said that those who are lost are not at war in this world because they belong to this world – this world is all they have. A sure judgment awaits them. For those of who are saved, we face a war in this world because we are no longer of this world. We belong to the kingdom of God. If we who are saved give in to the flesh we become traitors to the Savior who died for us. We have become agents of the world against the King of kings and Lord of lords!

I just finished reading a book about the life of Queen Elizabeth I, the Tudor Queen, and I noted one thing that was most interesting to me. As she promoted the Protestant Faith in a world that was almost totally Catholic, she had to be very careful of the people she trusted. In fact, there were a number of people who were double spies; that is, they spied in behalf of England and also in behalf of Rome (or Spain, which was also Catholic at the time). Double spies were taking money from both sides and serving faithfully neither side. Sadly, there are people like that in the kingdom of God. They appear to serve God, but they also serve the world and the devil. They are living double lives. The Bible clearly states that as Christians, we are to walk in the Spirit and not serve the enemy.

Now, let’s look at one other issue related to our subject of the flesh and the Spirit…

III. The Walk

We’ve talked about the walk in the Spirit, but I want us to become very specific now on this subject. Let us be clear that a “tree is know by its fruit (Matt. 12:33).” Jesus taught this truth and He was speaking specifically about the results of a spiritual life as compared to a life in the flesh.

In one way we might say that our walk with the Lord is not so much a “fight” against the world as it is a “flight” beside Jesus. If we run to Him – flee to Him – we discover that there is peace to be found. It is not so much a fight as a flight. We must take it to Jesus. Stay close to Him. That's what a walk is! It is a journey! So we journey through life with Jesus!

C.S. Lewis wrote, “We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road.” Yes, and it is not just walking on the right road, it is walking in the Spirit rather than the flesh. That is the entire point that Paul is making.

A. The Person

Now let’s be clear about walking in the Spirit. This is not about walking with an apparition – or some ghost-like figure – this is about walking with Jesus. Christ told His disciples in John 14 that the Holy Spirit – the Comforter – was to be His presence with them in this world. Walking in the Spirit means to walk with Jesus day-by-day, in step with God's Spirit within us.

B. The Pace

Walking with the Spirit – with the Lord – means to walk WITH Him and not ahead or behind Him. Peter sometimes got ahead of the Lord, and on one occasion Jesus said to him, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” When we get ahead of Jesus, we are acting like the devil. At other times we lag behind the Lord. We hesitate just when the Lord is ready to advance. We must keep pace with the Lord.

C. The Peace

There is a calm, joyful, and assured life when we are walking with Jesus – walking in the Spirit. I don’t mean that the way is easy. In fact, the Lord may lead us into situations that call for great courage and cause us to suffer emotionally or physically, but the Spirit of God comforts us and gives us the peace we cannot find anywhere else. Paul the apostle faced one hardship after another, but in his letters to the churches he always wrote of his joy and peace. Whether he had been stoned, was in prison or had suffered shipwreck, he had a peace that the world cannot give and, thus, the world cannot steal. That is what it means to walk in the Spirit of God.


The poet penned:

“My Savior, Thou hast offered rest;

Oh, grant it then to me,

The rest of ceasing from myself

To find my all in Thee!”

Let me share something very important in regard to the war between the flesh and the Spirit. For the child of God, there is no peace in the world. The only peace we can fully know is in Christ – in the Spirit.

Are you living in the joy, peace, power and direction of the Holy Spirit, or has the world taken your joy from you? Some one of us, or many of us, need to respond to the invitation that will follow in a moment. Every person in this service who knows in your heart that you need a new infilling of God’s Holy Spirit, come to the Lord just now. Every person in this service who realizes that you make decisions at times without the leadership of the Holy Spirit, come to Him now. The war goes on – let us be prepared by experiencing a new commitment to walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh.