Bad habits are sometimes easy to develop but exceedingly difficult to break.
What does the sinful nature crave and what fuels it? Is there an antidote? How is it acquired and enabled? Let’s keep these questions in mind as we dig in.
We’re in Galations chapter 5, looking at verses 14-26 and reading from the NLT.
“For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’
This verse sets us up nicely to go into the next few verses. Here we have the law summed up into 5 words: Love your neighbor as yourself. The world would be such a better place if we all did this plain and simple.
v. 15 “But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.”
16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 18 But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.”
When we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing there’s no need to worry about the law per se. For example, if everyone on my street drove carefully say under 25 miles an hour there wouldn’t be a need for a speed sign. Right? Well maybe for visitors. But often we have someone speeding through. I must admit I’ve sped through myself a few times. But when the boys and I are riding in the community we become very appreciative of careful drivers. When God’s Spirit is within us and we are following Him, it’s as if He’s placed the speed limit on our heart. Our heart then knows at what speed to go such that we become most efficient and effective. Our heart becomes almost like a tablet on which God’s Spirit writes, creating a mechanism and a framework for us to operate. As I thought about this this week, I said to God, please keep on writing.
Francesca Battistelli says it nicely in the song, Write your story!
She says, I’m an empty page, I’m an open book, Write your Story on my heart, come on and make Your mark. Author of my hope, maker of the stars, Let me be Your work of art, won’t you write Your story on my heart.
The verses that we just read, Galations 5:16-18 remind us that there’s a battle going inside of us—taking place in the mind. A struggle sometimes to do either X, or Y, or to do a little of X and more of Y, or sometimes to do a lot of X and a little of Y. Life isn’t always black and white. There’s a lot of gray, but ultimately with the Spirit’s guidance we can navigate the situation for His glory.
Fortunately, our salvation is not tied to a list of do’s and don’ts. We are not saved by keeping the law, we are saved through Jesus Christ, his merits, his sacrifice, and by his Spirit he enables us to overcome.
19 “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”
So, it’s often easy to recognize overt sins such as adultery and fornication, but our sinful nature is also guilty of hostility, quarreling, jealousy, and self-exaltation. We must watch out lest these infractions prevent the Spirit from doing his work. Sin is in our DNA. David said in Psalm 51:5 that it was in sin his mother conceived him and that he was shaped in iniquity….We need power to overcome.
Not only does our sinful nature crave certain things, it is fueled by many things. Major culprits are indiscipline and our penchant for being ‘own way.’ Once we get into the habit of being disobedient, as with any habit, it takes concerted effort to break. To change anything, we first have to recognize our need of it, and have a desire to change or to break a habit.
A lack of consistency, self-control, an unbridled tongue, being judgmental—these things are like fuel to fire.
Our sinful nature thrives on: apathy, laziness, and indifference; it thrives on a lack of faith, or an unwillingness to serve. It thrives on us just being unconcerned or inactive – being comfortable.
My cousin in Alabama who tested positive for COVID this week, I was told, is desirous of sleeping a lot. We’re told that COVID thrives on this. We need to get up and stay active.
On the flip side, verse 22 of Galatians 5 says,
22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. 26 Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.
Let’s face it, we often need help from God to overcome the weaknesses in our life. Sometimes help comes in the form of good counsel, if heeded can prevent the natural outcomes of our sinful behavior. Meditating on God’s Word is another example of how we can learn to overcome. And of course if we don’t learn from our mistakes we are doomed to repeat them.
Yielding to what we know is right through the power of the Holy Spirit can bring forth good fruit.
In the garden, the production of good vegetables is based on: first planting in good soil, then watering, fertilizing, making sure that the plant has access to sunlight, doing whatever is necessary to prevent pests from eating the crop. How does this translate to us? Like plants, we as humans thrive when the seed is planted in our hearts by God; his Word fertilizes and waters us; our connection through prayer provides sunlight and all that we need to make it through the day.
Our good nature thrives on: self-control, and patience. It thrives through our actions: a willingness to serve and to help others. It thrives as we humble ourselves and submit to Him. Sometimes, thriving occurs when we step out of our comfort zone to do things we wouldn’t normally do, like going out of our way to help someone in need; praying for a co-worker or classmate that has just been very rude or mean; sharing a testimony with someone going through a difficult season. Our spirits thrive when we follow the example set by the Master teacher Jesus himself.
2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”
Today, I pray that God’s Spirit would take root in my life and yours so that his power drives out the working of the flesh and helps us to win the battle over sin.
I pray that God will continue to write on my heart, to inscribe his law of love, so that I can produce good fruit.
I hope this is your desire as well.
Thanks to my big brothers in the Word for sharing with me their perspectives on Galatians 5. Pastor Trevor Kinlock, Pastor Inskip Alsop, Elder Andre Waller. Thanks to Dad Blakeney who continues to challenge my thought process and provide insight over and above my youthfulness in the Word! God bless all of you!