But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 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. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. – Galatians 5:16-26
Every Christian has a struggle. It is a struggle that will, in this life, never go away completely. It should become lessened as we grow in the grace of Jesus Christ, but we can not let our guard down, or it will come roaring back. It is the struggle between the flesh and the Spirit.
The flesh shows up in nasty practical ways. Paul identifies the characteristics as sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. The list is not exhaustive since Paul ends with “and things like these.” We don’t all struggle heavily with all of these characteristics of the flesh, but we all do struggle with some of these. Some are glaringly obvious while others are held in our hearts (like enmity, jealousy, and envy). I often have, over the years, had people ask about how to overcome one or more of these works of the flesh. They have been trying but to no avail. That’s because they weren’t following the Biblical strategy for overcoming.
The Biblical strategy for overcoming sin is not to fight against the sin with willpower or other human efforts but to pursue the life in the Spirit instead. The key to overcoming sin is not to hate the sin, although we are to hate the sin. Instead, the key is to love God. It is to delight ourselves in the Lord. It is to be filled with the Holy Spirit. If we walk by the Spirit, we will not fulfill the desires of the flesh. So, the focus is to walk by the Spirit.
What does walking by the Spirit produce? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things, there is no law. You can see that these characteristics of the Holy Spirit in our life are in direct opposition to the characteristics of the flesh. Since the flesh and Spirit are in opposition to one another, you will manifest whichever one you choose to follow as the principle of your life.
There is another critical understanding we need. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. This isn’t something we have to work at to do. This is something that has happened in the spiritual transaction we entered into when we became a Jesus follower. We were baptized into Christ and in that baptism are fully identified with all that Jesus did for us. When he died, we died. When he rose, we rose. When he ascended, we ascended. When he was crucified, we were crucified. Accept it. It’s part of the deal.
So, since your flesh was crucified with Christ, it can no longer control you. You need only submit to the Lordship of Jesus and walk by the Holy Spirit, and you will find victory over those nasty sins that have plagued you. It’s just that simple, and it’s just that hard.