The Apostle Paul says,
“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.”
~Galatians 5:16-17 (NIV).
I’m no stranger to the double-life that sat astride these two: life by the Spirit and the sinful nature. It was a hell-of-a-life, truth be told. I’d defy anyone attempting to live both to find even a semblance of lasting peace and contentment. And when God executed judgment over my life, repealing my former way of living, a choice needed to be made.
The best of life is making this choice—to go one way or the other; not both. Obviously, the supreme way is making the choice to live by the Spirit, the sinful nature hardly contending.
A ‘checklist’ can actually begin to sound rather legalistic. However, the lists that Paul provides in Galatians chapter 5 relating to the vices of the sinful nature as opposed to the virtue in and of the Spirit are really differentiating how polar opposite one life is over the other.
Again, we cannot dabble in both. Well, we can try but it’ll do us no good at all and we’ll be terrible failures at both!
The Vice List
This list in Galatians 5:19-21 is moderately longer than the list of virtue and it’s nowhere near as famous as the ‘Fruit of the Spirit’ verses, perhaps for obvious reasons.
The difference with this list as opposed to the virtue list, however, is we’ll continually fight to negate these vices—because we have a sinful nature we’re all predisposed to these. For some the struggle is with sexual immorality; for others it’s greed; others again will have anger problems... most of us have several of these vices to contend with, or even traces of all them.
But this is not our focus.
The Virtue List
The Fruit of the Spirit verses in Galatians 5:22-23 are, by far, more powerful for us to focus upon. We’re, by design, creatures of comfort—working better with the positive things; those things that work on, and build, our confidence.
We submerge the pull of the sinful nature by engaging in the fruits of the Spirit, which are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. When we refuse to gratify our vagrant desires (remembering that many desires are still good and healthy) we attract more fruit of the Spirit; for instance, self-control. But even more so, when we focus on the fruit of the Spirit without thought at all of the sinful nature, we explode in healthy Spiritual growth.
We’re both real (i.e. honest) about the issues of sin in our lives and we don’t focus on them, giving them the upper hand. We go on beyond the sin, far above it, in our focus on the fruit of Character as manifest in our works of good faith.
And we never stop building; never. It’s all about where our focus is.
A continued and sustained focus on the Fruit of the Spirit, to the love and worship of God, is the greatest favour we can ever continue to do for ourselves.
If this is our way, the sky’s the limit.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.