Thursday in the Thirty-Third Week of Ordinary Time

Galatians 5:16-18

No Compromising the Flesh and the Spirit

I’ve quoted him before, but I will do it again.  Speaking of the necessity of Christians to mortify the flesh, John Owen wrote: “Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it while you live; cease not a day from this work: Be killing sin or it will be killing you” (emphasis added; J. Owen, WJO 6:9).  John Owen was a seventeenth century English Puritan, those people who took sin seriously—like the Apostle Paul did.  And here, the Apostle, having warned us not to use our freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, informs us why we shouldn’t: “The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for they are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”  Remember that the word, “flesh,” in this place means, “sinful nature,” that which we carry about us from our birth as our just reward for the Fall.  And Paul would have us know that the distance between the desires of our fallen and unregenerate nature and the desires of the Holy Spirit who has given us a new and regenerate nature cannot be equivocated, bridged, brought together, or compromised in any way, shape, or form.  To live according to the one is to reject the other, which means that to walk according to the flesh is to reject life in the Spirit—and that’s a horrifying thought!

So Paul tells us, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”  Again he speaks to the mutual exclusivity between the two.  And the good news is that as we walk according to the Spirit that we shall de facto not be walking according to the flesh.  So the secret to mortifying (killing) the flesh (sinful nature) is NOT to focus on the flesh, wondering how we can stop committing certain sins or focusing on addictions and sinful habits that need to be broken.  No.  The way to mortify the flesh is to live according to the Spirit.  It’s the same with the law.  The way the Christian keeps from breaking the law is not by obsessing over the law but by focusing on God’s grace and mercy.  So if we are led by the Spirit we are not under the law and free from the flesh, or at least as free as we can be on this side of eternity. 

The next few days, we shall discuss the works of the flesh, not to obsess over them but to recognize and understand them.  After that we shall discuss what it means to live according to the Spirit.  And we must remember that we walk not alone but that the Spirit lives within us as born again believers being refashioned after the image of God; that is, we have an inner and heavenly desire that reminds us that we are of the Spirit.

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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