This week, Pastor Mark preached out of Acts 2:1–13 on how Christians are empowered by the Spirit to follow Jesus. We need the Spirit’s power, says Pastor Bubba in this post, because following Jesus is not easy task—especially when it comes to sin.
Recently a new Christian came to me and said, “I know Jesus has forgiven me of all my sins, but I still want to keep sinning. What do I do?”
This is a common problem. Christians are not perfect. We sin and sometimes we struggle with sin. So what does the Bible say to Christians who are struggling? Let’s look at Galatians 5:16–25, which speaks directly to this.
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16
The idea behind the phrase “walk by the Spirit” is that—no matter what’s happening around him—the Christian keeps on walking, step by step by step. Being led by God in these moments looks a lot like how a parent might hold the hand of his small child and walks with him through a dangerous parking lot, protecting the child, guiding him, helping him, and keeping him safe.
In verse 16, the Apostle Paul makes an incredibly important statement about how the Christian is equipped by the Spirit to live a life of faithfulness toward God. His proposition is this: when the Christian walks by the Spirit, she will not continue to gratify or indulge in sin. Paul gives four ways the Spirit helps us in our fight with sin.
1. The Spirit fights our sinful desires
"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. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Galatians 5:17–18
Christians have two natures: a sinful nature received at their physical birth, and new nature received at their spiritual birth. Both natures have desires: one for evil and the other for holiness (this is why they are in conflict with each other). Our flesh desires to sin against God, but our new nature—empowered and directed by the Spirit—desires to be faithful to God. When we follow our deepest desires, we will not do the sin we want to do but rather listen to the Spirit.
2. He makes evident the works of the flesh
“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 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.” Galatians 5:19–21
It’s not a sin to be tempted—even Jesus was tempted, but he did not sin (Matt. 4:1–10). Yet, the book of James says that, when we are tempted by our sinful desires and give in to them, it leads sin (James 1:14–15). The Spirit names our sin in Scripture and convicts us of it in our hearts so we feel godly grief over our sin, which will lead to repentance.
3. He produces fruit in us
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22
Christian character comes from within, by the power of the Spirit. The Spirit seeks to transform us from the inside out by making us more like Jesus (2 Cor. 3:18; Rom. 8:29; 12:1–2).
Notice above it says, “the fruit” and not fruits. Although there are nine qualities listed, “fruit” is singular. This means that when the Spirit produces this fruit in us, we see all of these characteristics experienced in our hearts and lived out through our lives as evidence that we are “walking in the Spirit.”
4. He empowers us to put sin to death
“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:24–25
Belonging to Jesus means we are not our own. Our old self is no more—it has been crucified with Christ in order for the desires of our flesh to be brought to nothing, and the result is that we are no longer enslaved to sin but rather alive to God in Christ (Rom. 6:6, 11).
Even still, we must fight the desires of the flesh. We can’t do this by tolerating sin, justifying sin, blame shifting sin, or managing sin. We must put sin to death through repentance (Col. 3:5).
Repentance and faith
“Repentance is a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ.” –Wayne Grudem
Repentance starts in the mind, goes deep into the heart, and then flows throughout your life. To kill sin, you must first repent of how you think, and then repent in your heart.
But repentance is only part of the equation. The Christian life is one of repentance and faith. We repent of our sin, and then, in faith, by the power of the Spirit, we follow Jesus.
Do you belong to Jesus? If so, I’m praying that the Spirit will help you in your struggle with sin. If not, turn to Jesus. You will only find freedom from sin in Jesus.
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” 1 John 1:8–10
Pastor Bubba Jennings leads the Federal Way church, which will replant this fall as Mars Hill Tacoma. That church will move into one of the oldest church buildings in its city—but they still need a roof over their heads. To help them fix up the building, you can give here.