The Secret of holy living is to fully surrender to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It is not possible to achieve holy living on our own.
So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 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. (Galatians 5:16-17)
We have previously talked about how the Holy Spirit assists us with prayer. This is wonderful, but it is only one aspect of His ministry in the hearts of Christ followers and in the world.
One time when Christ was describing the role of the Holy Spirit, He mentioned 3 things the Holy Spirit would do: convict the world of sin, and God’s righteousness, and the judgement to come (John 16:7-11).
That second part – God’s righteousness – is what is being reflected in today’s passage, when Paul helps us see the secret of holy living: to let the Holy Spirit guide our lives. When we let the Holy Spirit guide us, we will desire to live holy lives. Unfortunately, we do also have to deal with a sin nature.
Holy Living vs Our Sinful Nature
Every human being has a sin nature. The Bible tells us we were all born with it (Psalm 51:5). We are also told that no person is capable of leading a sinless life (Ecclesiastes 7:20). It took God coming to earth in human flesh to achieve that.
The desires of the flesh are always there as long as we live in these earthly bodies. We are capable of succumbing to these desires even once we have become disciples of Jesus Christ.
That is, if we give in to that sin nature. When Jesus Christ came to earth and died as a sacrifice for our sins, he provided the opportunity for His followers to be freed from the power of sin and death (Romans 8:1-4).
And since Christ left us the Holy Spirit by His promise, believers must rely on the Holy Spirt within them to help unlock the secret to holy living.
Holy Living and the War Between the Spirit and the Flesh
As is pointed out in today’s passage, the desires of the flesh – our sin nature – and the desires of the Spirit are incompatible. They are the opposite of one another.
Jesus tells Nicodemus that what is born of the flesh and what is born of the Spirit are two different things, which is why one must be born again to see God’s kingdom (John 3:1-7).
The spirit and the flesh are as opposite as life and death. We hear these concepts joined together in scripture, where the Spirit is associated with life and sin is associated with death. They are intertwined with each other.
In the same sense, the spirit and the flesh are intertwined in the life of a believer. Or perhaps a better analogy is that battle lines are drawn between our fleshly nature and our sinful nature. They are constantly at odds with each other.
The good news is that the freedom that comes from being aligned with Christ gives us the power to say yes to the things that please God. Things that we had no power in ourselves to say yes to before.
The Desires of the Spirit for Holy Living
What we now find, if we follow Christ, is that we have inherited a new desire. A desire to do what is pleasing to God. Because the Holy Spirit has taken up residence with us, we can start to consider such things.
The more we feed into our spiritual nature, the stronger it grows in our lives. This is why Paul implores us in today’s passage to let the Holy Spirit guide our lives. Because he knew the secret to holy living was to submit fully to God and allow the Holy Spirit free reign in our hearts and lives.
And yes, even though our flesh is still there to distract and tempt us, we need to remember that for followers of Jesus Christ the flesh is a defeated enemy. Paul says we should consider our fleshly desires as being nailed to the cross and left there to die.
So if you find yourself struggling with sin, ask yourself which are you feeding more? The Spirit or the flesh? Confess and ask God’s forgiveness (1 John 1:9). And then start feeding the Spirit, so He can lead you into holy living.
More verses about holy living: