But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Galatians 5:16
When I want a new job, it isn’t good enough to simply decide that I’m working somewhere else. If I want to change, I must resign from the old job and I must go find a new one. It would be ludicrous to tell myself that I’m in a new job without ever leaving the old one. If I kept showing up at the same old job, sitting at the same old desk, but told myself that I was in a new job, I’d be a fool. If I want change, I can’t just decide in my head that I’ve changed. I must live in a manner consistent with that change. If I want my life to go in a different direction, I must live oppositely from the way I’ve been going.
It seems obvious in the context of a job, but as a Christian, I once completely missed this truth. I thought faith meant that I didn’t have to do anything. I just prayed for my addiction to be gone and I decided in my mind that it was. But . . . I changed nothing. Then, I had the audacity to wonder why I kept relapsing. Honestly, I blamed God for it.
Many of us have done this, but in today’s passage Paul exposed the error of our thinking. In it, he provided the key to abandoning our self-destructive nature. He said that in walking and living by the Spirit, we will no longer be enslaved to the desires of our flesh. If our life problem is walking by our own toxic will, then we must live oppositely, following and walking by God’ Spirit.
What does that mean – to walk by the Spirit? I’ve often been frustrated that Paul was not more detailed in his instruction. So, I’ve had to learn and, if you desire transformation, you will too. I can only tell you what it’s looked like for me.
In my drug addiction, I had to turn around and walk the other way, upending and radically changing my entire life. I had to cut off my access. I had to go to treatment. I still go to recovery meetings and I still work with others who are seeking recovery. I had to do whatever it took to abandon my way for God’s. In my obedience, he’s filled me with his Holy Spirit, and I’ve found transformation.
This process isn’t done of course. I still have other life struggles. Daily, I must continue to get up early, reading, praying, meditating, and in my case, writing. Daily, I must point my life at God, instead of myself. I must regularly be of service to others, loving them as God loved me. Daily, I need to continue to abandon my failures of yesterday, seeking God’s will for me today. In doing so, I’m not made perfect, but I am growing and walking by the Spirit. In doing so, I avoid the self-destructive desires of the old life as I experience the joy, purpose, and peace of the new one. If I truly desire change from the old life, I must live opposite.