“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16
The word “fulfill” in this text helps us set our expectations about what it will be like to “walk in the Spirit.” It’s very tempting to think that when we unite our lives with Christ’s that everything will be different. I mean, Jesus called our entrance into a life with him the new birth and Paul says that when we’re in Christ we’re a new creation, the old is gone and the new has come. If all this doesn’t add up to the conclusion that everything is new then there must be something wrong with the dictionary or something.
Friend, if this is the conclusion we’ve arrived at the problem isn’t with the dictionary it’s with the fact that we’re adding information that’s simply not in the texts. We’re filling in some of the blank places in the word pictures the Bible is painting with our own ideas and this is giving us a mistaken idea of what’s happening.
When we accept Christ as our Savior and Lord he forgives us, and gives us the Holy Spirit, and this gives us the opportunity to start our lives with God over. But it doesn’t remove the history, and the habits, and the tendencies we’ve been nurturing over the years. These are all still part of our lives. The real difference is that now the Holy Spirit is also part of our lives and he’s here to help us meet those temptations.
That’s why Galatians 5:16 says that when we walk with the Spirit we don’t “fulfill” the lusts of the flesh. The apostle didn’t say we don’t “have” the lusts of the flesh. Oh no, those desires for sinful pleasures are still very much present in our lives but now we have a competing influence working in our lives as well. The Holy Spirit is there giving us understanding about what sin is, reminding us about what we’ve learned regarding Jesus and his way of living, and convicting us that what we’re wanting to do is part of the problem that led to Christ’s death. If we’ll listen and submit to the Spirit’s influence James 4:6 tells us that he’ll also give us more strength so that we can stand victorious as overcomers over our sinful natures.
But it’s a mistake to think that we’ll stop wanting the wrong things. That desire is still there but there are new desires as well and, if we’ll rely on the Holy Spirit to help, we can cultivate this new set of wants and desires until we’ve left no room for sin in our lives. How do we nurture this new nature. One choice at a time. Leaning heavily on the Holy Spirit we choose what is good and reject what is evil.