​Day 49: ​Overcoming the Desires of Our Flesh


THE SUMMIT

I always wanted to climb a mountain... to stand on the peak and look out into the vast distance. A few years back, I had the opportunity to hike up an Appalachian mountain with some friends. Although it certainly wasn't the Himalayas, the ordeal was a bit more than we bargained for. We hiked for several days through the rain along the Appalachian Trail while constantly on an incline. After the second day, my body was exhausted by the sloppy mudslide our trail had turned into, the heavy cold of being soaked all the way through, and the aching burn of my muscles straining against the mountain and my 40-pound backpack. The trail seemed to go on forever, and always up. We began doubting our decision, and we groaned about going to the Caribbean the next trip.

As miserable as we were there was something deep in our spirits that kept us moving further up. Our bodies were begging to be done, but we pressed on for some deeper purpose besides gratifying what our flesh wanted. This was our mountain, and I could not bear to live with myself if I let momentary discomfort keep me from the goal of the peak. The pain wasn't going to kill my body, but not reaching the top would have been soul-crushing.

... Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. - Galatians 5:16-17

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THE PURPOSE OF THE GOSPEL

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. -Galatians 5:19-21

Most of us can probably agree with Paul that the acts of the flesh are obvious. It is easy to see when we are acting according to our flesh, especially if we are believers filled with the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote this to the Galatian church because they were wildly missing the point of the gospel. They erroneously thought that freedom in Christ meant a free pass to act upon whatever worldly desire seized them. In reality, Christ's freedom allows us to be emptied of urges that lead to death and be filled with The Holy Spirit, which leads to life.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. -Galatians 5:22-24

Notice Paul doesn’t give a 1-2-3 step process for being led by the Holy Spirit. He simply discusses what the byproducts of a person walking in that way are. The only conceivable reason I can think of for Paul not giving a clear direction is that we cannot possibly fathom the thoughts, expressions, and desires of the Holy Spirit. He is not someone that can be tamed or put into a box. One thing we know for sure is that when we accept Christ the Spirit comes and dwells in us.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. -Romans 8:9

Consider the writing from gotquestions.org on the topic of The Holy Spirit:

The apostle Paul clearly taught that we receive the Holy Spirit the moment we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior. First Corinthians 12:13 declares, “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” Romans 8:9 tells us that if a person does not possess the Holy Spirit, he or she does not belong to Christ: “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” Ephesians 1:13-14 teaches us that the Holy Spirit is the seal of salvation for all those who believe: “Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory.” [1]

WHERE IS THE HOLY SPIRIT?

At times the Holy Spirit can seem elusive. In other words, we don't know what to expect from Him so we stop expecting anything at all. Is He a still small voice? Is He only in our heads? Many times during my struggles I had wondered if I was filled with the Spirit at all. Perhaps you’re asking that very same question now. The answer is quite simple, have you seen change in your life since coming to Christ? Have you felt a desire to possess the fruits of the Spirit and walk according to the word of God? Have you come here to this course because you long for freedom from sexual sin?

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By having a God-given desire for freedom and then taking steps to work towards that freedom, you are demonstrating the fruits of love (a love for God’s temple, your body, and a desire for it to be pure), forbearance (you’ve experienced victory by going through this course, even if in small ways), goodness, faithfulness (committed to desiring freedom), and self-control. Are you perfect in all of these areas? Absolutely not, and neither are any of us! However, by simply coming back here each day you are being led by the Holy Spirit, whose desire is for you to find freedom and glorify God with your testimony.

This is why it is important to not give up after a fall. The Holy Spirit is still alive and active in you, convicting you of that sin for a divine purpose. That purpose is that you might pick yourself back up, repent, and turn your sin over to God in order to find freedom. He will constantly strive to perfect the work He started in you.

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. -Philippians 1:6

Were you surprised to find that the Holy Spirit is already at work within you? Contrary to the works of the flesh, the works of the Spirit take some discernment and introspection in order to identify. The obvious works of the flesh lead to a soul-killing destruction, but the works of the spirit put to death the sinful desires of the flesh. Although these forces are constantly in tension with one another, Christ himself has set us free from the constraints of the flesh. God's desire is to give us goodness, pleasure, and adventure, but in a way that doesn't simultaneously destroy us.

Day 49 Application

What are some of the things that a person living by the Spirit does (hint, Galatians 5:22-23)? What fruits have you demonstrated simply by coming to this course?

If you give up sexual sin, do you trust God to give you the desires of your heart?

Do you feel your relationship with or understanding of the Holy Spirit is different than how it is with God? How does the three-and-one nature of God make our relationship with him unique?

How have you seen your sexual purity develop throughout this course? Have you been maintaining accountability for yourself?