Here goes #4 in this blog series on the Holy Spirit. May these bless you as you continue to better understand the glorious Holy Spirit!
There is no doubt that the Holy Spirit is the key to our new life in Christ. But in what ways? And how so? And what does that mean for us?
The Holy Spirit & Our New Life
Just as our sinful nature resembles what we inherited from Adam (rebellion, disobedience, selfishness/self-pleasures) (Rom. 5:12, 19a), as long as we live on earth in these inherited bodies from Adam, we will sin, we will struggle with sin, and we will be tempted to sin. But because of the Holy Spirit regenerating us—creating in us a new nature—we have new desires and new cravings to be set-apart from resembling our old nature and to exhibit and resemble our new nature inherited from Jesus.
"And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates [if you live according to the way your sinful and selfish self wants to], you will die [i.e. spiritually]. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live [i.e. you will have true life]. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves [i.e. of sin]. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”" (Rom. 8:10-15, NLT, [emphasis added])
There is an evident change in one’s life that comes with the Holy Spirit. What Paul communicates here is if there is no evidence (not lip-service but tangible evidence) of new desires and new cravings to be set-apart from resembling our old nature and to exhibit and resemble our new nature inherited from Jesus, then you do not have the Holy Spirit in you, and thus you are not God’s child.
And here we are faced with a death paradox. This new life given to us by the Holy Spirit is evident in our daily death to sin (in our daily death to our old sinful/selfish person).
The probing question that stares us down now is how.
The Holy Spirit & Dying to Our Old Life
So, how do we daily put to death the deeds of our old sinful and selfish person? Paul answers this question crystal clear for us.
"16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil [i.e. rebel and do what it wants to do, not what God wants to do], 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 [i.e. so that you don’t carry out your old nature’s intentions]. 18 But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses. 19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. 22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives." (Gal. 5:16-25, NLT, [emphasis added])
Paul gives us the 2 answers of how we daily put to death the deeds of our old sinful and selfish person:
1. Follow the Holy Spirit’s desires. (vv16-17, 25)
What are the desires of the Holy Spirit? His desires are for us to please God (i.e. to walk in ways that are right and pleasing in the sight of God according to His Word) (v17; Rom. 6:17-19). His desires are for us to bear the fruit of the Spirit (v22). These are His desires. And the Holy Spirit will either gently guide (v16) or straightforwardly direct (v18) our life by way of His desires (v17).
So how do "we" follow His desires? We follow His desires by simply doing what He desires. Yup, that simple...to answer. But not as simple to do. Yet, it can be done because of the Holy Spirit (as we will see).
2. Don’t follow the desires of our sinful nature. (v17, 19, 24; Rom. 8:5-8)
What are the desires of our sinful nature? In short, the desires of our sinful nature are anything contrary to God.
How do we not follow the desires of our sinful nature? Just say no, and then follow the desires of the Holy Spirit instead. If you follow the desires of the Holy Spirit you will subsequently not follow the desires of your sinful nature. However, when we fail to follow the desires of the Holy Spirit we will then be following the desires of our sinful nature.
Now let me give us some encouragement and hope. In verse 24, Paul uses a perfect past tense verb in “have”, indicating following the desires of the Holy Spirit isn’t an option, but a certainty. Those who belong to Jesus Christ possess the Holy Spirit—the resurrection power within them—and are for certain to nail and crucify the passions and desires of their old sinful person to the cross just as Jesus was nailed and crucified as sin on the cross. This "certainty" we find in the process of sanctification.
To add, the Greek term used in verse 24 for "crucify" is stauroó, which in this context is speaking figuratively as to extinguish (like a fire extinguisher), to subdue (bring into subjection). Also, in this Greek term stauroó, the root word of it stauros’ implies unspeakable pain, humiliation and suffering. Hence, as we extinguish/subdue our sinful and selfish passions and desires, it’s going to hurt, it's going to be uncomfortable and humiliating. This was the case for Jesus during the passion week. He was betrayed, denied, humiliated, beaten, and crucified—all for us.
There is simplicity in this application because of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. When we just say no (like drugs, just say no) to our sinful and selfish passions and desires and then follow the desires of the Holy Spirit instead, we are actually extinguishing the passions and desires of our old sinful person by quenching it with the desires of the Holy Spirit. Thus, in this process of saying no to our flesh and yes to the Spirit, we are subduing the passions and desires of our old sinful person by bringing them into subjection to the desires of the Holy Spirit.
Praise God for the Holy Spirit! There is no way any of this is possible apart from Him. No new life apart from Him. No way of dying to our old life apart from Him.
Praise God for the Holy Spirit!