This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
I. THE TRUE CHRISTIAN WILL AIM AT NOT FULFILLING THE LUST OF THE FLESH. It is the fashion of the age to decry asceticism. St. Paul was not an advocate of the monkish ideal according to which there was a virtue in restraining desires and activities which are harmless in themselves. But this revulsion of our own day with its "fleshly school" of poets goes much further in the opposite direction and honours as "natural," what St. Paul would repress as "carnal." It ignores two most important facts.
1. We have a higher and a lower nature. A man is as much an animal as a dog is. But he is also something more. In his right state the spiritual controls the animal in him. To be truly natural is not to reverse this relative position. To permit the lower self to dominate the upper self is to allow a most unnatural rebellion against right order to take place within us. As it is natural for a man to walk with his head erect, and as he is in an unnatural posture when he has fallen with his head downwards, so, as Bishop Butler has taught us, it is truly natural for conscience to be supreme, and it is going against nature to let the lower powers have unbridled liberty.
2. Our lower nature is unduly powerful. It has been indulged. It has broken through its proper restraints. It has grown too strong, while the higher spiritual nature has been starved and checked and weakened. As fallen creatures, we have lost the right balance of our powers. Our present nature is a corrupt nature. To reverence the unrestrained exercise of all our nature, as it now is, is to treat corruption and confusion with the honour that belongs only to order and perfection. The evil of the unrestrained sway of the lower nature is seen in its fruits Poetry hides them, but conscientious truthfulness declares them, and a more hideous collection of horrors cannot be imagined (vers. 19-21). Such fruits are certain proofs that the root is evil. Hence the aim of all fight-minded men must be to check the "lust of the flesh."
II. THE SECRET OF SUCCESS IN' THIS AIM IS WALKING BY THE SPIRIT. It cannot be accomplished by mere resistance and repression. This is why the method of Law failed. No laws will make a nation moral. Positive influences only can counteract the furious passions of the lower nature. We must walk by the Spirit.
1. Spiritual things must be the chief concerns of our lives. We must draw off our thoughts from the lower things by engaging them with the higher. Our own spiritual nature will thus grow stronger to resist the impulses of" the flesh."
2. Gods Holy Spirit must be sought as the guide and strength of our highest activities. Our spirituality can only flourish as the outcome of the indwelling Spirit of God. A real, direct influence will thus strengthen our better selves against the evil powers within.
3. Spirituality growing out of the indwelling of Gods Spirit must become a habit of daily life. It is not enough that we have brief moments of devout elevation above earthly things, if, when we return to the world, our hearts and minds are as much occupied with the lower interests of life as if we knew no others. We must "pray without ceasing." The tone and temper of our mind in the world must be above the world.
4. This condition is realized through union with Christ. The Spirit we need is "the Spirit of Christ." When we are Christ's we crucify "the flesh with the passions and lusts thereof," and learn to walk by the Spirit. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.