Galatians 5:16-17. 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
I’m about to tell you one of the most important principles for spiritual growth. Here it is:
THERE IS A BATTLE OF DESIRE RAGING IN YOUR SOUL.
In Galatians 5, Paul describes the battle raging inside of our hearts and minds as a war of desires. The desires of the flesh are against the desires of the Spirit. This battle of desire is occurring literally in each and every choice you make, each thought you think, and each emotion you feel.
Christian, are you aware of this battle in your own soul? Trust me, it’s there. If you don’t recognize this battle, then I’m sorry to say this, but you’re losing. If you do recognize the battle, and if it often feels like you’re losing the battle, then you’re actually on your way to victory. The victory that comes when we trust in God’s grace.
Sadly, for many Christians, spiritual growth is often reduced down to a system of sin management – trying hard not to sin all the time. In this strategy desire is almost always seen as bad, and holiness comes when we suppress or overcome our desires.
But this is not the way of the Spirit and our union with Christ. We were not made to suppress our desires. We ARE desire. We are living, thirsty throats (souls) (see day 5). The Spirit in us isn’t at work to extinguish our desires. In fact, quite the opposite. He works in us to quicken and reveal our desires. He wants us to be “thirsty,” knowing that behind every fleshly desire is a deeper desire for Christ. As G.K. Chesterton said, “Every man that knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God.”
The glorious reality is that the Spirit of Christ in us is transforming our desires. He is giving us a deep desire FOR Christ and the deep desires OF Christ. And these new desires create the war zone in our souls that Galatians 5:16-17 describes. The new desires of the Spirit are against the remaining desires of the flesh (selfishness). The fleshly, selfish desires in us will always want to go back to law keeping as a way to gain control over our lives. But praise God that if you are in Christ, you have a deeper, more powerful desire in you than the desires of the flesh. You have the literal desires of Jesus himself. Notice the end of verse 17 again – the flesh keeps you from doing the thing you want to do. You see what we really want to do is please Christ.
The problem is that we just don’t know what to do with our unhealthy desires. And so most often we default to one of two sinful responses to sinful desires. 1) We give in to it and then feel guilty (yuck). Or 2) We try to suppress the sinful desire by thinking about something else (good luck), or replacing it with another desire (one addiction replaces another), or by sheer will-power or pride we resist the temptation (because a good Christian would never…). The problem with option #1 is clear. The problem with option #2 is that we have dealt with our sin completely through self-effort and self-justification. Which may be even more sinful than option #1.
But the Spirit offers us an option #3 for dealing with our sinful desires: recognizing and admitting the sinful desires of our heart and allowing them to draw our hearts to our greater desire – Christ himself. Let me share an example.
Let’s say you have a unhealthy desire for approval. You just want everyone to like you. Now, being liked by others is not a bad desire, but your flesh seeks to satisfy this desire for approval through self-promotion, or people pleasing, etc. What we need to see is that this desire actually points to a deeper desire in our heart- the desire for love or respect or security. Once we identify this deeper desire, we can begin to see how only Christ can satisfy us. And by his gracious undeserved, unconditional love my desire for love and respect are being fully met. Now, in my newly realized freedom, I can choose what I desire most – Christ and his love for me. Instead of running to the dead end of people pleasing, I allow the Spirit to defeat the flesh with Christ’s love and grace.
“To live is Christ” is to live in a battle for the desires of your heart. But Christ has won this battle. His desires are yours in Christ. And your deepest desire is for him. Do you believe this?
Can you identify the battle of desire in your soul?
You in Christ
How has Christ satisfied your deeper desires recently?
Christ in you
Where do you need to apply the desires of Christ to a circumstance in your life today?
Playlist: Songs of desire.