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The Lust of the Flesh vs the Fruit of the Spirit

Lyn Mize

The Christian has three opponents that he must overcome in order to inherit the promises of God. These three opponents are the world, the flesh nature and the devil. A Christian overcomes the world at the point that he believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. All Christians have overcome the world in their belief in Jesus Christ. However, a Christian must also overcome the flesh nature and the devil in order to inherit the promises of God to rule and reign with Jesus Christ in His kingdom. The Christian must put on the whole armor of God as explained in Ephesians 6:11-17 in order to overcome the devil. The final opponent in the Christian life is the Christian’s own flesh nature. This message addresses the lusts of the flesh nature, which is in opposition to the Fruit of the Spirit. A Christian overcomes the lusts of his flesh nature by walking or being controlled by his spirit nature, which is in harmony with the Holy Spirit.

(Gal 5:17 NIV)  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.  

When a Christian is born-again (i.e., spiritually regenerated) by the Holy Spirit, he receives a new spirit nature that is 100% controlled by the Holy Spirit. This new nature will never cause a Christian to sin, as it always desires that that is pure and holy.

In contrast the old soulical or flesh nature desires those things that are sinful. In new Christians the sinful nature is still in control, and, unfortunately, the old sinful nature remains in control for many Christians. When we do the things that we want or desire, we are operating in the flesh, which is sinful.

(Gal 5:18 NIV)  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

Numerous Christians think they are walking in accordance with the spirit when they are actually walking in accordance with the old flesh nature. The Christian must crucify the old flesh nature to allow control by the new spirit nature. If the Christian is allowing the new spirit nature to be in control, then he is not operating based on established principle, which is to fulfill the desires of the flesh.

The old flesh nature is strong, and in some people who have indulged the old flesh nature unrestrained for a long period of time, it is very strong. The Christian who has operated in reckless abandon to the desires of the old flesh nature may find it much more difficult to crucify the old flesh nature than the Christian who has led a more disciplined life.

The Christian who is led by the spirit is one who allows the Holy Spirit to guide his actions and behavior. These actions will be at variance with the normal desires of the individual.

(Gal 5:19 NIV)  The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;

The acts of the old sinful nature are quite apparent and easily perceived. This verse begins a list of the acts of the sinful nature. We need to pay close attention to certain ones that are frequently overlooked, yet are manifested in the lives of numerous Christians who think they are walking in the spirit.

1. Sexual immorality: This is the transliterated Greek word porneia and refers to all types of sexual immorality such as adultery, fornication, bestiality, homosexuality, lesbianism, pornography, pedophilia and incest. We must remember that in accordance with the words of Jesus, these acts committed in the minds are also sinful. Consequently, we must not only control our behavior, but also our thoughts.

(Phil 4:8 KJV)  Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

2.  Impurity: This is the transliterated Greek word akatharsia and refers to uncleanness in the physical or moral sense. Since it is not a sin to be physically dirty, we must take it in the moral sense. In the moral sense it refers to the impurity of lustful, luxurious or profligate living. It means wasteful expenditure or consumption. It is the Christian who is recklessly wasteful or wildly extravagant and overindulges himself in anything. It is dissolute indulgence in sensual pleasures that are intemperate, and this includes amusements and diversions. It is immoderation or excess in anything that satisfies the senses. This would include watching movies or football games, playing tennis, knitting and just about anything that provides pleasure to the individual.

3. Debauchery: This is the transliterated Greek word aselgeia and refers to licentiousness, lasciviousness, wantonness, shamelessness, and insolence. It refers to the Christian who is cruel, merciless, undisciplined and spoiled. It is the Christian who ignores legal restraint, and has no regard for accepted rules and standards. It is the Christian who violates the laws of the land in which he lives. It is the Christian who disregards the rules of his employer. It is the Christian who disobeys those that God has placed in authority over him. This includes the wife who disobeys her husband, the child who disobeys the parent, and the driver who disobeys the traffic laws. It is the Christian who is presumptuous and insulting in manner or speech. It is the Christian who is audaciously rude or disrespectful. It is the Christian who is impertinent or goes beyond the limits of propriety or good manners. It is the Christian who uses bad language in the presence of others, and especially in the presence of the opposite sex.

(Gal 5:20 NIV)  idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions

4.  Idolatry: This is the transliterated Greek word eidololatreia and refers literally to the worship of false gods. Figuratively, it means avarice or the immoderate desire for wealth. It refers to greed by the Christian. It is the Christian who strives after wealth more than he strives after the things of God. Anything that the Christian reverences more than God is idolatry. Any Christian can do a self-test of what he worships by paying attention to his thought life and the things that occupy his thoughts.

(1 Tim 6:9 KJV)  But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.

(1 Tim 6:10 KJV)  For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

(1 Tim 6:11 KJV)  But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.

5. Witchcraft: This is the Greek word pharmakeia and it refers to the taking or administering of drugs for pleasure. It includes the abuse of drugs, but would not include the taking of medication in moderation for the treatment of pain and disease. Witchcraft also includes sorcery, which is the use of supernatural power over others through the assistance of spirits.

6.  Hatred: This is the Greek word echthra and refers to enmity or hostility on the part of Christians. It includes rancor, which is bitter, long-lasting resentment or deep-seated ill will.

(Eph 4:30 KJV)  And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

(Eph 4:31 KJV)  Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:

(Eph 4:32 KJV)  And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.  

7.  Discord: This is the Greek word eris and refers to the Christian who is quarrelsome in a noisy, angry or bickering manner. The contentious Christian yields to this lust of the flesh. It is the Christian who habitually disagrees simply for the sake of disagreement, and it causes contention or strife in the Church body.

8. Jealousy: This is the Greek word zelos and refers to the sin jealousy, which is the attitude that comes from being fearful of being supplanted or the apprehension of losing one’s affection or position. It is the Christian who is jealous or envious of the success of others.

9. Fits of Rage: This is the Greek word thumos and refers to violent, explosive or uncontrolled anger resulting from the lack of self-control.

10.  Selfish Ambition: This is the Greek word eritheia and refers to the putting of oneself in the forefront or the limelight. It is the Christian who has to be the center of attention. It is the Christian who seeks political office for the purpose of power, recognition or satisfying the ego. It is the pastor who is more concerned with his position and status than he is with truth.

11.  Dissensions: This is the Greek word dichostsis and it refers to the refusal to conform to the authority or doctrine of the Bible. It is the Christian who rebels against the authorities that God has placed over him. It is a church member who rebels against the authority of the pastor. It is the child who rebels against the authority of the parent. It is the citizen who rebels against the governmental authorities. The Christian who rebels and leads others to rebel is yielding to this lust of the flesh.

12.  Factions: This is the Greek word hairesis and refers to the internal, contentious rivalries within a group of Christians. It refers to the conflicts that arise out of dissensions or differences of opinion in a body of Christians. It is okay for Christians to disagree on the meaning of a particular text of Scripture or doctrine, but the difference of opinion should not result in rivalries or conflicts. They should be able to discuss the issue and come to a resolution with unity of purpose. This lust of the flesh has resulted in all of the denominations that abound in the Church today.

(Gal 5:21 NIV)  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.

13.  Envy: This is the Greek word phthonos and refers to the feeling of discontent and resentment aroused by the desire for the possessions or qualities of another. It is covetousness.  

14.  Drunkenness: This is the Greek word methe and refers to intoxication through the drinking of alcoholic beverages.

15.  Orgies: This is the Greek word komos and refers to loud, noisy festivities that lack restraint or discipline.

After listing the lusts of the flesh, the verse summarizes them by stating that those Christians who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. All of the above lusts of the flesh are in direct contrast to the following fruit of the Spirit.

(Gal 5:22 NIV)  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

The Christian who is controlled by the Holy Spirit is the one who walks in the spirit. All Christians are baptized with the Holy Spirit when they are spiritually regenerated. The Holy Spirit indwells them at this point and these Christians have all of the Holy Spirit that they will ever receive. The question then becomes the amount of control allowed to the Holy Spirit by these Christians. This is the meaning of being filled with the Holy Spirit. The filling of the Spirit is a continuous process subject to the Christian’s success in putting off the old man and putting on the new man. The Holy Spirit is not a magic genie subject to our every beck and call. The Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Trinity of God. He will not control any more of our lives than we allow. The more a Christian is able to crucify the flesh nature, the more the Holy Spirit is allowed to control this Christian, and the more this Christian will bear the Fruit of the Spirit. The more a Christian is repeatedly and continuously filled by the Holy Spirit, the more of the following fruit of the Spirit will be exhibited by this Christian:

1. Love: This is the transliterated Greek word agape, and refers to the higher unconditional love of God. Agape has become an English word that is defined as Christian love, or spiritual love. Agape is the love chosen by a Christian for his fellow Christians—and even for his enemies. It is the love of compassion, benevolence, affectionate regard, and goodwill. It is not the love of friendship, which is the Greek word phileo, or sexual love, which is eros. Agape is the love that the Holy Spirit inspires. Therefore, those Christians who are filled or controlled by the Holy Spirit manifest it.  

2.  Joy: This is the Greek word chara and means the joy or gladness that the Holy Spirit imparts by His influence. It is the deep sense of pleasure or satisfaction that comes from God, and it does not depend upon circumstance. The Christian filled with the Holy Spirit can even feel this sense of joy in prison, in poverty, in affliction and in persecution. This sense of joy is experienced under adverse circumstances with the knowledge that circumstances are temporary and fleeting. Our joy should not depend upon circumstances, but upon the knowledge of the Word of God and the coming Kingdom of God the Son. The Scriptures refer to it as the joy of the Lord.

3. Peace: This is the Greek word eirene and it means peace, quietness or rest. It is metaphorically the peace of mind or tranquility that arises from reconciliation with God and the sense of His divine favor. The Christian can have peace with God without having the peace of God. All Christians have peace with God, but not all Christians have the peace of God. The peace of God comes from the state of mind where peace and harmony reign in one’s life. It comes from a knowledge and application of the Word of God. Only the Christian who is filled or controlled by the Holy Spirit can realize this state of tranquility in the mind. The peace with God occurs at spiritual regeneration. The peace of God occurs in the process of soul salvation. Again, the peace of God does not depend upon circumstances.

4.  Patience or Longsuffering: This is the Greek word makrothumia, and means the ability to bear or endure pain, difficulty, provocation or annoyance with an attitude of calmness. It refers to the ability to calmly await an outcome or result without being hasty or impulsive. At the present time we see this among Philadelphia Christians watching and waiting for the Return of the Lord for His bride. The Lord has allowed us to go through many trials and hardships to see who will patiently endure until the time of the end, which is the Firstfruits Rapture.

5. Kindness: This is the Greek word chrestotes and means kindness, or moral excellence in character or demeanor. It refers to the Christian who is morally good and filled with character and integrity. The Christian bearing this fruit has the moral or ethical strength to do what is good or right. The word describes one’s disposition and does not necessarily entail acts of goodness, which is included in the following fruit of the spirit.

6.  Goodness: This is the Greek word agathosune, and refers to uprightness of heart and life. While chrestotes refers to the character or demeanor of a faithful Christian, agathosune refers to the acts of kindness and goodness that flow from that character.

7.  Faithfulness: This is the Greek word pistis, and refers to the faithfulness or fidelity of the Christian to God. The Christian who is faithful studies the Word of God and believes it and acts upon that belief. The faithful Christian is a doer of the Word of God, and not just a hearer. All Christians have faith, but all Christians are not faithful. Faithfulness is the outworking of faith.

(Gal 5:23 NIV)  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

8.  Gentleness: This is the Greek word prautes, and it means mildness or meekness, and implies humility, which is the opposite of pride. The Christian who bears this fruit manifests humility rather than pride. Humility is marked by meekness or modesty in behavior, attitude or spirit, and it is not arrogant or prideful. Humility shows deferential or submissive respect to others. Humility is lowly and unpretentious.

9. Self-Control: This is the Greek word egkrateia, and means perseverance or temperance. It is the virtue of one who has mastered his desires and passions, and especially his sensual appetites. It has been accurately stated that it is easier to control an army than to control the self.  

Verse 23 completes the list of the fruit of the Spirit by stating that there is no law or prohibition against these nine traits of the Christian who walks in the Spirit.

(Gal 5:24 NIV)  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.

This verse has special reference to those who have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires are like Jesus Christ. They have put off the old man that walks after the lusts of the flesh and put on the new man that walks after the spirit.

(Gal 5:25 NIV)  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

This verse literally states that if we live by the Spirit, we will keep step with the Spirit. The Greek word for “Since” is ei, and it is a primary particle of conditionality. It is correctly translated as “If”. Not all Christians live by the Spirit, so they do not keep step with the Spirit. These Christians have not crucified the sinful nature as required in verse 24.

(Gal 5:26 NIV)  Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Conceit is what happens to Christians who attempt to live the Christian life in the power of the flesh. They seek after vain glory, which is boastful, unwarranted pride in one's accomplishments or qualities. It was because of this selfish pride and arrogance that the Galatians were provoking one another and were envious of each other. They were definitely not caught up in agape, which is the unselfish love of God. 

(Gal 6:1 NIV)  Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.

Paul cautions the Galatians to help one another live the Christian life by correcting one another and restoring one another in love. It has been stated that Christians are the only ones that shoot their wounded. This ought not to be true. The spiritual Christian is the one who helps his wounded brother to be made whole again in the power of love and gentleness. He does this because he realizes his own weakness and knows that he can also fall into temptation. The Christian who thinks that he cannot fall into temptation is the one who will most likely fall into temptation.

(Gal 6:2 NIV)  Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Paul continues and states that the Galatians should bear one another’s burdens, and they should do this to fulfill the “law of Christ”. The “law of Christ” is the law of faith and refers to the moral teaching of Christ, and especially the precept concerning love. It is necessary to walk by faith in order to fulfill the law of Christ. As stated earlier, our spirits are saved by faith in the death or atonement of Jesus Christ, but our souls are saved by faith in the resurrected life of Christ. The spirit is saved by faith in Christ, but the soul is saved by faithfulness to Christ. The great majority of the Scriptures address soul salvation and not spirit salvation. Christians should help one another become faithful, mature Christians, for each one will stand before Christ individually to be judged for his works.

(Gal 6:3 NIV)  If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

The Scriptures are clear that if a Christian thinks that he is living a wonderful Christian life, then he may not be doing so well in his Christian walk.

(Gal 6:4 NIV)  Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else,

Every Christian will be required to prove his own work at the Judgment Seat of Christ. If his work comes through the fire, then he will be able to rejoice in being found faithful at that time.

(Gal 6:5 NIV)  for each one should carry his own load.

At the Judgment Seat of Christ, every Christian will be responsible for his own life, and not for his brethren. It has been stated “At the Judgment Seat of Christ, every tub stands on its own bottom.” This is a colloquialism that emphasizes the point that every Christian will be judged based on his own works at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

The Greek word for burden in this verse refers to the obligations that Christ lays upon his disciples in contrast to the precepts of the Pharisees, which were oppressive to its adherents. The contrast is to walk by faith in lieu of keeping the Law of Moses, which had been handed down by the legalistic Jews, and were now being presented to the Galatians by the Judaizers.

(Gal 6:6 NIV)  Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.

The person that is taught is the disciple who studies the Bible and is taught by the Holy Spirit. This person is to be a partner or associate in communicating the Word of God to other believers. The person that becomes a partner or associate with the Holy Spirit is led by the Spirit and will be adopted or placed as a son at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Only the faithful Christian who is taught by the Holy Spirit can become an associate or partner with the Holy Spirit. The associate or partner with the Holy Spirit is a mature Christian.

(Gal 6:7 NIV)  Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

Paul is warning the Galatians that they are accountable for their works. Sowing is working and Paul nails down the fact that Christians SHALL reap what they sow. Paul emphasizes for the Galatians to “Be not deceived” for they shall reap what they sow, whether it is good or bad. This is stated in the following verse:

(Gal 6:8 NIV)  The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

The Christian who sows in accordance with his flesh nature shall reap corruption or destruction. This is the destruction of the soul at the Judgment Seat of Christ. This is definitely a negative reward for the Christian. Please note that the opposite of being destroyed at the Judgment Seat of Christ is to reap “life everlasting”. These same Greek words are translated “eternal life” in other passages of Scripture. The Christian who sows or works in accordance with his spirit nature shall receive the reward of eternal life. Eternal life pertains to the soul and reward and not the spirit. This is confirmed in the following verse, which  addresses “well doing”, which pertains to works.

(Gal 6:9 NIV)  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Paul tells the Galatians to not become weary in their work, for they will reap “in due season”. This means that they will receive their reward at the appropriate time. The appropriate time is the Judgment Seat of Christ.

(Gal 6:10 NIV)  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Paul continues to tell the Galatians to take advantage of every opportunity to do good works unto all kinds of men, especially to them who are Christians.