So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, 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. Galatians 5:16-17
I have a lot of good intentions. I mean well…most of the time. I don’t want to do harm, to hurt, to deceive. I don’t want to just not care enough to love others well. I have better intentions than these. And yet, I still find myself doing harm, caring too little and hiding behind masks far too often.
Much of the time when I realize this I will, with great exasperation, ask myself what my problem is. “You know better than to act like this. You say you want to live better than this. Why do you keep carrying the same bad attitudes, the same passive aggressive tactics, the same lack of loving well? What is wrong with you?!” But I know what my problem is even as I ask.
I’m also learning that most other people are generally well-intentioned too. They don’t always think like me, talk like me, or make the same choices I would, but they intend well. They have good intentions just as I do. It’s just that they too struggle to follow through on the best of intentions. They too get side-tracked by behaviors that are never what they wanted.
They have the same problem I have. We’re broken. We do what we don’t want to do. We behave in ways contrary to what we’ve been called to and how we want to live. Sin has this twisted way of causing us to think we want what we don’t want. We crave the very things we will regret. There is a fight over us. The Spirit is fighting for things opposite to our sinful nature. And good intentions just aren’t enough to overcome.
Let the Holy Spirit guide you.
The simplicity of this call to let ourselves be guided by the Spirit belies the complexity of living it out. It sounds so simple. Let yourself be guided. It sounds easy, but as Paul says: there is a fight going on. Everything the Spirit calls us to is contrary to what our sinful nature wants. And it’s a hit to our egos to have to admit that we chase after things that are self-destructing and we don’t have the power to stop ourselves.
But this is where we live. This is who we are. And we need the Spirit to guide us. Otherwise we will never be free to carry out our good intentions.
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Galatians 5:24-25
The truth that Paul wants us to recognize is that our sinful nature has no more power to draw us away from the things of the Spirit than what power we give it. Our sinful nature has been taken care of, crucified with Christ. We have life by the Spirit when we accept this—when we accept Jesus. But now we have to follow his lead.
Father, may we follow well today. May we live in the truth of a powerless sin nature and a powerful Spirit to lead.