The shocking war between the good intentions of the flesh and the spirit

What is the battle between the flesh and the spirit described in Galatians?

The sinful nature [4561] 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 [4561] desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. (Galatians 5:17 NLT)

Do you think this means living the pious life of a religious zealot versus the wild partying life of a drunken sinner? Shockingly, that’s wrong! This is not the subject at all. Not even close.

Stop! I am not excusing sin. Sin is sin! Idolatry, swearing, murdering, stealing, lying, coveting, and all the rest (Exodus 20) are all sins. But, that is not the subject of Galatians.

The shocking subject of Galatians is religion!

Read Galatians 5:17 again. Notice the highlighted words: “good intentions.” It is not our evil intentions that are hindered by the war between the spirit and the flesh, but our good intentions. Please read all of Galatians for yourself. The subject is the religious works of the flesh. Read several translations: NIV, NLT, NAS, KJV, GWT, NET, etc…

The purpose of the epistle was to root out the errors of doctrine introduced by the Judaizers and to hold the Galatians to their earlier faith. –The Bible Book by Book

I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ. You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ. (Galatians 1:6-7)

Let me explain further. Live your life as your spiritual nature directs you. Then you will never follow through on what your corrupt nature [4561] wants. What your corrupt nature [4561] wants is contrary to what your spiritual nature wants, and what your spiritual nature wants is contrary to what your corrupt nature [4561] wants. They are opposed to each other. As a result, you don’t always do what you intend to do. If your spiritual nature is your guide, you are not subject to Moses’ laws. Now, the effects of the corrupt nature are obvious: illicit sex, perversion, promiscuity, idolatry, drug use, hatred, rivalry, jealousy, angry outbursts, selfish ambition, conflict, factions, envy, drunkenness, wild partying, and similar things. I’ve told you in the past and I’m telling you again that people who do these kinds of things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the spiritual nature produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There are no laws against things like that. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their corrupt nature along with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:16-24 GWT)

4561 (sarks) is generally negative, referring to making decisions (actions) according to self – i.e. done apart from faith (independent from God’s inworking). Thus what is “of the flesh (carnal)” is by definition displeasing to the Lord – even things that seem “respectable!” In short, flesh generally relates to unaided human effort, i.e. decisions (actions) that originate from self or are empowered by self. This is carnal (“of the flesh”) and proceeds out of the untouched (unchanged) part of us – i.e. what is not transformed by God.HELPS™ Word-studies

Shockingly, the good intentions of our flesh separate us from God…

For since the world began,
no ear has heard
and no eye has seen a God like you,
who works for those who wait for him!
You welcome those who gladly do good,
who follow godly ways.
But you have been very angry with us,
for we are not godly.
We are constant sinners;
how can people like us be saved?
We are all infected and impure with sin.
When we display our righteous deeds,
they are nothing but filthy rags.
Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall,
and our sins sweep us away like the wind.
(Isaiah 64:4-6)

Are you motivated by the Holy Spirit or the good intentions of your flesh?

“A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad. (Matthew 12:33 NLT)

You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? (Matthew 7:16 NLT)

Even children are known by the way they act, whether their conduct is pure, and whether it is right. (Proverbs 20:11 NLT)

If the results of your religious endeavors are motivated by the Holy Spirit, your life will tend to be characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If the results of your religious organization are motivated by the Holy Spirit, your church will tend to be characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. In other words, when a normal average person thinks about your actions or thinks about the actions of your church, they will recognize love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

If the results of your religious endeavors are motivated by the good intentions of your flesh, your life will tend to be characterized by hatred, rivalry, jealousy, angry outbursts, selfish ambition, conflict, factions, envy, and similar things. If the results of your religious organization are motivated by the good intentions of your flesh, your church will tend to be characterized by hatred, rivalry, jealousy, angry outbursts, selfish ambition, conflict, factions, envy, and similar things. In other words, when a normal average person thinks about your actions or thinks about the actions of your church, they will recognize hatred, rivalry, jealousy, angry outbursts, selfish ambition, conflict, factions, envy, and similar things.

This may require some careful consideration and soul searching. What is your natural fallback behavior : anger or love? What is the natural fallback behavior of your church : conflict or gentleness? What about when things go wrong? What about in the face of adversity? The answer to these questions will determine whether you are motivated by the Holy Spirit or the good intentions of your flesh.

Let’s consider examples of real people, whose names have been changed to protect their identity

First, consider a man who claims to be part of the only remaining viable representation of the Body of Christ in all of southern California. He has given his life to his church. He doesn’t have to get angry, because he’s always angry. He doesn’t have a short fuse, because his powder is always burning. He’s always angry just below the surface. The only difference is whether it erupts in angry conflict or simmers just below a boil. He is judgmental and dogmatic about everything. He is surrounded by people who have suffered from his angry outbursts. He has ostracised his entire family. What does God say about this fruit? Is it the result of motivation from the Holy Spirit or the good intentions of his flesh?

Second, consider a man who claims to be a minister of Jesus Christ among the people of his town in central-coast California. He has given his life in service to his church. He is known for his tenderness and compassion. He always points people to the Lord Jesus Christ for their strength and comfort. He is surrounded by people who have benefited from his love and encouragement. I don’t think anybody has ever seen him involved in angry conflict with anyone over anything. He is beloved and revered by his entire family. What does God say about this fruit? Is it the result of motivation from the Holy Spirit or the good intentions of his flesh?

If you are struggling with the gospel of the grace of God, please write to us or join the conversation below.

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3 Replies to “The shocking war between the good intentions of the flesh and the spirit”

  1. Pingback: What defiles a person? | BibleTruths

  2. Pingback: I am glad to boast about my weaknesses | BibleTruths

  3. Jesus hates religion. He really does
    James is saying that religion can be good and helpful, but not always and certainly not usually. The whole idea of the book of James is that “faith without works is dead.” But he’s not saying the opposite, that “works without faith is alive.” He says that he can show you his faith through his works, but faith has to be there first. Which is the same argument that Paul makes in Ephesians 2:8-9 — that we don’t and can’t do anything to gain God’s love and grace. It’s a free gift!

    Religion, the man-made path to God, says the opposite. Religion says that if I work hard enough and strive high enough, I can eventually get to God on my own merits. But that’s getting the whole thing backwards. Nothing we do – our behavior, our beliefs, our best efforts – will ever make us good enough to approach God. The only way that happens is through grace.

    – FOX NEWS Jesus hates religion. He really does

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