A Battle of Desires


In an attempt to apply today’s passage to my life, I asked God to show me where I have been following my sinful nature rather than allowing the Holy Spirit to lead me. What was I thinking? Even when doing something worthwhile—helping my father move—I was convicted that I was angry and short-tempered with one of his less-pleasant neighbors. And when discussing family issues with a friend, I was startled to realize that I’m often inclined to divisiveness rather than peace, conflict rather than kindness. Yuck!

  • What would God reveal to you if you asked him the same question?


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. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.


(Today’s verses focus on verses 16-21.)

  1. What two desires did Paul say are opposed to one another in verse 17? What else is in opposition to the Spirit (vs. 18)?
  2. The flesh (sinful nature) enslaves us when we choose to gratify the desires of the flesh and/or attempt, by our own effort, to fulfill the law. Which of the works of the sinful nature stands out to you, and why (vss. 19-21)?
  3. What did Paul say was the solution to the battle between the Spirit and our sinful nature (vss. 16, 18)?
  4. What does it look like, practically, to walk with the Spirit? Or, phrased another way, how do you live a life led by the Spirit, rather than by your sinful nature?


Having contrasted the sinful nature with love (vss. 5:13-14), Paul then contrasted the sinful nature with the Spirit-led life. Paul argued that the flesh and the Spirit are mutually exclusive—the Galatians must live according to one or the other. He felt so strongly about this that he issued a dire warning in verse 21: Those who practice immorality may be giving indications that they are not children of God. The solution? Walk in the Spirit. Be led by the Spirit. The translation literally means keep on walking with the Spirit. Thankfully, in the ongoing battle between our sinful nature and the Spirit, God has provided freedom from our sinful desires if we keep on walking with his Spirit.

  • Thank God that, in Christ, he has given you his Spirit. Ask him to help you keep on walking with the Spirit today.