Summary: The deveolpment of a disciple is the work of the Holy Spirit.
In this series, we have said that there are two ways for the Christian to live. We can live as a worldly (carnal) Christian or as a Spiritual Christian.
In the Bible, living one’s life as a Worldly Christian is referred to as walking "in the flesh" or "according to the sinful nature," while living one’s life as a Spiritual Christian is referred to as walking "in the Spirit." The fact is, that now that I have been made spiritually alive by the Spirit of God, the old way of life, life lived according to the flesh, is of no use to mc. Receiving a new life in Christ requires that I learn how to live in a new way. This is part of what Jesus was speaking about in Matthew 9:17 (CEV), "No one pours new wine into old wineskins. The wine would swell and burst the old skins. Then the wine would be lost, and the skins would be ruined~ New wine must be put into new wineskins."
The Holy Spirit has been given to us to help us learn how to live the new life we have in Christ. By the power of the Person dwelling within us, we can be helped to learn how to live life a whole new way, as we allow the One who lives within us to live through us.
This was Paul’s meaning in Philippians 2:12 (NIV), . . . continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose."
A reality of the Christian life, however, is that though we are not "of the world," we are, nevertheless, living in the world. Since this is true, we arc constantly being bombarded with temptation to fall back into the old way of living, with which we are so familiar.
This is why Paul tells us that making the choice to let the Spirit fill my life is a decision I must make consciously and continuously-"Be being filled with the Holy Spirit" Ephesians 5: 18b (literal translation).
How do we deal with the lure of the old life? Paul identifies three ways:
A. Some Christians improve the flesh-verses 18; 23b
This is the way of legalism. The idea here is that I desire to live the new life I have in Christ, but I seek to do so by means of my own energy and ingenuity. I invest in the flesh in an effort to improve it. But the way of legalism is soundly condemned by Paul.
"Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it?" - Galatians 3:2-3 (The Message)
Christians who live this way invariably discover that the best they can do is cover up their failures and imperfections behind a façade of religiosity and judgmental attitudes (vs. 15; 26).
B. Some Christians indulge the flesh-verses 13a
This is the way of license. This Christian surrenders to the flesh, because they have tried the way of legalism, but have had no success. So they give up on improving the flesh and choose instead to indulge it.
They often mistake freedom in Christ as freedom to sin without consequences. But freedom in Christ is all about freedom from sin, not freedom to sin!
A woman walking down a residential street, noticed a little old man rocking in a chair on his porch. She called out to him as she passed. "Hello there! I couldn’t help but notice how happy you look. What’s your secret for a long happy life?" "I smoke three packs of cigarettes a day," he replied. "I also drink a case of whiskey a week, eat nothing but fast food, and never exercise." "Wow!" The woman was amazed. "How old are you?" she asked. "Twenty-six," he replied.
The fact is that when a Christian surrenders to the flesh, one of the consequences is that they are most miserable!
"When people escape from the wicked ways of the world by learning about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then get tangled up with sin and become its slave again, they are worse off than before. It would be better if they had never known the right way to live than to know it and then reject the holy commandments that were given to them." - 2 Peter 2:20-21 (NLT)
C. All Christians should ignore the flesh-verse 16; 24-25