from a sermon by Rene Cassell on July 11, 2001
In Galatians 5:16-17 we read, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”
Have you ever been in a “tug-of-war” where a group of people on one side is pulling against a group on the other side? Neither side wants to give way to the other. Both want to be winners! Can you imagine what would happen if the side that appeared to be strongest relaxed for just a few seconds? The weaker side would quickly conquer what had appeared to be the stronger side.
We are thankful for Calvary. Through the Blood we are saved and sanctified, and we are thankful for the Holy Spirit that dwells within us. But despite all of that, we are still in the flesh; we are not glorified. That will not happen until the Rapture takes place. No doubt there are many who have had failures in their Christian lives. We must be conscious of the fact that we are still in the flesh, even though we are saved. We need to understand that we can be overcome by the flesh if we are not careful. Though many backslidings are blamed on the devil, oftentimes they are caused by the flesh. This can happen when one relaxes from walking in the spirit and lets the flesh take over. So who wins? We do not like to think of the flesh being considered the winner, but it does happen.
Do you see why Paul said, “I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31)? In other words, he was saying, “I crucify the flesh.” Sometimes it is not easy to crucify your own flesh, but it is very needful. If we do not, human nature—the flesh—takes over. Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost, a place where the Spirit dwells. But if we yield to the flesh, we know what is going to happen: the Spirit is going to depart. The Bible says, “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other” (Galatians 5:17). There is no agreement between the flesh and the Spirit. Human nature and the Holy Spirit have desires and yearnings that are contrary to one another. We have to be keenly aware of that.
In order for us to see the two sides that are at war, we need to look at the flesh side and the Spirit side. The flesh has its works and the Spirit has its fruits, and these two are fighting against each other. Keep that in mind. They do not agree.
In Galatians 5:19 it says, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest [clearly revealed] which are these; Adultery…” Today, even in religious circles, there seems to be a new definition of adultery. Adultery is not regarded as adultery anymore. Romans makes it very clear what adultery is. In Romans 7:2-3 we read, “For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth.” That means the union exists, “Till death do us part.” “But if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress.” Is that clear? This is simple enough for me. “But if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.”
When two individuals marry—as long as that is the first marriage for both of them—there is no such thing as a second marriage while the other spouse is living. What the world terms a “second marriage” is adultery. The Bible says, “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). Today there are so many excuses given, many reasons why this is supposedly allowable. There was no exception given in Romans 7. It just said; when you do this, you commit adultery. That is the work of the flesh.
Another work of the flesh mentioned in Galatians 5:19 is “fornication”—a sexually intimate relationship between unmarried people. When works of the flesh are engaged in, the Spirit will depart. Unmarried individuals are commanded to keep themselves pure, clean, and holy until they say, “I do.” Yet, we are human; we are in the flesh. There are times when the human side will have to be suppressed. Why? The flesh side will take over and destroy the spiritual side.
“Uncleanness” is the opposite of that which is clean. We have to keep our bodies “clean” morally. Individuals can become morally defiled. Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost, and the Holy Spirit will not dwell in a dirty temple. Even our mouths must be clean. I have been around people who claim to be saved, but their mouths are filthy—full of dirty jokes and dirty stories. These things are the works of the flesh, and the Bible says they are contrary to the Spirit. You cannot have the Spirit and do those things. If you do, the Spirit departs. Remember, we are in a “tug-of-war.”
“Lasciviousness” is lustfulness, the excessive part, as well. Romans 1:26-27 says, “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.”
Yes, the law may tell us to respect the rights of others, and that homosexuality is simply another lifestyle, but the Word of God does not condone men having an intimate relationship with men, or women with women. The Word of God speaks against it, and the Bible says those who do such things are going to receive unto themselves that recompense for the error they make. Some wonder why we have that deadly disease of AIDS today. In some cases, they have reaped what they have sown. It is amazing what the law will license. But as Christians, we have to take our stand against unseemly behavior. We must let the Word of God be our guide, and it is very clear on this subject.
“Idolatry” is another work of the flesh referred to in Galatians. We do not see many monuments erected where people bow down to idols, but there are so many ways we could become idol worshipers. We can put our chief affections on objects, things, or people rather than God. A member of our family can become our idol. Anything or anyone that we love more than God can be our idol. If we do not love God supremely, we cannot be His disciple. He says so in the Bible.
“Witchcraft” is a work of the flesh that tampers with the powers of evil.
“Hatred” is the opposite of love. Sometimes it can stem from jealousy which can lead to murder, as evidenced in the story of Cain and Abel.
“Variance” means a state of discord or dissension—to become different. We see today where even churches have deviated from the truth by altering the Word of God through many translations. I am thankful for the King James Version of the Holy Bible. I do not see anything in there that I want to change. It just suits me. If it feels like it rubs the wrong way, I need to turn around! We are all in the flesh, but we cannot let the flesh take control.
“Emulations”—this word relates to feelings of, “I want to be better than somebody else.” That can be dangerous. Promoting ourselves does not agree with the Spirit, and the Bible says that it is the work of the flesh. We want to stay at the foot of the old rugged Cross, behind the Cross. If we can just be in the shadow of the Cross, it would be wonderful.
“Wrath” can invoke violence. Romans 12:18 says, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” Sometimes one’s work place may enter into a strike situation and want everyone to take part in the picket lines, but even this can lead to violence. A Christian should avoid this type of behavior when possible.
“Strife,” or sedition, is an act of rebellion. You can stir up strife through rebelling against authority. Be very careful. This is the work of the flesh.
“Heresies” are controversial opinions that defy the teachings of God. We may say, “I am entitled to my own opinion.” Be careful! If your opinion is contrary to Scripture, you can get into trouble and become the loser.
“Envyings”—let us be careful of fleshly desire for possessions or the qualities of another.
“Murders”—I can never see myself taking a gun and shooting somebody. But the Bible says, “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:15). We must be careful because resentments can build up in the heart. If we feel like there is resentment building up, the best thing to do is get rid of it immediately because built-up resentment can eventually become a hindrance; it can become a grudge. You know what it leads to then.
“Drunkenness, revellings”—Drinking liquor can impair one’s judgment and also change the personality. In the Apostolic Faith we do not believe a Christian should drink alcoholic beverages. One can also be drunk with power and be overcome with strong feeling or emotion and end up treating people with disrespect. Those behaviors are of the flesh and not of the Spirit.
In the final verse we read, “And such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21). These works of the flesh will keep us out of Heaven.
Moreover, we need to be sure that our ears do not get us into trouble. We should be careful what we listen to, whether it is music or gossip. If we listen to somebody’s gossip long enough, we could become a gossiper ourselves. If we listen to bad stories about somebody from someone who hates that person, we may become a hater of that person, too. When we see that person, we might not be sure if we want to speak to them or not. We must keep our ears closed. If we know enough about a person to pray for them, that is wonderful. Do that.
Our eyes can get us in trouble. We are told to set no wicked thing before our eyes. There are times when we have to close our eyes, times we have to walk away, and times when we have to look in the other direction. Why? It is because we are still human. We are still in the flesh, and carnal desires may grow on us if we willfully engage in looking at things we should not be considering.
Has your tongue ever gotten you into trouble? It is part of our human side; it is one of our organs. Have you ever said anything you regretted? I am sure we all have. We need to bridle our tongues, the Bible says. I have heard people say, “I had to bite my tongue.” Well, if that is what it takes to keep the Spirit there, then do it!
In contrast to the works of the flesh, there is another side, as stated in Galatians 5:22. We read, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love.” Fruit is the result, or product; or outcome of the Spirit. Others benefit from this fruit in our lives. What we produce should benefit others, as well as ourselves. We want to be fruit-bearing Christians—to have qualities in our lives that are a blessing to others.
Scripture speaks about loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves. In the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians, the love chapter, it speaks of charity, which is love. “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.” What a difference from the flesh! Love is not puffed up, there is no boasting. It “envieth not”—it is not trying to outdo somebody else. If another one succeeds in life, we are happy for them. “Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth.”
Can you see the difference between the two—the flesh and the Spirit? “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Galatians 5:22-23). There is gladness of heart, constant delight in God and in the things of God, peace with God, and inner peace in our conscience. If you are involved in adultery and fornication, you do not have peace with your conscience. No, you do not. One is contrary to the other. The Spirit and the flesh are opposites, pulling away from each other.
I heard a brother say one time that someone in the church had falsely accused him. He tried to resolve the problem, but this individual would not withdraw the false accusations that he had made. In order for the matter to be resolved, the innocent brother had to accept the false accusation. Who was the winner in that situation? I can tell you because I knew the two individuals involved. Not too long after that, the one who had made the false accusations slipped through the door and left. The one who had accepted the false accusation kept his testimony. He was the winner.
Love is willing to suffer—it exemplifies “longsuffering, gentleness.” If somebody has a problem with you, be approachable! Your kindness, politeness, and gentleness should make that possible.
“Faith” can refer to faith in God and also our faithfulness, fidelity, and dependability. Can God depend upon you? Can He depend upon me? Can we trust each other? Are we faithful to whatever our calls might be? We can be, through the Spirit within us.
“Meekness” is gentleness, and showing patience with humility.
“Temperance” refers to self-control—the ability to harness and control one’s flesh. To me temperance is very important even though it is mentioned last. If you can harness and control your flesh, you have accomplished much.
Galatians 5:24 reads, “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” Is it not wonderful? “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). That is the point I want you to remember—to walk in the Spirit. Those are the first words we read in this study. Let our Christian journey through life be in the Spirit—the Spirit within us. In Galatians 4:6 it says, “And because you are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts.” God has sent forth His Spirit into our hearts, so for that reason we yield to the Spirit, and submit our own desires to the Spirit. Rather than yield to the flesh, we yield to the Spirit and become overcomers. However, we have to remember to be conscious of the flesh and what it can do if we relax and let it assume preeminence.
In Romans 6:11 we read, “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” We crucify the body. “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.”
We need to engage our bodies in duties for the Lord rather than in fulfilling the lusts of the flesh. Let us use our bodies for God’s glory! Use them in worship. Rather than using the tongue to gossip, let’s give our testimonies, telling of the good things the Lord has done. Rather than using our ears for worldly music, let us listen to uplifting things. Rather than using our eyes to look upon something to lust after, let us look at the good things God has created. I love the outdoors. I love to go out in the forest to walk, even alone, and admire the trees and listen to the birds. Use our bodies to engage in those things.
Why not use our bodies to attend to our calling? Sometimes people are involved in behind-the-scene duties—perhaps peeling potatoes for a church function. That is better than fulfilling the lust of the flesh, is it not? There are many profitable things we can do with the members of our body if we yield ourselves unto God. When we do that, the Spirit is winning. Why? Because we have crucified the flesh, and now we are concentrating on spiritual things.
In the 5th chapter of Acts we read the account of Ananias and Sapphira, who were part of the revival that swept through the Early Church. It sounds like they had the Spirit of God. They agreed with all the others to sell their possessions and give the proceeds to the disciples so they could all receive equally. But the human side kicked in once they had sold their land and their possessions. They had money in hand and it looked good. The Bible says, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” Money is powerful; it can get us in trouble. When Ananias and Sapphira took the money to Peter, they handed over only a certain amount, acting as if it was all they had received. They lied against the Holy Spirit. The flesh took over, and they lost the Spirit. For them, it went a little farther—they even lost their lives.
We have to be on guard at all times to not be overpowered by the flesh. We want to consecrate our eyes, our ears, our tongues, and any part of our body that could destroy the spiritual part of us. We are in a war. At the beginning of this study I asked, “Have you ever been in a tug-of-war?” By now you might say, “Yes, I have.” It may not be the type of tug-of-war that I described in the beginning, but the type of tug-of-war found in everyday living as the flesh wars against the Spirit. Paul says, “Walk in the Spirit.” Let us guard against the alternative!