According to the Bible there are two ways we can live our lives. We can live our lives guided by the flesh or we can be guided by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26). The apostle Paul made it clear that if our flesh is in control then sexual immorality will be a part of our lives. On the other hand, when the Holy Spirit is our guide, we will keep sex scared.
When the Bible talks about flesh, it is not just talking about our physical desires, but also the corrupted world system that we are under. This is why sex seems to be everywhere, and this constant exposure to sex causes us to forget God’s intended place for sex in our lives. Sex, the way God designed it, is a wonderful blessing. When sex is brought outside of God’s design it becomes a source of complication and pain.
Followers of Jesus need to remember what the writer of Hebrews wrote: Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous (Hebrews 13:4; ESV). If we are going to hold marriage in honor then we need to reorder our thoughts and desires. This requires that we break from the accepted cultural standards of sex and return to God’s standards. In other words we can no longer allow our flesh to guide our sexuality.
Our flesh firmly roots our lives into the things of this world. It causes us to crave things that are sensual, things that can be experienced by the five senses, and things that are selfish. Since the flesh is selfish, it will distort the cravings we have for the good things God has given, so we will develop an unhealthy desire for them. I think sex and food are two blessings God has given that our flesh selfishly consumes, with negative effects to our bodies and souls.
The problem for you and me, even though we follow Jesus, is that we live in a world that has gone wrong, and we are faced with the reality of people being lead by their flesh in pursuit of sex. Living in this reality, it is easy to get caught up in the flow of culture. Things as innocent as love songs, chick flicks, and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue to culturally accepted things like 50 Shades of Grey, steamy movies, homosexuality, and pornography to disturbing things like child pornography, bestiality, and sadism declare the terrible truth that the sexuality of our culture has gone terribly wrong. When left unchecked our flesh will take us to places we never intended to go. This is why we can’t allow the flesh to lead any part of our lives, including our sexuality.
How do we break free from being led by the flesh?
The simple answer is that we allow the Spirit to guide our lives. The apostle Paul wrote; But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 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 (Galatians 5:16, 17; ESV). Paul is clear that if we don’t want to gratify the cravings of our flesh, then we need to let the Spirit guide our lives.
It is easy to say, “We need to let the Holy Spirit guide our lives,” but it is another thing to actually do it. Especially when you are unsure of what it takes to let the Spirit guide your life.
The apostle Paul does not provide a step by step guide on how to be guided by the Spirit, but he does provide two pictures.
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. (Galatians 5:19-21; ESV)
Notice the word works. These are the things that we do. Because we have been corrupted by sin, our flesh is no longer following God’s design. This means these are the type of things that we naturally do. While we can establish some rules and regulations to direct our conduct, the flesh will constantly pull us in the direction away from God’s will. Looking at a list like this, reminds us that the way of flesh always makes life more complicated and causes us to hurt those around us.
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. (Galatians 5:22-24; ESV)
Notice the word fruit. The image of fruit is something that is produced in us. It is not something that we produced, but it is what the Holy Spirit produces in us. Life characterized by love, joy, peace, etc. is what the Holy Spirit produces in our lives. We know that we are following the guidance of the Spirit, rather than our flesh, when we become more loving, joyful, and self-controlled.
When you look at the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue or read 50 Shades of Grey which list best describes the cravings of your heart? Is your heart filled with sexual immorality and sensuality or is it filled with love and faithfulness? To break free from the control of the flesh and be guided by the Spirit requires that we get rid of things that fuel sexual immorality, sensuality, envy, and drunkenness. To be guided by the Spirit requires that we fill our hearts with things that compel us to love, to faithfulness, and to goodness.
What practical steps can we take to live a life that that is guided by the Spirit? Let me offer a few insights that I have picked up as I have sought a Spirit-guided life.
- It requires that we offer our lives to God. In the often used passage of Romans 12:1-2 we read; I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (ESV). Each day, in prayer, we need to surrender our lives to God. If we hold on to control of our lives we will never break free from the influence the flesh has over us. It is by becoming living sacrifices that we give up control and give God authority over our lives.
- It requires ruthlessly killing our flesh. Paul tells us; And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:24; ESV). If we are not ruthless with our flesh it will weasel its way into the leadership position of our lives. This means not only getting rid of things that feed our flesh, but it also means pursuing things that fertilize the fruit of the Spirit. Not only do we have quit looking at pornography, but we have to serve our neighbor. Not only do we have to stop going to wild parties, but we have spend to in worship. That is what it looks like to ruthlessly kill our flesh.
- It requires inviting the Spirit into our lives. Colossians 1:9-10 has become a favorite passage for me. The apostle Paul wrote; And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God (ESV). We need to pray and ask God to fill us with knowledge, wisdom, and understanding so we are able to live lives that honor Christ Jesus. That spiritual wisdom comes to us from the Holy Spirit. In this same vein, we should pray and ask the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts and guide our lives, including our sexuality.
- It requires us to love people. Remember I said that our flesh is selfish. It wants to consume God’s blessings in wrong ways. The flesh is constantly seeking ways to satisfy the self, even if it has to harm other people in the process. To combat this selfishness we need to intentionally love people. Jesus said the greatest thing we can do is love. “‘And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31; ESV). We need to ask God to give us eyes of compassion instead of eyes of lust. We need to extend a helping hand rather than a groping hand, to be reminded that life is greater than our selfish desires. Love helps us move past the idea that others exist for our enjoyment to the understanding that others exist to love and be loved by God. This type of sacrificial love only comes from the work of the Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22).
Sexuality is too precious of a gift to allow our flesh to be our guide. Our flesh will lead us on a pursuit to consume; which will end with the destruction of God’s sacred gift of sex.
The Spirit will lead us to give sex a place of sacred honor in our lives. When our sexuality is in its proper place, then we will experience the enjoyment of sex the way God intended from the beginning. Yet, this won’t happen magically, it requires that we intentionally surrender our lives to Jesus by offering our lives to God, by ruthlessly killing our flesh, by inviting the Spirit to be our guide, and by committing ourselves to love people.
Great sex happens, not because advice offered in some magazine, but because the guidance given by the Spirit.