Controlled by the Holy Spirit…or Selfish Ambitions?

God’s desire for all Christians is that they be filled with the spirit and to live like Christ lived while he was on earth. In Galatians 5:13-26, Paul compares the behaviors that result when we follow our flesh (selfish desires) with the behaviors of those who are being led by the Holy Spirit.

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. 16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Galatians 5:13-26(NIV)

When you compare the list of behaviors of those following the flesh (self) with the behaviors of those who are following the Spirit, you will see there are more behaviors listed for those following self than there are behaviors listed for those who are following the Spirit. Sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, orgies, and the like are behaviors that are characteristics of people who ‘God has given over’ to their selfishly ambitions. (See Romans 1) These are also activities that we are told to resist. So if we are loving the one and only God the way He intended, we will not display these behaviors. In other words will be no spiritual counterpart to those behaviors Paul says that the Spirit and self are in “conflict with each other”. If you remove the behaviors for self that result from God giving us over to our selfish desires,  you will have nine behaviors left in the list. These behaviors are opposites.  In other words, we are moving either toward selfish ambitions or toward being filled with the Spirit. The pairs of behaviors are:

  1. Hatred v. loved
  2. Discord v. joy
  3. Jealousy v. peace
  4. Fits of rage v. forbearance
  5. Selfish ambitions v. kindness
  6. Dissensions v. goodness
  7. Factions v. faithfulness
  8. Envy v. gentleness
  9. Drunkenness v. self-control

Using a continuum with the nine behaviors of flesh on the left and the nine behaviors of the Spirit on the right and a rating of 1-10 between the two behaviors, you should have something that looks like this.

FLESHLY BEHAVIOR

RATING

SPIRITUAL BEHAVIOR

Hatred

1

2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

10

Love

Discord

1

2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

10

Joy

Jealousy

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Peace

Fits of rage

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Forbearance

Selfish ambitions

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Kindness

Dissensions

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Goodness

Factions

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Faithfulness

Envy

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Gentleness

Drunkenness 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Self-control

  Using the continuum, you can search your own heart and determine where you are in your Spiritual walk as it pertains to the nine behaviors listed.

(EXAMPLE:  suppose you display hatred about half of the time and love about half of the time, you would put a mark on 5 or 6.)

Use this procedure to evaluate your behavior on each line until you have completed all nine behaviors. Are you following flesh or Spirit?

If your evaluation yield “5” or less, perhaps you have not crucified the “flesh with its passions and desires” and are following your fleshly desires.  In the areas where you are rated low, you should pray that God will help you sacrifice your selfish desires and help you grow toward a Spirit filled life.

Repeat this evaluation process periodically. Then compare your current assessments to your earlier assessment to determine if you are moving toward spiritual behavior or fleshly behavior. Do not compare yourself to another Christian if you want to become like Christ because Christ is the standard that we need to use.

I would suggest that you start with the behavior that has the lowest rating. Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit regarding this behavior. Then read passages of Scripture that deal with the behavior and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in determining what will help you have a better rating, or in other words what activities will help you become more like Christ.

NOTE: In the event you are consistently between “5” and “6”, you are in the same place as the Church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-22. You are only lukewarm. However, when you are “filled with the Spirit” you will have a consistent rating of “10” in all behaviors. God’s desire is for us to be “filled with the Spirit.” We cannot become like Christ if we are following our selfish desires.

Scripture used in this blog have been downloaded from Biblegateway.com.