The new devotional is nearing completion. (Now published-here) It’s going to have beautiful illustrations by Jess Ellen May. Here is another excerpt:
“But I say, ‘Walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.’” Galatians 5: 16-18
When I was growing up, the first part of verse 16 was taught in a reversed order. The admonition I was taught was, “Try really hard not to carry out the desire of the flesh and then you will walk in the Spirit.” So I tried really hard to keep all the laws and rules, whatever they were in the circle I was in. I loved God. I wanted to do right. I wanted to obey. I tried. It did not always work out.
Dan Stone tells a good story that illustrates trying to keep the laws of whatever circle we’re in: When Dan was a pastor in Kentucky, it was okay to smoke because the people were tobacco growers. But it was forbidden for young people to swim together—that was a terrible sin. Then Dan moved to Florida to pastor and there it was a terrible sin to smoke. But the young people could go swimming together—water was everywhere. Each congregation was deciding on its own what was right and wrong; they were living after the flesh. (Proverbs 3: 5-6) This happens many times all over the world.
We as humans do not determine what is right and wrong. When we try to decide, we are walking by the flesh. Before we know that we are freed from the Law, some of us try harder to keep the rules; others stop trying—others never try at all. Here is what I know—the Law will get us every time—it will win—we will fail to keep it. Discovering that Jesus had freed me from all that trying and striving was shouting material! It felt so good! Yes, I might mess up still, but it was a lot better being led by the Spirit who loves me and cleanses me from all sin. (1 John 1:9) He just wants us to agree with Him about our failures and receive the forgiveness that is already there. (1 John 1:9, Ephesians 1:7) There is no longer a place for condemnation and false guilt. (Romans 8:1)
Application: As you go about your week begin to take note of places that you are trying to be “spiritual” by not following rules of the flesh instead of living by the Spirit. Put this verse in the correct order. When you get frustrated with man’s rules do you usually stop trying, or try harder? How do you need to rely on Jesus to live through you? Watch for times you take condemnation and false guilt so that you can get free from following the flesh and gain intimacy with Christ through the Spirit.
 Dan was a personal friend who came often to speak to our home church. His tapes have been made into a book and where I can give the page number I will. If there is no page number, I remember the story from personally hearing it. The Rest of the Gospel-When the partial Gospel has worn you out, by Dan Stone & Greg Smith, One Press, Dallas, TX, 2000