Resisting the Spirit

girl sitting in the sunset

We’ve spent several lessons talking about letting the Holy Spirit rule our lives, and what the fruit of the Spirit looks like in action. We’ve talked about yielding to the Spirit and giving control over to our God. The truth is, though, that we so easily resist the Spirit and try to do things our way. We want to live by the flesh as outlines in Galatians 5:19-21:

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 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.

Resisting the Spirit – The Challenge

Academically, we all know that living by the flesh makes it impossible to please God, as Paul points out in Romans 8:6-8. The problem is that, in the moment, the satisfaction that can come from fleshly living can be a more powerful motivator than Spirit living. We know when we are walking into a bad situation and choosing to sin, but the immediate payoff is strong. We are lying to ourselves if we deny that a life of sin can look more compelling at a glance.

Resisting the Spirit can help us succeed financially. We don’t feel so beholden to such strong ethics on how we make money, nor will we be spending time at church when we could be working. We can talk ourselves into ignoring the guilt sinful behavior should bring, and such living can simply seem more fun. We’re gaining instant gratification for whatever passions we choose. The temptation to simply give up self-control makes Spirit living a challenge.

Resisting the Spirit – The Results

Unfortunately, living with less control can lead to consequences in this life. While there may be immediate gratification for giving in to temptation, it can also lead to pain in the long run. How many marriages break up because one partner or the other fails to exercise self-control? How many relationships are in ruin because one partner or the other simply will not put others before self? Lack of contentment and self-control can also lead to debt and financial ruin.

We can talk about statistics surrounding unplanned pregnancies, broken homes, prison recidivism rates and other crime statistics. We can point to anecdote after anecdote of the effects sin has on lives and homes, but the biggest problem is that such living separates us from God. And the farther we get from God, the harder it can be for us to return. By no means does such sin make it difficult for God to restore us. He can restore anyone who is guilty of anything. Where it gets difficult is within our own hearts.

A Father Who Forgives

So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

– Romans 8:12-17

Our hope in the Spirit is this: we have a God who loves us as children and wants to restore us to Him when we fall. He has made the way open to us to live like Him, we have but to let the Spirit into our lives through His word. If we live by the Spirit, we will bear fruit that will enrich our lives and the lives of those around us, and every day brings us closer to our God.

lesson by Aaron Kadel


Yielding to the Spirit

girl sitting in the sunset

Spirit living means we let the Spirit guide our attitudes and conduct in every part of our lives. Self-control, love, joy, peace, patience, faithfulness, meekness,and gentleness — these qualities comprise that fruit we bear when we live by Him. This puts our God, our Savior, and His Spirit deep in my heart, guiding everything. I yield myself completely over to Him.

Changing Focus

This Spirit living does not take all challenges from our lives, but it does guide to set better goals, make better choices, and have better motivations in this life. This type of living also lets us give control over to our God, to stop worrying over the things of this life and lay them at the feet of our Lord. John 3:1-8 speaks of being born again in the Spirit. When we’re born again, that means we are a new person in Him.

When we live by the Spirit, our focus is above. That is how we obtain that peace that passes understanding. Psalm 118:8-9 reminds us it’s better to trust on the Lord than anyone else, and II Corinthians 5:6-7 speaks of our living by faith rather than sight. When we are focused on things above, He becomes our true guide. Then we give all over to Him, and He gives us peace and hope in return.

A Better Perspective

When we are looking beyond this world and its troubles, then we can keep our challenges in better perspective. Whatever our challenges, God is bigger. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to trust God with all of our heart and to stop leaning on our own reasoning. We need to be willing to allow God to direct us, in joy and sorrow, in peace and trials, in everything. We know He works for the good of those who love Him, and this comes by yielding to Him.

Galatians 5:16-18 records Paul’s desire to walk in the Spirit, and he describes a struggle between our flesh and the Spirit. We have to make a conscientious choice to live by the Spirit and to live by faith and love. It’s a civil war within our own minds, but we can overcome with God’s help. He can lift us above the chains of this life and deliver us to spiritual freedom.

Living for God makes it easier to make better choices in this life. Living for God helps us distance ourselves from sin. It’s not about making lists. Rather, this is a way of life. It is a transformation from one way of living to something completely new. Through Him, we have a power within us that can help us reach new levels of peace and hope, but we have to put that power to use through Spirit living. When we yield to His Spirit, we’re restored. We overcome. We’re made free in Christ. We’re made new.

lesson by Mark Ritter

Gentleness & Self-Control in the Spirit

girl sitting in the sunset

We should be living in such a way that we are living by the Spirit as opposed to living by the flesh. In Galatians 5, Paul treats these two ways of life as mutually exclusive, and Paul describes the fruit our lives will bear if we re living spiritually. These qualities we’ve been talking about are all parts of that fruit we bear by Spirit living. These qualities are purposeful and intentional behaviors that differentiate Christ-centered living from world-centered living. Included in this fruit are the qualities of meekness and self-control.

Meekness and Gentleness

We sometimes get the wrong thing in our mind when we think about gentleness or meekness. We associate meekness with timidity or with shyness. Today, we use the word as a negative character quality, but that’s not what Christ or Paul had in mind when calling on us to be meek. Instead, they are calling on us to have a quiet strength that we are capable of holding under control, even under provocation.

James 1:19-21 calls on us to receive God’s word with meekness. It’s a central component to our ability to be faithful. Furthermore, Peter writes that we should be able to convey our hope to others in meekness in I Peter 3:15, and James 3:13 tells us we should be living in meekness and wisdom. Our examples should be gentle. Teaching others should be approached with gentleness.

This gentleness does not mean compromise. II Timothy 2:24-25 says that we should not be quarrelsome but that we should instead be able to teach and correct with gentleness. This gets reinforced in Galatians 6:1. We can take a soft approach when standing firm in the truth, and this requires self-control. If we are going to stand firm in the truth under pressure while remaining gentle and meek, we have to develop self-control.


The last item listed in the qualities of spiritual fruit is self-control. These qualities begin with love and end with self-control. Love cascades through all of these qualities, and they all require a foundation of self-control. This is a capacity to restrain our own impulses so we might serve God and others. Whether we’re talking about faithfulness, patience, forgiveness, or any other quality of Spirit living, we require self-control. By contrast, the items Paul lists in Galatians as defining worldly living demonstrate a lack of control.

True self-control requires crucifying self. Romans 12:2 tells us we should be transformed from this world through God’s renewal. Galatians 5:16 then says walking by the spirit denies the desires of the flesh, and Philippians 2:13 says God works in us when we allow the Spirit to live in us. This leads us to living by His word and for His work. Self-control in the Spirit allows us to overcome the sinful and self-destructive behaviors that can consume a life without control.

When Paul says, in Galatians 5:13, that we are called to freedom, we are freed from the bonds created by worldly living, but we can’t grow this self-control by ourselves. We have to accept help from others. As we rejoice together and we sorrow together, we should also be helping each other grow. Ephesians 4:15-16 tells us we are to work together to grow in maturity and be more like Christ. Self-control has to be self-contained, but it does not have to grow alone.


Self-control takes a great deal of inner strength, and it takes that same strength to reign in our impulses and emotions that could taint our teaching efforts. Meekness is not weakness; it is strength tempered by gentleness. Self-control does not mean I am in control. It means I let God have control over me. When I can find that center and give over control of my life to God, then I have a foundation upon which the qualities of Spirit living can be built.

lesson by Dawson Guyer