SCRIPTURE TEXT: “Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.” — Romans 8:5

One of the first things that comes to mind when Christians think about Jesus is His morally perfect character. When Jesus overcame the Devil’s temptation, He entered the wilderness “full of the Holy Spirit” (Luke 4:1), and forty days later He emerged from the wilderness “in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14). As a result, Jesus “committed no sin” (1 Peter 2:22). Likewise, the Holy Spirit helps us today to overcome temptation and sin in our own lives.

The Holy Spirit helps us recognize the anger in our heart and convicts us “concerning sin and righteousness” John 16:8 (NASB). And the Holy Spirit didn’t just leave us unaware of our sin, either. He gives us a “new heart” Ezekiel 36:26. We have a choice to live “according to the flesh” or “in accordance with the Spirit” Romans 8:5. Thus the “fruit of the Spirit” becomes evident in our life.

We can choose to give in to temptation and engage in “sexual immorality… hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition… envy, drunkenness… and the like” Galatians 5:19-21. But the Holy Spirit works to instill… love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. — Galatians 5:22–23 NLT

When we exhibit self-control and are kind to someone who stabbed us in the back, we are following the lead of the Holy Spirit. When we are patient with our spouse, even though they are driving us crazy, we show signs of being Spirit-filled. And when we are gentle with those who sin against us, we exhibit the fruit of the Spirit and holiness in our character.

Whenever I talk about character, holiness, and avoiding sin, some people automatically get concerned that I’m being legalistic. Legalism usually refers to rules of people, rather than God, set in order to gain God’s approval, as though we are saved by our actions rather than grace. While God certainly does have ethical expectations for us, legalism is problematic because it promotes slavery to law rather than freedom from sin. Another problem with legalism is that rules don’t change us — the Holy Spirit does.

When we are shaped by the Holy Spirit, we don’t do what is right only because those who live according to their sinful nature “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21). Instead, as the Holy Spirit is poured out upon us like water to cleanse our hearts, He moves us from having a sense of duty to do what is right, to having delight in obeying God (Psalm 119). Overall, when we exhibit holiness, or the character of Christ, and avoid sin, we are the kind of person that the Bible calls spiritual (Galatians 6:1 NASB).

Prayer Point: “Pray to God to guide you to the path of righteousness.”


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