So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 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.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (NIV)
1. If the sinful nature and the Spirit are both in us at the same time and are in conflict with each other, how do we live by the Spirit? (See Romans 8:2-4, John 14:23-27, and John 16:12-15) What do you think the Holy Spirit does in us? Does it overrule the sinful nature? What is to be our response to the Holy Spirit? Do we help him? Do we wait for him to change us? Do we consciously submit?
2. Paul says, "If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law." (Refer also to Galatians 4:24-31) If we are not under law, to what are we subject? If we are not under law, why do Christ-followers appear law-abiding?
3. Paul lists 15 specific behaviors which he says are "acts of the sinful nature." He also says that people who "live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." Is it "works" or "legalism" to consciously avoid these behaviors or to practice "good" ones? (See Colossians 1:10-12)
4. What does Paul mean when he says, "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires"? How have we "crucified" our sinful natures? (See Col. 3:3) If we have crucified them, why are they still there? Is there anything we have to do to facilitate crucifying our "natural man reactions" when they rear their ugly heads? If yes, what?
5. Colossians 2:14 says that the "written code" (the law) was against us. Verse 23 above says there is no law that is against the fruits of the Spirit. (See I Tim. 1:9) What do these verses suggest about the relationship of the Holy Spirit and the law? If we live by the Spirit, are we loyal to the law? If we're loyal to the law, are we true Christ-followers?
6. Paul warns us against conceit, envy, and provoking each other. It's possible that we can be tempted to feel superior or envious even of our fellow believers. The "natural man" will take over in these situations unless we submit our weakness and feelings to Jesus. Only then can the Holy Spirit squelch our "natural man" reactions and replace our normal responses with fruits of the Spirit. Satan would gloat if he could pit the body of Christ against itself. Who or what triggers your feelings of conceit, envy, and irritability? What situation(s) do you need to surrender to Jesus in order for the Holy Spirit to set you free from your natural self?
7. As we grow in Christ he reveals to us, step by step, decisions we've made or habits we have that grow out of our "natural man" sides of ourselves. Sometimes our decisions, behaviors, or emotional reactions are old coping mechanisms for unresolved wounds. Sometimes they're the outgrowth of self-centeredness. Jesus challenges us to submit these things to him so the Holy Spirit can heal our broken places and direct us in making things right. What things has Christ been revealing to you? What do you need Jesus to heal?
8. What fruits of the Spirit have you seen developing in your life? Praise Jesus for loving you and healing your heart as he transforms you from the inside out.
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