Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. (Romans 8:12–17 NLT)
Even though Galatians 5:22–23 is well known – among the most well-known passages from Paul’s letters – we often forget about verses 24 and 25, even though they are crucial to the manifestation of spiritual fruit. They are not ancillary; they are central to Paul’s instruction: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.”
So often we try to display the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, but instead of nailing “the passions and desires of [our] sinful nature” to the cross of Christ, we try to work harder at being patient, gentle, or kind, as if they were simply skills we could master through practice. To some extent, we can take them on without the help of the Holy Spirit, like putting on a winter coat before heading out into the world. But, like this coat, it is simply a façade, not our true skin. We might as well walk around wielding a stick with an apple glued to the end and call ourselves a fruit tree. Until these virtues flow easily and freely out of the core of our beings, there is still more of our sinful nature that must be nailed to the cross.
Ultimately, it is the cross that serves as both the example and the gateway. Jesus showed us that living a Spirit-filled life means subsuming our own will to God’s; it might result in our death, but it will most certainly result in true and unending life. This can only happen if we “follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives,” crucifying our own desires to the cross and dying to our sinful natures.
What are the aspects of your will you still hold onto? What do you need to submit to the Spirit?