Even though trying isn’t enough when it comes to salvation, this doesn’t mean effort has no place in living our faith. The Holy Spirit exists to give us, among other things, power in our efforts. This power comes after belief and acceptance, and it informs and motivates our efforts.
What does living by the Holy Spirit’s power mean, though?
“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
The acts of the flesh 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, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh 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.” (Galatians 5:16-26)
It helps me to list out how I see these truths as realities in my life.
- Living by the Holy Spirit is the antidote to my sinful nature.
- My desire to live by the Holy Spirit battles with the desires of my flesh.
- Being led by the Spirit means I am not under the law.
- Following the Holy Spirit takes me away from what following the flesh results in.
- Following the Holy Spirit leads to replacement of any desires of the flesh with fruit that pleases God.
This idea of following the Holy Spirit’s leading brings me again to the idea of learning to follow, to be led by the one who has the power to effect lasting change and to transform my efforts into achievements. In other words, it adds essential power to my trying.
Note, most importantly, that this leading comes after faith in Christ. The reality is that achievement doesn’t come by trying but by trusting and then allowing the Holy Spirit to fuel our efforts and lead us toward achievement. This brings the idea of followership again to the forefront.