We live in a world in which darkness covers the Earth and thick darkness is over the peoples. People are confused about many things, including the most basic things and the most important things. For example, a google search for: “what’s the right way to live?” provided these gems of wisdom:
There is no right or wrong way to live. As long as it feels right and makes sense to a given extent, then it’s right.
The right way to live is to do what makes you happy.
Others will impose responsibilities. Society will impose responsibilities. Even general circumstances will impose responsibilities. The right way to live is live for yourself.
Let go of your ego. Study the teachings of great people like Rama and Buddha. Meditate on these teachings and sincerely follow each of them.
Someone came up seven things to do to for right living:
Be generous. Stop being jealous of others. Be appreciative. Vow to get healthier. Eradicate a fear of failure. Stop bad-mouthing others. Read to your children.
Here’s my answer to, “what’s the right way to live?” There is a right way to live; and there is only one right way to live: believe the Good News. Transfer your loyalties to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Then, walk by the Spirit.
Even if we know the right way to live, that doesn’t mean we are able to live the right way. Even if we are saved, born-again, have received a new nature, and the Holy Spirit is living in us, the flesh, the old nature is still there. And every day there is a conflict within us between the desire to live according to the flesh and the desire to live according to the new nature empowered by the Spirit.
The good news is that we can live the right way – by walking by the Spirit. Galatians 5:16: 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.
Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Walk by the Spirit means live so that you are seeking God, close to God, aware of God, thinking about God, filled with the Spirit of God so He is guiding you, directing you, whispering to you in His still, small voice.
Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. The desires of the flesh aren’t limited to wanting things like too much food, alcohol, drugs or involvement in sexual immorality. The desires of the flesh also include bad attitudes and wrong thinking about truth, especially religious truth.
The desires of the flesh can’t be overcome by mere human effort or strength of will; or by trying to keep a list of rules – do that but don’t do that. The way to overcome the desires of the flesh is different. The way to overcome the desires of the flesh is by walking by the Spirit. If we walk by the Spirit, so that we are seeking God, close to God, aware of God, thinking about God, the Spirit of God will empower our new nature and we will have the ability to resist yielding to the desires of the flesh.
So, how do we walk by the Spirit? First, we make sure we are followers of the Messiah. We end our part in the great rebellion against God. We humble ourselves and allow God to be God. We turn to God and to God’s ways and away from our own ways. If we do this, we are given us a new, godly nature. The Spirit of God is given to us and lives in us. He enables us to live the right way.
Then, after we receive our new nature and the Spirit of God is living in us, we walk by the Spirit on a moment by moment basis.
There are things we can do to help us walk by the Spirit. These things are called the Spiritual Disciplines. Rabbi Paul wrote to Timothy: Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness. For physical training is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come (1 Timothy 4:8). The Greek word translated “discipline” means to exercise or train; and from it we get the words “gymnastics” or “gymnasium.”
If we want our souls to be in peak spiritual condition, we train them like people at the gym train their bodies to be in peak physical condition. We put our souls into a daily training regimen by practicing the Spiritual Disciplines.
We discipline ourselves to pray. Prayer, which is simply talking to God, does not come naturally to us. We train ourselves to talk to God throughout the day, from the moment we wake up until we go to sleep at night. We train ourselves to have a running conversation with God throughout the day. We talk to Him about things that concern us. We ask Him to meet our needs and the needs of others. We talk to Him about the things that interest us. We praise Him for who He is and what He has done, is doing and will do. We thank Him for the many things He has done, is doing and will do for us.
We discipline ourselves to take in God’s Word. Each day, hopefully at the beginning of the day, we read the Bible. We meditate on God’s Word throughout the day, thinking about it and applying it to the decisions we make that day. On Shabbat, we discipline ourselves to join the members of our congregation and hear the Word of God taught by qualified teachers.
We discipline ourselves to be actively involved in Messiah’s Community; to not just come regularly to the worship service, but do something to serve in the community in some way.
We discipline ourselves to bring the Good News to those outside Messiah’s Community of salvation. We learn how to initiate conversations about God and the way of salvation. We look for opportunities to tell others about God and salvation.
Practicing these Spiritual Disciplines help us walk by the Spirit. And the law of sowing and reaping applies: the more we sow, the more we reap. The more time and effort and consistency we put into practicing the Spiritual Disciplines, the better we can walk by the Spirit.
In each child of God, there is a conflict between the desires of the flesh and the desires of the Spirit. The more we nurture, cultivate, practice the Spiritual Disciplines, the more we will be able to walk by the Spirit and be victorious over the desires of the flesh.
When we are walking by the Spirit, seeking God, aware of God, close to God, talking to God – each circumstance we encounter – the Spirit of God is right there – teaching us and guiding us, bringing the Word of God into focus so we know the right thing to do and have the power to do the right thing.
This is an entirely different and superior way of relating to God and living for God than following a list of rules, even if the list comes from the laws of the Sinai Covenant. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
How can we tell if we are walking by the Spirit or living according to the flesh? By comparing our lives to two lists Rabbi Paul gave us – the acts of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit – and asking ourselves, which list characterizes the way I am living?
The first list: the acts of the flesh: 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.
The acts of the flesh fall into three categories: The first category is the misuse of sex and alcohol, and along with alcohol I would include drugs and marijuana: sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, drunkenness, orgies.
This includes sex before marriage and sex outside of marriage. It includes sexual perversions like homosexuality, lesbianism and transgender-anything and pornography.
The second category that characterizes the acts of the flesh involves idolatry and witchcraft. This includes false religion and the occult.
The third category that characterizes the acts of the flesh involves unrighteous actions and bad attitudes toward others; and the inability to get along with others: it includes hatred, discord, dissensions, factions. It includes fits of rage – giving into anger and expressing it in damaging ways. It includes jealousy, envy and selfish ambition – feeling resentment toward others because of their successes or advantages; wanting their successes or advantages for yourself.
These three categories – giving into wrong physical pleasures, primarily sex, alcohol and drugs; engaging in false religion and the occult; and bad attitudes and actions toward others – characterize the flesh.
A bad tree produces bad fruit. This list helps us identify if we, or others, are producing bad fruit. If anyone who claims to be a Christian or a Messianic Jew and these bad fruits characterize their lives, then we can be certain they are not saved. Those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. Now, all of us will struggle with the desires of the old nature; and on occasion we may give in to those desires. That doesn’t mean we aren’t saved and won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Rabbi Paul is describing an individual whose life is characterized by these things. He frequently gives into sexual immorality and the abuse of drugs and alcohol. He frequently is engaging in false religion and the occult. He frequently yields to hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy.
A bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree produces good fruit. Paul gave us another list to help us identify if we are walking by the Spirit. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. When we are walking by the Spirit, these good fruits will characterize our lives:
Love: The old nature is selfish; and its love is selfish. It’s love is usually limited to self, family and friends. The Spirit produces in us a larger love, a selfless love for all kinds of people; people who are different from us; people we don’t like; people who are unlovable. The Spirit creates in us the desire to help others, to do good things for others.
Joy: It’s hard for the old nature to be happy. Most people are not happy. They are only happy if things are going well, and in this world, that usually doesn’t last very long.
The Spirit, however, produces in us a happiness that is not dependent on circumstances; a deeper kind of happiness, a joy that comes from knowing our sins are forgiven; knowing we are right with God; knowing we will live forever.
Peace: the old nature lacks peace because it’s in conflict with God, and often in conflict with people; and even in conflict with itself. The Spirit, however, produces peace in us because the conflict with God is over; and we have a new desire to have peaceful relationships with others; and we have peace within ourselves – even while experiencing trials – because we know that no matter what happens, it is well, it is well, with our souls.
Patience: the old nature is impatient; not good at enduring opposition or suffering; quick to judge; ready to lash out at others. However, the Spirit produces patience in us. We are better able to endure inconveniences, trials, challenges, hardships, setbacks; we give others more time and opportunity to improve.
Kindness: The old nature can be cruel, thoughtless, inconsiderate. The Spirit working through our new nature produces kindness. We become more gentle, gracious, considerate; more aware of the needs and sensitivities of others.
Goodness: goodness is similar to love. It’s the desire to do something beneficial for others. The old nature does not always know what is good and often limits its acts of goodness to family and friends.
Goodness is based on what is right and true and genuinely beneficial. You are not doing something good for someone else if what you do is harming them. The father who thinks he is being good to his son by taking him to a prostitute for his first sexual experience is not doing something good. However, the Spirit produces goodness in us – the desire to do good things, not just for those who are close to us, but for all people.
Faithfulness: the old nature is not faithful. People are not faithful to God, not faithful to others, not faithful to their word, not faithful to live according to their own standards. God is faithful and His Spirit living in us produces faithfulness – faithfulness to God; faithfulness to the Word of God; faithfulness to people; faithfulness to our word.
Gentleness: the flesh can be harsh and aggressive toward others. The Spirit working through our new nature produces gentleness – which is not to be confused with weakness. It is a gentleness that cooperates with God; a mildness that enables us to get along with other people.
Self-control: The old nature lacks self-control. It gives into temptation too readily. It yields to emotions like jealously and anger. The Spirit produces the ability to control what we say and how we say it; control our anger; our behaviors like eating, drinking, smoking, spending; controlling our sexual desires; controlling the use of our time – our time management.
If we are among those who will inherit the kingdom of God, these fruits produced by the Spirit will be evident in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
If we belong to Messiah, we should be making progress in our battle overcoming the desires of the old nature. Those who belong to Messiah Yeshua have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Killing the old nature and its desires is not a one-time event. It’s a life-long conflict; and with God’s grace, which is sufficient for us, as we mature, it’s a conflict in which we will have more and more victories.
Avinu Malkaynu, our Father and our King, help us walk by the Spirit. Help us live so that we get close to You and stay close to You. Help us continually seek You; be aware of You; think about You so that we are filled with Your Spirit and He is guiding us and directing us and teaching us. Amen?
Lord God, enable us to crucify the old nature with its corrupt desires. We believe that the Spirit working though our new nature will give us the ability to resist yielding to the corrupt desires of the old nature. He will produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in us. May those fruits truly be produced in each one of us.
Lord, if anyone here is not walking by the Spirit; if anyone is yielding to the desires of the old nature help that person turn to You and away from his sin. We know that You will forgive that person and renew him help him walk by the Spirit once again.
Finally, Heavenly Father, help us practice the Spiritual Disciplines until they become firm habits in each one of us.