Introduction: Many years ago, I was speaking to someone who had
recently come to understand grace. We were talking about the law of
God and he told me that it had no application. We agreed to disagree
on that subject. It was a year or two later that I ran into him
again. Remembering our conversation, I asked him about his views now.
He had significantly changed his mind. He still believed in grace,
but he also realized the importance of obedience. Our study this week
is about obedience. Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. We died (in
Jesus) for our sins when we were baptized. But, being released from
the death penalty does not mean that we disregard obedience. Just how
does this work? Where and how are the lines drawn? Let’s dive into
our study of the Bible and learn more!

  1. Spirit v. Sinful Nature

    1. Read Galatians 5:16. After we have been saved by grace, do
      we still have sinful desires? (Yes! Paul writes of the
      “desires” of the sinful nature that are contrary to the
      leading of the Holy Spirit.)

      1. What is our goal? (To not “gratify” the desires of
        the sinful nature.)

      2. Doesn’t this seem just like when we were under the
        law? The law told us to live in a certain way, and
        our sinful nature told us to live in some other way.

    2. Read Galatians 5:17. What do we want to do? (What our
      sinful nature desires.)

      1. How can that be? I thought that the Holy Spirit gave
        us a new attitude? (I think that we will always feel
        the conflict. We will always feel the pull of

    3. Read Romans 7:14-20. Paul is more specific in these
      verses. What is the practical problem that we find in our
      lives? (We find that we do the things we do not want to

    4. The first church in which I taught a Bible class had a
      great debate among the members about grace. I recall one
      member who “got” grace. He was so excited because he said
      he suddenly felt free – free of the law. Is that the way
      it is supposed to be? (Read Romans 8:1-2. Yes. He was no
      longer under the condemnation of the law. But, I think
      that he felt that he no longer needed to be concerned
      about the “tension” with sin. Grace does not “kill” our
      sinful nature. Sin continues to pull on our mind.)

    5. Read Romans 8:3-4. Can we still “live according to … the
      Spirit,” and have this struggle that Paul describes? (I
      think that is exactly the situation for most serious

    6. Read Romans 8:5-9. What does the Bible tell us to do to
      live according to the Spirit? (To set our minds on what
      the Spirit desires. We make choices, and this is the
      important one.)

      1. Is this legalism? Is this righteousness by works,
        except this time works is a choice?(I don’t know how
        grace can get more simple than a choice.)

    7. Read Romans 8:10-11. How do our “dead” bodies become
      alive? (By the same power that raised Jesus from the
      grave, the power of the Holy Spirit.)

    8. Read Romans 8:12-14. How important is this choice of
      living by the Spirit or living by our sinful nature? (We
      will die if we live by our sinful nature.)

    9. Read Galatians 5:18. We have this tension in our mind
      between the leading of the Spirit and the desires of our
      sinful nature. How do we know when we are following the

      1. In the old days some cars would have a vacuum gauge
        that would turn red when you were using a lot of fuel
        and turn green when you were getting good gas
        mileage. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a gauge like
        that so we could figure out when we are living by the
        Spirit and when we are living by our sinful nature?

      2. Notice how Paul states this. He does not say that we
        are living in accordance with the temptation created
        by Satan or one of his agents. Paul says that it is
        our “sinful nature” or our “flesh” that pulls us into
        sin. Did you ever think that it was not demons, but
        rather your own sinful nature which is your worst
        enemy when it comes to obedience?

    10. Re-read Galatians 5:18. In what way are we not “under” the
      law when we live by the Spirit? (We are not under the
      condemnation of the law. Read again Romans 8:6-7. This
      shows that while we are no longer under the condemnation
      of the law, the law is still a benchmark (even if a poor
      one) for living a life that brings glory to God and to

    11. This discussion about choice makes me think that we
      essentially have three choices. We can live according to
      our sinful nature, we can live according to the Spirit, or
      we can grit our teeth and try to obey the law. How do you
      think this works as a practical matter?(The first thing I
      would do to live by the Spirit is to pray that the Holy
      Spirit would lead my mind. Let’s assume the temptation
      you face is adultery. You could choose the attitude,
      “What can I do to please my spouse today?” You could
      choose the attitude, “What can I do to lure someone into
      an improper relationship with me?” Or, you could choose
      the attitude, “I will not even look at a woman other than
      my wife, so I will not fall into temptation. I think the
      first choice is the Spirit-led choice.)

  2. Self Check

    1. Read Galatians 5:19-21. Do any of these acts show up in
      your life?

      1. If the answer is, “yes,” does this demonstrate that
        you live by your sinful nature (as opposed to living
        by the Spirit) and thus you are lost? Or, does this
        simply demonstrate what Paul confessed, that he does
        the things he did not want to do?

      2. Notice the line, “those who live like this will not
        inherit the Kingdom of God.” What does this tell us
        about the presence of these evil acts in our life?
        (We do not want any evil acts in our life, but the
        problem is not falling into sin on occasion, the
        problem is making these acts our lifestyle. If we
        regularly live like this, we have a serious problem
        that shows we have not chosen to live by the Spirit.)

    2. Read Galatians 5:22-23. How is this list different than
      the prior list? (Obviously, it lists good things as
      opposed to bad things. What is critically different is
      that it generally lists attitudes, not actions.)

      1. What does the fact that the second list generally
        describes attitudes tell you about living by the
        Spirit? (This is key: if you choose to live by the
        Spirit, the Holy Spirit will change your heart and
        your mind. Your attitude toward sin will change. You
        will still find the sinful nature competing for your
        attention, but your changed attitude makes it less

    3. Read Galatians 5:24. What does it mean to “crucify the
      sinful nature?” (To crucify means to put it to a horrible

      1. If our sinful nature is crucified, how do you account
        for Romans 7:15 where Paul tells us that he does the
        things he does not want to do? Is our sinful nature
        like a the sinister character in a movie who keeps
        coming back to frighten us? (I think the best picture
        of this is found by reading Romans 7:19-8:4. What we
        know for sure is that Jesus set us free from “the law
        of sin and death.” Our responsibility is to keep
        choosing to live by the Spirit and not our sinful

    4. Read Galatians 5:25. We spoke earlier about this idea of
      “living” by the Spirit as opposed to by the sinful nature.
      The idea is that it represents the direction of our life,
      not the actions of a moment. How does Paul build on this
      idea by referring to us keeping “in step with the Spirit?”
      (Our Christian life is a walk. We are heading in one
      direction or the other. Thus, our goal is to keep in step
      with the direction of the Holy Spirit.)

  3. Big Picture

    1. Read Matthew 11:28-30. Perhaps at this point you feel
      discouraged because you are still contending with your
      sinful nature. What does Jesus say about the burden of
      following Him? (Jesus says that when you undertake the
      problems of life using His power, your burden is light.
      Think about the practical difference between trying to
      obey to avoid death, and a partnership with God to bring
      glory to Him and make your life better.)

    2. Friend, the bad news is that you still feel tension with
      sin even after you are saved by grace alone. You are free
      from the death penalty imposed by the law, but you are
      still obliged to choose to live by the Holy Spirit. Will
      you decide, right now, that you will ask the Holy Spirit
      to help you “keep in step” with His program for your life?

  4. Next week: The Gospel and the Church.