80: The Flesh Versus The Spirit


⬇️ ⬇️ SCROLL DOWN TO THE COMMENTS! ⬇️ ⬇️

What You'll Discover in this Episode:


The Flesh Versus The Spirit


I wonder how many of us as Christians have this crazy idea that, "If I just have a little more time and try a little harder, I’m going to get to where there’s almost no problems at all. I’m going to get on top of this thing called a Christian life.” What a misunderstanding, a misapprehension.


Here's the truth. The flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh. These are contrary to one another. We have flesh with us and the spirit of God dwells in us, and there’s a war going on, so that you do not do the things that you wish.


In this podcast, Pastor Jeff discusses the passage from Galatians 5:16-23 as it correlates to with Romans 5 through 8. Here we're given an insight of important the Holy Spirit is in our lives. It serves as our guide, otherwise we are left to our own devices, fleshly indulgences. We’d never do the things we wanted to do if we were not able to be led by the Spirit and not be under the law. Under the law, we always fail. Led by the Spirit, we can grow in Christ.


This is what we mean to be by the Spirit. We are led and guided by the Spirit. We are empowered by the Spirit.


This is great spiritual truth as we counsel and are counseled. This is about the Holy Spirit in counseling. This is a great section on the Holy Spirit in counseling. Counseling isn’t the context, but counseling is a major arena of application of these truths.

  • Scroll down and leave your comment below!
  • "I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. (18) But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law." Galatians 5:16-23

Resources:


Can I ask a (very) quick favor?

If you’ve gotten any kind of value out of my content, if any of it is a blessing, would you subscribe to The Biblical Counseling Podcast on iTunes (Apple Podcasts) and then leave me a quick rating and review?


Here’s how to do it on your phone in 7 simple steps:


  1. Go to your “Podcasts” app.
  2. Tap the “Search” magnifying glass at the bottom
  3. Type in “The Biblical Counseling Podcast”
  4. Tap the Subscribe button at the top
  5. Scroll down to the “Ratings & Reviews” section
  6.  Tap “5 Stars”
  7. Finally, tap “Write a Review”

Thanks a lot, I really appreciate it!


Subscribe and Download

Are you a subscriber? If not, you’re missing a major opportunity to get practical, actionable advice delivered straight to your device every week. Don’t miss a single episode! Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you listen.

And if you’re really loving the show, we’d be super-grateful if you’d also leave a review on iTunes. That’ll help others find this program so they can benefit too. We read every single review too. Good, bad, or indifferent, we’d love to hear what you think.


Listen on the go! Follow the Biblical Counseling Podcast using your favorite app:

Listen to Stitcher
  • Ericka Tapia says:

    I can not even express to you how timely this podcast is. It answered so many questions in those short 20 + minutes.

    First, the need for biblical counselors. My son and his wife are in desperate need of one and I can not seem to find one here in Las Vegas, NV. (referrals accepted)

    Second, I always wondered what happens if the person is not willing to make that effort to walk in the spirit. Are we to continue counselling or walk away? I know you touched on that briefly but I’d love it if you would touch further on that please Pastor Jeff.

    Third, how did we diagnose someone in a simple way, through the bible, that they have a problem of the flesh. You touched on that perfectly and I will definitely studying Galatians 5:16-23 deeper, not only for counseling, but first and foremost for a self evaluation.

    I thank you so much for this weeks podcast, again super helpful with many trials that my family is currently facing. I felt the Lord giving me direction, which is just what I needed. Blessings.

    • David Bowman says:

      Ericka, I will definitely be praying for your son and wife to find biblical counseling soon. In my experience, those that have experienced some natural consequences for their sin come with brokenness and contrition therefore they are more likely to commit to the process. Others are still enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin and are reticent to fully “put off” the flesh and “put on” the Spirit. I have found that when someone exhibits a clear practice (a habit), then it can be biblically determined whether they are walking in the flesh or in the Spirit (1 John 3:7, Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.).

    • Abigail G Burt says:

      Sometimes the best way to council someone who is not willing to make the effort to walk in the spirit is by leading them by example. My sister is very consistent in everything she does. That is one of the reasons I regard her in such high esteem. No matter how tired or busy she feels, she always makes time to do her devotions each night. For a long time, I was to lazy to do this myself. I would never spend any personal time with God, and I was suffering for it. One day, I noticed my sister yet again, bringing her body into submission and doing her devotions despite the hard day she had had. My heart melted as Christ convicted my heart. My sister doesn’t even know the impact she had then. She simply lived a life devoted to God, and in doing so, led my life by example.

      • Ericka Tapia says:

        Thank you so much for that comment. Sometimes we fail to see that people notice. I pray I can one day be such an example to someone, especially to those whom I most love, my kids. I feel like they don’t notice a thing I do.

      • MichelleR says:

        You worded it so well “bring her body into submission”. Beautiful!! this is something so many of us are challenged by not letting the flesh win in our devotion life.Thank you Abigail for sharing that!

    • Audra Downs says:

      Erika, it was a timely message for me also. I just cried with thankfulness for God’s Faithfulness supplying what we need all the time. I am overcome. I also was wondering about seeing people walking in the flesh and knowing when to say something. It must be through discernment from the Holy Spirit and much prayer but I wonder if practically, there is some direction on this also. Thank you for sharing!

  • David Bowman says:

    Another timely episode from Pastor Jeff. Lately, I have also noticed a rise in the demand for counseling among the body of Christ. At my local church, the men have especially been hit hard by layoffs and financial struggles. The need is great for competent biblical counselors.

    The battle between the flesh and the spirit continues to rage on in the lives of all believers. I really like the definition of living under the law as living by your own resources/strength. When we are striving against sin, it is a futile endeavor to do so in the power of your flesh. Only the Spirit of God can put the flesh to death. Every day, I must seek to live a Spirit-led life and not a self-willed life. This continuous struggle will continue until as long as we live on this Earth. However, we have been given everything we need in Christ to overcome, so we are without excuse. We just have to make that choice, moment-by-moment to submit to God, resist the devil, and he will flee.

    • Abigail G Burt says:

      I used to wonder what it meant to pray without ceasing as it says in the Bible. I would think about what an impossible expectation that was. It meant that you would never sat Amen! You would just keep praying. How would I do school? I’m already terrible at multitasking! But this verse was not necessarily saying to continuously pray, so much as constantly keeping your focus on the Lord. Keep Him on the forefront of your mind and be filled with His Spirit. When He is all you think about, He will fill your speech and your actions. He will be your whole world. I try to live like this, though I often feel as though I fail miserably, but every once in a while God provides me with assurance that I am living this way. Simple things like my pastor telling me about a conversation he overheard several girls in my class having. “Ugh, that Abigail. It’s like everything she says has the word ‘Bible’ in it!” It is because of little instances like these that I continue to strive to “pray without ceasing.”

      • harry e innerst says:

        I like you comment Abigail. I have often thought of that verse in the same way. But, like you I have come to the place where I just constantly include God in my thought life and try to be always be ready to bring Him into the conversation. He is a friend who will always listen and guide us into all truth.

    • Ericka Tapia says:

      Yes, the church is being hit hard in so many areas. Not only in financial issues but I have seen so many people turn ugly over political and social opinions. I’ve seen some of the most “spiritual” people in the church, spiritually mature grown individuals that allow the flesh take over their character on social media! Most definitely an urgent need for biblical counselors. There is a special need for our youth that is being faced with so many issues and opinions. We need more people willing to answer the call of he Lord.

    • harry e innerst says:

      Good comments David. Following the Holy Spirit is always a choice that will require killing the flesh. Paul said “I die daily”, and we need to do the same if we are to do the will of God.

    • Jocelyn Padilla says:

      David, I am praying for the people in your church. COVID around the world has affected so many people through lost of jobs, health, depression, anxiety, fear, loneliness and so much more. During this difficult season, it was a spiritual warfare of the battle of the flesh and spirit. Being connected to the local body for encouragement and as Bob Hoekstra says in he book the church needs the Bible for counseling. The needs in the church are many but Jesus is always enough.

    • MichelleR says:

      Amen, David! I also enjoy the definition on living under the law. It really brought new understanding for me to bring into my own personal walk and to care for the who come to me for counseling.

    • Melinda Evans says:

      I agree, I serve in women’s ministry and I too see the struggles becoming overwhelming. I have been greatly encouraged through this podcast to be readily prepared to come alongside others. It is sad to see even in many good biblical teaching churches they lack of good counseling for the men and women of these days.

  • Abigail G Burt says:

    Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, thus we cannot use the weapons this world offers. Be it through tactful speech, strong arms, or swords, these weapons will prove useless in the spiritual battle we face on the daily. Have you ever heard the phrase, “You can’t fight fire with fire”? The Lord spoke to me recently telling me how to fight the world with His weapons. He told me that I could, in fact fight fire with fire. You see, the worlds definition of fire brings destruction and chaos, but the fire in the Bible speaks of purification and refinement. The love of the world speaks of sensual and physical desires, while God’s love is patient and kind. The weapons the Lord provides us with are the originally intended use of God’s creation. The Holy Spirit guides us and shows us what weapons we are to use and when. With practice we become more skilled in “battle” and we can begin to gain back the ground in our life that Satan stole. A pastor once put it this way. Each sin that you hold onto in your life is a stronghold that Satan has built. Often we ignore them or don’t even realize they are there. We need the Bible to help us recognize the threat. We need the Holy Spirit to prepare and show us how to fight the battle and take back that part of your life. And we need God’s strength to overcome the enemy. Though it is possible to rid sin from your life the final day of complete sanctification will not come until we meet our Lord in Heaven. Until then, God does not expect perfection from us. He only expects that we strive for the perfection that He is.

    • KEVIN THATCHER says:

      Abigail you are correct, we cannot utilize our worldly wisdom, tactics or knowledge combatting or participating in a spiritual warfare, it just doesn’t work. It states it clearly in Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. The word of God is powerful and is to be used throughout our daily lives.

      Jesus even used the word of God when He was tempted by the enemy. Through these class my eyes have been opening to the infiltration of the world into the church. The church and myself have not been standing solely on the word of God at times. I have not always put on the while armor of God as it is described in Ephesian chapter six, however I believe I am moving closer too. The Books of Acts is amazing history of the early church, they relied upon the power of the Holy Spirit, unity and the power of prayer.

  • harry e innerst says:

    Recently I had the privilege of teaching Gal.5 to our men in our Saturday morning Iron Works group. We emphasized verse 25. There is a difference between living in the Spirit and walking in the Spirit. It is a bit like James’ comparison of faith and works. Faith without works is dead. Likewise saying that we are living in the Spirit without the evidence of a Spirit filled walk is dead. It is possible to say that we are in the Spirit and still be conceited and provoke all sorts of fleshly patterns. But, when we humbly walk out the “others plan” that the Spirit lays out of us, the results are never fleshly. The Spirit always points us to others and never toward self. It is so easy and natural for us to resort to the flesh, but the results are evident. They are not the fruit of the Spirit, but the works of the flesh. True and lasting results in our lives and those that we reach out to must come from the Spirit of God.

  • Audra Downs says:

    What a timely message. I am so encouraged because through our CCU study this week and my own bible study, the fruits of the spirit has been on the forefront of my mind. In fact, a few times these past few days, there have been some occasions where I said some things that were in my flesh. I recognized immediately each time which took me to a place of humility and recognition of where my heart was and that drove me back to the word and has kept me prayerful throughout my week. Whether I am here at home, home fellowship, lady’s bible study or at the library, I pray my words and actions are edifying and produce fruits of righteousness.
    Right now as I write this, I am overwhelmed by God’s faithfulness. I am praying each day for each fruit of the spirit so that I am a healthy branch because my life source is the Vine. He is the only source that I want fueling me. I am so grateful to be a part of this course and appreciate the encouragement that these podcast discussions have provided. God bless you all!

    • Jocelyn Padilla says:

      Amen Audra! This is beautiful! The love of God is the propeller for why we do things. We have two choices in our actions death or life. The heart posture of is this edifying for the other person or is this like a millstone. “I am praying each day for each fruit of the spirit so that I am a healthy branch because my life source is the Vine.” This is so important to remain connected to Him to have health fruits. Sometimes Jesus prunes and so uncomfortable season but it’s for His glory.

    • KEVIN THATCHER says:

      Audra; we are so very very blessed as we walk with Jesus. I just returned from New York; all I could think about was the overwhelming amount of people. I would ask the Lord how many of these folks have a relationship with you? Just has Enoch walked with the Lord, we too must walk with Him daily, for He is our strength, our fortress, He gives us living water to drink and He will feed us has He did the 5000 in Luke 9.

      Psalm 18:1 I will love You, O LORD, my strength. 2 The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. 3 I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies.

  • Jocelyn Padilla says:

    Great podcast Prof Christianson! As for me, in my mind or my thoughts I response in the flesh then the Spirit corrects me to response differently. My main occupation is not in church ministry but in the secular world. When my clients or a vendor are not acting nice, my flesh wants to mirror that same behavior. The Spirit reminds me to pray for them because they are probably acting that way because something might be wrong at their work life and/or home life.

    As Galatians 5:13 says, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

    The works for the flesh leads to death and the work of the Spirit leads to life. Having discernment to recognize the flesh in my life and work it with Jesus will help remove the plank in my eye before I remove the speck in my counselee life.

    • Audra Downs says:

      Jocelyn, I too work in a secular, humanistic place. I have been praying for discernment as I go to work and while at work because it is so obvious that I am set apart and different. Having said that, I go consciously knowing that I am an ambassador for Christ in a humanistic, secular environment. I pray that God uses me daily and plants seeds of righteousness in a place that is hostile to Christianity. I will be praying for you too that God uses you to plant seeds that He will water, fertilize and grow at the time of His choosing. Blessings to you today. Love in Christ, Audra

  • KEVIN THATCHER says:

    Indeed, a valuable and timely message. Over the last few weeks, the Lord has been impressing upon me the importance of daily reading, meditating upon His word and prayer, to be encouraging the body of Christ the spiritual importance of that trait. The last few Pod Casts teaching on the Holy Spirit has been reminders of the importance of the Holy Spirit’s work in my life, as well in the lives of my brothers and sisters and the church. In the men’s Bible Study, we are going through the book of Acts, the early church was so dependent upon the Holy Spirit for wisdom and guidance.

    If I am not walking in the Spirit, then I am walking blindly in the flesh, I am left to my own devices to find my way, I need to be led by the power of God’s Holy Spirit. If I am not walking in the Spirit, I am a walking battlefield. When I am walking in the flesh, I am no good for anything. Romans 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells, and the only good thing in my life comes from Jesus.

    Pastor Jeff hit the nail on the head when he said if I cannot discern between walking in the flesh or the Spirit myself how can I help my brothers and sister in the Lord? God takes our insufficiency and molds us into vessels of sufficiency if we are dependent upon His word and the Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

    • David Bowman says:

      Kevin, you made some great points. There really are only two ways to live, by the Spirit or by the flesh. The fruit that comes to bear in our lives testifies to the kind of root in our hearts. A good root brings forth good fruit. It is sinful to try and explain away those deeds of the flesh. We need to identify those fruit as sin, repent, and return to our first works, just like the church of Ephesus was instructed to in Revelation. Dying daily will never be enjoyable to our flesh, but it is vital for us to live continuously filled with His Spirit.

      • MichelleR says:

        Hi David, I too appreciated what Pastor Jeff state about not living in the spirit and then trying to counsel others on how to. I agree with you that we need to be in the word and prayer daily so we can be spirit filled and not carrying out the desires of the flesh. Great comment! Blessings

    • Caleb Franks says:

      Kevin, I hadn’t seen your comment yet, but I also said in my comment “Pastor Jeff hit the nail on the head”, haha! I hope your men’s group is having a great study in Acts. The early church is truly the exemplum of a powerful body, and, like you said, they were Spirit-led. In my own fellowship, I am trying to take these concepts we’re learning to stimulate one another to be more Spirit-led and more like the church seen in Acts.

  • Mary Cooper says:

    Podcast # 80. Excellent material. Thank you for helping me to see more clearly how this plays out in my relationship with my son. He is a very fleshly minded individual, when he gets argumentative find that I am quick to join him where he is instead of walking with the Spirit myself. Although this seem to happen mostly in interactions with him, I need to look to the source of my own sin; walking in the flesh. Looking forward to more teaching on Rom. 5-8. We are actually going through Rom. 7 at Grace Bible Church in Portage, WI. gbcportage.com Last week’s sermon was titled Living the Christ Life – Soulical, Carnal, Spiritual.

    • Kyle Fox says:

      Hello Mary, I think it is great that you are working on dealing with the way you respond rather than engaging in a battle of the flesh. When my boys were younger, I would often respond to them in the flesh when they rebelled, and I would pray to God and say, if my boys didn’t respond that way, then I never would have yelled at them. I was blaming them for my sin. God revealed to me that He was using my boys to show me the sin in my own heart.

  • Rebekah E Gasparovich says:

    This podcast highlights the exact issue I had with my psychology classes in college. My goal was to help people, but I quickly realised that psychological theories do the exact opposite. They may appear to treat the symptoms of our sin, but it does not cure it. I have fallen into patterns of self pity that people had in a way encouraged me to feel sorry for myself. This led to nothing good. I had outbursts of anger and was damaging several relationships with family members. It was only when I started denying my flesh and living guided by the Holy Spirit. When I put my full trust in the Lord I experienced true healing, not the superficial healing this world offers. Now I want to help others see the light and healing that the Gospel of Jesus Christ offers us.

  • MichelleR says:

    I listened to this podcast three times because there was so much richness and wisdom that was given, the I had just sit in it. Every time I listened to what Pastor Jeff taught on the flesh I was like “Yup! that’s me in the flesh” but I walked away with hope knowing the remedy to this.
    I loved when Pastor Jeff stated about selfish and living in the law, “Putting myself under the law where I can live up to God’s holy standard by my OWN best performance and effort”, that spoke volumes to me. This wisdom is something I will take with me where ever I go. This explanation about the law brought it home to me and how easy it is to fall under the law. But, as the Galatians 5:16 says “But I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” Once again this show how much our Lord Jesus loves us by giving us the answer and hope knowing we can live life that honor Him. Great podcast!

  • Margaret Deherrera says:

    Thank you for another great pod cast and the reminder of how we are to walk of the Spirit every minute, of every day not just when we feel like it. Some times when you can’t reach a person who is walking in the flesh. The best thing you can do is lead by example. I learned that one time not to long ago, when I was dealing with a very angry person who couldn’t see past their anger and hurt and all they kept dong was playing the blame game. It didn’t take long for God to show me that they were walking in the flesh and for me to do the same would accomplish nothing, so I had to be patient, show them love and respect and listen to what they were saying and just not give into my fleshly ways like I had done very often. I have learned the more you allow yourself to walk in the Spirit and less of your fleshly ways the easier it is to notice when you are drifting that way and you can repent and get back in the Spirit.

    • Kyle Fox says:

      Hello Margaret, that’s a great point about how we get stronger and wiser the more we walk in the spirit. It’s like building our spiritual muscles. The more we operate in the spirit, the stronger and wiser we become.

  • Kyle Fox says:

    Walking in the flesh verses walking in the spirit is a foundational issue with regards to biblical counseling. When we look at the evidence or the fruit of our lives, then it becomes more clear as to whether we are operating in the flesh or the spirit. In the flesh, we are relying on our own resources, our own wisdom and abilities. As we walk in the spirit, we are relying on the limitless supply of the grace of God. While Galatians 5 may not be directly referring to counseling, it is necessary and foundational to biblical counseling.

    This war that is constantly being waged in our lives will never be fully put to rest until we are at home with our Creator, however, we can certainly win battles. The more we train ourselves to walk in the spirit, and the more we experience the peace of God, then we are able to respond to the difficulties that we face in life in a godly way. People are going to sin against us, we are going to be offended, we are going to pass through trials. We must not blame ungodly responses to these things on the difficulty that God allowed in our lives. Instead, if we are truly trusting the Lord, if He is truly on the throne of our lives, then we are able to walk in the spirit and not give in to the ungodly responses of the flesh.

    • Caleb Franks says:

      You have some great insight Kyle. Sometimes I sure wish that the battle would cease before heaven, but I fight on. I like how you mentioned that walking the flesh is reliance upon ourselves, while walking in the Spirit is reliance upon God’s grace. I see this in my own life. Even in doing good, I will strive and strive, and when I fail I continue to look at myself by condemning my own failures; it can all be so fleshly and self-centered. The “practice”, as you mentioned, is to train ourselves to focus on the Spirit and His ways, and never our own.

  • Caleb Franks says:

    Pastor Jeff really hit the nail on the head for something that has plagued my Christian walk for a long time. I have always felt that inward yearning to be just a little holier and a little more flawless. The thought I often had was “well, I keep failing and I keep struggling with sin, but one day when I have read my bible and pray passionately enough, I will attain that success in my Christian walk.” I am really grateful that Pastor Jeff is facilitating this part of my sanctification. It is so freeing to understand that I comprise two natures, the flesh and the spirit, and I am simply living according to one of them. Paul’s question “do you not know that you are the temple of the Holy Spirit?” impacts me so much more. He is telling me “Caleb, it’s simple, live by the Spirit and don’t let the OBVIOUS sins of the flesh rule your life.” This is definitely a breakthrough for my thinking, and it is certainly an understanding that will guide my counseling.

  • Kayla Tracy says:

    It is wonderful that we, as messengers of the Gospel, have something of real hope to offer people who are seeking counsel. This passage is a great and clear warning for me to remember, as I struggle often with outbursts of anger. To have the comparison immediately available, I can ask God for the fruit of the Spirit to counter my fleshly behavior (that is, if I am humble to Him).
    I often need to be reminded of my flesh and how quickly it can take over, this passage encourages me to seek God’s Kingdom, and to continuously as for His will and Holy Spirit. And when I fail because of my flesh, I can ask for forgiveness and for help, knowing that there is a great hope for my future because of the promise I have in Jesus Christ.
    Thank you for touching on this topic, Jeff!

    • Melinda Evans says:

      Kayla, this part was so convicting for me, but encouraging to know that we have to be willing to acknowledge our own works of the flesh in order to come along side others. To stop and walk through the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit is a tool I will definitely be using to check myself so I can go forward.

  • Melinda Evans says:

    I’m taking to heart the challenge of getting familiar with the works of the flesh and the fruit of the spirit. In light of counseling, I had not realized the importance of knowing both. Pastor Jeff’s words “If I can’t recognize it myself how can I help someone else.”, basically tells me I can not recognize what I do not know. In this season of life, the Lord has led me continuously to Romans 6, 7 and 8 in my personal studies and now here in biblical counseling studies. I know He is leading to me to be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in me as it says in 1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;” So by pressing through the struggles right now in my life I want to complete what I have started to be used in these uncertain times by offering a hope that lies within.

    Thank you Pastor Jeff.

  • >