Living our lives “in the Spirit” is the way to break free from a life dominated by our “selves.” I think the idea of “the flesh” as Paul uses it in Galatians 5:16 might be understood as our “selves” in contrast to “others.” He writes, 17 power in the blood“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” The flesh with its corrupt nature is that tendency in us to drive us to self-gratification. It’s the kind of drive that abuses others and doesn’t take into consideration the feelings and interests of others. Lawson says, “The flesh, then, refers to man limited by his physical constitution, his culture, his moment in history, the impulses of biology, stimuli of the senses, instinct for self-preservation, drive for power, and lusts for self-satisfaction. To resist his own propensity to indulge himself to the point of self-destruction, he needs supernatural help.”

Freedom from this enslavement to our “selves” cannot be accomplished by man without divine intervention. We need God’s Spirit! Lawson goes on to say, “Freedom apart from the Spirit is not possible, Paul argues. Determinists like the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, the economist/socialist Karl Marx, the psychologist B. F. Skinner, and others of their ilk may argue that man can never be truly free of the forces that shape him (that is, he can never escape his humanness), but the apostle Paul offers a divine rebuttal. When one lives in the Spirit, he can be free indeed.”

But if the freedom you want is the freedom to submit yourself to every whim of your “flesh,” you will remain in total bondage to what looks good, to what feels good, to what pleases me, to what lifts me, and to what feeds my ego. In other words I remain chained, a slave, to the bases interests of the flesh. Paul summarizes this truth for us in Galatians 5:17-18. He writes, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Lawson concludes, “What is needed is freedom from myself, the freedom that love expresses and the Spirit grants.”