Jesus calls us to action.
And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.
— Luke 9:23
There is a huge difference between believing Jesus exists and believing in Him by faith. Knowing He exists and even liking Him and the things He says means nothing if we aren’t trusting in Him and following Him as Lord. He calls us to deny ourselves, our sinful flesh and all of the sin this world entices us to live in. Temptation is quite real. Even Jesus was tempted but He did not sin.
Galatians 5:16 says “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”
If you aren’t walking in the Spirit, I guarantee you are walking in the flesh and fulfilling its sinful desires, even if it seems like everything is fine. When held up to the mirror of scripture, we find ourselves in need of God’s grace and forgiveness every time because as it says in Romans
3, all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God.
So what does it mean to walk in the Spirit?
A few more verses in Galatians 5 explain the difference between walking in the flesh and walking in the Spirit.
For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
— Galatians 5:17-25
Notice here at the end of this passage where it says “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. This is what Jesus is talking about in Luke 9 when He tells us if we are going to follow Him we must deny ourselves, daily take up our cross and follow Him. Notice also how it says that those who practice the things of the flesh will not inherit the kingdom of God. We can’t live after the desires of our flesh and think we are right with God. 1 John 1:8 says that those who do that are deceiving themselves and the truth is not in them.
The battle with the flesh is a daily struggle. It is a daily denial of and death to self, surrendered to Jesus, that He would live in us and through us as we walk in the Spirit.
Galatians 2:20 sums it up perfectly, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
When Jesus died on the cross, He took the entire curse of sin and nailed it to the cross in His body and then on the third day He rose from the dead, victorious over sin and death that whoever believes in Him by faith will not perish but have everlasting life. Those who believe in Him by faith deny themselves, daily take up their cross and follow Him by faith.
We are not saved by our actions or anything we can do to earn salvation. We are saved only by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ. But true faith without action is dead. It’s not true faith at all if we don’t live it out. If we truly trust Him and have faith in Him as Lord and Savior, then we will do what He says.
James 2:19 makes it clear it’s not enough to just have knowledge of Jesus and believe He exists, even the demons believe that and shudder in fear.
True belief results in belief in what Jesus says, and if we really believe what He says then we will do what He says. We will come to Him by faith in repentance of sin and trust in His promise of forgiveness and eternal life, saving us from the curse of sin and eternal death in hell. We will deny ourselves, daily take up our cross and follow Him.
Otherwise, what are we doing with the knowledge we have? We believe but we don’t follow? We say we trust Him but we don’t act on that trust? We want eternal life while still sinning and gratifying the desires and passions of the flesh? Jesus died for us to set us free from all that. How can we continue to live in what He died to free us from and still claim to be His disciples?
In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”
He also said in John 14:15, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”
He loves you and wants you to be set free from sin. He wants to give you abundant and eternal life. He wants you to have fellowship with Him and live in a personal relationship with Him. But He calls us to be set apart, made new, born again of the Spirit and to follow Him, forsaking the ways of this fallen and dying world.
We can’t have fellowship with God while living in rebellion against Him in sin. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil, to destroy sin, not to let us continue to live in it. Romans 6:23 says the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord and in John 3 Jesus says that those who believe in Him are not condemned but those who do not believe are condemned already because they have not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
In sin, we are spiritually dead, but set free from sin by faith in Jesus and born again of the Spirit, we have eternal life. In John 5:24, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”
Put your belief into action today and trust in Him. Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him. You will never know more freedom this side of heaven than when you let it all go and put your faith and trust completely in Him. It really is new and abundant life, and it’s forever.