How Can I Keep From Sinning?
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to Paul's letter to the Galatians. We will read from chapter 5, the paragraph which begins with verse 15:

Galatians 5:

15But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.
16This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
17For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
18But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

We have been following a theme, Simple Questions Often Asked . In our last lesson, we discussed the possibility and the probability of sin in the believer's life as we dealt with the question, “What if I can't hold out?” Oftentimes when we present the claims of Christ to an individual, that individual will say, “I would like to become a Christian, but I don't know whether I can live it or not. I don't know whether I can hold out. What if I can't hold out?” So we dealt with that question, suggesting that not only is it possible for a Christian to sin, but in all probability, he will sin. Then we dealt with the responsibility that is entailed upon the Christian and upon God when sin does make its appearance in the believer's life.

We did not want to leave our discussion there, as if to suggest the idea that you are going to sin; if you are going to sin, what of it? Sin; sin and confess it, and that is all there is to it. We want to answer another question which we are often asked and which is closely related to this one, “How can I keep from sinning? How can I as a believer keep from sinning?”

To answer this question, we are going to give you three words that we would like for you to use as mental pegs upon which to hang the thoughts that we want to leave with you. The first is the word rivalry , the second is the word results , and the third is the word relationship . Get those three words firmly fixed in your minds.

The Rivalry of the Flesh and Spirit

The word rivalry is brought to my attention by one of the verses which we have just read, verse 17:

Galatians 5:

17For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh:…

That is all you need for the moment to describe the rivalry. The flesh lusteth against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh. This is indeed a rivalry that is constantly raging within the breast of every born-again believer. It may well be for us to say a word about the antagonists who are engaged in this rivalry. Oh, they are mentioned here—the flesh and the Spirit. But I would like for us to speak of them in two different phrases that we may get the full import of the message. The antagonists I am going to describe as first, indwelling sin, and second, the indwelling Spirit. Get those terms fixed in your mind.

Paul's Recognition of the Sin Nature

Turn with me, please, to the book of Romans, chapter 7, to hear how the Apostle Paul admits to the first antagonist. He is describing his lack of victory in the Christian life, how he faced that lack of victory, and by the time you get to the fourth verse of chapter 8, how he has learned to have complete victory. In describing the mystery which he faced as to why he did evil when he wanted to do good, he said, in verse 17:

Romans 7:

17Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

That is the reason I want to use that term indwelling sin . We are not speaking about an act of sin; we are speaking about the sin nature which dwells within every person born into this world. Every unsaved person is occupied by indwelling sin. Every saved person is occupied by indwelling sin. Get that firmly fixed in your minds. It is basic to the understanding of the message.

Christ's Promise of the Comforter

Turn to chapter 14 of the gospel of John. The Lord Jesus Christ gives here a promise that He will send someone to dwell within the individual who trusts Him as His Savior, so that the individual will have double occupants in his being. Notice the paragraph which begins with verse 15:

John 14:

15If ye love me, keep my commandments.
16And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
17Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

Notice what the Lord Jesus Christ said: “I am going away, but I am going to send you another Comforter who will be just like Me, but there will be a difference. I have been able to be with you only while I have been on this earth, but this Person whom I am going to send not only will be with you; He will dwell within you, and His name is the Holy Spirit.” So you see why I refer to the antagonists as indwelling sin and the indwelling Spirit.

The Indwelling Holy Spirit

If you are a born-again believer, there is sin dwelling within you. Don't try to deny it. Don't try to explain it away. Don't try to act as if it isn't there. You have sin dwelling within you. But recognize, I repeat, that if you are a born-again believer, you have indwelling within you the Holy Spirit as well, and that is what makes you different from the world. That is what makes you different from the unsaved.

Perhaps someone is going to say to me, “Well, I am a Christian, but I have never had the second blessing, so I don't suppose I have the Holy Spirit living within me, do I?” Oh yes, you do. The Bible knows nothing about a second blessing. Theologians talk about it. Churches are built upon the doctrine. But the Bible knows nothing about it. The Bible teaches that the very moment you are born again, the Holy Spirit moves into your heart.

You say, “Is that so? I don't remember feeling Him move in.” Well, I didn't feel Him move in, either; and the only reason I believe He is there is that God's Word says that He would move in the very moment that I believed in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. As I have grown in the grace and the knowledge of His Word, I have learned to recognize His presence; so I know He is dwelling within me today, not only because the Bible said He would, but because I have become acquainted with Him, and I have learned to recognize His presence.

The Inner Warfare

If you have not learned to recognize His presence, you may not know that the Holy Spirit dwells within you, and that is sad because if you don't know it, you don't understand the terrific animosity that is stirring up things inside of you. As soon as the Holy Spirit moved into your life, that indwelling sin became angry and began a warfare against the indwelling Holy Spirit.

The indwelling Holy Spirit is jealous for you. You belong to Him, and when the indwelling sin began the warfare, instead of the Holy Spirit's moving off out of your life and saying, “Well, all right, Indwelling Sin, you do with this person whatever you want to do,” the indwelling Holy Spirit said to the indwelling sin, “I am not going to let you do that. You want to make this person do thus and so. I am going to withstand you. I am not going to let you do what you are planning to do.” So the battle rages within the heart of every born-again believer.

The Description in Galatians 5

Go back to Galatians, chapter 5, so that you may notice how this animosity of which I speak is described in Scriptural terms. Look at verse 17 again:

Galatians 5:

17For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh:…

Look at the word lust . It is the translation of the Greek word epithumei , which describes an individual who has a strong desire. What do you read here? You read that the flesh (another word for indwelling sin) has a strong desire against the Holy Spirit. Then you read that the Holy Spirit has a strong desire against indwelling sin. What is that strong desire? To what is it related?

One word will help us to understand it, and that is the word against , which you will find in verse 17: “For the flesh has a strong desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.” That word against is the translation of the Greek word kata , which means “down and stretched out.” It means “to put down,” “to knock someone flat on his back.” That is what it really means, so what you are reading here is that indwelling sin has a strong desire to knock the Holy Spirit flat on His back, and the Holy Spirit has a strong desire to knock indwelling sin flat on its back.

The Continual Warfare

Let me suggest to you that this is not a warfare that is spasmodic. It may seem spasmodic to you because you are more conscious of it at certain times than at others, but this is a continual warfare, as is indicated by another phrase in verse 17:

Galatians 5:

17For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

Notice that statement particularly: “These are contrary.” The word contrary is an interesting word. It is the translation of the Greek word antikeimaei , which speaks of individuals who are in continual opposition one to the other. I have suggested to you at different times that there is a picture behind nearly every Greek word, and those pictures come to us from the use of the Greek language in classical literature. The picture in this word is of particular interest to me. It describes soldiers who dig a trench and get down in it because it is going to be a long, drawn-out battle. They plan to stay until victory is won. What you are reading here is that in every born-again believer's life, the Holy Spirit is entrenched against indwelling sin, which is entrenched, and the battle rages on.

The Purpose of the Warfare

Let me give you that second word, the word result . I use that word for the sake of alliteration, and it is a result in a sense, but more accurately it might be described by the word purpose . What is the purpose or the result of this battle that is raging within the breast of every born-again believer? Look at the last part of verse 17 and you will see what it is:

Galatians 5:

17…so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

You have to look at this very carefully. The Apostle Paul said something very much like this in chapter 7 of the book of Romans, but he did not mean the same thing. To the Romans he said, “I find that there is a law that evil is present with me so that I cannot do the things that I would.” What he meant by that was, “I want to do good things, but there is something that keeps me from doing them.” If we had to stop at chapter 7 of the book of Romans, we would just have to be defeated. But when we come to chapter 5 of the book of Galatians, verse 17, we come to a phrase that sounds the same, but is talking about something entirely different. Notice it:

Galatians 5:

17…so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

The phrase, “so that ye cannot do,” is what we call in Greek, from a grammatical standpoint, a clause of purpose. The actual phrase is, “hina ma poiete,” which means that the battle is raging so that you will not be able to do the things that you would ordinarily be doing as a sinner. That is the thing I want you to get. The reason the battle is going on is that God is making provision for you so that you need not keep on doing the things which you would ordinarily do. If you read this in the original language, you would find that it is written in the tense which permits this translation. The battle is raging so that you won't have to keep on doing the bad things that you are in the habit of doing. This is the result. This is the purpose.

The Believer's Relationship with the Holy Spirit

I gave you one other word, did I not, and that was the word relationship . The reason I gave you that word is that the outcome of the rivalry is dependent upon the individual believer's relationship to the Holy Spirit. The rivalry is raging, and that is the reason some of you feel as uncomfortable as you do in the fact of temptation. Sometimes, you know, people are disturbed by that rivalry. They ask, “What is wrong?” Nothing is wrong with you. If you are a believer, and that rivalry is not there, there would be something wrong with you. The rivalry is there. You are constantly being pulled. You are being pulled by indwelling sin this way, and you are being pulled by the Holy Spirit that way. The rivalry is there. It is a tug of war. Sometimes you may feel that you are going to break in the middle. Do you want the results of this rivalry to be eliminated from your life? If you do, be sure that your relationship to the Holy Spirit is what it ought to be.

The Means of Victory

There is much that we could say about it, but we do not have the time. We are going to give you the summary that is given in this paragraph, and the next time we are able to meet together, we will elaborate on this summary. The summary is given in verse 16; this is the relationship that you must maintain to the Holy Spirit if you are going to find the answer to the question as a believer, “How can I keep from sinning. How can I have the victory?”:

Galatians 5:

16This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

The Command to Walk in the Spirit

Let me give you those words again: “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” I like to describe this verse in a twofold way. I like to suggest that first it contains an order; and after the order, it contains a guarantee. The order is: Walk in the Spirit. I say that is an order. It may not appear so in our English text; and the way a great many of us live, you would think it is an option. You would think that God is saying something to us like this: “Do you want to be a good Christian? Well, I will tell you how to be a good Christian. Walk in the Spirit. But if you don't want to be a good Christian, don't worry about it.”

That is the way most people interpret it, but that is not the way it is written. It is written in what we have referred to—and I trust the phrase has become familiar—the imperative mode, which means that it is a direct command. There are no ifs and ands about it. God says to you as a Christian, “Walk in the Spirit. That is My order.” You don't walk in the Spirit only if you feel like it; you don't walk in the Spirit only if you want to. You walk in the Spirit because God commands every believer to walk in the Spirit.

The word walk is a word that describes your behavior. It describes your manner of life. It describes your mode of living. What is He saying? He is simply saying this: “Are you a Christian?” ”Yes, Lord, I am a Christian.” “All right; here is My command for you: Order your life in the Spirit.”

An Illustration

This phrase, “in the Spirit,” is written in Greek in what we call the locative of sphere. If you were going to illustrate it, you could draw a big circle and you could call that yourself. In that circle, you could put a dot and you could call that yourself. As that dot moved around in that circle, it would be moving in the Spirit. As that dot moved around in the circle, it would mean that you were moving in the Spirit.

You notice that I did not put that dot in any one particular place. We are inclined to do that. Some of us put that dot right over close to the rim so that they, the individuals, would be very close to the Spirit, and some of us would put it way down where the individuals wouldn't be so close to the Spirit. I say we have developed that habit, but that is foreign to the Scripture. You are either in the Spirit or not in the Spirit. You are either walking in the Spirit or you are not walking in the Spirit.

If you wanted to emphasize that, you might express it this way: Walk in complete dependence upon the Holy Spirit. Or you might want to say, walk at the direction of the Holy Spirit. That is an order. Remember that. It is not an option; it is an order.

The Guaranteed Result

What is the guarantee? To me this guarantee is wonderful. Look at it in verse 16:

Galatians 5:

16This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

Walk in the Spirit; this is the guarantee: ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

Keep in mind that the rivalry is going on. Here is the Holy Spirit. Here is the flesh. The flesh says, “Joe Temple, come do this,” and I am pulled this way. The Holy Spirit says, “No, don't do it. Come this way.” So I seesaw back and forth. I don't need to. When the flesh says, “Joe Temple, come do this,” all I need to say is, “Holy Spirit, what should I do?” He takes the Word of God and says, “According to the Word of God, this is what you should do.” So I say, “Amen; I will walk the way the Holy Spirit tells me to walk.”

What does God say? God says, “I guarantee you that if you do that, you will not fulfil the lust of the indwelling sin. You won't have to obey what sin is pulling you to do.”

The Meaning of Fulfil

The word fulfil is the translation of the Greek word teleo , which really means “to fulfil” or “to bring to completion by your actions.” I want you to get that because the lusts of the flesh are going to be there. I am not going to try to describe the lusts of the flesh. There is not time to talk about all of them. But if you have an urging to do something that is related to the flesh, don't think that there is something wrong with you. The only man I know who does not have an urge to do something wrong is a man who is dead, physically. If you have the urge to do something wrong, don't worry about that. The guarantee is that the Holy Spirit will see to it that you will not, by your actions, bring to completion the desire that you have. There is nothing unusual about having the desire. The Holy Spirit will see to it that you are not able to bring it to completion. That is God's guarantee.

Conclusion

Why do I use the word guarantee ? Because in the original text, the language is so strong that I have to. It is not evident in our English text, but in the Greek text there is what we call a double negative . In English, if you have a double negative, you have a positive, but in Greek you don't; you have something that is so emphatic that there can be no question that it will be carried out. You can actually read verse 16 this way: “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not, ye shall not, fulfil the lust of the flesh.” That is pretty strong, isn't it? But no stronger than the power of God.

You ask the question, “How can I keep from sinning?” My answer is: Walk in the Spirit. That is how you can keep from sinning. I am sure you have another question, and it is, “How do I walk in the Spirit?” We will just have to leave that until the next time we meet together.


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