In his classic sermon, The Expulsive Power of a New Affection, Thomas Chalmers, a well-known 19th century Scottish preacher, described a principle for moving beyond unwanted habits. His secret was to replace old desires with new more appropriate desires. It is a principle I believe Paul is indirectly referring to in this verse. Paul writes that if we are actively walking by the Holy Spirit, that is, listening to the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit as we go through our day, we will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
Each of us has desires that are not exactly God honoring. Even as physicians, we can become entrapped by these desires that seem to control us rather than the reverse. When faced with unwanted desires, we usually focus our efforts to resist them. Chalmers suggests that instead, we replace those ungodly desires with a desire to love, please and serve God. It is a radically different approach.
At first, this may seem impractical or may not even make sense. Think back to your childhood and how you loved to do certain things. However as time passed, that love was replaced by a new affection. It is the same concept. If the Lord is the most beautiful and perfect being in the universe, our love for Him should surpass any fleshly desire that strives to control us.
Paul describes this as walking by the Spirit. Walking by the Spirit is far more than simple obedience. It is walking in fellowship with the Spirit. It is going through our day aware of the presence of the Spirit with us. It is being aware of all that the Lord has given us, being thankful and expressing our love for Him through the day. As you begin to fully experience what it means to walk by the Spirit and experience His presence, you will notice that your love and affection for the Lord will grow, and at the same time, the desires of the flesh that previously were so strong will weaken and gradually melt away.
Prayer: Lord, help me to learn what it means to walk by your Spirit, to fall more in love with you, so that I don’t satisfy my fleshly desires.