16Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.19Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
The key difference between living under the Old Covenant vs. living under the New Covenant for the Apostle Paul is the reality of the Spirit's indwelling. Under the OC, the Spirit did not indwell anyone. At best, the Spirit was "upon" or "with" people, but never inside them. Therefore the Torah (the Law of God) stood outside the people of Israel as a guide and standard, but the Law itself did not possess the power to transform Israel since the core issue of people's sinful nature was not confronted nor overturned.
The hope of transformation came only with the advent of the Indwelling Spirit. And with the indwelling Spirit came the real possibility of transformation. The fruit of the Spirit is, therefore, none other than the Spirit's producing in our lives the righteousness of God that characterizes God. The Holy Spirit cannot help but bring God's character into our lives. Much of this work is not up to us: that is, it is not a voluntary work. It is not something we can produce by our own efforts since the righteousness of God is not intrinsic to our nature.
But we do have a role to play. Although we cannot bring righteousness about, we can nevertheless hinder the growth of this transformation. A sort of negative power we possess. The Holy Spirit does not overtake any of us regardless of our will and desire. It is not like we can become "Spirit-possessed" like a person who can become, without Christ, "demon-possessed." That is why Paul encourages the Galatians to "live by the Spirit" (literally "walk by the Spirit"). The Holy Spirit brings freedom to live out a righteous life, along with the intimacy that the Spirit brings in our relationship to God.
Sadly we can choose to go back to our old habits of our old way of life, living according to the "flesh" (sarx). To do so of course goes completely against what Christ offers us: a new life in God. It is beyond stupidity from God's point of view. He offers us eternal life full of joy, love, and freedom and we choose the way of sin and death. That is why Paul says in verse 24 that those who belong to Christ (should) crucify the flesh with its passions and desires. The goods of the Spirit that we can experience come at the expense of denying the pleasures associated with the flesh. We are called to crucify such passions and desires. The fact that the old passions and desires are so fun and pleasurable of course entices us to keep them hidden in our desk drawer, so to speak, to bring out later to enjoy them here and there. Compromise in this case is also costly. We lose ground on our transformation. We stay immature and fleshly. Not a pretty sight.
Let's pray: Father God, we thank you for all that we inherit as children of God with the reality of the indwelling Spirit. Intimacy, knowledge, peace, love, meaningfulness, satisfaction, joy, freedom, and so much more when the Holy Spirit infuses your character into our lives. An impossibility indeed has become more than a possibility. A reality that we can experience and enjoy. We pray that you would help us to understand that growth in you also requires our participation with you. That we are called to "mortify" the flesh. To kill off, to say No, to deny what was once full of fleshly fun. May we see things from a mature point of view. What's worth living for is all in you. Help us, O God. In Jesus' name, amen.