16So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
19The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
These verses talk about a battle but also a promise of victory and peace.
The battle is because our sinful nature desires things that are contrary to the Spirit of God....and a list of examples is given (vs 19-21). This battle results in us not doing the things that we want.
I could take this verse two ways... I don't do the things my sinful nature wants or I don't do the things the Spirit wants. In the light of the more thorough discussion of these things in Romans 6-8 (especially 7:14-20) I take it that we don't do the things the Spirit wants.
Now this would be a serious problem (since "those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God") except Paul immediately tells us that if we are led by the Spirit then we are free from the law.
The standard of the law does not change, sin is still sin. The difference simply is that our guilt is now laid on Jesus and not on us. A cause for much gratitude on our part. And with such an example of self-sacrificing, giving before us, it's no wonder that "love" is the first fruit of God's Spirit.
Joy and peace follow next, as they should, because for us to be so forgiven and set free from our due guilt and then further, empowered to love as our Father loves, must surely be a source of great joy. And having been so forgiven (and in love forgiving one another) then we have peace. Both with God and with each another.
Love, joy and peace are hardly the kind of fruits one would expect in a struggle but we are on the side of victory. We no longer need to fear that our failure will separate us from God - Jesus has it covered.
Father. Thankyou for Your forgiveness and grace. Thankyou for giving us Your Spirit. Help us to realise that the way to really overcome the sin that our sinful nature draws us into is to be lead by your Spirit into Your love, joy and peace (and all the other fruits of your Spirit that flow from these). Help us truly understand that Jesus did not come to condemn but to save.