Gal 5:17 For 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.
Years ago I was interim (temporary) pastor for a PCUSA (Presbyterian Church of the United States of America) church in Suffern, New York. While there I was part of a group of about 8 “conservative” pastors who met monthly. Most of the churches and pastors in the area were “liberal”, which means that they did not believe that a personal relationship with Christ was essential in order to live a Christian life. After about a year and a half of being in the pastors’ group one of the men surprised us all with a self-disclosure. He said, “I am a liberal. I serve in a liberal church and my theology is liberal. Do you know why I keep coming to this group? This is the only place where I find those who are genuinely living a Christian life. This is the only place I have experienced genuine love.” He was pointing out the fundamental flaw of liberal theology – we cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit without being born of the Spirit.
Our text says that the Spirit and the sinful nature are in conflict with one another. We all are born with a sinful nature and our sinful nature rules our life until we receive a new nature, that is, we are regenerated, born again. The person without the Spirit, who is dead in transgressions and sins, who has not been born again, produces by nature the acts of the sinful nature, which are sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.
In contrast to the old nature, the new nature, the new self, the new wineskin produces the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
We should not be amazed when those without the Spirit do things out of their sinful nature. Reformation flows out of transformation. Those who are spiritually dead can’t evidence what only living people can generate – the fruit of the Spirit. Our task as believers is to introduce to Christ those who are unregenerate so that they can have their sins forgiven and inherit a new nature. Our task is not to convince them to be better people, but to introduce them to the author of life. Transformational life is only possible with a new nature.