(we) live not according to the flesh but according to the spirit.
Today is the Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori. St. Alphonsus lived in the 18th century. He was a brilliant man and received his Doctor of Laws degree when he was only 16 years old. However, God had other plans for him. He eventually answered God's call to the priesthood. He had a long and profitable ministry in which he preached the word and wrote many books.
The life of St. Alphonsus illustrates the fundamental principle that we see in the verse above. He chose to live according to the Spirit, rather than according to the flesh. Most people in the position of St. Alphonsus would have chosen the prestige and prosperity of a lawyer. Instead, he laid it all aside in order to follow the Spirit's direction. This is what it means to live according to the Spirit and not the flesh.
The call to follow Jesus as a disciple is a radical one. It calls for death to our old way of living and a clean break from the principles of this world. A disciple lives with other values in view. He does not labor for money or fame. He labors to bless others and glorify God. He does not seek to accumulate wealth and possessions, he looks for opportunities to give them away. He does not turn a blind eye to the plight of the poor, or the oppressed. He labors to provide for them the things they need. He does not give in to the current wave of immorality, he stands for virtue and chastity. These are just some of the ways in which one finds himself living according to the Spirit and not the flesh.
To do this is not easy. In fact, it is impossible- on our own. So God has provided His Spirit to live within us and guide our steps. He is the one who gives us the strength to live holy. To live according to the Spirit is to develop the ability to hear the Spirit's voice, and to follow His directions.
How can we do such a thing? It requires one thing- prayer. In prayer we encounter God. When we do, we see how contrary we have been living to His ways. We begin the process of reconciliation and the changes that become necessary if we are to continue to follow the Lord. More and more, we begin to learn to wait, to listen, and to commune with God. In this, we are being trained by the Spirit. As we respond, we will be walking in the Spirit. And so we will find ourselves living according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh.
Others around us will think that we are strange. They will say that we have lost our minds. They will call us fanatics, or worse. But this is just the point; we do not strive to win the applause of the world. We are working, rather, to have the approval of God.
Today, take some time to get alone with God. Allow Him to do a spiritual inventory on your life. See what things need to be dealt with. Do not be afraid of this experience. Then spend some time in silence and begin to learn what it is like when the Spirit speaks. And when He does, obey Him, no matter what. Then you will be living according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh.