So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. (Gal. 5:16)

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. (Gal.5:16)
There is a difference between utter depravity and total depravity. I was never utterly depraved. To be utterly depraved is to be as morally corrupt as you can possibly be. Utterly depraved people are the ones who have little or no moral conscience.
Even after becoming a Christian, we discovered that the capacity to do a sinful thing always lurks just on the flip side of my new nature. Whether it is lust or pride or losing our temper, we have the capacity to commit any particular sin at any time. This is total depravity. Utter depravity is to continuously sin; total depravity is the ever present capacity to sin. Total depravity is not that we are as wicked as we could possibly be, but that we are capable of wickedness at any time.
A Christian’s good character is the character of Jesus breathed into each of us by the Holy Spirit. Once we stop allowing the Spirit to fill us with power, sin leaks in from our old nature. Accepting our total depravity (our capacity to sin) is essential to living a victorious Christian life. If we presume that when we become Christian we are now good, we have missed the point. Jesus Christ shed His blood to forgive our sin, not to remove our sin. We have a continuing sinful nature which requires us to guard our heart and mind. We must post a twenty-four-hour guard at the gate to our mind.
We are not essentially good in the temporal world. Until we are glorified with Christ in heaven, we have a dual nature. Like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, these two natures coexist in our minds. When we became Christians, we received a new spiritual nature, but we also kept our old sinful nature. Each day, even each moment, we make the choice to live by the Spirit or the sinful nature. (reread the verse above) Two natures beckon us to their way of living. By the Spirit, the disciple lives according to the new nature. And unless we continually walk in the Spirit, constantly appropriating His power, our spirit will shrivel up like a grape.
The key is to focus on the positive instead of the negative. “Live by the Spirit.” That is the positive, and then you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. God did not say, “Do not sin, and you will live by the Spirit.” He said, “Live by the Spirit and you will not sin.” This is a huge difference. The action point for the Christian is to focus on doing the right thing, not on avoiding the wrong thing. The former is living by grace; the latter is living by law.
Every Biblical Christian has the desire to be obedient. But how do we pull that off? Our effort must be Spirit-aided, not in our own strength. You cannot keep from sinning, but you can rely upon the Holy Spirit to produce His fruit in you. Have you focused on not sinning, or living by the Spirit? We are not utterly depraved, but we are totally depraved. No part of our character is without capacity to sin. Only the Spirit can strengthen us to overcome the desires of the sinful nature which constantly beckon.
In His Service,
Eric Barnes