My sister commented the other day that she didn't know that we were suppose to have a relationship with the Lord until well into her twenties. This came as quite a shock to her and since then, her life hasn't been the same. This is because, growing up in a mainline denomination we learned rules, regulations and doctrines. We never learned the full extent of God's love towards us. Nor did we learn faith or that God wants a personal intimate relationship with us. Instead, learning rules at a young age only propelled us into the category of those who cannot please God, because when we live a life of works, controlled by the flesh, we will never be acceptable on that basis.
Paul is contrasting the difference between living in the world, bound by the fleshly desires or living according to the Spirit of God, to experience the freedom that was given us in Christ Jesus. If we are living in the flesh catering to the appetites and impulses of our carnal nature we will never satisfy God. While this is true for unbelievers, this is also true for Christians. If we are focused on what we can do for God then our works takes the focus off Jesus and what he did and put the balance upon us. It is impossible to be acceptable this way, because we are living once again according to our previous sin nature, according to the dictates of the flesh instead of living by faith. God wants us to be free of that.
Hebrews 11:6 says, "...without faith it is impossible to please God..." ( Hebrews 11:6 ). It takes faith to please God and faith is just a natural response to his grace. Through relationship with him, we continually learn who God is in a real way. He shows us marvelous things through his Word. He speaks these truths into our hearts. He brings understanding to our mind. Through understanding this grace he pours out upon us, we naturally response in faith. Relationship and faith is the effortless way to live according to the Spirit.
God is a spirit and we have to interact with him on a spiritual level, that is why he gave us our born again spirit at salvation and that is why he gave us faith. Jesus revealed a marvelous truth in John chapter 4 when he was speaking to the women at the well. "Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." ( John 4:23-24 ). He revealed so many things in this passage but the main thing is that he revealed to us that God was a spirit. Up until this time worship was done with types and shadows of what was coming. Now Jesus told the women that the time was now here with they would experience the fullness of worship as God had always designed it to be. God wants to interact with you spirit to spirit because He is spirit. That is why we need to be born again, so we can worship in spirit and truth.
After learning this, we see why Paul says it is impossible for those controlled by the sinful nature to please God. We must approach him and response to him in faith. He has given us a new spirit so that we can access him on a spiritual level. He has also given us the Holy Spirit as our guide in all things to lead us continually into this truth. When we live according to him then our minds are set upon the things He desires and we live the victorious life that was bought and provided free of charge for us. Today, may you worship the Lord in both spirit and truth. May you respond to his grace by faith. May you understand how to please him by living in the spirit. Amen!