Paul divides people into two broad categories with this text. On the one hand are those who are led by their flesh and its desires. They are motivated by the world and what pleases themselves. On the other hand are those motivated by what pleases God and they follow the desires of the Holy Spirit. These he says are fundamentally incompatible.
For the one led by the flesh will find himself on the path to death. I’ve seen this in heroin addicts. As an extreme example, the heroin addict is addict to a substance that gives them extreme pleasure, but consumes the rest of their lives. Everything else is forfeit, family, relationships, job, personal health, everything is sacrificed for the sake of heroin. It is that powerful a god. But the god being served is self, because self demands the pleasure that comes from the substance. And often these end in overdosed and death. To a greater or lesser degree, every addiction to self, whether it be substances, lifestyles, work, and even family and church, all of these are pale imitations of what we really need, and this fail to satisfy.
So what were we made for, if none of these other things bring us life? We were made for God, and only God can satisfy our deepest needs. We need belonging. We need relationship. We need satisfaction and contentment. We need trust. We need truth. It’s not your typical needs list, is it? But imagine your life without them.
Every one is offered to a greater or lesser extent by the world. And the world fails to deliver, always demanding more. Yet God delivers on these needs from day one. When you have faith in Jesus Christ, the path of life become clear, and Jesus fills your heart with what you really need, the satisfaction you’ve longed for from all of earth’s pale imitations. With God you belong. With God you have peace and contentment. With God you have genuine, honest, loyal love. God will never lie to you. You may not like what He has to say, but God will always tell you the truth. It’s a powerful thing.
The path of following your own desires leads to death. The other path, following what God wants, leads to real living. There really are only two paths. Which one are you?