If you're just popping in on this November series, you can catch up here.
There's also a give-away in progress, get your name in the drawing here.
Today, considering Paul's words in Galatians 5:16-26, we will consider another aspect of living the holy life to which God calls us: repentance.
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
Boy, oh boy! There is so much to unpack here. I will do my best to be concise.
There is war raging inside you, Christian. If you are in Christ and belong to God, you can now live by the Spirit. The challenge we face this side of heaven, however, is that our sinful nature will daily try to take over. So if you feel conflicted at moments, like you have an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, you are experiencing normal Christian life. As Paul says, the Spirit and the flesh want very different things. The former, to honor and please God, the latter to please the evil one and itself. Oh yes, there is a war raging inside of you for ownership of your soul!
The acts of the flesh vs. the fruit of the Spirit. Because the sinful nature and the Spirit desire different things, their fruit looks different. I love that Paul says the acts of the flesh are obvious. They are, aren't they? You may not be into witchcraft or participating regularly in orgies, but have you hated, been jealous, or had a fit of rage this week? None of us can escape the truth: we are sinners and sin wants to occupy the throne of our hearts. (As an aside, when Paul says those who live like this, it's an habitual living, unwilling to let go of the lifestyle.) Paul contrasts the acts of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit, which are not acts, but rather, character traits: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We all want those, don't we? How does the Spirit grow such fruit in our heart?
Crucify the flesh by repenting and believing the Good News. Christ rescuing sinners from their sin and the condemnation of the law, reconciling them to God, is Good News! Paul has spent time in Galatians reminding them (and us) that they are free in Christ, but not free to do whatever they want. No, free to live unto God with joy, to pursue holiness without the burden being on getting everything right all the time! Verse twenty-four tells us how we can do that: mercilessly nailing our sin to the cross. John Stott draws this point out in his commentary on Galatians:
So Paul says, if we have crucified the flesh, we must leave it there to die. We must renew every day this attitude towards sin of ruthless and uncompromising rejection. ... The first great secret of holiness lies in the degree and the decisiveness of our repentance. If besetting sins persistently plague us it is either because we have never truly repented, or because, having repented, we have not maintained our repentance. ... We have crucified the flesh; we are never going to draw out the nails. (p 151-152)Why do we daily renew our commitment to keeping sin OUT? Because our Savior bled and died to rescue us from the same fate. Praise the Lord! How do we do so? Glad you asked!
Walk in the Spirit's way! Christians let go of their sin and have a new way to walk in, the Spirit's! The sinful nature is dethroned and a new King sits there. We look to the Spirit! Stott says:
If it is vital to be ruthless in turning away from the things of the flesh, it is equally vital to be disciplined in turning toward the things of the Spirit. (p 153)
God calls us to shut the door on the old way and walk in a new one, the path He has laid out for us. The path He has equipped to walk in, by coming to dwell in our hearts by His Spirit. As we repudiate sin and keep the Spirit on the throne, His fruit is cultivated in our lives and begins to flourish. You know those Christians for whom godliness seems to come naturally and (gasp!) joyfully? Yeah, I think they got these ideas a long time ago!
* * *
Well, [clears throat] I don't know about you, but I have some nailing of sin to the cross I need to recommit to this morning: - lack of self-control, fits of rage, worry, earthy pleasures - and a heart-throne I need to make open and comfortable for my Lord. You, too?
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:16-21