December 16, 2015

A Fierce Flourishing: Part II, Life in the Spirit

Back on October 29, I said that "tomorrow" I would share the second half of the talk I shared with our local MOPS group.  Today is that tomorrow!  You can read Part I here, in which I lay out the Gospel.  I reread it and felt renewed excitement about how much God has done for us through Christ - a perfect topic for reflection in the Christmas season.  I encourage you to start there, then come back to read this post.

Welcome back!  Isn't it amazing how much we receive freely from the Lord when we take Him at his Word and place our trust in Christ.  Today I want to expand on point number three: "We are filled with the Holy Spirit.  God empowers us to live for Him!"

The passage du jour for the talk was Galatians 2:13-25
13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. 
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

In the opening verses of this section, Paul reminds us of Christian freedom; we are free from sin and have unrestricted access to God.  Then he points out the new purpose we are given when we become a Christian: serve one another humbly in love.  This echos Jesus' words in John 13:34, A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
Side note: "Loving one another" includes the people we live with!  I am convinced that we can grow more spiritually under our own roofs than anywhere else.  At home our character is truly tested.  In fact, I never knew what a horrible person I could be until I got married, then had kids!  For fun, reread verse 15.  Don't some days at home feel like "biting and devouring"days!  Please tell me you know what I mean ... now, back to the post.
Life in Christ gives us new purpose, to love one another.  And it also introduces a battle.  The theme Fierce Flourishing captures this so well.  When we believe in Jesus a serious war begins within us, the old self (flesh) vs. the Spirit, our new identity in Christ.  The list in verses 19-21 manifests itself even under our own roofs and in our actions and reactions as moms, or whatever our occupation!  (This is why Jesus died on the cross, by the way.)

But the situation is not one of hopeless struggle till we get to heaven.  No, the new Spirit in us means we can become Fiercely Flourishing Christians, and moms.  The Spirit is the difference maker, the game changer, the hope giver!  If you are a Christian the Spirit of God LIVES IN YOU.  (Let that sink in a minute.)  So Paul gives three instructions for living by the Spirit and not being defeated in the new battle that is introduced into your life when you come to faith:
  1. WALK by the Spirit
  2. BE LED by the Spirit
  3. KEEP IN STEP WITH the Spirit
What do all these mean?  Generally speaking, they all imply activity, intentional movement away from the flesh toward God and others.  We must be learning the Spirit's way so we can walk in it: read the Bible, pray, hear the Word preached, attend Bible study.  We must be listening for the Spirit's direction to be led by Him.  And we must be quick to get back into step with the Spirit when we're out of step.  In short, a fierce flourishing does not come without engagement!  The Spirit will give us direction, strength, and wisdom to become fiercely flourishing people; engaging with Him is how we grow!

Do you long to to be the kind of person described in Galatians 5:22-23: loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled?  That is only possible as God works in us through His Spirit; we engage in the transformation process by walking, being led by, and keeping in step with Him.  The goal is not perfection, only in Christ are we made perfect.  No, friends, the goal is faithful engagement, one day at a time, with the Spirit of God who lives in us and can transform us, enabling us to flourish fiercely!

Here's a quick summary of the two parts of this talk, before I send you on your way:
  • Jesus is the only way we can have a right relationship with God and live eternally with Him - our biggest problem is solved!
  • A right relationship with God is the way our hearts and lives can be transformed into something new and good.
  • God puts His Spirit in us to help us in the battle that will wage in us against the flesh till we get to heaven.
  • We can only experience a fierce flourishing in the Christian life by engagement with the Spirit, starting right where we are, the goal being faithfulness, not perfection.

May this Christmas season be a new beginning for you!  May the Lord fill you with awe at His free gift of love to you in His Son, gratitude for the Spirit He has put in you to transform you, and hope that the fierce flourishing you're longing for can be found by engaging with Him.


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