St Paul's UMC
Sunday, June 12, 2022
  • Holy Spirit
  • Blest are They
  • Doxology
      • Galatians 5:16–26NIV2011

  • Recently, during a Bible Study at the County Detention Center, I was teaching on Jesus’ command to forgive others. This is a radical teaching, of course, and as several inmates pointed out - it is much easier said than done. One guy said “This is not how I was raised. I was taught that if someone hurts you, you retaliate or else you are looked at as weak.” Another inmate asked, “What if it was a family member who does something really bad to you, how are you expected to forgive that?”
    I think we can all relate to their responses. We know that Jesus commands us to forgive - but in reality, we tend to weigh the command against the level of the offense. For instance, during an argument, in the heat of the moment, a friend says something hurtful to you. After both of you have cooled down, your friend admits they were out of line and ask for forgiveness. That should be a no-brainer. But consider the greater offenses. Someone you love and trust completely does something that shatters your trust and causes you great harm. Or maybe you find out that a colleague at work has been undermining you and spreading lies in order to advance themselves. How can one be expected to forgive in those situations?
    The apostles teach us that we are able to fulfill the commands of God when we are filled with the Spirit of God.
    Thus we are able to do that which is unnatural to our sinful condition, that which goes against our ungodly desires and passions, but only when we are given new life in the Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ.
    It is in Christ that we are able to forgive in all circumstances. It is in Christ that we are able to love our enemies. It is in Christ, that we are able to avoid falling prey to temptation. We have the power and freedom to do so…when we pursue holiness and allow the fruits of the Spirit to grow in our lives.
    This is what we hear in Paul’s teaching this morning. He speaks to a spiritual battle that we all face on a daily basis.
    Galatians 5:17 ESV
    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.
    When Paul speaks of the flesh in this context, he is speaking to the sinful nature that a part of every man and woman. It is the part of us that rebels against God and wants to fulfill our own ungodly desires and passions.
    And when he speaks of the Spirit in us - he is talking specifically about the condition of born-again believers. The unbeliever lives fully in the flesh. But for the man or woman who has believed in Jesus, repented of their sins, and have been baptized in the Spirit - the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in them.
    This is not a situation where both the flesh and the Spirit are equal in power. Paul makes it clear in the opening line:
    Galatians 5:16 ESV
    But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
    So often, at least in my own walk, I tend to focus on my weakness as opposed to the Spirit’s strength. This is the Holy Spirit - the One who hovered over the waters at Creation, the One who breath to every creature. I tend to forget the power that I have living in me.
    Romans 8:11 CEB
    If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your human bodies also, through his Spirit that lives in you.
    So how do we plug into this resurrecting power? This power that brings full life?
    When we read this passage closely, we find that Paul uses four different but similar phrases in describing the Spirit-led life of a believer,
    1. walk in the Spirit (5:16)
    2. led by the Spirit (5:18),
    3. live by the Spirit (5:25)
    4. keep in step with the Spirit (5:25)
    These phrases describe a dynamic, active, right now relationship with the Spirit that gives us direction and purpose.
    If we are to conquer the self-indulgence and sinful desires that are constantly working against us, we need to be intentionally aligned with the Spirit.
    If I was ever to be so foolish as to want to climb Mount Everest - which has never been a consideration of mine, but for sake of illustration, let’s say I do, then one of the first things I would want to do is to find someone to who has done the climb before and survived, and hire them to be my guide. I would want them to show me what to do every step of the way. I would want them walking with me, leading me through the treacherous parts of the route, camped out right next to me on the mountain, making sure I was keeping in step with what they were doing. To go off on my own and try to find my own way to the top would be foolish and deadly.
    This is what I see in Paul’s teaching. It is exactly how Jesus taught his disciples. For three years, they walked with Jesus, they followed his lead, they lived with him, and they kept in step with Him. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is inviting us to do the same.
    This way of living is not a helpful suggestion for a better life. This is not something that we are to pursue half-heartedly. This is the call on each of us who have decided to follow Jesus.
    Jesus has given us a clear choice.
    Luke 14:27 NRSV
    Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
    In the letter to the Galatians, Paul is correcting those who have gotten out of step with the Spirit and is calling them back to the freedom that is found in Christ.
    Paul gives us a list of behaviors that indicate that one is living by the flesh, not a comprehensive list - but a pretty good sampling.
    Galatians 5:19–21 CEB
    The actions that are produced by selfish motives are obvious, since they include sexual immorality, moral corruption, doing whatever feels good, idolatry, drug use and casting spells, hate, fighting, obsession, losing your temper, competitive opposition, conflict, selfishness, group rivalry, jealousy, drunkenness, partying, and other things like that. I warn you as I have already warned you, that those who do these kinds of things won’t inherit God’s kingdom.
    I chose to use the Common English Bible translation here because I think it best conveys this warning with clarity. Other translations for example use liCENTiousness or sensuality - where here it is “doing whatever feels good.” That phrase best captures the spirit of our current culture. Also in this translation, we see “drug use and casting of spells” where in earlier translations it was simply “sorcery” or “witchcraft” - but if we look at the original Greek, we find the word “pharmakeia” which literally means “drug” and is where we get the word pharmacy. According to one commentary, “At times drugs were employed in the casting of spells and enchantments. Witchcraft conveyed the idea of black magic and demonic control often using drugs...” When I read this list as a whole, I can’t help but say to myself “this describes our current culture.”
    The danger is that it is tempting to read this list as a whole and say, “well that’s not me” - but it is not an all or nothing list. The works of the flesh are any of these, and others not even listed. Do I lose my temper? Do I ever get jealous? Is there evidence in my life of me gratifying the desires of my flesh?
    However, if we are living a Spirit led life, then there is going to be evidence of the presence of the Spirit, a different way of living, and it will be found in actions that are opposite of what Paul just listed.
    Galatians 5:22–23 ESV
    But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
    The law that Paul is referring to is the Torah - the Jewish law found in the Old Testament as given to Moses. It includes the Ten Commandments but many other laws as well.
    Romans 7:12 (ESV)
    ...the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
    The Law is holy, just and good, but, as testified in the history of the Israelites, we cannot keep God’s Law on our own, and the result is only sin and death for those who live under the Law.
    God gave the Israelites a sacrificial system to cover their sins - a means of grace. But it was only a temporary measure until Jesus arrived.
    Galatians 4:4–7 CEB
    But when the fulfillment of the time came, God sent his Son, born through a woman, and born under the Law. This was so he could redeem those under the Law so that we could be adopted. Because you are sons and daughters, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” Therefore, you are no longer a slave but a son or daughter, and if you are his child, then you are also an heir through God.
    What Paul is teaching and what I hope we can hear is that we are no longer under the law as children of God in Christ. Christianity is not a religion of hard fast rules - as it is unfortunately sometimes portrayed. It is not, “you are saved as long as you do this and don’t do that.”
    One can’t claim to be a Christian because they come to church every Sunday, put money in the plate, and try to treat everyone fairly.
    One becomes a Christian when they put their full faith and trust in Jesus and then cooperate with the Spirit’s leading in their lives.
    That is a conscious decision we need to make every day. The desires of our flesh are always working against us. So each day, we must rise, give thanks to the Father, and say, in essence:
    Holy Spirit walk with me.
    When a decision is before you. “Holy Spirit lead me.”
    When temptation comes your way, “Holy Spirit live in me - help me overcome.”
    When facing the challenges and obstacles of daily life, “Holy Spirit I am going to keep in step with you.”
    When this is the attitude of our hearts, when we are cooperating with the Spirit, then we will begin noticing the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.
    We will be more loving, joyful and will possess a peace about us. Our patience will increase, we will be kind and good to ourselves and others. We will be faithful, gentle and able to demonstrate self control.
    The fruits of the Spirit are not things that we must somehow conjure up and practice by our own determination. They are the fruit of an abiding relationship with God.
    If you are listening this morning and you feel convicted in your heart that more times than not, the desires of the flesh have control of your life, there is good news. You can turn it around. It starts with repentance. Lord, I am not walking with you, but I want to. Forgive me for selfishly following the desires of my flesh. From this day forward, I want to follow you. Come and live within me. Come Holy Spirit. Produce in me the fruits of your Spirit.
    If you are listening this morning and you are following Christ, you love him with all your heart, but you feel shame because in some way, shape or form you feel the desire of the flesh has the upperhand in your life - again, there is good news. Confess your sin and repent, even if it is the 77th time. Accept the freedom that Jesus has given you, you are not under the law, condemnation is not for you, he paid for your sin already.
    Ask the Holy Spirit to help you and then ask for a fellow brother or sister in Christ to walk with you. God has called us into community for a good reason - we need each other. Having someone you can be open and honest with and who will check on you from time to time is vital. If you need to start by talking with me, my door is open.
    I want to leave you with one more visual. If you ever drive pass our home you may notice two gardens. There is a small fenced pallet garden - maybe 8’x8’ next to our house. 4 shipping pallets serve as raised beds. Three tomato plants, a green pepper plant, squash, couple of heads of lettuce, and something that may just be a weed. Admittedly, we have not put a lot of time or effort into our garden. Krista occasionally waters it and pulls weeds - but for the most part, we let nature take it course.
    The next garden down belongs to our neighbors the Daniels. Theirs is a bigger garden with several rows of all sorts of produce. They spent a lot of time tilling and fertilizing the soil, using a sprinkler to water the plants, and they seem to enjoy working in the garden, weeding and tending to the plants. As a result, they have an abundant harvest of crops. They tell us all the time that if we need any produce, come over and pick something.
    We’ve never been able to reciprocate.
    The lesson:
    Minimal effort produces little fruit.
    But when you spend your time and energy doing what you love in cooperation with the Master Gardner you will enjoy a great harvest for yourself and others.
      • Galatians 5:17NIV2011

      • Galatians 5:16NIV2011

      • Romans 8:11NIV2011

      • Luke 14:27NIV2011

      • Galatians 5:19–21NIV2011

      • Galatians 5:22–23NIV2011

      • Galatians 4:4–7NIV2011

  • Shine Jesus Shine
      • 2 Thessalonians 2:16–17NIV2011

      • Romans 15:13NIV2011

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