Living By the Spirit
Last week Mike McKee spoke on Acts 1-2 and the power of the Spirit sending us out. I have been wanting to talk on the power of the Spirit in us, but focus more on what we are to look like on mission. We go in power and boldness to share with others, but there is another side of it. Power often leads us to think we can do whatever we want however we want. Like superhero or John Wayne coming into a fight. There another side, a softer side in some ways, but a softer side that takes real power. When we go in the power of the Spirit but the Spirit also bears other fruits. Fruits that are just as power demonstrating as boldness in speech, and they are just as necessary. God calls us to be bold and daring in our mission, but we are not to be restless rogues boldly doing whatever we want.
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 walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:16-26 ESV)
3 things this passage teaches about living by the spirit.
- The Walk
Walk by the Spirit means. This can be a bit confusing. What does it mean to walk by the Spirit? But there is an immediately clear benefit to understand.
As you walk, you are not alone. We have a Spirit by which we walk. The Spirit is a person (John 15:26). This Spirit is beside you, it is in you, and you are in him. How encouraging to know!
The Christian life is a walk. Not a Sprint where you run so fast for a short period and stop. It’s not a sit or even a crawl where your progress is minimal. It’s a walk. A slow methodical, deliberate means of getting from the place you are to the place you want to be. That is the Christian life. That is also the nature of church plants and replants. Our progress is going to be slow. But we are determined. Patient. Persistent.
What does it mean to walk by the Spirit? Some think it is a “use the force” mentality. Think about what you want, become one with it, and then make the force get you what you want. That is not what it means to walk by the Spirit.
Paul has been talking about what obedience cannot gain you. The churches in Galatia were having problems and that is why Paul wrote this letter. They were seeking to be made right with God through their own actions and ceremonies. Obedience does not do that. No amount of rule keeping, law abiding, can make you right with God. Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you keep the law (Gal 3:5)? No! He does it because you believe in Christ. It’s by faith. This is how we are to walk.
This is how we walk. The Spirit will lead you in all truth, the Spirit testifies to truth, The Spirit leads you to God’s will, it magnifies it. The spirit acts like a light It illumines our path helping us to discern what and where we should go. It often illuminates God’s word to us. It illuminates the law and God’s word and helps us live by it.
So why not just say it is obeying the law. Because you can’t sum up a true relationship with God by mere obedience to the law. Just like you can’t sum up my relationship to Amanda merely by the vows i made to her on my wedding day. I promised i would never leave her, would love her in sickness and in health. I m going to do those things, but our relationship is more than that. It involves a cherishing of her.
All the Acts of the sinful nature are directly forbidden in the law of God. All the fruits of the Spirit are directly encouraged by the law, but even more they are the product of God blessing people. Notice the fruit of the Spirit. It goes well above what rule keeping can do. You can keep all the rules and not have peace. You can keep the rules and not have love. God sets us free from the law not so we can disregard or live in bondage under it but so we can soar above it.
Ill; difference in attitude when we have to do something and when we get to do something. When I was in high school i hated it. I had a hard heart. I was not focused on serving God. I also didn’t and still don’t do well being micro managed. I like to take something and run with it. But back then I wasn’t as good at running with things. But when a teacher stood over me and said you will do your homework or else. Now when I got to college I realized that attitude got me nowhere and I needed to change. But I also loved walking into a class of 300 people, looking at my professor and knowing he has no idea who I am, no one cares if I don’t do my work, and I gladly did my work. I was freed from task masters. That was a work of God! My heart changed. It reflects the life of the spirit.
This is what God calls all of us to, and what Christ makes a way for, but not all live by it. Even those who want to don’t always do it. The reason is that we have a fight. There is a resistance.
- The Fight
The works of the flesh are against the spirit. The spirit is against the flesh.
Every person experiences this opposition. Everyone know they should do certain things and shouldn’t do others, and they want things they often fall short of it.
If I were to put these two lists up side by side and ask which do you want, I think most people would choose the fruits of the Spirit. But we experience it much less than we would like.
While all people experience this opposition, I think there is something particular with Christians. When you choose to follow Christ you choose a clear path going against the Spirit. Illustration: Think about the neutral countries during WWII. The minute they chose a side, they were attacked by the opposing side. When you give allegiance to one side, there will immediately be a fight from the opposition.
J.C. Ryle, “The real Christian is known by his inner warfare.” From Holiness, chapter “The Fight.” We are known by our fight, by our resistance, not by our perfection.
It is not nearly so concerning what Satan is doing as much as what is going on inside you.
Fruits of Sinful nature
Phanero: pertaining to being widely and well known - 'well known, widely known.' something that is clear, public, that everyone knows. You don’t have to have the Bible memorized to recognize these things are problematic.
The works of the flesh. It's our carnal desires. Lets briefly discuss some these.
Could categorize this into realm of purity, devotion, community.
sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, orgies,(Gal 5:19 ESV); drunkenness, (Gal 5:21 ESV).
This certainly pertains to not defiling the marriage bed. But it goes well beyond that. It includes any kind of sexual behavior outside of marriage. Some translations call it impurity, licentiousness. It pertains to physical acts, window shopping, internet surfing.
Drunkenness. We are to be sober minded in all we do. Rom 13:13. Conduct ourselves properly as those who live in the light. Sex, drink, pornography are often what people turn to for comfort, help, support. It you don’t have Christ and dont have the Spirit this is what you are left with. But there is something so much better than these!
- Idolatry, sorcery, (Gal 5:20 ESV)
- Brazen worship of other god’s. Dont worship Muhammed, dont worship the Greek pantheon, the Hindu consort- Vishnu or Brahman, not the Canaanites God of Baal nor the Egyptian god Ra. But you also dont bow down to the God of God and Fame or the idol of self. False worship is having anything other than God as your ultimate. American’s may scoff at the idolatry of of ancient cultures who worship lifeless Gods of metal and gold, but then they sell themselves to the untouchable numbers on the screens of their bank accounts. Those ancient cultures would no doubt scoff at what we serve today!
- Sorcery is the meddling with evil powers. God gives you everything you need for life and Godliness. There is a spiritual realm, and the forces of evil will tempt you in whatever way they can to doubt God’s goodness and sufficiency. Don’t give in. Turning to ouija boards, tarot cards, psychics, etc is all a vote of no confidence in God.
- Community. These are things we do with other people. (Gal 5:20 ESV).
- Enmity:of hostile feelings and acts animosities, discord, feuds
- Anger: passion, angry heat; anger that boiling up and soon subsiding again or indignation which has arisen gradually and become more settled; whether impassion yelling or a gradual building of resentment and grudge. Both reflect an angry person.
- Divisions:dissensions arising from diversity of opinions and aims. of a separatist group characterized by loyalty to a certain school of thought and practice sect, party, school. “for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. (1Co 11:19 ESV).
- Dissension: strife, debate, discord (RO 1.29); plural quarrels,
- Rivalry: denoting an attitude of self-seeking, selfish ambition, self-interest, rivalry
Most of these fruits take place in the context of other people. Being around other people manifests what is going on in your heart. For good or bad. If you walk with people who are not committed to follow God they are going to influence you. What do two people with lax standards of purity do- they sin. This is where hate, anger, etc comes about.
The problems of the Galatians. Biting and devouring. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. How do you destroy a church? One bite at a time. How do you ruin a marriage? One bite at a time. How do you destroy a small group or a dance team? One bite at a time.
I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal 5:21 ESV) But this isn’t the end of the church. There is another side. And it is beautiful!
Fruits of Spirit
“While our flesh ‘glorifies’ and adores and lusts after all kinds of created things and conditions and people, the Spirit ‘glorifies’ and yearns for Jesus.”
Love: the highest Christian virtue. An disposition of intense affection, devotion, and commitment. We are to love. We are to let people know we care about them. Luke on couch.
Joy: it is the cheerful behavior towards our fellow men. as a feeling of inner happiness rejoicing, gladness, delight.
Peace: opposite po,lemoj. Freedom from worry. When I think of peace I think of a calm tranquil pond that invites you to restfully sit next to it. The opposite of a sea in the midst of a storm. When the waters of our heart rage it results in war to others, but if our hearts are at peace so too are all those around us. In Christ you can have the internal peace even when the external environment is raging; that is a powerful message to share w others!
Long suffering: forbearance. long nose. Slow to anger. Is gentleness of mind which disposes us to take a everything in good part, not to be easily offended. I think this is one that being in the church, or committed to others helps you cultivate. I know so many people who get frustrated with others and pull away. The tendency to get offended by something, don’t say a word, and distance yourself.
-as a state of emotional quietness in the face of unfavorable circumstances patience, long-suffering; (1) as patience under trial endurance, steadfastness (HE 6.12); (2) as constraint exercised toward others forbearance, patience
Kindness: benevolence. Generosity.
Goodness: willingness to give or share, generosity
Faithfulness: as a decision to be faithful and loyal to the Christian religion promise, pledge, commitment. fidelity, faithfulness, i. e. the character of one who can be relied on: of one who keeps his promises.
There is no law against these because the law is meant to restrain and deter, but no deterrent is needed here. You can’t make a law to do these. You can’t demand these. And note that most of these are not displayed except in hardship! What is faithfulness if there is no pull away. What is patience if there is not irritation? HOw strong is love if it is not tested by hate and indifference. What is peace if every day is a day at the beach? Any one can demonstrate peace at a beach (as long as they dont have kids in the water!). But your are going to best testify God’s amazing work when challenged. I don’t pray for easy. I don’t pray for no challenges, and my prayer for you is not that you have a pain free life; I do pray for that but my main concern is that you live well, faithfully, demonstrating these fruits even in challenging times. That is a testimony to the Spirit who is at work in you.
These are the fruit of knowing Christ. When you know his love you want to extend it to others, when your heart is at peace you maintain that peace in difficult situations. When you know his kindness you are quicker to share and be generous. When you know his blessing you do not get angry, mad, or divisive when someone differs with you.
The fruit of the Spirit is not just the icing on the cake. It is the cake. It is what life with Jesus is all about. When you know him you know love. You know peace. You know patience. This is the new life he brings and I want us to be a church that is overflowing with that new life.
Our duty in this fight is to crucify the flesh. Its says we have crucified the flesh. It is aorist tense. Meaning it is in the past tense. It has been done. When people were crucified they were nailed to a cross and left to gradually die. Guards were placed there not to kill the people but to keep others from interfering with the process. Galatians says our flesh has been crucified, when we believed in Christ our flesh was nailed to its death, but it is a gradual death, and we ought not to let it revive. We ought not to pity it. For the crucifixion of our flesh is the liberation of our Spirit. When you go against the flesh you feel the goodness in your Spirit.
Crucify, a graphic way to state the intensity we put to death the flesh. The rejection of our former nature should be merciless. Past year, because of the Lymes bacteria. I had to cut back on every kind of food. No wheat and no sugar. I have realized how much I tend to take refuge in food. Every time I walk by the pantry or go out to lunch I want to say, “It’s ok I need a little break.” But I have to remember there is an enemy within, there is a bacteria that is warring inside and I have to fight it. I feel the need to indulge/coddle my flesh, but that feeds the enemy. Same thing happens in the spiritual realm when we keep putting of doing our devotions, sharing the gospel, reaching out, being faithful to what God calls us to do.
I think one of our greatest dangers in the church today is to get lulled to sleep. To feed on over indulgence.
The wealthy living in democracies are, therefore aiming at the satisfaction of their slightest needs rather than excessive pleasures; they gratify a host of small desires but do not wallow in any disorderly passion. Thus they sink into self-indulgence rather than outright debauchery…. My complaint against equality is not that it leads men to pursue forbidden pleasures but that it absorbs them completely in the search for those which are allowed. Thus a kind of honorable materialism could be founded in the world which would not corrupt men’s souls but would soften them and silently loosen the springs of their actions.” Alexis de Toqueville
I think this is the danger for the average person in the church today. You are not tempted with murder or physically sleeping with another, but there is an engrossing of lesser sins. There is an over indulgence in good things, and it makes you soft, weak. We have to put it to death. We have to smother it. Kill it. In the words of Galatians… crucify it. The death of the flesh is the life of the spirit.
Are you communing with Christ? If not then you are losing the battle for your soul. I want to challenge you to read and pray for 30 minutes a day this week. What does your spiritual diet consist of. Are you starving yourself of good substance? You will not be the father, mother, student, salesman, manager you want to be if you are malnourished. If you have too much to do then you have already lost.
- The Glory
The fruits of the Spirit are best displayed in the midst of people, and often challenging situations. I think it is best seen and cultivated in the church.
The meshing of church. I m not one who came quickly to the decision to plant or lead a church. I had other things I did and thought about. But one of the things that drew me to it was to see How the church uniquely, in its organization and mission, accomplishes the purposes of God.If you want to grow in your relationship with God get involved in the church. If you want to grow in the fruit of the spirit get involved in the church of God.
It is the display of the manifold wisdom of God. Yes there are outbreaks of the flesh, but the Spirit is triumphing, and it is glorious. The peace and love that are in the midst of differences.
Embrace the mess of life. This week we were eating dinner and I was helping one of the kids eat. He had something I didn’t have so i proceeded to take a bite. Unfortunately he bumped my hand and the food fell on the table. When that happened my lovely wife said, “Don’t drop food on the table. But it felt like “DON’T DROP FOOD ON THE TABLE!!! So I politely said, “I DIDN’T MEAN TO DROP FOOD ON THE TABLE!!!!! Dinner got quiet. :-) I blew it. The flesh rising up inside. So I turned to her and said, “I m so sorry i got mad at your for that comment. Will you forgive me.” She said yes, and then said, “I’m sorry I got irritated. Will you forgive me?” We are a mess, but God’s Spirit is at work. We are changing in the messiness of life. Peace is conquering anger. Patience is growing.
Differ with people in the Spirit of God. Correcting/challenging/questioning. Don’t stifle. Dont assume you know their hearts? Ask why someone did something before you tell them to change. Seek to understand. Share what they did well and help them see where they can change. Pixar quote: constructive criticism is an art form. With the later you are constructing at the same time you are criticizing. Build them up.
Yield yourself to the Spirit of God. Relish in the Spirit of God. You have an inheritance. V21. klhronomein signifies to possess by hereditary right. You are a son of the king and as such you have a right to his kingdom. His good, glorious, unshakable, never ending kingdom. That is what roots your peace, your hope, fuels your kindness and generosity. When you see how good, loving, gracious and compassionate you are it causes you to want to share that with others.
- What fruits of the Spirit do you most want to grow in? What works of flesh do you most struggle with? Do you have someone that you can openly share your struggles with and pray together?
- What is the source and cause of the fruit of the Spirit? Where do most people look for these if not in Christ?
- How have you seen Christians exemplify these and what glory does it bring to God?