Dying To Live
As we come into this part of our series on walking in the Spirit, it might be helpful for a quick review of the main points covered so far in our text. First, we believers are called to freedom! Freedom from the jurisdiction of the law. We are accepted by God, NOT on the basis of our performance, but rather by grace, through faith. Second, if we are to live this Christian life we must live it by the power of the Spirit. Paul calls this "walking" in the Spirit. He guarantees that if we will walk in the Spirit, we will NOT fulfill the lusts of our flesh (that stinking indwelling sin!). He tells us that the reason this is true, is because of how vastly different they are! The flesh and the Spirit are opposites and you can't be "walking" in one and the other at the same time. Third, we further examined the differences between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. They are obviously different, no question!
So then, as we come to this fourth part of our series, we will cover something that is EXTREMELY important to our Christian walk. The next verse in the passage is super important. It is Gal. 5:24.
"And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires."
Notice the belonging! Those who belong to Christ - who is that? Well, go back to verse 13, and we find out that these are the "brothers" or those who have been called by God! This is such an important connection that Paul makes. Our belonging to Jesus is reminiscent of part 1. We are secured by His calling and His love! Think about what it means to belong to Jesus Christ. According to Ephesians chapter 1:11,18 we are the glorious inheritance of God! In other words we are his special, unique treasure that He is making beautiful! We are owned by Jesus! In a similar context to Galatians 5, in Romans chapter 8, Paul states that "anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ, does not belong to Him." This changes everything! If we are owned by Christ, we can be secure that He will not misplace us, or misuse us. He will not replace us, or abuse us. He has plans for us, He delights in us. He loves us!
We might ask the question, when did He buy us? The answer was earlier in Galatians. Chapter 2 verse 20 states that 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ died on a cross. In His death, we also died! We had nothing to do with this death! We have been crucified with Jesus! This means that we were united with Him in His death! We were made one with Him by Him. How do we know we belong to Christ? Have you ever put your trust in His death and His work that he accomplished on the cross for you 2000 years ago? If you have put your trust in His work, then He owns you! But his ownership is gracious and kind and loving.
As we continue in this passage, consider the rest of verse 24. Much different than 2:20, in this passage we are the ones who are doing the crucifying. What are we crucifying and when did it happen? We are putting to death our flesh, and it took place when we repented of our sins and put our faith in Jesus death! When we chose to believe in Jesus Christ, we were choosing to set our hearts and our affections and our lives in submission to His! Our desires and passions are not submitted to Him! Death, had to happen! He died so we could live, and now we must live by dying! Repentance is not just a one time act! Often people think that if they prayed the prayer when they were 5, it means that they are guaranteed a place in heaven! NO! The emphasis in the Bible is never, "Did you believe?" The emphasis is "Do you believe right now?" I believe that Jesus Christ is my master! I believe He loves me! I believe He owns me! I believe He forgives me! Because of His death, I live! This is the attitude and the belief of a genuine believer!
This however, must continue. So, you might say that all of the Christian life is repentance! It is a continuing to bring all passions and desires into submission to the One who loves and owns you! That is what Christians do day by day moment by moment! The Christian life is a life that is lived out in the moments! Every moment, we die to our own selfish passions and we live for the passions and desires of the One who owns us and bought us with His very blood! This is the essence of walking in the Spirit! It is to day by day, yield to the desires of the indwelling Spirit, through faith!
In Chapter 3, Paul asked the Galatians, if they received the Spirit by faith or works. The answer is by faith. Then Paul says, "so why then do you think you are made perfect (sanctified) through self effort?" What Paul is emphasizing, is that your own efforts to put to death your desires are not enough! You need to put to death your desires as a result of having the Powerful desires of the Holy Spirit within you! Desires must be fought with greater desires! Loving what the Holy Spirit loves, is what enables you to deny yourself! This is why the ownership of Jesus is so significant! If we are owned by Jesus, then we have the Holy Spirit. If we have the Holy Spirit, then we can learn to love Jesus more than our sin! We can learn to delight in the things that delight Him! As we learn to find joy because of the presence of Jesus, we can say no to lesser passions and deceitful pleasures.
Walking In The Spirit - Part 1 of 6
One of the most impacting passages in my life in all of Scripture has been the book of Galatians. It was through the study of this book, and in particular chapters 5 and 6 that I began to see that a walk with Jesus was even possible. It was through this book that I saw what it meant to live for Jesus day by day. I hope that this series of messages and posts will help some find the joy and freedom of keeping in step with the Spirit of God.
At this point if you have not read the introduction to the book of Galatians found in this earlier post, please go and read it. It is foundational to understand what the context of the book is all about. Paul is writing to believers and encouraging them to understand their true freedom in Christ. Liberty and the purity of the Gospel is a big theme throughout this book. But what are we free from? Our study will begin for the most part in chapter 5 verse 13-15.
Freedom in the Spirit
"For brothers, you have been called to liberty, only don't let this freedom become a base of operation for your flesh, but instead love one another. For all of the law is fulfilled in this one statement, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." But, if you bite and devour one another, beware, you will consume each other."
Paul is talking to believers here and reminds them of their calling! This is so important! This calling, is part of understanding the Gospel! Whenever the Bible refers to "calling", it is in reference to God's act of salvation! God is the one who saves. We don't dial up God and tell Him we want Him, rather He calls us! This call is more like a summons than an invitation. Look at what we are called to; freedom or liberty! So, here is the obvious question; "What are we free from?" Usually when I ask that question people answer, "sin." While this is correct, that is not what this passage is referring to. This liberty or freedom that we are called to is directly related to how God views us! You see, God required perfection in order to obtain life. He requires completely holiness in order to see the Lord (Heb.12:13). So, for those of us who have fallen way way short of that (Rom. 3:23), there is tremendous pressure and a burden to try and keep the law in order to prove ourselves to God. But here is the thing. We can't! Have you ever tried to keep the law? Just try to love your siblings or your parents for 1 day without sinning. So, you could say that the law becomes a chain around us that holds us in complete bondage to sin and judgement from God! If God looks at us from the basis of the law, we are guilty and completely condemned! Here is where the game changer comes in! Because of Jesus Christ and the good news about what He has done on the cross, God no longer looks at us from the basis of the law, but rather on the basis of what Jesus accomplished for us! This is huge! This is absolutely freeing! What this means, is that I no longer have to worry about keeping the law in order to have a right relationship with God. Wait... did I seriously just say that? Yes... I did! We don't have to worry about keeping the law in order to have a good standing with God! We are free from the law!
Freedom can be dangerous!
This freedom can be dangerous! It can be abused! People can take the truth that we no longer have to keep the law in order to have God's approval, and use that as a launching point into all sorts of sins! Paul warns against this! However, that does not make the truth any less the truth! You are free! What you do with your freedom is very important! This is where we get to Paul's next phrase where he talks about the dangers of the "flesh." Yes, the flesh can take this freedom and abuse it. But, what exactly is the flesh? Paul uses this word in different ways in different places, so understanding its exact meaning is not super easy. To simply put it, Paul could be referring to physical flesh (i.e., skin, bones, blood, guts etc.), humanity, or he could be referring to the sinful part of us. This last option is the one dealt with in context. However, it is going to need more explanation.
Paul in Romans suggested that there is in every believer a law/principle (we will call it a truth) of sin that indwells us. It seems that what he is referring to when he says "flesh" is that part of us that even though we are saved, still craves sinful things. This "truth of indwelling sin" has one primary outlet - your physical desires. This is often referred to as the "lusts of the flesh." Sinful desires. Simply put Paul is saying that indwelling sin wants to use your free status as a base of operation to fulfill all its sinful desires! Paul says to not let the flesh do this! Don't let it leverage your freedom against you.
Freedom should be a blessing!
Instead of living for the indulgence of our sinful desires, we should rather love one another! This is so crucial to the Christian life. In some ways, the whole of the Christian life can be summed up by us loving God and loving others. That is what Jesus said isn't it? So, Paul reminds us of this very important truth! Our freedom should be governed by love! While it is true we don't have to keep any laws in order to have acceptance before God, our freedom should not be used to abuse people or to gain our own privilege, but instead, we can use our freedom as a place to love others! Get this, if we are truly free, then we can love without manipulation. We can love without trying to get something out of someone else! Isn't that awesome! Oh, we can love our parents, even when they don't let us get what we want. We can love someone not because they look us, or sound like us, but because we are completely free to do that! This freedom is a HUGE DEAL!
Putting it all together
So, what Paul is saying is that how God views us drastically changes how we view both ourselves, and others! It completely changes the game. We can no longer view ourselves in relationship to our performance! This means humility for the one who tends toward pride in her achievements. This means help and hope for the one who tends to live in shame of his failures. Acceptance with God is because of His gracious calling, not our performance!
This also changes how we view others. We tend to extend love and acceptance based on others performance of our standard of acceptability! If they sound right, look right, act right, and help us, then we treat them with love and acceptance. However, this is not genuine love. Love that does not flow from a place of acceptance from God, is at best selfish manipulation and at worst abuse. So our freedom is extremely important! If we don't understand our freedom in Jesus. Then, we will not be able to learn what it meant to walk in the Spirit!
Next post.... The Only Way To Live The Christian Life
Paul is the author of Galatians, and he is writing to people who lived in the area now known as Turkey. He is writing to believers who have had some recent struggles with false teachers. In particular these teachers were known as the Judiazers. They were most likely Jews, who thought of Christianity as a subset of Judaism. They were appalled by Paul's apparent lack of concern for the Torah (Jewish Scriptures), the Jewish rite of circumcision (the sign of the old covenant from Abraham), as well as the traditions and observances of holy days etc.
These teachers were coming into the churches behind Paul and stirring up trouble. They were teaching that in order for someone to be a true Christian, they first had to become a Jew. This was adding to the message of the Gospel. They were saying the salvation was not through faith alone, but instead, it was also through keeping the law and being circumcised. You can imagine how Paul felt about this. This was not just a little issue, this was a matter of life or death for Paul. Literally, people who would believe these teachers would be condemning themselves to hell. So, Paul writes this letter to address the issues at hand! And, he is not happy! Yes, this letter is one of the most harsh letters the apostle writes. He uses very terse language and seems angry... because he is.
Paul's primary purpose in writing this book was to clarify for the churches the relationship between the Christian and the law. Is salvation really by faith, or by works? Paul answers this very clearly by stating "no flesh will be justified by the works of the law" Gal. 2:16. However, he does not just leave it at salvation. He also shows that the same way a person comes into a relationship with the Spirit of God, is the same way he is to live the Christian life. The Christian life is not one where a person is saved by faith, and then attempts to make himself a better Christian by keeping the law! Rather, it is a work of God's grace through the very Gospel by which he was saved! This same Gospel that saves, is the Gospel that sanctifies.
How do I worship Someone?
God desires our worship! For reals, He does. That may sound egotistical, but lets talk about that in another post. :) In this one, how do I worship God? How do I know when I am worshiping? Is it a feeling? Is it an action? Is it a response I get from other people? I mean, how can I know when I started worshiping? Or, as one singer puts it "I'm gunna get my worship on."
Worship is based on truth.