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