If you have your Bibles, go ahead and grab them. If you don’t have a Bible with you, there should be a hardback black one around you. If you don’t own one, that’s our gift to you. We’re going to be in Galatians, chapter 5. Again, Lord willing, we’ll finish this chapter. If you’re a guest with us, since February we’ve just been walking through the book of Galatians kind of section by section. So, Lord willing, today we’ll finish chapter 5.
I need to recap a bit of what we did last week because this is actually a continuation of the thinking we unpacked last week. So I need to take us back there and just highlight some things. I won’t use 50 minutes to do it like I did last week, but I will just kind of for about six minutes here draw your attention back to what we covered last week so we can move ahead in this thought and in this idea.
So I said last week I was excited for us to wrap up this book. We’ve been doing it since February. We’re just a few weeks away from it being done in regard to our proclamation of it on our weekend gatherings. I was excited because once this is said and done, you will have, really at this point, all the information you need to really understand the gospel and understand drifts away from the gospel, and you will have the ability really to spot where you might be walking in error when it comes to the person and work of Jesus Christ.
So really last week we started in chapter 5, verse 1. Really kind of the statement for the book of Galatians is found in Galatians 5:1. Here is what it says: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” So I wanted to point out what I believe to be some unbelievably spectacular things in that text. Namely, we have been set free to freedom. I think most Christians and most people believe Jesus saves you from something, but I think few of us really grasp that he also saves us to something.
So we covered last week that we are saved from primarily two things as the book of Galatians unpacks it for us. We are saved from being our own God. Now in reality I’ve sat across the table from a lot of people. I’ve never sat across from anyone who said, “I believe I’m God.” I’ve never had anybody tell me that. It would help me honestly because I could just file you under “crazy” and move on. So although I’ve never sat across from someone who says, “I believe I’m God. Watch this,” I have on multiple occasions walked with people who function as God, and their belief system literally is that they are God. They are their own authority. They are in submission to no one but their own will.
The reason you need to be set free from that is… I want to be honest with you. Our relationship has to be built on honest dialogue. That dialogue predominantly is going to be me talking to you. You make a crummy, crummy God. I like you. Things about your personality I think sparkle, but you make a miserable, miserable God. When you say, “I’m my own authority. I decide what’s right for me. I know the way,” you have put a yoke on you that you will not be able to bear up underneath. When you are your own God, you have to figure out what leads to fulfillment. How well have you done that so far in your life? Have you been nailing that one? I have some doubts.
So when you’re not willing to submit to something greater than you, bigger than you, then you carry the weight of…What’s the purpose of my life? So what ends up happening is you run for a while in this direction. “Well, that can’t be it.” So you turn and run a while. “Well this person can’t be it.” You’re going to get exhausted trying to answer a question that has already been answered for you.
Then you’re going to have to get to the bottom of suffering. Suffering is very much a reality of this world. Loss. Death. Those aren’t ideas, aren’t subjects, that don’t touch our lives. All of us are touched by that. Without someone helping you understand what that’s about, you are left on your own to figure it out. Nine times out of 10 that is going to lead to bitterness, frustration, and resentment. All sorts of issues flow out of suffering and loss when you don’t have something greater than you explaining to you what is happening. On and on I could go. It is a crushing weight to be your own God. You’ve been set free from that in Christ.
Now that’s not the only thing we’ve been set free from in Jesus. We’ve been set free from being our own God, and we’ve been set free from empty religion, or what I like to call fear-based behavioral modification. So empty religion is that moment when you decide some sort of religious practice is going to give you right standing before God. So you want to be cool with God because you know you’re going to die, and you’d kind of like him to bless you. So you want to be cool with God.
So what’s motivating your behavior, and some of you even what’s motivating your attendance in this place today, is fear that you might not get from God what you want from God. You know ultimately you’re going to die and stand in front of him. You want to be able to point back to Sundays. “Yeah, I wasn’t perfect, but huh? My neighbors didn’t do that. I get you being frustrated, but I just don’t feel like you should take that out on me.”
It’s fear-based. So that’s what we’ve been saved from. We’ve been saved from the weight of being our own God, and we’ve been saved from fear-based behavioral modification. I need to change my behavior or God is going to get me. I need to change my behavior so God will like me. We’ve been set free from those things. So in an act of juxtaposition, if that’s what we’ve been saved from, what have we been saved to?
We’ve been saved from being our own gods and been saved to getting to rest underneath the God. So now I don’t have to figure out the purpose of my life. I don’t have to make sense of suffering. I don’t have to ultimately figure out this or that. I get to rest in glad submission under a God who says, “This is how I designed it to be. This is what I am doing. This is where I am working.”
I’m not saying the answer to that question is always easy to hear; I’m just saying I don’t have to come up with the answer. I’m just saying I don’t have to waste the days of my life chasing the wind. I have a promise from the Creator of all things this is where fulfillment is found. So I press into what is the revealed will of God through the Word of God for the fullness God has promised me in Jesus Christ. I have been set free from being my own God. I’ve been set free to gladly submit to the real actual God.
Now here is the other thing that’s so huge. I have been set free from fear-based behavioral modification and into love-based transformation. Now that’s a night-and-day difference. The picture I tried to draw for you last week is it is no good thing for me to do a bunch of stuff around the house because if I don’t, Lauren is going to come home, turn into The Hulk, and destroy everything.
If I have to do things so she doesn’t freak out, scream at me, and maybe beat a child, then there’s no joy in those actions. There’s no joy in straightening up. There’s no joy in taking the dishes out of the sink if I’m doing that because she is going to freak out. But if I just love her, then love as a motive makes any action joyful. It’s not saying that’s what I’d like to do most; it’s just saying while I’m doing it it’s not begrudging; it’s a delight.
Then we talked about really after we left that, “Okay, here is what we’ve been saved from. Here is what we’ve been saved to,” the next line after, “For freedom Christ has set us free,” is, “…stand firm therefore.” That “stand firm” there is there because we all have a tendency to float. We have a tendency to drift. We have a tendency to slide.
So for some of us we slide actually toward legalism. We slide toward, “Okay, let me do some things that will make God like me.” We slide back into the law. We slide back into putting ourselves under the law. We don’t believe we’re forgiven fully. We don’t believe God delights in us. “So let me get to work trying to get God to delight in me and trying to get God to forgive me. So let me walk in penance. Let me punish myself. Let me take away this. Let’s start this.” We slide into trying to earn what is freely given.
Others of us don’t slide there. We don’t slide to more church and Bible studies. We actually slide the other direction. We begin to doubt God is actually for our freedom. We begin to doubt God is actually for our joy. We begin to doubt he is good and he does good. We begin to question whether or not his commands for our lives are too hard, too harsh, or God is trying to take from us. It does not take the licentious heart long to make itself righteous and God evil. It doesn’t take long at all for a person to slide over here and go, “God is not good. He is not for me. He would want me to be happy, so how would he command this if he really loves me? This goes counterintuitive to what I want, to what is going to make me happy.” So he says, “…stand firm therefore…”
How do we stand firm? We never move on from the gospel. We preach the gospel to ourselves. We meditate upon the gospel. The gospel declares we have the just judge of the universe declaring us holy, spotless, and righteous in his sight, and we have a Father in heaven who has given us the Holy Spirit by which we cry, “Abba, Father.” Daddy, Father. Not only are we forgiven by the judge, but we are loved by the Father. When you meditate on those two things, you think on those two things, you don’t move away from those two things. Those become the fuel of love that moves to transformation.
This is why in that text we read last week it says, “…neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything…” Whether you have external actions or no external actions, it doesn’t matter before God. “…but only faith working through love.” Now the important part of that text we kind of hammered on last week. That means you can live morally upright, spectacularly flawless lives and be considered filthy in the sight of God if your motivation for that behavior is fear and not love.
So then we rounded out last week by going, “Okay, how do we figure out what our motives are?” I don’t know about you. I look at my own heart. I get lost in there. Sometimes the water is murky. I don’t know what my motivations are. Anyone else? There are times I’m sure my motivations are pure, and then a couple of years later, I’ll look back and go, “Shady. Golly, I am shady.” How do I know right now my motivations are pure and the motivation driving my desire for holiness is love and not fear?
Well the acid test he gives us in verses 13 through 15 is how we view one another, in particular, how we see others in the community of faith, how we see other Christians. Here was his point. How can you tell whether or not you’re motivated by love or motivated by fear? A heart that is motivated by fear views other believers as competition for the affections of Dad. So if I’m motivated by fear, if you’re doing better than I am spiritually, that’s a threat to me. If I don’t come up and do better than you, if you don’t stumble and fall, if I can’t do better than you spiritually, then I might not get as many cosmic Christmas presents as you do come eternity.
So what ends up happening if you’re fear-based is you’ll be frustrated by other people’s spiritual growth, and you will, God help us, rejoice at other people’s failures, Have you ever found any of that in you? People who really love Jesus just bother you? Have you ever gotten to the bottom of that? That’s fear-based behavioral modification. It’s, “Oh man, they’re better than I am. I can’t have that, so let me try to, in my mind, or maybe with my mouth, kind of derail this.” Have you ever found yourself celebrating when someone screwed up? You don’t have to say yes. I know you have. I have you and I have the Bible, so I’m going to trust the Bible that it’s right about you and me.
Now what the gospel does when you’re motivated by love is you are completely set free to…what? To celebrate other people. To love that God is moving in you. To mourn when you fail. To grieve when you fall short. To take no delight whatsoever in your struggles, but rather that your struggles would have me in a bit of agony praying for you, encouraging you, and pushing you toward holiness, repentance, and the pursuit of God. The gospel frees me up to applaud and love your growth, your pursuit of Jesus, and you just exponentially growing more and more in love with God. It’s not true about fear-based.
So the big acid test from last week about whether or not our motives are fear or our motives are love really comes down to whether or not we serve our brothers and sisters, whether or not we consider others as better than ourselves, and whether or not we outdo one another in honor. If you have in you that competition with other believers, you’re operating out of fear-based motivation. It’s not godly; it’s idolatry. So he doesn’t stop after that thought; he keeps going.
But I couldn’t do a two-hour sermon last week. I guess I could have, but it would have been very difficult for some of the other services. So let’s get into this starting in verse 16. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 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.”
Now a couple of things to point out in this text. One, there are in you right now, in me right now, in all of us right now, two opposing forces. Now what I said is only true if you are a Christian in here. So if you are a believer in Christ, have submitted your life to him, are following Jesus, then inside of you and inside of me are two opposing forces. One is Spirit, which is not talking about your spirit, but rather the Holy Spirit. That’s sealed in your heart when you confess and submit your life to Jesus Christ.
Then you have your flesh. Let me explain that to you. I’m going to do it by kind of painting a linear, progressive line for you. If this is the moment you are saved, this is the moment Christ comes into your life, the Holy Spirit comes into your heart, you confess, repent, believe in Jesus, begin to follow him, and this is where you’re Christ-like, perfect, spotless, no more struggling, no more sin, no more shortcomings… By the way, you’re not breathing oxygen here. Just so you know this is not next week for you. So between this moment of conversion and this moment of glorification, the Holy Spirit begins to move us forward into more and more and more Christlikeness.
Now the space between perfect in glory and where you are now is called the flesh. It’s called the old man since you’ve been given a new man in Christ. It’s those areas of your heart, life, and mind that still desire the things that are not of God. Here is what the Bible just said: At war in you and at war in me right now are the Spirit and the flesh, and they are opposed to one another. The goal of the Spirit is not the goal of the flesh. Where the Spirit is taking you is not where the flesh is taking you.
It’s important you understand this: it’s happening right now. I’m proclaiming the Word of God, reading it line by line, and inside of you there will be a wrestle between the Spirit that testifies to the Word of God and points you to Jesus and the flesh that would hammer away at you, doubts and fears and concerns that would whisper to you. In your heart right now two opposing forces are colliding. Look right at me. That will be the case until glory. I know some of you are like, “Man, I already came in here tired. Don’t tell me that.”
Here’s the good news. There are seasons where this conflict is mere skirmishes. You see, “Okay, I’m not worried about that. I see what’s happening there. That’s a lie. I’m not going to believe it.” Then there are seasons the flesh comes at you wave upon wave upon wave. It feels exhausting for a season. So it’s not as though it’s always as hard as it is right now, but the sure way for you to get yourself in a lot of trouble is for you to pretend or to somehow believe you’ve grown so holy that there is no flesh in you warring against the Spirit. It’s not the case. It’s not the case for any of us.
Now the Spirit and the flesh both promise the same thing, but only one can deliver. So according to the text, what is the promise? The promise is freedom. So the Spirit’s promise is, “Hey, let’s go to freedom. We’re headed toward freedom. We’re walking toward freedom,” but the flesh is making the same promise. But one is a mirage, and one isn’t. So the two mirages the flesh will throw at you are the things we’ve already covered.
1. Legalism. Can we just be straight? Legalism sounds right, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it sound right? Aren’t there just hundreds of verses that seem to lend us toward, “Let’s do these things. We’d better do these things. We’d better operate like this”? Legalism sounds right. So the mirage of the flesh is, “You know what? Just do these things. Just stop doing these things. Start doing these things.” So before you know it you’ve busied yourself with a ton of religious practice that ultimately isn’t filled with the Holy Spirit. We’ll get to it; trust me. Then you drink sand. It’s this mirage in the desert. You get there and there is nothing there but sand. It’s kind of perpetually always before you, and you never quite arrive.
I’ll tell you why. Your behavior is setting the bar too low. The bar will continually be raised on you regardless of what you do, because you need a righteousness that’s better than your righteousness at its best, which is why you need Jesus Christ. If you’re like, “At my conversion there were three or four things that were said. I needed to quit cussing so much. I needed to quit getting drunk. I needed to quit chasing girls. If I could just do those things, I was going to be cool with the Lord.” Then all of a sudden the Lord was like, “Well, there are a couple of other things I want to talk to you about.” So the bar just kept going up. It just kept going up.
Then you’d meet Christians on steroids. I’d be like, “You got up when? You got up at 4:00 this morning? To do what? You prayed for an hour and a half? I prayed for everyone I know; it lasted seven minutes. You memorized what?” The bar just went up. “So God definitely loves that cat better than he loves me. I better keep up with him. Up at 4:00 in the morning, prayed for everyone I know and then the city. Just got out the phone book. That guy and that guy. Still didn’t match him.”
Then let’s just say I can. What happens? The bar goes up again. The bar will continually be raised because what you must compare yourself to and what is dictated that you need is perfection. Look at me. You’re not going to find it, which is why Jesus is our perfection. He is our righteousness. That’s why we’re so glad about Jesus. He takes that weight off us completely. Do you see what I mean when he says, “For freedom Christ has set us free”? I’m not under that weight. Motivated by love I get to serve him and follow. I’m not crushed by your 4:00 a.m. prayer meeting.
2. God is not for you. God does not care. God is not after your joy. God is going to rob from you. God is going to take from you. That person you really want to be with but you know you shouldn’t be with, that desire in your heart you know is dark that needs to be confessed and repented… You begin to actually harbor in the deep places that God is not for you. God is not about your freedom. You must find your own way to fullness of life.
Once again, it is a mirage, and if you chase it you’ll try drinking sand in order to quench your thirst. It’s not going to work. “…walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” That’s a pretty big verse. If we walk by the Spirit, we won’t do that. If we walk by the Spirit, we will not walk toward the mirage, but rather toward freedom. Then he actually just continues to flesh this out. There are four massive verbs in this text, and so let’s look at the next one.
Verse 18: “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” So now we’re not only walking with the Spirit, but now we’re being led by the Spirit. It’s a very interesting verse. He says, “If you’re following the Spirit, you won’t get under the law.” Now we’ve covered “under the law” quite a bit. So “under the law” is once again believing a certain action creates affections in God’s heart toward you. That’s seeking the law for salvation rather than trusting in Christ for salvation. The Bible just said, “If you’re following the Spirit, you’re not going to be under the law.”
Let me explain why. The law is external and exposes internal realities. The work of the Holy Spirit is a work of illumination. It shows us what is really going on inside of us. So here is a correlation nobody likes to make. People like to point toward their actions and go, “Man, that’s a really ugly action.” But I want you to really hear me. No, no, no. You’re really ugly. Welcome to church. We can’t go anywhere if we can’t be honest.
So we like to separate, don’t we? Don’t we? We’re not liars; we just lie. This is a refrain from us. It’s so much easier to identify an external problem. “Well I have a pornography problem. I have an anger problem.” I have a right to pick an external action out and then to go, “I need to work on that external action.” No. You need to work on your heart that has led you to that action. The work of the Holy Spirit is not about pointing out external actions, but pointing out the place in your heart where you refuse to trust God, believe in God, and walk in the freedom God has provided for you in Christ and instead try to live it your own way.
So the work of the Holy Spirit engages the heart, not just the external actions. Now the external actions can serve as a diagnostic. Why am I drawn to this? Why do I act like this? Why don’t I operate like this? Why don’t I act…? That’s a diagnostic. What it’s pointing you to is the heart. The more you try to modify behavior and not see your heart transformed by the gospel, the more you enslave yourself to the muck and the mire of this world. I’ll promise you you’ll never be free that way.
How can he say, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law”? Because the law is about external realities; the Spirit is about internal realities. The law says, “Act this way. Don’t act this way. Go these places. Don’t go these.” The heart, when it’s transformed, goes, “I want what God wants. I want to follow where God wants me to go. I don’t want to do the things that bother God.” It’s back to this motivation, fear versus love. When you’re being led by the Spirit, you will not go under the law because legalism is impossible when you’re following the Spirit. His concern is the heart.
Now he is going to help us out on what the works of the flesh are and what the gifts or the fruits of the Spirit are. So let’s look at verse 19: “Now the works of the flesh are evident…”
1. Sexuality. Here are the first three works of the flesh: “…sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality…”So let’s chat because our culture has lost its mind. A couple of things as a precursor. Sex is God’s idea. That was his. He is the one who put the plumbing in. Read Genesis 1 and 2. Sex is not a bad thing. It’s a thing to be celebrated in, rejoiced, and participated in. Here is the deal. It’s unbelievably powerful, so God framed it up.
Now here is what has happened. All of us are born broken because of sin and have a skewed view of sexuality that has us in this culture in particular chasing a pipe dream. We have set sex so high up on our worldview that it’s going to be impossible for sex to ever live up to what it’s promising. It’s tied to personhood and identity. It’s tied to fullness of life. Then all of that is ridiculous. It’s rarely ever been viewed like that in human history.
When it has been viewed like that in human history, culture collapses around the weight of it. So sex given by God is in the confines of a relationship where a man says to a woman, “I’m not going anywhere, and I’ve seen the crazy part of you. I’ve seen crazy, and I’m in it. If I’m going to fight with someone the rest of my life, it’s going to be you. Let’s do this.”
In that place where a man says to a woman, “I’m all yours. You’re all mine. This is a covenant before God. It’s not an emotion. It’s not a feeling. I am committing to you, come hell, high water, difficulty, ease, I am in this with you. I know you’re a mess. I’m a mess. Let’s see what the Lord’s going to do.” And a woman who would say in response, “I will respect you and honor you, you and you only, as long as I live. This is not an emotion. This is not a feeling. This is a covenant commitment before God Almighty that I am yours and you are mine.” Together you’ll get what the Hebrews called dod, a mingling of souls.
So within the confines of that relationship you have an opportunity, not a guarantee, for intimacy, friendship, and togetherness that all the promiscuity in the world will never be able to deliver. “Well we need to find somebody we’re sexually compatible with.” Well if you have the tools, you’re sexually compatible. I never even quite understood that. “I don’t know if we’re compatible.” Are you a man? Is she a woman? You’re compatible. It’s science. I learned about that in that awkward film in sixth grade. Yes, you are. Right?
So ultimately it’s in the commitment to the covenant of marriage that you have your best shot at real, deep, lasting intimacy. A woman will never fully give herself to a man who she doesn’t feel safe, covered, protected by, and committed to. She might have sex with him, but she’ll never be able to fully give herself to him. That’s why God built the constraints. You’re covenanted in. You’re not going. That’s why our vows say, “For richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health,” because in reality you’re probably going to get to taste a little bit of all of that.
Oh, that the Holy Spirit might save us from the Cupidian ridiculousness that’s the culture in the air we breathe. “I just don’t feel like I love him anymore.” Love is not a feeling; love is a decision of the will that will get you to those feelings as you concentrate on what is good, right, and beautiful in them. So we’re all sexually broken. It gets redeemed in Jesus Christ. So that’s the first category of works of the flesh: sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, unchecked licentiousness.
2. Religion. Verse 20 there: “…idolatry, sorcery…” Now I don’t believe we have a big witchcraft/warlock problem here, but let me set this up. We have baptized a few witches here before at The Village, so I know you’re out there. I’m not joking. We really have. So this is setting something up as God that is not a god. This is then trying through magic or through some other means to emulate or copy the works of the Holy Spirit. That’s a work of the flesh.
3. Attitudes of the flesh. So the attitudes of the flesh are “…enmity, strife, jealousy…” Those are attitudes of the flesh. Enmity is ill will or hostility. So an attitude of hostility is a mark of the flesh. I can physically feel when I’m in the flesh. Have you ever just had things go wrong and you can feel yourself being hostile? This leads you to strife, and strife is just antagonism. If you’re feeing hostile, you’re feeling ill will toward something, aren’t you a bit antagonistic? Don’t leave me up here by myself. Absolutely you are, which leads to jealousy.
4. Results of the attitudes of the flesh. So let’s look at it after jealousy: “…fits of anger…” It’s not a stretch to believe that if you’re hostile and antagonistic there are going to be some fits of anger in your life. There are “…rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy…” So you have attitudes that then lead to realities.
Now you can take this truth about the works of the flesh, you can lay it on any environment imaginable, and you can see how this plays out. So we could do it on the nuclear family, your home, your house. I don’t want to go wide with your whole family because it’s going to be there. We all kind of have some craziness in our extended family. If we just went nuclear, went with your home, how easy is it to see that if someone is hostile, ill-willed, if they are antagonistic, whether that’s a roommate, a 12-year-old, a 15-year-old, a husband, a wife, or even the dog, that these things are going to start to work themselves out in the relational connections in the family? There is going to be a mess.
If you bring these to light on the church or on the covenant community of faith… I don’t know how many of you have read or been a part of just ridiculous church splits. You were getting new carpet in the sanctuary, and all of a sudden there is a Second Baptist. (We’re Baptist. I can do that. Don’t get mad. You want a Presbyterian example? What do you want? It happens to all of us.)
So can I press here? That has nothing to do with the carpet. Nothing. Nothing to do with the carpet. Nothing to do with the style of direction. None of that. It all goes back to fleshly attitudes that have brought about fleshly realities. I’m not talking about disagreements, because there is a righteous, beautiful way we can disagree. The married people said, “Amen.” There is a righteous, godly way to go, “I just don’t think so.” There is a grace in our interaction with one another that shows we’re not walking in the flesh, but we’re walking in the Spirit.
5. Addiction. Right after envy he says, “…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.” Now I need to flesh some things out for you here. When it says “drunkenness, orgies,” those two words in the Greek are actually tied together. So don’t think “orgies” belongs in the sexual immorality category because it doesn’t. It belongs down here with drunkenness. He is basically saying, “A giving of oneself over to something,” and he has there listed drunkenness.
So drunkenness and orgies go together, and it’s a, “I’m going to participate in this, give myself to this, because in doing so I’m going to find peace for just a little while. I’m going to find rest for just a little while. I’m going to find a release of soul for just a little while. I’m going to give myself to it in the hopes of finding just a moment or two of peace, just a moment or two of joy, just a moment or two of happiness.” Again that takes us back to the mirage. It doesn’t work. He is talking about addictions here. I want you to notice he doesn’t put wine out there by itself: “…drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.”
So anything you would give yourself fully to in the hopes it brings fullness of life rather than Jesus Christ. So this might sting some, but could food be on there? Food is not bad. Food is pretty spectacular if you do it right. What about other good things? Wine is good in and of itself, but when you give yourself over to it to get release… I think you could put exercise on here. I think you could put anything on here. He says, “I warn you, as I’ve warned you before, if you give yourself over to something other than Jesus Christ to find the fullness of life, you will not be walking in the kingdom of God.”
Let’s go to verse 22. So that’s the work of the flesh. Let’s look now at the fruit of the Spirit. “But the…” What’s the word? “…fruit…” Now let me ask you a question. Is “fruit” singular or plural? Is there an “s” on the end of fruit? Huh? Wow. This is what the computer age has done to us. We’re all morons. “I don’t know. Somebody tell me. How do you click on it and make it tell me?” It’s singular. The fruit of the Spirit. Not the fruits of the Spirit, but the fruit. It’s singular. I appreciate you non-confidently answering.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Okay, now it’s important we understand fruit is singular, not plural. If it’s plural, you can play a game that is not Spirit-driven. If it’s the fruits of the Spirit, then you can go, “Well I’m really good at this one. I kind of stink at this one. I’m growing here, but I’m not growing here.” That’s not the point of the text.
The point of the text and the point of what the Holy Spirit of God does in us is the transformation motivated by love that occurs in our life is holistic. Surely if we just kind of flesh this out, you would see it would be absurd to say you’re growing in some of these but not in others. Could you honestly say, “I’m really growing in love, but man I’m stinking at patience”? No, patience is actually a part of love. If you’re growing in love, you’re growing in patience. If you’re growing in joy, you’re growing in faith.
This is holistic. They grow together. It’s not like you can go, “Well that one is plump, but look at this. I need some sort of pruning, or I need some kind of insecticide. I don’t know what’s going on there with my faith. My self-control, look at that; that’s awful. But look at this…” No. It grows together. The fruit of the Spirit, not the fruits of the Spirit.
Now I always want to draw your attention to this repeatedly. Do you see the offer for you in Jesus? I don’t care who you are, what your background is, or what you’re actively in. Do you see the offer for you? Here are the motives of the flesh. Here is what the flesh brings. Here is how they view sex. It’s a broken view of sex. Here is how they view religion. It’s a broken view of religion. Here are their attitudes.
Those attitudes will pour out in results of those attitudes that can lead to addiction and can lead to finding fulfillment in other things. But that’s not what I’m offering. I’m offering in Jesus Christ love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control, and faithfulness. That’s what I’m offering for you and holistically growing in all of those.
Wouldn’t we be fools to go, “You know what? I mean, I love that idea, but I’m competitive. I’d like some rival and some dissension. I feel like my dissension has been weak. I’d really like to grow in that”? Isn’t this what so many of us do? “I’m not walking in the fruit of the Spirit.” We much more see ourselves in this list of the flesh than we do in this walking with the Spirit.
So then how do you crucify the flesh? Well we’ve been talking about this. You turn your eyes, fix your eyes, and look upon Jesus. Meanwhile, if you have struggles… If you have the struggle of lust, if you have the struggle of addiction, then you build out some defenses against those things while you heap logs on the fire of your heart concerning the person and work of Jesus Christ.
It is not legalism for you if you struggle with alcohol to stay away from alcohol. That’s not legalism; that’s wisdom. It’s not legalism for you to have filters and stuff on your mobile devices if you have a porn problem. That’s not legalism; it’s wise. But it’s not the only step we take. We don’t just avoid, but we grow in our view of, our understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ and who he is so over time this looks so much better than that, that that’s easy to say no to. That’s how you crucify the flesh.
Then look at this last part here. Verse 25. “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” So there are your big four verbs in this text. We walk by the Spirit. We’re led by the Spirit. We live by the Spirit. And we keep in step with the Spirit.
So the big question is…How do you do that? If by doing these things we don’t gratify the flesh, we don’t walk under the law, we begin to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit instead of the works of the flesh, and then ultimately this will lead to perceiving one another in a way that’s more biblical, how do you walk with, keep in step with the Spirit? I think I have to do some cultural deconstruction.
I think our culture is getting much more hostile, but for now it has no problem with you being a person of faith as long as you keep that trash in your house, keep it in your mind, and keep it in your heart. It has no bearing on any other part of your life. This is the privatization of faith. It’s fine for you to have faith. That belongs on Sunday morning and maybe if you’re radical in some kind of home group, home team Bible study thing. But it has no place in work, no place in your neighborhood, no place in your hobby. What ends up happening is faith becomes kind of a private affair that is just yours.
When you buy into that, you have compartmentalized your life to where the Holy Spirit gets his hour and a half on Saturday or Sunday. He gets his hour and a half or two hours at group when you go, but outside of that he has no bearing on your world, your life, what you think, how you see, or whether or not you’re dialed into the things of God or not. Many of you are excellent church people and horrible followers of Christ. How do you keep in step with the Spirit? You walk with the Spirit. You follow the lead of the Spirit. You live in the Spirit. We are people who see everything in the world through the lenses of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
If you want to go to another church, hallelujah. Go find it, plug in, and belong. Regardless, church has been given to the saints for the chiseling away at what is of the flesh as the Spirit does the work of illumination. So when you worship God, when you gather in a worship service like this where we’re sitting under the Word of God, we’re singing praises to God, there is something spiritually potent that occurs in these types of gatherings.
If you ever get a chance, I would encourage you to study the religious gatherings in the civil rights movement. So after an unbelievable amount of oppression and violent attack, on the edge of wanting vengeance, on the edge of wanting to take matters into their own hands, on the edge of no longer being willing to be under the boot of the man, they’d go worship. They’d go hear the Word. They’d walk out resolved to follow the Lord and trust the Lord to bring them out in change and transformation.
What created in them the strength and the hope to press on in such blatant and horrific persecution? The gathering of the saints. God does stuff when we gather like this. It’s why we build it into our routines. It’s why we’re serious about being in the gathering of the saints. It’s why the Word of God says, “Don’t neglect this.” Then there is something that happens when we do life together deeply, when we walk in community with other believers.
I don’t know how you work, but the Holy Spirit works more powerfully in community than really anywhere else I’ve seen. What happens when you really walk with one another closely is the Spirit shows other people what he has been trying to show you. I never liked that. I don’t have any problem at all with the Spirit going, “We have get that cleaned up.” “Yes, sir.” I don’t like it when he goes, “Hey, I keep telling Chandler he needs to clean that up. Would you go tell him?”
The reason so many of us avoid genuine, deep connection to other people is we know they’re going to see parts of us that aren’t attractive. So you keep them at a distance. You keep them at bay. You let them in some, enough to be a good church person, but you don’t let them in far enough to be a good Christian. I know you think you’re awesome, but I always want to bet you this. I bet even in your awesomeness, if we took just the last 48 hours out of your heart and mind and showed it on the screen here, you would leave this place so ashamed, so embarrassed, feeling so foolish and horrible you’d probably never come back to this church again.
The good news is you’re in Dallas. There are a lot of options for you, but ultimately you would not want to come back. So guard that little self-righteousness in your heart right now. You have a very wicked heart, a very wicked mind. In community the Holy Spirit fleshes that out. When we serve one another, our attitude is toward service… Watch how quickly you’ll justify being served by others. Watch how quickly you can justify you not being the one who serves but someone else being that person.
Watch how quickly your mind will justify those things. The Holy Spirit works in that. The Holy Spirit works when it comes to multiplication, when it comes to wanting to see people come to know, love, and follow Jesus Christ and grow in maturity following Jesus. The Holy Spirit reveals we’re a little embarrassed about Jesus. The Holy Spirit reveals we don’t want to be seen in a certain light, even though that’s what we actually are as Christians.
In these things, in the life of a covenant community of faith, the Spirit is at work among God’s people illuminating areas of their hearts to reveal where motivation is fear rather than love. It will lead to repentance, ongoing sanctification, and the death of our flesh more and more and more as we get closer to that perfection promised in glory. We see really the heavy blows of the flesh turn to just kind of the slaps of the flesh.
Again I want to simply draw your attention to, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore…” Here we are again at the end of a message out of the book of Galatians. The offer on the table for you is sonship rather than slavery, freedom rather than entrapment, a former life offered to you. I’m wondering what that thing is you’re holding on to that you refuse to surrender so you might walk in the goodness and grace of Jesus Christ.
If you have a secret… You hear me teach or you hear people talk about Jesus and you like that idea, but if you did that you’d have to confess this thing to your wife or to your husband or to your friends or to your family, so you can’t do that because you have this thing. If they found out this thing they’d never look at you the same again. Can’t you see how enslaved you are with your clutches on that thing?
Freedom in grace is found when you’re able to confess and you experience firsthand the mercy, grace, and freedom found in those who love Jesus Christ as people actively forgive and walk with you. Well what if things disintegrate in this relationship? I can’t promise you they won’t, but I can promise you Jesus loves you and will provide even more than what you think you’re keeping in that broken relationship right now anyway. Oh, that you might grow weary of your own god-ness! There will be men and women up front who are willing to pray with you, talk with you, and encourage you in any way they can. Let’s pray.
Holy Spirit, I just pray you would do work among us in these next few moments, that we wouldn’t be quick to leave or run off, but that we might just sit here for a bit and really weigh out whether we’re walking in the works of the flesh or really walking in, being led by, keeping in step with, and living with the Spirit of God. So Holy Spirit, do your work. Convict, reveal, and show.
I pray for salvations today. I pray for men and women to finally let go of secrets, shame, and guilt, come clean before you, and seek the forgiveness of you and others. I pray for freedom, sonship, daughtership, being heirs with you, and walking out of here with former lives. Do your work, Holy Spirit. Illuminate. It’s for your beautiful name, amen.
Love you guys.