March 4, 2007 Series: Galatians
Topic: Gospel Passage: Galatians 5:22–5:26
March 4, 2007
We're finishing up the 5th chapter of Galatians where Paul has tried to explain how or what the gospel, lived out in the life of the individual, looks like. He speaks of two different lives, two different sets of desires, once sourced in the flesh and one in the Spirit. These two lives are at war. They cannot coexist in harmony because these natures desire two different things. Paul writes in Galatians 5.17,
"The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to teach other..."
The sermon last week spoke a lot about sin. Like Paul, I tried to draw some strong lines between those who say their Christians and those who actually are. You will notice that this is not a distinction of behavior, but it is one of character. All too often we assess the spiritual condition of someone based on their behavior. Don't mistake what I'm saying. I do believe that a gospel transformation in a believer's life creates moral reformation. We mustn't get those two backwards. Moral reformation alone is a great idea but entirely impossible apart from the power of the gospel.
Those who center their lives on moral reformation, as opposed to a life centered on the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, are still people of flesh. They are no less "righteous" then those yucky sinners they try so hard to distinguish themselves from. In characterizing a LIFE IN THE FLESH and a LIFE in the SPIRIT, I appreciate that Paul gives us the "bad news first.'
The Gospel includes the "sinful" part
During my assessment as a church planter, the first question on the theological questionnaire was, "What is the gospel?" After I submitted all my answers about theology, philosophy, and my personal life, they called for the first interview. In this interview one of the first questions was, "Ok, so you're walking down the street and someone comes up to and says, ‘Hey, what is the gospel?' What do you say to them if you only have a few minutes?" The question came so fast that it took me a bit off guard. So, I paused, and then I said, if I only had a few minutes I would probably talk with them about sin, about brokenness, about how deformed our world and our lives are. I would probably spend those minutes stressing the difficulty of finding anything to hope for in this world, any meaning in this world, any genuine goodness in this world. Then...after the stage was set...I would talk about Jesus dying on the cross for me.
If we are going to be a church, a people, or an individual who is centered on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, let's not dissect the gospel into the pieces that are easy to swallow like we do with Jesus. With Jesus, we transform the guy who spent most of time with sinners to some freaky unbiblical prude who loves everyone and hasn't an angry bone in his body. We do the same with the gospel. We hold tightly to the fact that God loves us, that he offers the gift of salvation freely, that he declares us righteous...but wait...what were we that we needed this? Paul gives us a list.
Repent of "better-than" mentality in light of the gospel
Some people, especially those living in sin, probably thought that my words last week were insensitive. I hope you were uncomfortable, and I hope that this discomfort will haunt you until God draws you to the cross where there is rest. I apologize that you had to experience someone telling you the truth when it's the last thing you want to hear.
Some people, especially those who think they're doing pretty darn good...probably didn't listen hard enough. The list of sins that Paul gives is pretty comprehensive, not to mention the "and the like" at the end. Perhaps you even left last Sunday with a feeling like, "Well, I did pretty good with that list. Thank the Lord that I am so good...err...that God has really protected me from myself."
The man who takes this attitude is worse off than the sinner who freely admits they are dirty. I would rather spend time with a group of people who recognize their failures and weaknesses than a church full of people who refuse to admit they are dirty. These are the same people who then refuse to get dirty. For those who do know Jesus, I pray you will not become so "good" or "complacent" in your righteousness that you fail to remember who you were...
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
The hope of our community is not in the moral reformation that we can usher in through our own efforts of "being good" or the legislation we can write to make "others good". The hope of our community is in the power of the gospel to transform and free people to a new life. This is not a NEW WAY OF LIFE, this is a new life. The old life is killed. We are called to die and tell others how to. For until the old self is crucified with Christ, there is no way to remove the guilt, to avoid the wrath, to find purpose, to truly live.
In John 6.29 Jesus tells us how to work saying... "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." Our responsibility is to believe and to call others to also. Christian character comes from within, by the power of the Spirit. PAUL describes the life of the flesh by identifying the WORKS of the FLESH. Apart from Christ, the list that Paul provides is all THE BEST that is produced. But when we surrender our importance, when we surrender our effort, and we BELIEVE, our lives are changed and we are transformed from THISTLES and THORNBUSHES to trees that produce FRUIT. We become like Jesus.
Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
Casting out the darkness means that we put on Jesus or, rather, perhaps Jesus is put on us. Strangely, it is both. God is the initiator, the enabler, and the completer, but we still have a responsibility. Before God moves in us, we cannot choose good, we will not choose good, we are hostile enemies of God who seek after the flesh. But when he takes hold of our heart...we now have the power and desire to obey.
Of course, we don't obey 100% of the time. Our lives do not always look like the fruit-filled tree that Paul is about to describe. How do we explain this? Before Christ we could only choose evil, or rather, and the best of our choices were as Isaiah says, "dirty rags." We could not obey because we did not love God. Now that the Holy Spirit within us cries out "DADDY", we are able to obey, we desire to obey and thus deny the flesh. But we still sin. We still disobey. We still give into the flesh. Paul himself struggled with this same reality.
We put on Christ and yet WE ARE NOT CHRIST...yet. We put on Christ and slowly, God transforms us, sometimes painfully, into looking more and more like his son until the day we meet him face to face in heaven. 2Cor 3.18...says we "are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit."
Beginning with verse 21, Paul will begin to describe what a life led by the Spirit looks like. Notice, these are more than a list of behaviors. They are character qualities, a description of what a Christian will naturally come to look like as they PUT ON CHRIST and live the gospel. They are not a new list of works we are required to do so God loves you. They are listed as evidence of transformation not rules for moral reformation.
FRUIT IS THE RESULT OF BETTER DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF THE GOSPEL
- 1. GOSPEL LOVE versus WORLDLY LOVE: Apart from Jesus we only know how to love ourselves and any attempt to love others is perverted.
It is noteworthy that Paul begins his list with Love. If LOVE, as Paul earlier indicated, is a fulfillment of the Law, it only makes sense that all fruit is simply an outgrowth of love. With the perversion of the meaning of the word love today, it's easy to misunderstand what Paul is saying here. Our fleshly world perverts the word love to mean so many things, most of which are sourced in the self. The famous "love" passage of 1Corinthians 13.4-8 makes it clear what type of love we are talking about.
4 eï»¿Love is patient and fï»¿kind; love gï»¿does not envy or boast; it hï»¿is not arrogant 5 or rude. It iï»¿does not insist on its own way; it jï»¿is not irritable or resentful; 6 it kï»¿does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but lï»¿rejoices with the truth. 7 mï»¿Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, eï»¿endures all things.
8 Love never ends.
This is godly love. This kind of love cannot be manufactured through any type of "rule" following. This divine love is God's gift to us. A true understanding of love is made manifest in the gospel. Consider that the Bible says in 1John 4.19 says that the only reason we are able to love is because God first loved us.
So how does the gospel say God love us? Consider the humility of the incarnation, the life that this homeless marginalized carpenter lived, consider that his own creation, his people, did not only refuse to honor him, they flipped him the spiritual middle finger and walked away from him, they in fact denied him, and ultimately killed him. Then consider that he did this all willingly.
But, even on the cross as he was dying, Jesus cried out, "Forgive them, for they know not what they do." We are called to love like that. We are called to a gospel-love, a love for the unlovable, the dirty, the broken, those that need love among our friends and those that don't want it among our enemies. Only the Holy Spirit can produce that type of love.
- 2. GOSPEL JOY versus DESPAIR: Apart from Jesus we have no hope, we are bound by a law that only condemn us and not make use perfect, and we are on the express train to HELL.
The second fruit produced by the Holy Spirit in a transformed life is joy. Do not mistake as this as constant feelings of happiness. This is beyond some emotion or perma-grin that you might be able to put on and fool everyone into thinking that life is just peachy when in fact it feels like crap. Honestly, life is a bit crappy sometimes.
But there is a joy that, even in the midst of that crappy day, month, or year, brings a peace that is not affected by outward circumstances. There is a joy sourced in the fact that you are accepted, loved, and special. There is a freeing joy knowing that your God knows everything you think, do, and say....and WILL think, do, or say and he still loves you. There is a joy that you don't have to work for God's love, there are no conditions to meet, there is no changing his mind, there is no losing him or more theologically accurate, there is no HIM losing you.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? ...37 No, in all these things we are more than yï»¿conquerors through zï»¿him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The gospel shows us that God can and will use the most horrific of circumstances for His glory, even when we don' like it or understand it. We have a joy because we live with an eternal perspective that tells us our hero is always working, always pursuing us like a husband after her bride, our God is always redeeming, our King does reign, and the our Lord is coming again to make all things right. There is a special joy that comes with knowing he loves us and doesn't ‘have to, he doesn't need us, but he wants us. It feels good, dare I say joyful, to feel wanted, desired, and pursued. IF I DIE TOMORROW...I'm with JESUS.
- 3. GOSPEL PEACE versus HOSTILITY:
The peace that is produced here, is not the peace that has been made between the individual and God. The power of the Holy Spirit creates in us a peace with others. Before Christ, the Scriptures clearly describe our world....
3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.
That is a description of "peace" in the life of the flesh. It is a life that is full of conflict between people. In the gospel, Christians become a new people of God, united to Christ and to each other. THE GOSPEL HUMBLES us and assures us of God's love. It then FREES us from either envy or pride, either inferiority or superiority, all of which causes conflict and works against PEACE. We are no longer in competition with one another.
Because we no longer receive our sense of worth through the approval or power of men, our relationships become things of beauty, driven by love (Gal. 5:6) in which we are neither using people nor overly "needy" of them.
The gospel further calls us to repent of ALL of our prejudices big and small. Peace comes among people of different cultures, ethnic and otherwise, as we emphasize our unity in JESUS and avoid idolizing one's cultural strengths. Essentially, the gospel makes us humble. We now can look at others who are not like us and who are not even Christians and know that we can learn from them.
17 Therefore, if anyone is iï»¿in Christ, he is jï»¿a new creation.ï»¿1 kï»¿The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, lï»¿who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us mï»¿the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconcilingï»¿2 the world to himself, nï»¿not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us mï»¿the message of reconciliation[i]
•4. GOSPEL PATIENCE versus IMPATIENCE
The gospel removes our fleshly tendency to understand & have everything RIGHT NOW. Patience, here patience connotes the idea of long suffering. In essence, this is the ability to persevere through a tremendous amount of hardship from evil people or circumstances without losing one's temper, without becoming irritated and angry, or without taking vengeance.
We are an impatient people. We want immediate answers to our prayers. We want reasons for our suffering. We want things to go the way we expect them to go now. The gospel teaches us to be patient and to accept God's timing and methods in all things.
In the gospel, we see our God as one slow to anger, although his people deny him. We see a God patiently enduring a people who constantly grumble and forget time after time the way God saved them. I have learned a lot about patience from my children. I would love for them to listen the first time every time, but they don't. And, there are at times, when I lose patience with them and speak out words that I regret. I'm am so glad that God is perfectly patient. God had the right and power to wipe us out in the beginning. Patiently, He initiated plan of redemption and patiently endured a people who refused to believe him...even though He saved them time and time again.
In the light of the gospel, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we become patient: We patiently endure suffering knowing that God can use it for glory; We patiently endure our flesh knowing we will be released from it; We patiently endure other people who are mean or just irritating because we understand gospel forgiveness; and We patiently wait for Jesus to return
If, at any time you become impatient, recognize that you have replaced God's Word as the source of your security and hope. Jesus authority, timing, and sufficiency are no longer enough as we consider how WE WOULD DO THINGS IF WE WERE GOD...be patient. The Holy Spirit helps us to wait and trust in God. It is an issue of control.
•5. GOSPEL KINDNESS
•6. and GOSPEL GOODNESS versus SELFISHNESS
When we understand and believe the gospel, the Holy Spirit creates in us a new desire to show mercy and grace to others. Our attitude changes from an obligation to do good, out of guilt or even out of some sense of personal satisfaction, to one of genuine desire to act on behalf of those who cannot or will not help themselves.
This results from our understanding of the mercy and grace that has been shown to us. In the flesh, we never show mercy because they are GETTING WHAT THEY DESERVE and when only extend grace when we feel SOMEONE DESERVES IT. And we never feel it.
The gospel transforms our heart as we see how much mercy God has extended (AND THE WAY IN WHICH HE EXTENDED IT) and how much grace God has shown us. The gospel brings our own depravity before our eyes so that we see how broken we are and how little we deserve.
4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,[ii]
- 7. GOSPEL FAITHFULNESS versus DISTRUST
Faithfulness here is not just faithfulness to Christ, but also a sense of trustworthiness. By the Holy Spirit, you are imbued with a sense of commitment that goes beyond a single moment of obedience. In this context, where the Galatians have in fact denied the truth of the gospel, here the term implies faithfulness to the gospel truth.
It is amazing how many people ascent to the gospel then forget it. A fruit of the Spirit includes an uncompromising trust in God and his will. If we ever fall into the folly of asking "what can I do," which is really, "How can I work," we've left the gospel. We must come back to the answer of Jesus who in response to the same question of "how do we work" answered, "to do the work of God is to believe in Him who God sent."
We ALSO become a people that can be trusted. We are faithful to God in all situations, with all that we have been given. As a result of the Holy Spirit's work in my life, all that I have is no longer my own. I become a manager to whom God has put in charge of many things....a wife, a family, a house, a job, a church, a neighborhood...
•8. GOSPEL GENTLENESS versus ABUSE
The 8th fruit of the Spirit that begins to grow in our life is gentleness. As men, we probably don't like to be called "gentle". At first glance it seems to scream of femininity and weakness. We must remember that Jesus was called himself gentle-yet we know that Jesus is not weak or girly.
Jesus said, "I am gentle and lowly in heart" (Matt. 11:29) The same word can be translated "meek" which, for some of us manly men, feels a bit better. I like to remember what Jesus said as he was being arrested in the garden of Gethsemane...
52 Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place. For hï»¿all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 iï»¿Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me jï»¿more than twelve kï»¿legions of angels? 54 lï»¿But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?"[v]
One cannot be meek or gentle if they are not first powerful. In Jesus, we see that power does not have to mean abuse, for Jesus conquers Satan, death, and frees me through humility. I think a lot of the problem with men's aversion to "gentleness" today is partly that they don't understand what it truly means but also that they won't be humble.
The meek Christian does not throw his weight around or assert himself. The gentle Christian does not have to have his voice heard or THUMP everyone he meets, who might disagree with him, with the Bible. When God gives us the faith to believe, he also gives us gentleness to deal see those who don't, to correct those who do, and to speak with authority without abusing it. Just as wisdom is the right use of knowledge, so Meekness or gentleness is not the refusal to be powerful, it is the right use of authority and power
•9. GOSPEL SELF-CONTROL versus OVERINDULGENCE
Finally, the Holy Spirit imbues us with self restraint. This type of self-control cannot come as a result of flesh. I have said time and time again, that no true change or rightness can come as a result of following rules.
Colossians 2.23 says it perfectly:
As a man of the flesh, we cannot live with self-control. We try. We adopt an, "I can handle it" attitude and fall flat on our faces as Satan chews us up and spits us out. The gospel teaches us first that we are WEAK, PATHETIC, POWERLESS alone to control our sinful flesh.
The gospel also teaches us that by grace, Jesus makes us more than conquerors. He conquers sin. He conquers death, he gives us his righteousness, then dwells in our heart to LIVE THROUGH US. Now we have the power, for greater is HE that is IN ME, than HE who is IN THE WORLD! The grace of God transforms us, and changes us. It is this grace, as Titus 2.11-12, that enables us to live..."self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in mï»¿the present age."
Let us not make the mistake of categorizing the "good and bad" sins. The Bible says that ALL THINGS are good, but ALL THINGS can also be perverted. It ALL becomes sin when we give way to overindulgence (examples).
...For this is the will of God, iï»¿your sanctification:ï»¿7 jï»¿that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own kï»¿bodyï»¿1 in holiness and lï»¿honor, 5 not in mï»¿the passion of lust nï»¿like the Gentiles oï»¿who do not know God;
If we live, let us also walk by the Spirit
If we live: If the gospel is true, if we have died with Jesus, and alive...
Let us walk: Let our behavior correspond with belief. Let our lives be different as an abiding state of being versus an occasional influence. Stop depending on the flesh and believe the gospel. Recognize WHO GOD IS and WHO YOU ARE. Stop giving into the flesh and let the fruit of the Spirit explode. Let the gospel govern your understanding of yourself, govern your relationships, govern your parenting, govern your job, govern everything!
FRUIT IS THE RESULT OF BETTER DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF THE GOSPEL