As we begin the middle of the five weeks of this series and associated readings/writings, let’s re-orient as to the purpose. “PATHWAYS” is the title of our series to present a five-point breakdown of the vision statement of Tri-State Fellowship. That statement is: We envision a multi-generational community of theologically-sound believers, who manifest Christ’s character, by applying biblical principles to daily life, encouraging one another spiritually and relating the Gospel to our culture. So we have already talked about the multi-generational community component and the idea of being theologically-sound believers = people who know God’s Word. Now this week we take on speaking about applying biblical principles to life.
Imagine being confined for an extended period of time where you were unable to go anywhere or experience the things you would like to be doing. I’m not suggesting you think about being incarcerated in a jail and having your freedoms completely taken – though that idea would fit today’s passage quite well. But whatever reason – maybe health for example – that had you away from the normal ebb and flow of life for a very long time. But then … circumstances all suddenly change, and you are free to do anything anywhere! What would you do? How would you think? Would you want to just jump in the car and disappear for a few weeks at the beach, followed by a few weeks in the mountains, etc.?
The fact is that before we met Christ as savior, we were not free. We were actually, in biblical terms, completely controlled by the “flesh” – our natural sinful state of self-serving focus.
FREEDOM! The moment of salvation and all that follows creates an entirely new era of freedom! But freedom for what? To do and serve one’s self and one’s own pleasures? Not really! That is not different than the old way of things! It is a freedom to … in the words of today’s text rather, serve one another humbly in love … and to Love your neighbor as yourself. When Christians fail to do this in the context of the church family, they essentially “go zombie” on one another! And we know from the TV show that this is NOT a pretty sight!
The Apostle Paul states it in stark terms that there are two powers at work: the flesh and the spirit. There is an inner war. The most oft-used illustration of this over the years of preacher-dom is to speak of it in terms of a dog fight that is going on inside. Which dog prevails? Well, the punch line is that it is the dog that is fed the most.
Our passage today goes on to make a list of the things that characterize the two sides of the flesh and the spirit. Some of the “flesh stuff” is pretty out there – like orgies and witchcraft. I’m not expecting any of you to be involved in something like that … but … discord, dissensions, factions – those are things we might actually find even in a place like TSF. So, where does that stuff come from? Hmm… puts it in a different light.
Likewise also, with the positive list of characteristics of the life of the Spirit – look at the list. Is this an inventory that others would say describes you in the way you handle yourself in the church and the community? These are all good questions for all of us.
And then I just love verse 25 – Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Only the older half of the folks reading this are going to connect with me here. But I always think of Gomer Pyle when I see this verse. Remember the weekly clip where he was trying to march in step with everyone else but was too uncoordinated to do it? And the Sergeant is right there in his ear yelling at him? Well, that is what we look like when we start to serve ourselves rather than others and hence get all out of step with the Spirit – we look ridiculous like Gomer Pyle, USMC.
Galatians 5:13-26 – Life by the Spirit
13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.