Read Galatians 5
So where have we been so far? There is no other gospel.
Salvation is by grace through faith.
The law is no longer our guardian or governor.
I am crucified with Christ. Christ lives in me.
You foolish Galatians, did you really think that the law could do what Christ Jesus himself has done for you? If the law could get you to salvation, Christ died for nothing.
Then comes one of my favorite expressions in the New Testament. You were running a good race. Who cut you off? Who cut in on you? Who got your off course?
The Galatian believers had come to know Christ Jesus through faith alone. Now someone had told them that wasn’t enough. Their salvation was in jeopardy. You had better get circumcised and follow at least some of the law. You need Jesus Plus. You need Jesus 2.0. What you believe is too good to be true.
Realize that these are mostly God’s Chosen People enticing new believers to come under the governorship of the law. Why? Because the salvation that they knew came from a love that is incomprehensible. God’s people couldn’t believe how great God’s love was—how great his love is.
God’s Chosen people missed the boat on knowing God’s love. Their mindset was God is rules. We know that God is love. Understanding this, we know that God’s rules come out of love and are for our own God, but they are not our master.
This salvation that we know comes completely out of God’s heart. He loves us. He will never stop loving us. He made a way and paid the price for our right-standing with him. Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe.
Paul told us the same thing that James did. If you choose to live by the law, then you must abide by the entire law. That’s something that nobody other than Jesus has even been able to do.
You can live by the law and continually fall short of God’s glory or you can live by love and by the Spirit of God that lives within you now. It is just that simple.
The law or the Spirit? Paul offered a provocation for those who insisted on living by the law. The topic was circumcision. Paul said why don’t you just cut off the whole business and show your commitment to the law.
I have the same thoughts every time I see a man competing in women’s sports because he identifies as a woman. Why don’t you show how dedicated you are to competing in women’s sports and cut off the whole business?
Paul said why don’t you just emasculate yourselves? Ouch!
If you think you must obey the law to complete your salvation, then you are alienating yourselves from Christ. You are setting yourselves up for the words, I don’t know you. I never knew you. That’s a double ouch.
Should we practice the law as a guide to good living? Of course. There is much of it that we should fulfill literally—word for word. Don’t murder comes to mind right away.
Much of the law we fulfill by loving one another. Love God and love one another are the commands on which all of the law rests.
We must always know that our salvation is the gift of God, no ifs, ands, or buts. It’s a gift.
Now that we are saved, we are called to live by the Spirit of God that has taken up residence inside of us.
Now that we are saved, we enjoy our freedom and we engage in war. It’s a paradox. We are saved to fully live but not to give in to the desires of the flesh. The flesh and the Spirit are at war.
We are free but we must fight to live in that freedom. Most of those battles take place in the mind. What is it that you desire the most? What do you seek?
To please yourself or to please God? Is it eat, drink, and be merry or seek God and his kingdom and his righteousness first?
We can enjoy this life and serve God but we must always put God first if we are truly living in the freedom that he gave us and not desiring to return to having sin as our master.
Listen to Paul’s words once again.
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 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. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Had we started this journey with Paul’s letters to the church in Corinth, we would have heard this explained this way.
All things are permitted for me, but not all things are of benefit. All things are permitted for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.
What does Paul mean by gratifying the flesh?
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 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.
Didn’t the law warn us against these things as well? It’s not that we must comply with a list of rules so we don’t go to hell. It’s the Spirit of God that lives within us leads us to good living. Like what?
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
Let us live by the Spirit of God that is within us. If we will just trust God and quit fighting him when he directs our steps, we will produce good fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
We touched on each of these in the first service, for now we consider them collectively.
How do you know if you are winning the war between flesh and spirit? Look at your fruit. Are you constantly in the middle of discord, jealousy, and rage? Are you seeking to forget this world through debauchery or drunkenness? Do hateful thoughts and emotions come back to you time and again? Is everything you do just for you and yours?
Or, and this is a big or, do you know love and joy? Do you have a sense of peace that the world cannot understand? Do you practice self-control? Are you patient like your Father in heaven?
Let’s put this in terms you have heard many times. Have you crucified the passions of the flesh? Does Christ live in you?
When we say, I am crucified with Christ. Christ lives in me, that’s what we are saying. Is that true for us?
It seems to be such a black-and-white dichotomy, but there is a struggle. It should just be the old self is gone and the new person lives in me. Christ lives in me.
Paul says, I get it. We are at war with the flesh while we try to live in the Spirit. Paul has a recurring theme of having already attained something but not yet.
I live by the Spirit but I struggle with the flesh. I have been given right-standing with God but I struggle to live up to what he gave me.
Welcome to life. Welcome to real life. Welcome to abundant life. The answers come with having the law as a mentor and friend and not as your master. Jesus is your Master. He is Lord. We are known as his disciples by our love.
The law may guide you but once you start living by the law because you question the gift of God that we call grace, we invite sin back into our lives. The law can either be your friend or your governor, but not both.
Jesus paid it all. All to him I owe. Our response to this great gift is to live by the Spirit that he placed with us. It is to live by the Spirit and manifest the fruit of love. This is how we are to live.
Once you begin to run this race, don’t let anyone or anything cut you off. Don’t let anyone entice you back into slavery because they cannot see the great love of God that we know.
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