Life-Giving Spirituality

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 3/7/2021

This morning we’re in Galatians 5, and if you’ve been following along, you’ve seen how messy things became in the Galatian church. The believers heard the gospel, responded in faith, were justified by Jesus’ blood, received the Spirit of the Living God, immediately began walking in the Spirit, and were beginning to experience miracles of transformation!

Now you’d assume, having received Jesus and the Holy Spirit, the Galatians would enjoy life happily ever after! But this is not the case! The church is immediately torn apart by racial division (Jew & Gentile), by economic division (Slave & Free, Oppressor & Oppressed), by gender division (male & female). In fact, Galatians isn’t all that different from other New Testament letters and churches. Wherever two or more gather, no matter the church, division & strife (like all other sins) crouches at the door!

I hate to be the one to point out the obvious—but no church is exempt from division and strife. Every church I have ever been a part of, from infancy, has had conflict. You might say, “Aha, you’re the common denominator!” No, the common denominator is just people, and our common struggle is against our very flesh.

You know sometimes when I preach a sermon (like I did last week, like I will do this morning, and like I will next week) somebody will inevitably cry foul, “Oh boy, this sermon is about so-n-so.” Let me assure you. What Paul teaches, it concerns you, me, them,… it concerns people in this church, people in my last church, people in the church down the road, across town… it concerns all believers and churches past, present, and future.

Let me tell you that division and strife is a human problem. It’s certainly a cultural problem, and it’s a church problem. Could we not talk about it? Could we just cover more comfortable topics? Jon could you just fly over Galatians 5-6 and let's move on? The answer is NO. We of all people, the Church, can transcend division, we can decimate the dividing walls of hostility that exist everywhere.

The guiding ethic of Christian faith.

Let’s begin this morning by talking about the Guiding Ethic of the Christian Faith. Galatians 2:20 talks about the profound spiritual change that has occurred in the believer’s life. Here goes: “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

There comes a point when the love of God the Father, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus, becomes the single most defining (compelling) reality of our life. We gaze upon the crucified Christ, and we realize that the God of the Universe (in love, on that cross) laid down his life for us, and died for us. In Christ, God kept his promise. In Christ, God’s love expressed, God’s wrath satisfied, once and for all. We resolve that the life we go on living in the body, we will live by faith in the one who gave himself for us. Actually, it's more profound than that. For Christ, I die. And in my surrender to love, I let Christ live his life out through me!

In Christ, a paradigm shift, our philosophy of life, changes. Galatians 5:6, “… what matters is faith working through love.” Love becomes our guiding ethic. Jesus spoke of such love when he said, “the first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, body, and soul.” Well of course we love God! And Jesus said the second greatest commandment is similar—"to love your neighbor as yourself.” It’s this second dynamic of love that proves so hard!

In Galatians 5:13-15 Paul says, “For you were called to be free, brothers and sisters; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself. 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out, or you will be consumed by one another.”

Do you realize that gospel freedom can just as easily be an opportunity for the flesh as it is an opportunity to serve one another in love? Gospel freedom can just as easily become an occasion in which people bite and devour and consume one another as it is an opportunity to love neighbor as self? I’d also say it can become an occasion to hate God just as much as an opportunity to love God.

The guiding power of Christian faith.

It’s very important that in coming to God, we daily invite the presence and power of God’s Holy Spirit into our very lives. Galatians 5:16-18 Paul says, “I say, then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”

What use is the guiding ethic of Christ’s love, if we don’t daily seek the guiding power of the Christian life? After beginning in the Spirit, are we so foolish to think we’ll achieve this goal of love by the flesh? The Spirit of God and flesh are diametrical opposites. You can’t walk in two opposite directions at the same time!

The Spirit of God will lead you in 180 degree opposite direction as your flesh. Paul’s point is that we need the guiding power of Spirit to guide us in love. The reason Christians and churches are so full of division and strife is because we’re so fleshly, and we’ve learned so little about walking in the Spirit. Which brings me to a third key idea. The guiding ethic of Christian life is Christ’s love. The guiding power is Spirit. And the guiding practice of Christian faith is walking with the Spirit, keeping in step with the Spirit.

The guiding practice of Christian faith.

In Galatians 5:19-21 Paul warns us about our flesh. “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I am warning you about these things—as I warned you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Paul’s point is that sin may very well start off private, but in time, our sin goes public… working itself out, becoming a defining, obvious, identifying dynamic of our public persona! Paul alludes to four broad categories of fleshly sin and behavior.

First, there are sexual sins: Sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity. Just an observation, an overwhelming majority of church attenders have a very glib fleshly attitudes about sexual sin. “So long as its consenting adults. So long as its not harming anyone. So long as its my body, its my choice, butt out.”

Second, there are cultic sins: Idolatry, sorcery. Idolatry is exalting any other thing in life into the place of God. Sorcery refers to the act of altering the state of one’s mind/consciousness through rituals, through drugs, through potions, poisons, or witchcraft. People in every age have sought ways of getting high.

Third there are social sins: fueling hatreds. Creating chaos or strife or turbulence in relationships. Jealousy. Outbursts of anger. Being self-centered and self-driven. Stoking conflict. Being quarrelsome. Forming factions (deceiving people, dividing them off from the body, to be loyal to you and your cause). Envy.

Fourth, there are sins of excess: Drunkenness, Carousing (which refers to sexual indiscrimination, orgies, and parties). This isn’t a comprehensive list! Paul says, “and anything similar.”

You might notice a correlation between Galatians 5:19-21 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. “Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or males who have sex with males, 10 no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom.”

And this of course is Paul’s point here. Galatians 5:21b, “I am warning you about these things—as I warned you before—that those who [are actively practicing and doing] such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

You know what is so messed up with the church today? Our freedom in Christ has become an opportunity not for sanctification but degradation. “Oh God loves me, he doesn’t care about sexual sin, cultic sin, divisive behavior, my sins of excess. Grace, Grace, Grace so Amazing.” There is this false notion that God’s grace gives us a pass to go on living in the flesh with impunity. And whenever we confront sin what do people say? “Don’t judge me bro. I am what I am, and God loves me just as I am. God is affirming, accepting why aren’t you?”

Christian love calls people completely away from the flesh, not into the flesh! In 1 Corinthians 6:11 Paul says, “And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

And of course this brings us to Galatians 5:22-26, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

Such a wonderful thing to belong to Jesus. What does it mean? To belong to Jesus is to crucify the flesh with its passions and desires. To belong to Jesus is to make a choice, a change of trajectory, from flesh-indulging to spirit-led living. If we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. “Walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want.”

What do you mean I won’t do what I want? Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Ah! It’s not my life. It’s his life now! And thus a new reality: “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

Scripture Verses

Galatians 2:20; 5:16-25; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Worship Playlist

Follow You Anywhere by Passion

10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman

Cornerstone by Hillsong

Study Questions

1. How would you describe the battle between the flesh and the Spirit?

2. What are the results of following the desires of the flesh?

3. How are we to respond to the Spirit and what are the results of that response?

4. In the past year, has the Spirit’s fruit increased in your life? Why or why not?

5. What can you do this week to more fully cooperate with the Spirit’s work in your life?


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