Archive for July 3rd, 2022

Sermon: Freedom and Truth in the Spirit – Galatians 5:16-26

I preached again!

While Pastor Scott is out of town, I was given the privilege of preaching on the passage about the works of the flesh versus the fruit of the Spirit.

I am sure I never to too controversial … (I mention false teachers and current political drama …)

As a reminder, these are sermon notes, so they may not necessarily have everything I actually said. (Especially seeing as, as I said at the beginning of the message, a bunch of my notes digitally disappeared! I put much of what I said in here.)

Freedom and Truth in the Spirit – Galatians 5:16-26

Intro

Be thankful.

54 weeks ago, I preached in Mark 10 and gave a mini-seminary lesson on chiastic structures in literature, especially the Bible. A chiasm, as a reminder, is when ideas flow, like a door on a hinge, such that there is a Thought A, a Thought B, and a Thought C (possibly a similar Thought C’), that then connects with similar Thought B’ and concluding with a similar Thought A’.

I could go deeper, but I will spare you a full repeat of that lesson.

I wanted to explain possibly dozens of chiasms in this little book of Galatians, and that in Galatians 5:15-26 I found a possible four chiasms! Oh, how I wanted to point out similarities between the various thoughts and how God used Paul to connect our own infighting and envy, getting over ourselves, and the goodness of God; how certain works of the flesh correlate with each other!

Instead, I will not gratify my own desires and nerdiness for language and grammar. I will leave you in the freedom of not being lectured on the intricacies of such things … so that you do not slip into sinful rage against my boring interests.

No, I will just focus on stepping on everyone’s toes, pointing out how sinful our world is and we ourselves can be! I even admit that looking at the list of the works of the flesh in Galatians 5, I see too much of myself … in all 15 things and things like these.

And, hopefully, as we go through Galatians 5:16-26, you also find the encouragement and freedom we have in Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit against our own sinfulness and in His grace.

Who are we gratifying?

​Galatians 5:16–18 (ESV)

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. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.There are many things that we want to do. There are many things that feel good. Maybe they are not in and of themselves bad, but are they necessarily the things we should be doing.

If we are in church – or even listening online or later – we are probably seeking to live good and godly lives. A good church – good pastors and leaders – will point out that even as Christians we often fail to perfectly live good lives.

How do I know?

I look at my own life! I am sure most if not all of you would be willing to admit that you know where, when, and how often you fall short.

Hamartia – the Greek word for sin that literally means “falling short of the target.”

But we do get encouragement from God’s Word, when Paul reminds us in Romans 7 that he, too, fell short:

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
Romans 7:7-25, ESV

We are content to live our lives assuming we are living well, but then God’s Law shows us that we consistently fall short. And before anyone can assume they are doing okay, we are also reminded in Romans 2 that God has written His Law on our hearts. Our own consciences betray us, knowing what we should or should not do and doing the opposite.

In other words, we are enslaved to our own sinful desires when left to our own devices. We would rather gratify our sinful, fleshly desires than seek God.

Now, as pastors Scott and Aaron have reminded us the past two weeks, when we are found in Christ we are set free from the confines of the Law. We are free to choose to please God rather than our own desires.

Paul has now told us twice – in Romans 7 and back here in Galatians 5 – that our flesh keeps us from wanting to obey God, but in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit we are able to fight back, to cast off the yoke of slavery to sin to willingly take the yoke of Christ. The Law reminds us we can’t measure up, but when our faith is in the So n of God, the Father sees the Son’s faithfulness and empowers us with the Holy Spirit to walk in the same righteous faithfulness of Christ.

But there are many who teach a twisted form of this truth.

The “Gospel” of the Flesh

​ Galatians 5:19–21 (ESV)

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, 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.

Some quick definitions and explanations:

  • Sexual immorality, impurity, and sensuality:
  1. Sexual immorality is our translation of the Greek “porneia” – denotes sex outside of marriage, where we get our word for “pornography”. And as Jesus informed us in the Sermon on the Mount, even lusting is adulterous, so not merely the physical but also the emotional and imagination.
  2. Impurity comes straight out of this, that we taint the marriage bed by pursuing fantasies, personal gratification, or non-husband-and-wife relationships that interfere with marital relationships.
  3. Sensuality also comes out of this, by being tempting to others, dressing for attention (both male and female!) especially in a sexy way, pushing boundaries (“How far is too far?”).
  • Idolatry and Sorcery, sorcery being the Greek word “pharmakeia”, where we get our word for “pharmacy” – it can mean medicinal research (so not all bad), but it carries the implication of using drugs or magical manipulation to alter reality or our perception of it, i.e. trying to play God by creating new things from nothing or by illicitly combining elements of things. In other words, putting things before God or playing God, including addictions and trying to do things apart from Him, including seeking eternal life and personal happiness.
  • Enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy:
  1. Enmity and strife are making people enemies by purposefully spreading lies or gossip with the intent of causing harm, thus …
  2. Rivalries, dissensions, and divisions – purposefully and malevolently seeking to harm others to selfishly get ahead. “We’re better than they are because …” The Greek word for divisions is “hairesis” or “heresies”. People who make up new meanings and teachings to help themselves.
  3. Fits of anger and envy are slipping into rage and desiring harm to others, thinking others have it better off because of special privilege or advantage and therefore need to be taken down a peg.
  • Drunkenness and orgies go together, as the implication of drunkenness (Greek “methai” – which sounds a lot like our drugs Meth, but while that is merely coincidence it should serve as a good reminder) is one who lives in a perpetual state of being drunk, i.e. an alcoholic or addict, and the word translated “orgies” implies alcohol fueled parties in which anything goes and often does.

When I look at this list and compare my life 16 years ago, I remember thinking reading this in 2007 that my life (as a Christian!) had become all but two things on this list – sorcery/witchcraft and orgies. Yet, knowing the deeper meanings today, I can see that many of the parties I attended the previous two years fell into this, because we would have hookah mixed with other things or the crazy drink concoctions (sorcery) while having mass make-out sessions (included in the understanding of orgies). All of this is one of the reasons I understand and appreciate the Parable of the Prodigal Son and God’s grace so much more!

But let’s work through these works in light of what others may teach today:

People like to point out all of the accounts of abuse in churches, thinking it proves the Church is merely another religion of men trying to control other people.

While a few of those caught in abusive scandals in recent years do look like orthodox preachers who did horrible things, we must realize that a) non-Christians and even the irreligious are at least as guilty as people found doing such things in the Christian churches and b) the vast majority have been caught teaching heresies, man-made doctrines, and/or twisted gospels. It is an expected sign that people teaching/promoting heresies and such are later caught in abusive behaviors, be they controlling others (often through emotional and spiritual abuse) and/or sexual sins and/or addictive behaviors.

The Hillsong scandals of the past two years: a church that promotes the prosperity gospel and has been associated with known false teachers. I specifically mean those in the New Apostolic Reformation full of false prophets and apostles, such as the Bethel Church of Redding, CA, group, and the International House of Prayer out of Kansas City. Why do I mention them? Sure, they occasionally get a prophecy right and typically have good sounding statements of faith (if they have one), but the vast majority of their prophecies have been wrong. According Scripture (Deuteronomy 13 and 18, as well as smatterings throughout the Hebrew Bible), it only takes one false prophecy to be a false prophet.

These people and even some historically sound teachers argue that it merely means they attempted to prophecy in their own power, not that they’re false prophets. This is definitely a heresy (division in our list today), and it is definitely a blasphemy. They have attributed falsehood to God, what Jesus (in Matthew and Luke 12) calls blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

It is people who teach we need to be doing certain things – performing signs and wonders or loving a certain way – to be saved or to prove we are saved or to finish our salvation by doing works or making reparations for our sins and the sins of our ancestors.

It is the so-called pastors who twist Scripture to justify their own teachings and lifestyles, saying things like “Jesus never said anything about gay marriage” or “words like homosexuality were added in the past 120 years” or “they were writing to the cultural context of their day only.” If the changes in society govern how we should interpret Scripture, it would mean it is not the eternal Word of God that it claims to be, that God – who the same Scriptures say does not change – changes with the times, too.

Our fruit, they say, is to admit that love is love and that we need to be tolerant of each others’ personal truths. Embrace your fruitiness, come out of the closet, and don’t judge! Jesus said don’t judge, so stop being hypocrites and celebrate our diversity and inclusivity!

Yet, these are the very people who show their fruit by demanding their rights over the rights of others.

These are the people who say they don’t care what God’s Law says, they have their own personal freedom to do what they want when they want. They may think it is good to have out-of-control protests and riots.

These are the people who say “my body, my choice,” and then attack others – verbally and physically – such as demanding we forfeit our religious rights for their preferences, or deface and damage businesses and non-profits that they disagree with, taking away the choice of others. (Yes, I am referring to the news of the past week (and two months) of Roe v. Wade being overturned as well, as Pride Month.)

All of these are different gospels, things they those who profess them think are “good news”, but like Paul reminded us (and Pastor Scott in his messages has reiterated) these are no gospels at all. They are false gospels from false teachers. They think they have freedom, but they are still slaves to their sinful desires.

I know. I am being a bit confrontational. Science and Scripture are actually on our side.

And I can hear some of the rebuttals:

  • “But aren’t you being divisive with these words?”
  • “What happened to loving your neighbor?”
  • “Aren’t you told not to use your freedom in Christ to hurt others?”

And technically these are true, but this is using the same tactics of the serpent in the Garden.

  • “Did God really say …?” – “Why are you going against God’s Word?” (While they twist it themselves.)
  • “You will not surely die …” – “God didn’t really mean what He said.”
  • “You will be like God …” – “We have freedom, too! You are the ones not obeying!”

“Those people” are the ones misunderstanding. Jesus commanded us to judge rightly, not hypocritically, in Matthew 7, using God’s Word to examine ourselves and each other.

And how do we love others?

By revealing God’s truth, even when it hurts. No one likes hearing they are deplorable sinners, that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We don’t like hearing we have spit in the face of God, slapped Him, beat Him, killed Him by our own sin.

We all have broken His righteous Law.

We all are guilty of abusing His words and His grace.

We all are guilty of putting Jesus on the cross.

Yet, it is Jesus who told people we do not take sin seriously enough, that getting rageful (from our list) is tantamount to murder, that lusting is tantamount to adultery.

It is Jesus who said to go and sin no more.

It is Jesus who said no one comes to the Father except by Me, that only those who deny themselves and believe in the Son will be saved from God’s wrath an inherit eternal life.

It is Jesus who willingly went to the cross to pay for our rebellion, our sexual immorality and impurity, our rage and jealousy and strife and division against God.

So, how do we respond?

Knowing we are just as guilty as everyone raging against the Church and God’s Word and recent Supreme Court decisions …

How do we respond?

Galatians 5:21–26 (ESV)

I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

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.

One of the things that blew my mind as a young Christian was when my pastor (also a Pastor Scott) pointed out that the word for fruit is singular. These are not nine different fruits that we may show at different times. We are looking at one tree (one vine!), and it produces a single fruit comprised of various parts.

How do we respond?

Those outside of Christ are still in the yoke of bondage to sin. They do not have the freedom they think they do.

We who belong to Christ have crucified our flesh, our desires, our passions, that we may be conformed to the image of Christ. Dying to ourselves does not sound like freedom, but as Pastor Aaron said last week, it is just like being invited into a construction site to write scriptures and prayers on the hidden structure, being told there are limits to where we can go, but for the love of those working and the officials (of the school) freely choose to stay within those limits.

And that is what we see: love (for God and others), joy (that is difficult to explain), peace (that is difficult to understand), patience (to deal with limitations on ourselves and from others), kindness (reflecting the kindness our Lord has shown us when being mocked and beaten), goodness (in the midst of evil), faithfulness (when the easy thing is to compromise and settle), gentleness (controlled strength, not reacting to attacks but from love), and self-control (when we want to give in.)

How do we respond?

We freely choose the gospel over retribution or even our own rights. We do not concede to evil, but we stand up in the midst of it, showing love and grace with a faithfulness to truth and God.

We show patience and kindness towards those who disagree with us, showing gentleness (“forgive them, for they know not what they do”) as our all-powerful God was with us who crucified His Son.

When they lose control, mocking us, getting violent, destroying property and lives, we show self-control, not getting overly angry or spiteful toward them.

We take the time to listen, to hear their hurting hearts, their fears, even their hatred. We do not relent in truth, but we stand in the truth.

It is too easy for us to give in to the passion of the moment, desiring retribution and our chance to be heard. Instead, we are crucified with Christ. It is no longer we who live but Christ in us. We walk in the Spirit, knowing that in Christ we died to our selves. We await our renewed bodies, but we walk in the renewal of our minds in the Holy Spirit. We lay down our rights to be heard and to be “right” in every argument.

But we hold to the truth.

We do not force truth on others, mocking their arguments and actions while wishing people listened to us as much as they listen to “the woke left” or even the conservative right or anyone in between.

No, we rest in the truth of God’s Word, telling others the truth in love.

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit
1 Peter 3:13-18, ESV

Yes, we have the truth on our side, but we do not make others listen. We speak God’s Word and trust the Holy Spirit to work on their hearts.

Yes, we do work toward making our world a better place and standing for truth, but …

though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ
2 Corinthians 10:3-5, ESV

Why do we do this?

We remember that we are no different. We are just as guilty of sin and rebellion.

But Christ has saved us who believe.

So we are patient and kind and self-controlled and loving, even when we don’t necessarily feel like it.

This is why we continue meeting together: to (Hebrews 10:23-25)

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Hebrews 10:23-25, ESV

We devote ourselves to biblical teachings and the fellowship of the saints, to the breaking of bread and prayers in the awe of God.

We are in the world but not of it, so we join with God to bring heaven to Earth – patiently, kindly, and lovingly, with God’s goodness, joy, and peace which surpasses understanding.

I know I see myself too well in the works of the flesh, but I strive to enter through the narrow door, to enter the freedom of God’s rest that I may not enter into the same disobedience, for peace with everyone, for the holiness without which no one sees the Lord.

I strive for the freedom from sinfulness and bitterness that Christ offers.

I trust in Christ to change me to change the world.

I strive to live a full life in Jesus and bring others along for the ride.

Will you join me as I seek Jesus?

Prayer

Heavenly Father, You are the Holy One, the righteous Judge, our loving Savior. We know we have chosen to pursue our own sinful desires, to chase down our own passions, to rebel against You and each other.

We ask again for your forgiveness for all those times we fall short, when we give in to the fear of this world over the fear of the Lord, when we act self-righteous over trusting in Your righteousness, when we fight and rage against each other over seeking Your peace, when we seek our own gratification over the fullness of the Spirit.

By Your Spirit, guide us in all truth and love, that we may carry your love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in our own lives and to our violent, impure, rebellious world. Make Your light shine through us, helping us to trust You more and more, sharing the hope of Your yet future return, that others may come to glorify Your Name in all the Earth.

Help us to be faithful in all things, with all gifts.

This Sunday at Church: Pray for those who are doing more work at church while others are gone during the Summer

This usually describes two or three of us in particular in our congregation especially this year. Our lead pastor is on vacation, and an elder is home with his second baby. I do get a short vacation this summer, but our music pastor and I are pulling double duties. I will also be with another congregation twice to cover for our brother while he goes out of town! My wife also often covers for Sunday School teachers (she is teaching three times this month, plus nursery time.)

But we do love it.

Daniel

For this Sunday here’s what you can do: Pray for those who are doing more work at church while others are gone during the Summer.   Summer is often a time people take vacations or long breaks from the routine.  Its a time some churches might not have as many people around during Sunday.  And […]

This Sunday at Church: Pray for those who are doing more work at church while others are gone during the Summer

VerseD: Psalm 59:16

But I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress.

Psalm 59:16, ESV

God can handle anything in His sovereignty over everything. We can trust Him, whether this life going well or we are at our wits’ end from fear, frustration, or pain.