Galatians 5:16, 18, 25 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
God gives us His Holy Spirit for many reasons, and this section of Galatians expresses some of the most basic of those. We tend to focus on power, mentioned in Acts 1:8, or on gifts, as discussed in 1 Corinthians 12 and elsewhere, and this section is famous for focusing on fruit, but the framework is as the NIV section heading has it: “Life by the Spirit.” Biologically speaking we are animals, but if we live like animals, we completely miss the purpose for which God created us as distinct from animals. We are given not only souls, that is, mind and personality, but also spirits, which are capable of being infused with the Spirit of God. The devil does all he can to get us to focus on the flesh, with our “higher instincts” limited to our soul. To the degree he succeeds, he robs us of joy, peace, and even life itself. It is when we open our spirits to the Spirit of God that we discover what it is truly to be human, in the way God created us. From verse 16 through the end of the chapter, Paul is contrasting life by the flesh with life by the Spirit, and the difference is stark indeed. The things listed in verses 22 and 23 seem very attractive, but the devil tries to downplay them, especially the last one: self-control. Under his influence, the world presents many of the things listed in verses 19-21 as exciting and to be desired, but that is a lie from the pit of hell. One look at the “entertainment” industry will show that lie in full force. There is now a full-scale push to sexualize pre-pubescent children, and it is tragic. These three verses give us the framework for resisting all of that. In the first place, only the Holy Spirit can effectively control our physical appetites. The current obesity epidemic in the US is evidence of how little American Christians, even, focus on letting the Holy Spirit be in control! We tend to try to control ourselves and others by rules, but Paul points out that obedience to the Holy Spirit supersedes all of that. And lastly, there is the practical matter of walking in step with the Holy Spirit. I was in marching bands from the 4th grade and I spent a couple of years in the Army, playing clarinet in the 25th Division Band, so I’ve had a lot of experience with keeping in step! When we are out of harmony, out of rhythm with the Holy Spirit, nothing is right, and we need to correct, that is repent, immediately.
As I said, I’ve had enough marching experience that I can do it in my sleep, but staying in step spiritually is something I’m still working on. I have as much “animal nature” as anyone, so I need to be conscious in my submission to the Holy Spirit. “Self-control” is at the end of the list of the fruit of the Spirit for a reason! As a pastor, I am to help others live by the Spirit as well. That’s certainly not something I can do without being submitted to the Holy Spirit myself! As Paul wrote to the Colossians, I need to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16) As a pastor I am expected to “teach and admonish” others, but part of what I need to teach is that all believers are to do that for one another, and even for me! We all need help in staying in step with the Spirit, just as I was assigned to call out the cadence to the other recruits when I was in Basic Training in the Army.
Well, Father, I had wondered what I was to speak on Sunday, and now I know! Thank you. I ask for Your anointing as I prepare the notes, because there is far too much material on this subject to present it all in one message. I also ask for Your anointing as I record messages this morning for CGN TV. Thank You for showing me which messages I am to share. The broadcast time limits can feel very constricting, but You have guided me in the past, and I trust You to do so today as well. May my words indeed draw all who hear them to walk in step with Your Spirit, for their blessing and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!