Galatians 5:16-21 - This Means WAR!
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...
...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.
This means WAR!
(all of us are at war today. We have two natures wrestling with each other for control.)
Ron Meredith, in his book Hurryin' Big For Little Reasons, describes one quiet night in early spring that illustrates perfectly the idea behind this sermon:
“Suddenly out of the night came the sound of wild geese flying. Nothing compares to wild geese flying across the moon...We understand that struggle, don't we?? Those ducks had two natures at war within them – and if you are a Christian, you know what it is to have two natures struggling against each other.
...It might have ended there except for the sight of our tame mallards on our pond. They heard the wild call they had once known. The honking out of the night sent little arrows of prompting deep into their wild yesterdays. Their wings fluttered a feeble response. The urge to fly--to take their place in the sky for which God had made them-- was sounding in their feathered breasts, but ⇒ they never raised from the water. The matter had been settled long ago. The corn of the barnyard was just too tempting! Now their desire to fly - only made them ⇒ uncomfortable.”
You have that wild, unstable sinful nature. One that RESISTS holiness and DEFIES the leadership of the Holy Spirit…
and you have a NEW nature made for fellowship with God. One that yearns to know more - to BE more LIKE Jesus.
Those 2 natures are at war - vying for control of your attitudes and actions.
No matter HOW LONG you’ve been a Christian, the call of the old is still heard:
- maybe in a moment of anger you are tempted to SAY things you KNOW you shouldn’t – and, though it’s there just a moment, that old nature wants to show itself.
- The desire for secret-keeping…
- the urge for the forbidden...
- The leap to half-truths in a moment when telling the whole truth might COST you something.
Paul felt it too, and openly confessed to the Romans, “The things I WANT to do, I don't… and the things I don't want to do ⇒ are the very things I do. Oh wretched man that I am!”
You can hear the agony of his very personal struggle, can't you??
Some might argue – “but preacher, we’re human, ALL of us struggle with the flesh??” True – but the word “struggle” implies that you are making an effort to RESIST it! Stop using the commonness of the struggle as a justification for yielding to it.
While it is true that we will ALWAYS struggle with the flesh… and while it is true that there will be occasions when we don’t do the right thing, the fact that this is a struggle for ALL of us IN NO WISE gives us permission to fail.
God calls us to “crucify” the flesh with its lusts and desires. He calls us to die to the old man of sin, to surrender all that we are and all that we have to HIS control. To SUBMIT to the Spirit's leadership.
And to make certain we understand this, God leads Paul to paint a graphic picture of the two natures at war within us.
I want us to spend the next couple of weeks studying this passage just to remind ourselves of the relentless nature of the flesh, and of the tools - the STEPS God has given us to overcome it.
1. Notice first, the SOURCE of all Sin in v. 17, “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.”
As a Christian… I WANT to serve God. I WANT to honor Him in my thoughts and actions – every day - without exception. But STILL there is that sinful bent that doesn’t go away. It’s always there pulling me in the wrong direction.
The fallen nature is the SOURCE of all my sin.
It wasn't MEANT to be this way. In the beginning, God made us perfect. He made us for fellowship with Him. In fact, in Genesis chapter 1, at the end of creation week, God saw all that He had made, including man, and said it was - “GOOD,” beautiful… without even the HINT of imperfection.
But it didn't take long before that was no longer true… just 5 chapters over, we find these words, “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.”
Man in sin is NOT man as God created him. Man in sin is a monstrosity. Since the fall, everything we are, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, has fallen under the influence of Satan… it is contaminated.
We are NOW born with the fallen nature of our father, Adam. It is relentlessly evil – as Paul said, “In me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing.” The flesh is beyond redemption. It is called “the body of death” for a reason. And we are reminded in God’s Word that “flesh and blood” cannot inherit the kingdom of God.
Paul added, “the carnal mind is the enemy of God.” The only fitting thing for this sin-corrupt body is DEATH.
Those times when I am tempted to gossip, those times when my eyes lead me to lust or my heart is drawn away to the things of THIS WORLD – I am only doing what comes naturally for me.
The SOURCE of all sin.
2. But after the Source, Paul describes the COURSE of all Sin in vv. 19 and 20. What path will this fallen nature lead us down?? “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.”
What an awful list of sins that flow out of our fallen natures. For convenience, we’re gonna lump them into three categories:
First there are Sexual Sins. “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality...”
“SEXUAL IMMORALITY” is a blanket term - a HEADING under which falls all sorts of sexual sin, from promiscuity to perversion. No one here would argue against the fact that our fallen world is permeated with sex. It is used to sell everything from Hondas to hamburgers.
Gone is the modesty of olden times. Gone are the days of decency. It seems we have lost the ability to blush. We've grown calloused to the illicit nature of our times.
But then he goes a step further and mentions Spiritual Sins in the words “Idolatry and sorcery.” These are sins of a religious nature. Satan doesn't object to religion. In fact, he encourages it. The flesh, you see, is incurably religious. Left to our own devices, man fashions gods of stone, wood, and gold and falls down and worships them. It satisfies a longing in his fallen heart to have a visible god he can manipulate.
It might be a thing of beauty in his eyes, but it is hideous in the eyes of God. It might be shaped like a human or an animal… it might look like the sun or stars… but behind it is the devil.
Look at the Children of Israel in the book of Exodus. Freed from slavery by the strong hand of God, the people worshiped the Lord. But no longer had Moses gone out of their sight, and they got Aaron to fashion a golden calf that would,
and I quote,
“Go before us” or “lead us.” And God would’ve struck them down had it not been for the intervention of Moses.
Spiritual sins. I’m not going to belabor the point, but reckon how much is done in the name of religion that OFFENDS the Lord?? How much of this ‘health, wealth, and prosperity preaching’ today is repulsive to God? How much of this hyper-emotionalism where people fall on the floor and act like they are having a seizure is a STENCH in His nostrils. People insist upon a God they can feel – not understanding that God has called them to a life of faith… NOT feeling.
But after sexual sins and spiritual sins, Paul begins listing Social Sins, “enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.” If you don’t think that describes our society, you need to come out of your cave. Even RELIGIOUS people are neck deep in hatred and violence. All you gotta do is look at the news and see those folks who protest the funerals of American soldiers and you will KNOW EXACTLY what I’m talking about.
This may make some of you angry, but the Lord will help you forgive me: there is little difference between the hate mongers of Westboro Baptist Church and the radical Islamic terrorist.
Need proof of the violence if our times? Watch the news! I saw last week how a group of teens in New York thought it would be fun to play a game of “knockout” with an elderly gentleman innocently walking down the street. They blindsided him and put him in a coma for no reason. THUGS.
Look at the things that entertain us on TV, the violence perpetrated on the innocent in the name of Roe v. Wade. What is it BUT the marks of Satan?
Or consider the word “strife.” It is the Greek word “eritheia” - it means ‘factions’ or ‘rivalry.’ It is describing the spirit that splits churches and denominations. Men who take leadership with the ambition of gaining a following – who use jealousy and envy to drive wedges between people and make themselves look like heroes.
It’s the devil, folks, pitting brother against brother. And I would remind you that God told the Romans through the pen of the Apostle Paul to mark people who do that and have nothing to do with them!
All these, Sexual, Spiritual, and Social sins are the characteristics of the devil. And when the child of God does these things, he becomes Satan's instrument of robbing God of His glory and hindering the advancement of the Gospel in our world.
3. And finally, after the Source and Course, notice the FORCE of all Sin in v. 21 “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will NOT inherit the kingdom of God.”
Let that simmer in the crock pot of your mind… “those who do such things will NOT inherit the kingdom of God.”
That’s pretty plain, right there. We can't talk our way - dance our way around it.
Regardless what the world has led you to believe, God is not some jolly grandfather who closes His eyes to our indiscretions and blindly showers us with love. I would remind you of something Jesus told the very religious Jews of His day - people much more pious than me: “except you repent ye shall ALL likewise perish.”
The world will often ask the Christian, "But how can a God of love allow any of his creatures to suffer unending misery?" but they are asking the wrong question. The right question is, how can he NOT?
The fact that God is love makes hell necessary.
God loves us enough to respect our decisions. He does not force his love on us. To force love is to commit assault. He allows US to decide. He woos and pursues us, but he doesn’t force us to believe in or obey Him. He created us with a Free Will and will not violate our ability to choose. THAT is love.
And YOU have exercised your choice.
Some to faith and life.
Others to sin and death.
BUT you have made your choice. And don't suppose that you can have both. Because you can't. John tells us this in 1 John chapter 1 ⇒ We cannot walk with God while walking in sin.
Sin, by its very nature, separates us from God and dooms us to an eternity of separation from Him. James said, “But every man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust is conceived, it brings forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, brings – forth ⇒ death.”
The FLESH is ever pulling me to the grave, separating me from God, and if it has its way, will drag me to hell.
So WHAT THEN is the remedy for the flesh?? What answer is there for that old nature? Look at v. 16, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will NOT gratify the desires of the flesh.”
Let me show you two things you’ve got to do IF you would conquer the flesh:
First, you’ve got to surrender, every day, all that you are, to the Holy Spirit. Don’t let a day pass without yielding to God. Constantly expose yourself to His Word. Be aware of the flesh’s incessant pull – don’t let it linger – take it to God when you feel it drawing you.
And second, you have got to quit tolerating failure or excusing sin. Stop comforting yourself in the fact that everyone struggles. Quit telling yourself you are only human – tolerating those things that are offensive to God.
Why is it that we think excusing our failures will somehow keep us from failing in the future??
Instead, when the flesh gets the best of you, don’t wait, take it to God. If you wait, sin has a cumulative effect – it will only grow and drive a greater wedge between you and God. Take that failure to God and ask Him to forgive you and strengthen you. Ask Him to remind you when you are tempted that you belong to Him.
Maybe you need to do that right now.
The flesh IS powerful… but it isn’t ALL-powerful. Only God is all-powerful. And He is a God of mercy and grace, according to David in Psalm 103, “Who forgives ALL your iniquities.”
Do you need that this morning? Why not come pray about it?